American Laughter: Immigrants, Ethnicity, and 1930s Hollywood Film Comedy
American Laughter demonstrates the immigrant and ethnic vision that informed Hollywood comedies, and by extension American mass culture, of the 1920s and 1930s. Beginning with a pre-history of American comedy that ranges from the Spanish explorers to Moss Hart, the author then discusses the refashioning of slapstick, team, and romantic comedy by an immigrant Hollywood for a predominantly urban, ethnic audience. With observations on more than three hundred films - many of which have never been studied - the three main chapters uncover an unexamined immigrant and ethnic aesthetic in the films of Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and William Powell and Myrna Loy. In the process, Winokur employs a broad range of contemporary concepts in film history and culture studies, while intertwining subjects as diverse as Balkan politics, Art Deco, the Jewish landsmanshaft, psychoanalysis, vaudeville, Sicilian peasant life, orientalism, the stage Irishman, and body' criticism. Winokur includes over 50 black and white photos, stills, and reprints of promotional pieces that illustrate and complement his analysis of Hollywood film in the '20s and '30s.
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