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Silent Comedy [Kindle Edition]

Paul Merton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £9.99
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Book Description

On the surface it may seem slightly surprising that a master of verbal humour should also be a devotee of silent comedy, but Paul Merton is completely passionate about the early days of Hollywood comedy and the comic geniuses who dominated it. His knowledge is awesome - as anyone who watched his BBC 4 series Silent Clowns or attended the events he has staged nationwide will agree - his enthusiasm is infectious, and these qualities are to be found in abundance in his book.

Starting with the very earliest pioneering short films, he traces the evolution of silent comedy through the 1900s and considers the works of the genre's greatest exponents - Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd - showing not only how each developed in the course of their career but also the extent to which they influenced each other. At the same time, Paul brings a comedian's insight to bear on the art of making people laugh, and explores just how the great comic ideas, routines, gags and pratfalls worked and evolved. His first book for ten years, this is destined to be a classic.

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"Silent Comedy is a terrific history of props and pratfalls...I'm a better person for having read this" (The Times)

"***** Such is Merton's enthusiasm that his story grips throughout." (Mail on Sunday)

"An awestruck and knowledgeable introduction to Hollywood's earliest funsters...lovingly researched" (Daily Telegraph)

"Penned with genuine passion...both well crafted and carefully researched" (Film Review)

"He makes some striking biographical connections the rest of us have missed ... he certainly knows his subject." (Kevin Brownlow Spectator)

Book Description

One of our foremost comedians shares his passion for the greats of the silent comedy era

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1711 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099510138
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (26 Jan. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0032UDV24
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #384,744 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful history from a true fan 5 July 2010
The great strength of this well-written and entertaining book is Paul's choice to make it a chronological account of the developing careers of all the major silent movie stars. One gets to appreciate how Chaplin led the way and how so many other stars found themselves following his lead (often emulating his tramp character) before finding their own on-screen personas.

Paul describes a great deal of the action in various movies and I found it incredibly rewarding to be able to trawl through YouTube after reading each section to try to locate the movies to which he referred and see for myself the business he had discussed.

Paul Merton is clearly a huge fan of silent movies and his passion comes through. He writes very much as he speaks and at times you can almost picture him delivering the lines. Certainly, knowing the author as a comedian makes his little asides in which he suggests how his subjects might be feeling, all the more plausable.

Very enjoyable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Langdon 9 Jun. 2009
Thank you Paul Merton for writing such a richly entertaining and interesting read about the era of silent movies.I am old enough to remember the Bob Monkhouse tv show called Mad Movies and this book brought back so many memories of parts of the films that were featured on there.The way Merton describes the films of Chaplin,Keaton,Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy is a sheer joy and notably brings out the enthusiasm and love Merton has for his film heroes in his writing.One name mentioned in the book is the underated and usually forgotten Harry Langdon.My b/w dvd collection has lately been enhanced after reading this wonderful book.
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I recently caught some clips of the Paul Merton's 'Silent Clowns' show that focused on the likes of Chaplin, Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. I have to say that that show appears to be far more useful a guide to the world of silent comedies than this book is.
Initially, I was hooked- reading about the vaudevillian days and the acts that grew up on the stage and evolved their schtick in front of the cameras, but unfortunately Mr. Merton appears to run out of anything particularly interesting to say pretty quickly, and instead decides to describe a whole bunch of silent shorts and then features in exhaustive detail.
This would be okay, but if you have seen the films then it is a pointless exercise to have them retold to you gag by gag, scene by scene in this way. If, on the other hand, you haven't gotten around to seeing any of those early films yet then expect to have them spoiled in the driest, most humourless way possible.
It wouldn't be too bad if he just spoiled the odd Arbuckle short, but when he goes on to spoil films like The Kid or The General then that really is an act too far.
It is as if he has sat down with a pen and paper and just written down exactly what happened, maybe extrapolating with notes from other sources to flesh things out a little.
Truth be told, this is one of the most pointless books that I have ever read. I was constantly skipping over sections where he would yet again describe the films scene by scene, only to find that I was skipping through umpteen pages only to find perhaps only a paragraph of interesting trivia before he was telling me how yet another short film plays out, scene by scene.
Lazy Mr.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 5 Jan. 2008
By Sidney
Paul Merton's 336-page journey through the silent comedy era is as informative as it is fascinating. Merton's passion, wit and knowledge of the subject visibly shines through his writing, accompanied by beautiful full-colour images and quotations from the comedy greats. Whether you're reading it for pleasure or using it as reference material, Silent Comedy is a beautiful, thorough, accessible and indispensable book. Put simply, it's brilliant.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read 29 May 2013
I agree with both sides on this one. Initially found the book very entertaining, I couldn't put it down. Really interesting, gives us a timeline on the development of the genre in an fresh way. Rather than doing the obvious and having a chapter on each of the stars, Merton takes us through time with the stars coming along with the reader. Paul Merton's love of his subject shines through in every page and he wants us to love the silent screen as much as he does. He seems to be saying to the reader "this film is starts off with...then Charlie Chaplin does...then Harold Lloyd appears dressed as a sailor..." seemingly taking the reader through every scene in every silent film of any note ever made. Sadly, there was just too much of it, long descriptive passages of plots and gags over and over again. In frustration found I was skipping through these sections in order to concentrate on the lives of the stars themselves, which were fascinating, and very well researched. More than enough to keep the real enthusiast entertained but those with only a passing interest in silent cinema may find themselves nodding off in the back row!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Silents is golden..... 20 Feb. 2015
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There have been critiques published here criticising Paul Merton's style - it's true he describes the action in a number of films thoroughly as he analyses the motivation behind the action on screen. This might be said to spoil the enjoyment of seeing the film (seriously, can one have spoilers for a film over three quarters of a century old?) but I find it enlightening and it encourages me to search the movies out (in decent prints or at least better than Elstree Hill) and observe them anew. I got into silent comedy through the Robert Youngson compilations, themselves historic artifacts now and evidence of a very different attitude to slapstick when they were made. Next came the BBC2 reruns in the 80's of silent classics late at night, and then of course the flowering of the Thames Silents series and Kevin Brownlows "Hollywood" series, long overdue a DVD release in the UK (although the rights would be a nightmare)...
I would say that Paul Mertons book is a very good guide to the development of the silent comedy, and well worth a read.

So buy it m'kay?
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