Comedy Is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies

By Alan Dale | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Girl Heroes

Theodore Dreiser's 1928 interview with Mack Sennett produced the following exchange:

One of the things I [Dreiser] was moved to ask at this point was, slap-
stick being what it is, was there any limit to the forms or manifestations
of this humor? And to my surprise, yes, there was, and is.

“No joke about a mother ever gets a laugh,” he [Sennett] insisted
most dogmatically. “We've tried that, and we know. You can't joke
about a mother in even the lightest, mildest way. If you do, the audience
sits there cold, and you get no hand. It may not be angry—we wouldn't
put in stuff about a mother that an audience could take offense at—but,
on the other hand, it is not moved to laugh—doesn't want to—and no
laughs, no money. So mothers in that sense are out. You have to use
them for sentiment or atmosphere in burlesque.”

“In other words, hats off to the American mother,” I said…. “But
not so with fathers,” I added, after a time.

“Oh, fathers,” he said dryly. “No. You can do anything you want to
with them. Father's one of the best butts we have. You can do anything
but kill him on the stage.”

“And as for the dear mother-in-law,” I interjected.

“Better yet. Best of all, unless it is an old maid.”

“No quarter for old maids, eh?”

“Not a cent. A free field and no favors where they're concerned. You
can do anything this side of torture and get a laugh.”

Are there any mothers in slapstick? Not many, but the few there are adhere fairly nearly to Sennett's comments: Arbuckle's in Fatty's Plucky Pup, Lloyd's in The Freshman, and Langdon's in Fiddlesticks all worry over their boys in a way presumed natural. Buster Keaton's 1927 feature College is a particularly complicated example because we can see there's a problem with the (presumably widowed) mother, who has unsocialized her son, encouraging him in both his studies and his disdain for sports. In this way, she's come between Buster and his girl,

-92-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Comedy Is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 274

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.