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Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett Paperback – 6 Oct 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (6 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571226477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571226474
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Louvish, born Glasgow, Scotland, in 1947, author, film maker, lecturer in film at London Film School. I work in both fiction and non-fiction, having published more than ten fiction novels and seven and a half books of movie biography, mainly on Hollywood's golden-age comedians. I have now returned full-time to the fiction field, and am currently involved in re-printing the entire BLOK SAGA, to include the four books already published and two unpublished volumes, BLOK 5: THE FUNDAMENTAL BLOK and BLOK 6: THE CHINESE SMILE. These will appear under the imprint of Margaret Macdonald Books, which is my present personal imprint and will include in due course the hard-copy issue of the new paperback BLOK SAGA and e-book publications. THE BLOK SAGA Special Edition begins with the first two volumes in the series, THE THERAPY OF AVRAM BLOK and CITY OF BLOK, which are now available on Amazon vended by my own merchant label "louvishbooks." These books were first published in 1985 and 1988 and received a wash of fine reviews, but have been out of print for some time. The Saga began by dealing specifically with the madness of the modern Middle East and Avram Blok's wanderings in the labyrinth of Israel-Palestine and in Europe and America of the 1970's and `80's but morphs in the later volumes to encompass China and a wide historical sweep. So it goes. Hoping it finds a new generation of readers in the world of global turmoil, crisis and collapsing certainties, who can foresee more madness yet to come...

Product Description


"'This is a compelling tale of ambition, lust and financial chicanery that is vividly evocative of its period.' Film Review 'The story rattles along with all the dash of a Keystone Kops chase... Louvish is expert in vivid description and insightful interpretation, and he brings these movies to life on the printed page like no other film historian.' Sunday Times 'An enjoyable and meticulous recreation of a pioneering, mythical era in Old Hollywood... From his founding of Keystone Studios in 1913, Sennett dominated the screen comedy seene, birthing the careers of the likes of Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle while, with the Keystone Kops, defining 'madcap' comedy.' Empire"

From the Inside Flap

An Irish-Canadian of impeccably un-comic ancestry, Mack Sennett founded in Hollywood in 1912 the world's first studio devoted to movie comedy alone. For the next 20 years he presided over cinema's most famous and popular clowns - from Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin, to Ben Turpin, Chester Conklin, Mack Swain, Ford Sterling, Louise Fazenda, Harry Langdon and very many more.

Simon Louvish, acclaimed biographer of W. C. Fields, the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy, now delves into the dynamic start of Hollywood comedy, tracking the life and clowns of one of cinema's foremost pioneers, and uncovering the mystery of one of the screen's legendary relationships - that of Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, the first great motion picture comedienne.
Be warned, though: the world of Mack Sennett and his Keystone Studio is not for those who want their entertainment refined, their comedy sweetened and their comedians properly house-trained. This is a tale of pratfalls and slapstick, of lecherous husbands and unfaithful wives, mad lovers, moustache-twirling villains, flirtatious floozies, venal vagabonds - and, of course, the perpetually inkompetent Keystone Kops . . . --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Wingate on 12 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I note that other reviewers have complained about lack of detail.I would point out that the author had access to the Sennett archive at the Academy and has made very good use of it.There is a lot of interesting information running from the liquor bills through to the loss that Seneett was sustaining on producing shorts in the 30s.Allowances do have to be made for the fact that Sennett died over 40 years prior to this book being written and that most of the events written about are more than 80 years ago.This being the caase there are unlikely to be eye witnesses to interview.So there are going to be gaps in the information but not so as to detract from an informative and entertaining book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By beanz on 31 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
Having read the Fatty Arbuckle biog 'I Fatty', I was keen to read about the man, and ego behind Keystone, that of Mack Sennett; and so fell towards this publication.

The book has great detail of everything you may need for an accademic dissertation at al, and like the man Sennett, it has great passion for the subject, but thoroughly lacks any sense of warmth or humour. We get an idea of the man and his character, but time upon time, I wished I were reading Sennett's own biography (even with its supposed exagerated storytelling as hinted at by Louvish).

Not to knock the biog, for it is thorough an relentless in its detail, but as I said at the start, having come off I FATTY, where you feel like you are sat at a bar hearing the man tell you what's what, this biog felt too up tight and pedantic for me.
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By Mrs. Diane Randle on 19 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very Good. Thank you
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip Thompson on 26 May 2008
Format: Paperback
As a Mabel Normand fan I had to read this book but was not sure how much was fact and how much author opinion. A good read but as per most silent movies biographies I feel they have again missed the essence of what made this person so successful. Mack Sennett was the undisputed King of Comedy but this book did not give that impression. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it as like all these silent movie biographies they tell a brilliant tale but I didn't feel a very revealing one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing Book on a Fascinating Subject 2 April 2004
By Tom Moran - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of not only silent films in general but silent comedy in particular, so you would think that I'd be the natural audience for Simon Louvish's new book on Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith's protégé and the man behind the Keystone Studio, which produced (or at least discovered) such comic geniuses as Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle. Well, you'd be right: I am the natural audience for "Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett." So why was I so disappointed?
It has some new information on the life of the Canadian-born producer and his life and times, but the book is so vilely written that I found it a chore to read. It almost feels like Louvish, who wrote a far better book on the Marx Brothers and other books on famous comedians that I have not read, fell under the stylistic influence of Gene Fowler, a previous Sennett biographer and the maudlin biographer of John Barrymore, whose prose style is replete with every sappy literary cliché known to man (memorably described by Edmund Wilson: "...the style couldn't be more journalistic in a flowery, old-fashioned way... [it] has no structure and no harmonics. It is something that is exhaled like breath or exuded like perspiration."). If you doubt my word and decide to read the book anyway, try and count the number of times Louvish uses the archaic word "quoth" in a sentence.
So I'm torn about this book. There simply aren't enough good books about this period, and there is some new information to be gleaned from Louvish's pages (although I found myself disagreeing with some, but not all, of his conclusions). But its wretched prose style, if you have any feeling at all for the English language, will set your teeth on edge. You might not care if you're a real fan of early silent comedy, and if that's the case go ahead and read it. But don't say I didn't warn you.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Much better than reported. 16 July 2005
By Nancy Beiman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is a lot better than the previous reviewers would have me believe. Louvish had access to the Mack Sennett Papers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, something that previous writers like Walter Kerr and Kalton Lahue did not.

Of course, Sennett did not include his private papers in the collection so little is known of his private life--which he apparently kept private. Louvish posts hypotheses based on fact and states that these are Not Proven; he does NOT claim that Sennett was gay. Of course he is putting a modern gloss on the behaviour of people from nearly a century ago. People really did behave, and talk, differently then.

Some of his material, particularly new material about Mabel Normand, is saddening and worthy of note.

This is also the only book to tell the very moving story of Ben Turpin and his terminally ill wife, whom he supported until her death.

There are some erroneous statements in the book that could have been better edited; Chaplin toured the USA in a production called MUMMING BIRDS, not EARLY BIRDS; Buster Keaton was drafted in WWI, not enlisted; and Roscoe Arbuckle's THAT MINSTREL MAN was made for Keystone, not 'just as he was about to join Keystone.'

I do recommend that you consider this book. There is a lot of good material in it that is of interest to the silent historian.

And I've not read the word 'quoth' once.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
For those interested in comedy film history 15 April 2004
By James L. Neibaur - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As comedy is central to the development of cinema, a book on Mack Sennett is essential. Sennett was a movie pioneer who produced some of the earliest slapstick comedies. The films spawned such important comedians as Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, and Harry Langdon. They were also an early, albeit comparatively brief, training ground for the likes of Harold Lloyd and Charley Chase. Director Frank Capra enjoyed some of his early success writing and co-writing Sennett productions. Louvish examines Sennett the man and tells the story of Mack's work from his early days with D.W. Griffith to his own productions beginning in the early teens and lasting into the 1930s and the talking picture revolution. Even for comedy film buffs who have read a great deal about this genre, Louvish offers a lot of interesting information that does not appear in other sources. There have been few truly good books on Mack Sennett and his work. This one is quite good. Recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Thoroughly Researched Account 18 Oct. 2010
By Barry Sharpe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What sets Louvish apart from other Sennett biographers is the primary source material he used on his effort. The Sennett archives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for example, were unavailable prior to 1991.
When you combine this with a very readable style, a meticulous chronology of Sennett's life and a catalog of his films, you have something future film historians can reference and aim to top.
Writing biography is grueling, thankless work. Long hours spent in archives cataloging and organizing are required before pen can be put to paper. Simon Louvish has clearly done his homework here.
Good job!
I wanted to like it but could not 13 Nov. 2014
By Jupiter Child - Published on
I really wanted to read a good biography about Mack Sennett, but this isn't it. It's almost as the author took a course on how to wander in circles and make a book completely unreadable. Just when I have a handle on what's going on, it zaps me away. I made about 60 pages and gave up. Will try another title about Mr. Sennett.
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