The Marx Brothers: A Bio-bibliography

Greenwood Publishing Group
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This bio-bibliography was designed to present a combined biographical, critical, and bibliographical portrait of the Marx Brothers. It examines their significance in film comedy in particular, and as popular culture figures in general. The book is divided into five sections, beginning with a biography which explores the public and private sides of the Marx Brothers. The second section is concerned with the influences of the Marx Brothers as icons of anti-establishment comedy, as contributors to developments in American comedy, as early examples of saturation comedy, and as a crucial link between silent films and the talkies. Three original articles, two by Groucho and one by Gummo, comprise part three. A bibliographical essay, which assesses key reference materials and research collections, is followed by two bibliographical checklists. Appendices containing a chronological biography with a timeline, a filmography, and a selected discography complete the work.
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About the author

WES D. GEHRING is Associate Professor of Film at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

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Additional Information

Greenwood Publishing Group
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Published on
Dec 31, 1987
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Language Arts & Disciplines / Communication Studies
Performing Arts / Film / General
Social Science / Popular Culture
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The 1930s are routinely considered sound film’s greatest comedy era. Though this golden age encompassed various genres of laughter, clown comedy is the most basic type. This work examines the Depression decade’s most popular type of comedy—the clown, or personality comedian. Focusing upon the Depression era, the study filters its analysis through twelve memorable pictures. Each merits an individual chapter, in which it is critiqued. The films are deemed microcosmic representatives of the comic world and discussed in this context. While some of the comedians in this text have generated a great deal of previous analysis, funnymen like Joe E. Brown and Eddie Cantor are all but forgotten. Nevertheless, they were comedy legends in their time, and their legacy, as showcased in these movies, merits rediscovery by today’s connoisseur of comedy. Even this book’s more familiar figures, such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, are often simply relegated to being recognizable pop culture icons whose work has been neglected in recent years. This book attempts to address these oversights and to re-expose the brilliance and ingenuity with which the screen clowns contributed a comic resiliency that was desperately needed during the Depression and can still be greatly appreciated today. The films discussed are City Lights (1931, Chaplin), The Kid From Spain (1932, Cantor), She Done Him Wrong (1933, Mae West), Duck Soup (1933, Marx Brothers), Sons of the Desert (1933, Laurel and Hardy), Judge Priest (1934, Will Rogers), It’s a Gift (1934, W.C. Fields), Alibi Ike (1935, Brown), A Night at the Opera (1935, Marx Brothers), Modern Times (1936, Chaplin), Way Out West (1937, Laurel and Hardy), and The Cat and the Canary (1939, Bob Hope).
This book presents a combined biographical, critical, and bibliographical estimate of Laurel & Hardy's significance in film comedy, the arts in general, and as popular culture icons. Of the two, Laurel decidedly evolves as the central player in this duo biography. The reasons for this are several, but mainly stem from Laurel's role as team spokesman; his late life accessibility; media coverage given to his private life; and the fact that he outlived Hardy by eight years--from 1957 to 1965--a period in which the ever burgeoning public fascination with the team reached new proportions. Hardy's artistic input, however, is currently being given a revisionist upgrading, which Gehring addresses.

The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 is a biography of Laurel & Hardy, exploring the public and private sides of their lives. Chapter 2 is a critique of four broad influences of Laurel & Hardy--as special icons of comic frustrations; as developers of a change in film comedy pacing (which also eased their transition from silent to sound film); as movie pioneers in the innovative early use of comic sound; and, most importantly, as key participants in the evolution of the comic antihero into American mainstream humor. Chapter 3 is composed of two very early reprinted Laurel & Hardy articles and a special Encore collection. Chapter 4 is a very ambitious Laurel & Hardy bibliographical essay, assessing key reference materials and locating research collections open to the student and/or scholar. This involves many obscure, often early and/or untranslated articles drawn from research in Ulverston England--Laurel's birthplace--London and Paris. Chapter 5 is a bibliographical checklist of all sources recommended in Chapter 4. This volume should be of special interest to all Laurel & Hardy aficionados, and students/scholars of comedy.

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