Recommended Reading

"The Silent Clowns"

by Walter Kerr (Alfred A. Knopf, 1975, 374 pages)

It's hard to believe this book has been around for 25 years, but, thank goodness, it is still available, if only in paperback. Walter Kerr's loving and perceptive tome to the comedians of the silent era should be a part of every silent film buff's required reading. It has become somewhat of THE book on the silent comedians and their art. And the word "art" should be emphasized here, because Kerr doesn't delve into their private lives or their personal antics and foibles. Instead, he concentrates on the artist in each one, their skill at filmmaking and the films themselves and what makes them unique. Kerr leads the reader to see the films in a different perspective - why and how they appeal to us - and thus a greater appreciation of the films. Much credit goes to Kerr, too, because he includes a wide range of silent comedians in his volume - not just Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and Langdon. That's not the say these four don't get the bulk of the pages, but there are also chapters on Raymond Griffith, Laurel and Hardy and Arbuckle; chapters on the Sennett and Roach studios; and, also, chapters such as "The Demiclowns" and "Some Imperfect Fools" which give us some insight into near-forgotten comedians like Lloyd Hamilton, Larry Semon, Lupino Lane and others. Oh, and, lest we forget, the book has loads of wonderful photos, high quality. If somehow during the past 25 years this book hasn't made it into your hands, you should order it - now!

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