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The Silent Clowns

4.54 of 5 stars 4.54  ·  rating details  ·  78 ratings  ·  10 reviews
This book is both a scholarly study of silent comedy movies, and an illustrated guide to the major comedians for the general reader. It covers such characters as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy.
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published December 31st 1975 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 1975)
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[These notes were made in 1990:]. Bought as a coffee-table book (and it is certainly well-illustrated), this turns out to be an extremely intelligent piece of film criticism, with the glossy paper and pictures a bonus to the text rather than the other way around. I haven't enjoyed a piece of non-fiction so much in ages. The chapters on Keaton were favourites, of course, but those on Chaplin, Lloyd and the minor comics have given me new handles to appreciate any of the films I may be lucky enough ...more
Walter Kerr was primarily a theater critic, but he loved movies--and especially silent comedies. I met him and had a chance to chat with him at Cinecon 12 in NYC in 1976 [more about cinecon at]. This is a wonderful introduction to silent screen comedy--the comics who starred in them and the art and aesthetics of the genre.
Part loving tribute, part thoughtful analysis and part sholarly tome (but never dull), Kerr's one film book will stand as his monument after all his thea
Chuck LoPresti
Start here if you're interested in the study of early comedy. Kerr writes with passion and skill. Some 380 pages - but due to the huge size of the book - it would be more like 600 pages in a typical size publication. The large size is justified as the prints are well selected film and production shots. Many of these photos are not found elsewhere. The chapters are individuated and detailed essays that read something like Walter Benjamin's lighter moments. Kerr's focus is profound and despite the ...more
lushest book of silent comedy
Oct 01, 2008 James rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Silent Film Comedy
Walter Kerr's "Silent Clowns" is a good overview and starting point into the genre of silent film comedy. His thesis is more analytically-driven than history driven, although Kerr does offer solid historical information about the careers of several comedians.

He also offers thought-provoking insights and theories into the careers and screen personas of the likes of Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, and Langdon.

Kerr's piece isn't flawless. He's rather centric in his praise of the major four comedians(Chapli
Scott Teresi
A masterful book on the infancy of comedic cinema! A MUST for any Chaplin/Keaton fan.
Walter Kerr's coffee table-sized book on silent movie comedians has been considered a nearly definitive treatment of the topic for more than 30 years. I lucked into a $25 hardcover first edition at Half Price books (an edition that routinely goes for $50 or more), beautifully preserved in a mylar jacket and begged for it as a Christmas gift two years ago and got it. I look forward to delving into it someday soon...
May 23, 2012 Rebecca marked it as to-read
Every time I pass the Friends' books, I see this cool cover. Making a note of it.
One of the first "grown-up books" I ever owned.
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Walter Francis Kerr was an American writer and Broadway theater critic. He also was a writer, lyricist, and director of several Broadway musicals.

He became a theater critic for the New York Herald Tribune in 1951, then began writing theater reviews for the New York Times in 1966. He wrote for the New York Times for seventeen years. Kerr won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1978.

In 1990, the old R
More about Walter Kerr...
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