From the author of Stan and Ollie--a funny, fresh, and compelling look at Hollywood's Original King of Comedy
From his early aspirations to sing opera, to his time under the tutelage of D. W. Griffith, to the fortune and notoriety that his uncanny eye for talent deservedly brought him, Mack Sennett stood behind his belief in individuality and originality. Now, more than eighty years after Sennett rose to heights that epitomized the American dream, the acclaimed biographer of Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and W. C. Fields offers a compelling account of comedy's transformation at the hands of a true master.
Regarded as the father of American slapstick, Sennett--iron-worker, boilermaker, actor, director, producer, writer, and creator of the infamous Keystone Kops--held audiences in thrall to a world where chaos was order and banana peels, car crashes, and leaps from tall buildings were a matter of course. As the cameras rolled and vaudeville gags morphed into celluloid wonders, the rising stars of Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Gloria Swanson were born. Behind it all was the "King of Comedy," governing from his office bathtub.
In this irresistible journey into early Hollywood at its peak, Simon Louvish crafts a fascinating portrait of the enigmatic entrepreneur. Through film scripts, telegrams, even liquor bills, Sennett's world is skillfully re-created, offering a rare and humorous glance into the infancy and innocence of moving pictures.
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Simon Louvish is the author of Stan and Ollie, Monkey Business, and The Man on the Flying Trapeze. He is also the author of nine novels, and teaches at the London international film school.
Film historian Louvish, having previously focused on comedy legends of the early sound era (Stan and Ollie, etc.), turns his attention to Sennett, the silent film mogul responsible for the iconic Keystone Kops. Though his childhood wish was to sing opera, Sennett (1880-1960) eventually wound up in vaudeville, then shifted to film, landing a job at D.W. Griffith's studio, acting in and later directing short comedies. He struck out on his own when he launched Keystone in 1912. "Start with Sennett, get rich somewhere else" became a Hollywood standard, and the names that passed through the studio include Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Ben Turpin and Gloria Swanson. There was also Mabel Normand, supposedly the great love of Sennett's life, though Louvish concludes their romance was invented, possibly to cover up Sennett's homosexuality. There's barely enough about Sennett's life to fill a book, though, so readers learn just as much about the other Keystone members, revisiting classic Hollywood scandals like Arbuckle's fall from grace and the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor. Although Louvish regards all his sources, from celebrity memoirs to fawning magazine articles, with healthy skepticism, he appears to have been seduced by their florid style. "Murky shadows gathered in the sunny glades where the movie people had frolicked in their make-believe innocence in never-never land" is a typical example, undercutting Louvish's potent historical research. Film synopses from Keystone archives increase the page count and, like the biography itself, may be of interest only to avid silent film fans. 47 b&w photos.
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