New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENNES

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JFK
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New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENNES

Unread post by JFK » Sat Jul 07, 2018 1:15 pm

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SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENNES
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"Women explode out of chimneys and melt when sprayed with soda water. Feminist activists play practical jokes to lobby for voting rights, while overworked kitchen maids dismember their limbs to finish their chores on time. In early slapstick films with titles such as Saucy Sue, Mary Jane’s Mishap, Jane on Strike, and The Consequences of Feminism, comediennes exhibit the tensions between joyful laughter and gendered violence. Slapstick comedy often celebrates the exaggeration of make-believe injury. Unlike male clowns, however, these comic actresses use slapstick antics as forms of feminist protest. They spontaneously combust while doing housework, disappear and reappear when sexually assaulted, or transform into men by eating magic seeds―and their absurd metamorphoses evoke the real-life predicaments of female identity in a changing modern world.
Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes reveals the gender politics of comedy and the comedic potentials of feminism through close consideration of hundreds of silent films. As Maggie Hennefeld argues, comedienne catastrophes provide disturbing but suggestive images for comprehending gendered social upheavals in the early twentieth century. At the same time, slapstick comediennes were crucial to the emergence of film language. Women’s flexible physicality offered filmmakers blank slates for experimenting with the visual and social potentials of cinema. Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes poses major challenges to the foundations of our ideas about slapstick comedy and film history, showing how this combustible genre blows open age-old debates about laughter, society, and gender politics."
Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I. Early Film Combustion
1. Early Cinema and the Comedy of Female Catastrophe
2. Female Combustion and Feminist Film Historiography
Part II. Transitional Film Metamorphosis
3. Slapstick Comediennes in Transitional Cinema: Between Body and Medium
4. The Geopolitics of Transitional Film Comedy: American Vitagraph Versus French Pathé-Freres
5. D. W. Griffith’s Slapstick Comediennes: Female Corporeality and Narrative Film Storytelling
Part III. Feminist Slapstick Politics
6. Film Comedy Aesthetics and Suffragette Social Politics
7. Radical Militancy and Slapstick Political Violence
Postscript: Haunted Laughter at Late Comediennes
Annotated Filmography
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Editorial Reviews

Simultaneously hilarious and seriously incisive, Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes is a dazzling demonstration of the way in which the female body in early film comedy is the privileged site for the display of the cinema’s defamiliarization of the world. Hennefeld skillfully links the centrality of women in comic films of mobility and catastrophe to anxieties surrounding their rapidly changing social position. This is a marvelous analysis. (Mary Ann Doane, University of California, Berkeley)

Hennefeld does a remarkable job of framing the politics of early film comedy in relation to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century philosophies of laughter. This is a far-reaching study that will change our understanding of the history of early film slapstick and gender. (Robert J. King, Columbia University)

Hennefeld draws on hundreds of films to reveal the radical interest and specificity of the silent film comediennes who humorously ruptured themselves while negotiating the shifting place of women’s bodies in cinema’s early years. Forging a rigorous third way between “killjoy refusal” and “unruly disruption” using a “Laughing Methodology” to counter misogynist violence, this brilliant book illuminates the vital link between feminist laughter and the slow-burn pleasure of feminist thought. (Karen Redrobe, University of Pennsylvania)

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bigshot
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Re: New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENN

Unread post by bigshot » Sat Jul 07, 2018 1:34 pm

I'm curious... to those who have seen these films, are they funny? Because they sure don't sound like it. It may just be bad advertising copy.

JFK
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SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENNES

Unread post by JFK » Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:36 pm

I just ordered a copy of the book.
It is a recommended film book of summer 2018 by The Financial Times
The Financial Times
Summer books of 2018: Film
Danny Leigh selects his mid-year reads

Danny Leigh JUNE 29, 2018

Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes, by Maggie Hennefeld
"When we think about slapstick, the image that comes to mind is likely to be male — Buster Keaton, or Harold Lloyd dangling from a clock tower. But Maggie Hennefeld turns her focus instead on the women whose physical comedy lit up the early silent movies. The premise is less a simple Who’s Who than a sharp unpicking of gender dynamics."
Here are videos of two of the earliest films mentioned above
George Albert Smith
Mary Jane's Mishap (1903)

Alice Guy-Blaché
The Consequences of Feminism (1906)

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boblipton
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Re: New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENN

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:11 pm

I've seen both of the films linked to above, and connecting any message in either of them with revolutionary feminism of the era or currently is piffle. Nothing could be more petit bourgeouis than the early British film makers, who often saw greater purpose in redoing Prohibitionist Magic Lantern shows like Buy Your Own Cherries to convince the lower classes to give up their gin so that the movie makers could enjoy better brandy. There is no doubt in my mind that G.A. Smith was mostly interested in how things worked, and Mary Jane's Mishap is as much an indictment of the cruelty of the upper classes towards the lower classes as Bangville Police is an indictment of the police state.... that is, at some level, the impulse might have been there, but the point in the piece as it exists is to make the audience laugh at the silly peoples.

As for Alice Guy, she was the first film director (people keep saying "the first woman film director" but she had been doing the job for ten years before what's-his-name at Edison said he was the first.... not Porter, one of the other guys, so what the f***), she directed or supervised something like 500 films. Did some of them offer opinions that might be identifiable as akin to modern radical feminism? Undoubtedly. Did some of them state that babies were found under cabbage leaves? Yes!
(take a look at Sage-femme de première classe if you don't believe me). Oh, so you're going to tell me which of her movies represented her personal beliefs based on.... carefully chosen examples of what you choose to accept? Sorry, I prefer to go through everything.

Mike Gebert and I have been wrangling about academic analysis elsewhere (see viewtopic.php?f=4&t=26245" target="_blank), but without reading the book, it looks like an attempt by a publisher to cash in on a currently hot social/political issue. I'm afraid that, like bigshot, my primary interest lies in the question of whether these movies are funny. I say that the Smith one is and the Guy one isn't, given my delight in slapstick and such. It's not a particularly learned or high-falutin' opinion, I freely admit: a poor thing, but mine own.

Bob
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
— Bob Fells

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Jim Roots
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Re: New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENN

Unread post by Jim Roots » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:00 am

It just sounds like typical academic historical revisionism, reading post-modern political correctness into ancient art which was never intended to express such correctness.

Academics desperate to distinguish themselves for "new" approaches to artifacts of the past could interpret Bangville Police as a proto-Marxist diatribe against the ageist oppression of racist Christianity, when in truth Mack Sennett just wanted to make fun of incompetent cops.

It makes me think of current "historical" TV shows like Murdoch Mysteries, which pretends Toronto in the 1910s was so advanced that a woman was City Coroner and she was assisted by a qualified black woman. As a Toronto kid whose parents and grandparents actually lived there in the 1910s, I can assure you such was not the case. Neither women nor blacks would have been allowed in such lofty positions until the 1960s. In those days it was called "Toronto the Good" and "City of Churches" for a reason. Heck, its longest-serving mayor in the 1920s was named Tommy Church!

Jim

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drednm
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Re: New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENN

Unread post by drednm » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:18 pm

Jim Roots wrote:It just sounds like typical academic historical revisionism, reading post-modern political correctness into ancient art which was never intended to express such correctness.

Academics desperate to distinguish themselves for "new" approaches to artifacts of the past could interpret Bangville Police as a proto-Marxist diatribe against the ageist oppression of racist Christianity, when in truth Mack Sennett just wanted to make fun of incompetent cops.

It makes me think of current "historical" TV shows like Murdoch Mysteries, which pretends Toronto in the 1910s was so advanced that a woman was City Coroner and she was assisted by a qualified black woman. As a Toronto kid whose parents and grandparents actually lived there in the 1910s, I can assure you such was not the case. Neither women nor blacks would have been allowed in such lofty positions until the 1960s. In those days it was called "Toronto the Good" and "City of Churches" for a reason. Heck, its longest-serving mayor in the 1920s was named Tommy Church!

Jim
Or the 2018 Picnic at Hanging Rock that had a half-Aborginal student at a white girl private school in rural Australia in 1900.....

Obviously I've not read the book, but it reminds me of the doctoral candidate I knew who set out to prove Hemingway was a feminist.
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
https://wordpress.com/view/silentroomdo ... dpress.com" target="_blank

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Jim Roots
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Re: New Book-SPECTERS OF SLAPSTICK AND SILENT FILM COMEDIENN

Unread post by Jim Roots » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:59 am

drednm wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:It just sounds like typical academic historical revisionism, reading post-modern political correctness into ancient art which was never intended to express such correctness.

Academics desperate to distinguish themselves for "new" approaches to artifacts of the past could interpret Bangville Police as a proto-Marxist diatribe against the ageist oppression of racist Christianity, when in truth Mack Sennett just wanted to make fun of incompetent cops.

It makes me think of current "historical" TV shows like Murdoch Mysteries, which pretends Toronto in the 1910s was so advanced that a woman was City Coroner and she was assisted by a qualified black woman. As a Toronto kid whose parents and grandparents actually lived there in the 1910s, I can assure you such was not the case. Neither women nor blacks would have been allowed in such lofty positions until the 1960s. In those days it was called "Toronto the Good" and "City of Churches" for a reason. Heck, its longest-serving mayor in the 1920s was named Tommy Church!

Jim
Or the 2018 Picnic at Hanging Rock that had a half-Aborginal student at a white girl private school in rural Australia in 1900.....

Obviously I've not read the book, but it reminds me of the doctoral candidate I knew who set out to prove Hemingway was a feminist.
If he succeeded in that goal, he must have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Jim

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