High Comedy in American Movies: Class and Humor from the 1920s to the Present (Genre and Beyond: A Film Studies Series)

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9780742526341: High Comedy in American Movies: Class and Humor from the 1920s to the Present (Genre and Beyond: A Film Studies Series)

High Comedy in American Movies explores the 'comedy of manners' film throughout the twentieth century, from the advent of movie sound to recent films, and shows how class comedy's inside view of the aristocratic lifestyle has been influenced by the culture and times in which the movies are produced. Outlining the conventions of class comedy, Steve Vineberg discusses its British roots and analyzes how many American filmmakers have modified the genre, creating a distinctly American approach to class. Easily accessible, High Comedy in American Movies makes an engaging supplement to courses in American film, film genre, and film studies.

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About the Author:

Steve Vineberg is professor in the theatre department at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and author of Method Actors and No Surprises, Please. His movie reviews and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Phoenix, the Threepenny Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Christian Century, as well as many other publications.

Review:

In looking at the various subgenres of comedy, the author zeroes in on comedy of manners, the high comedy that privileges elegance, wit, and sophisticated banter among its iridescent, pedigreed characters. Vineberg smartly connects stage and screen. . . . He looks at the ways in which the more egalitarian U.S. movies handle the class-conscious lives of the rich and elite through comic twists and tweaks. Vineberg's work illumines the stylish, genteel, and buoyant narratives of the film comedy of manners, from glossy hijinks to poisoned champagne, with its own polished intelligence. Recommended. (Choice)

Vineberg has brought much-needed attention to the way class has shaped American film comedy, hence has shaped the social and political ideals of its audiences. (Cineaste)

High Comedy in American Movies provides a concise, accessible, and entertaining critical tour through some of the most beloved and celebrated of Hollywood films. The tight focus of this genre study is on those comedies of the upper classes filled with charming characters, sharp banter, and delightfully romantic, if often bittersweet, resolutions. This book is rather like the comedies it celebrates-witty and graceful, wearing its erudite roots in theatre history lightly, but leaving us with a sharp sense there is something to explore more deeply. (Labour /Le Travail)

At a time when low comedy, sitcoms, and crafty hybrids like 'dramedy' rule box offices and TV tubes, Steve Vineberg reminds us of high comedy's more sophisticated virtues, exploring the roles played by class structures in American culture and clarifying the complex relationships between page, stage, and screen along the way. The result is as entertaining as it is illuminating, written with a generosity of spirit that enriches the acuity of its analyses. It arrives just when it's most needed, spotlighting a legacy that many moviegoers are in danger of forgetting while recognizing that genre boundaries are always fluid, open-ended, and mercurial. This is the high, fun-to-read scholarship that high American comedy deserves. (David Sterritt)

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