April is a crazy month for classic comedy anniversaries, including the birthdays of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd and (this year) the centennial of the first comedy short directed by Buster Keaton (though not the first one he released). And numerous others, as well. Join me Monday, April 19 (7pm) for my zoom crash course on classic comedy, where we’ll be talking about these guys and many others, and what makes them unique, how they influenced each other, and everyone who came since! The talk will be available only to members of my Patreon family — go here to join so you can take part in all the Travalanche zoom talks, and other exclusive benefits, like my upcoming Podcast about Old Time Medicine Shows, coming up in early May. Come find out why the poet tell us “April is the Foolish Month”!
CHAIN OF FOOLS by Trav S.D.
Chain of Fools traces the art of slapstick comedy from its pre-cinema origins in the ancient pantomime through its silent movie heyday in the teens and twenties, then on to talkies, television, and the Internet. As in his first book, the critically acclaimed No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, author Trav S.D. mixes a wicked wit, a scholar’s curiosity, and a keen critical appreciation for laugh-makers through the ages, from classical clowns like Joseph Grimaldi to comedy kings like Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton . . . to more recent figures, from Red Skelton, Sid Caesar and Ernie Kovacs to Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell . . . all the way down to the teenagers on YouTube whose backyard antics bring us full circle to slapstick’s beginnings. This valentine to the great clowns contains enough insights and surprises to open the eyes of even life-long comedy fans.
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Silent Film Music Composer Ben Model has this to say about the book!
“I have read a lot of books on silent comedy in film. A lot of them. “Chain of Fools” is not like any of these books, and in a refreshing way. Trav S.D. manages to combine a personal journey through the work of the various luminaries of wordless comedy with the act of also laying them chronologically end-to-end, and manages to do so in an entertaining and humorous way. As he did in his book on Vaudeville, “No Applause, Just Throw Money: the Book that Made Vaudeville Famous”, Trav traces the arc of silent comedy back further than most film historians do in their books, and follows it further into the present as well. “Chain of Fools” is not just about silent comedy itself but its place in our culture and how it’s been a consistent part of it. It’s a fun read, and accessible to both novice and seasoned historian. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (And if you’re not aware of it already, do pick up Trav S.D.’s No Applause–Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous)”
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“When I first saw the cover of the book I smiled. This was not Chaplin and Eric Campbell from “Easy Street” or something, it was Author Trav S.D.’s little joke. The principles of the cover were Billy West and Oliver Hardy, THAT introduced me properly to this wonderful book of other film comedians, some famous, some obscure. This is not a reference book, it can be read for pure joy and the author adds his opinions to these characters making them come to life again. You may consider me a fan of Trav from his first book “No Applause Just Throw Money,” for this author brings the same amount of joy and authority to enrich reader’s knowledge of the legacies of the unknown or forgotten. This is pure prose from cover to cover and it could pass for a course study…only this tome is too entertaining for dry lecture. The author has contributed something special in “Chain of Fools,” (Bearmanor Media). This is a five-star rating.” – William Cassara
Back Cover of The Comic Mind
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Table of Contents
Pt. I: Assumptions, Definitions, and Categories
1. Comic Structures
2. Comic Thought
3. Comic Films—Categories and Definitions
Pt. II: Primitives
4. Jests, Tricks, and the First Comic Personalities
5. Mack Sennett
Pt. III: Chaplin and Keaton
6. Chaplin: From Keystone to Mutual
7. Chaplin: First Nationals and Silent Features
8. Chaplin: Sound Films
Pt. IV: Other Silent Clowns
10. Harold Lloyd
11. Harry Langdon
12. More Fun Shops
Pt. V: Sound Comedy
13. Sound and Structure
14. Ernst Lubitsch and René Clair
15. Jean Renoir
16. The Dialogue Tradition
17. The Clown Tradition
18. The Ironic Tradition
The Case for Comedy
Appendix A: Distributors of Comic Films
Appendix B: Photo Credits
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Ben Model was supposed to get together with me over a year ago to do this interview. But now that it finally happened he had lots to talk about.
I divided the subjects into 3 separate interviews. This is the first of three. He discusses his work as a silent film accompanist.
Ben Model is one of the USA's leading silent film accompanists, and has been playing piano and organ for silents at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the past 28 years. Ben co-curates MoMA's annual "Cruel and Unusual Comedy" series and co-curated their 2006 Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle retrospective.
A five-time recipient of the Meet The Composer grant, Ben is a regular accompanist at classic film festivals around the U.S.A. and in Norway, and performs at universities, museums, and historic theaters. Ben is the producer and co-founder of The Silent Clowns Film Series, now in its 14th season in NYC. Ben's recorded scores can be heard on numerous DVD releases from Kino Video and others. Ben's composed ensemble scores for films by Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd are performed around the U.S. every year by orchestras and by concert bands.
One of the many films that Ben Model has written an original score for is Harold Lloyd‘s “Hey There”.
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The next interview with Ben Model with be about his recently released new DVD project “Accidentally Preserved“. Stay Tuned!
Never Weaken is a 1921 silent comedy film starring Harold Lloyd and directed by Fred Newmeyer. It was Lloyd’s last short film, running to three reels, before he moved permanently into feature-length production. It was also one of his trademark “thrill” comedies, featuring him dangling from a tall building. Lloyd and his crew honed and perfected their “thrill” filming techniques in this film, and put them to astonishing use in the 1923 classic feature Safety Last!…