“The tiresomely idiotic debate on Keaton versus Chaplin is, in my experience, overwhelmingly used by proponents of Buster to attempt to rubbish Charlie…” It’s an appealing mind-set for some people, who say: “We’ve all heard that Charlie Chaplin was meant to be the greatest comedian in the world, but my preference for Buster keaton demonstrates my ability to think for myself. Chaplin was overly sentimental, but Keaton’s coolness and cynical eye chime exactly with our Modern Times.
Well, the good news is that they are both fantastic. There’s no need to choose between them. Enjoy them both ! That’s one of the main aims in my book. I shall examine the films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster keaton, not in isolation, as has been the usual practice, but showing how they influenced each other in a creative rivalry that also featured Harold Lloyd (the man hanging off the clock). This rivalry and desire to make better and better comedies ensured a stream of high-quality pictures. Great works of art were created.”
Starting with the very earliest pioneering short films, Paul traces the evolution of silent comedy through the 1900s and considers the lives and 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 his career but also the extent to which they influenced each other.
At the same time, he 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 richly illustrated history of silent comedy is destined to be a classic in its own right.