Monday, March 14, 2011

Laughing in 1929

They Had to See Paris is the product of the sort of late 19th century humor that my mother-in-law's father must have loved. It's a down-home sort of chuckle based on shared cultural conceptions of decency. Will Rogers must have been the closest thing to a flesh and blood embodiment of this humor. This film is only tarnished by a strange mini-sermon at the end, explaining that the kids are alright.

The Cocoanuts is structured according to an entirely different sort of humor, operating on an anarchic internal logic of absurdity. On the surface, at the very least, this humor seems opposed to all decency. Uproarious physical hijinx and verbal non sequiturs abound. While Borzage and Rogers reaffirm cultural norms, these Brothers tear them down at every chance.

I was just looking at a book that describes the Marx Brother humor as "comic nihilism." I'm wondering how much truth there is to this assessment. The Brothers tear down and satirize just about everything under the sun. Do they ever build up anything besides belly laughs and really mean it? Jeff, I'm looking forward to your thoughts on these Brothers and their films. I confess to having only seen Duck Soup and now The Cocoanuts (and several episodes of You Bet Your Life if that counts).

In case it is not clear from the above, I'll make it clear here that Cocoanuts is much funnier than They Had to See Paris.

Eight movies in...

1929 Top Ten - John
1) Blackmail
2) Hallelujah!
3) The Iron Mask
4) Woman in the Moon
5) The Cocoanuts
6) Spite Marriage
7) They Had to See Paris
8) The Broadway Melody

1929 Top Ten - Abigail
1) Woman in the Moon
2) Hallelujah!
3) The Iron Mask
4) Blackmail
5) Spite Marriage
6) The Cocoanuts
7) They Had to See Paris
8) The Broadway Melody


abigail said...

Agony! Blackmail still needs to climb a rung or two, and Cocoanuts as a whole is funnier than Spite Marriage. I know this, but I'm only just beginning to realize why I haven't shifted order accordingly.

I love silent movies.
I'm not sure how this happened, but I notice a possible unfair preference for silent filmovie over its louder, rowdy sister (or brother, as the case may be).

Possibe unfair preference except in the case of Broadway Melody...blecch. That deserves its place at the bottom of the heap.

This may also be why I preferred Harpo's humor in Cocoanuts to Groucho's. Analyze this, Heart, and tell me what I should do. What should I do?! I should go collect the sap buckets; that's what I should do.

I hate top ten lists.

abigail said...

That's not entirely true.

I love your top ten lists. I just don't know if I'm the best candidate for making my own. Indecisive=Agony!

Six of the 15 buckets had fallen and spilled due to weak wire, and we still have about 15 gallons of sap on the porch. Sap soup is vegetarian, right?

No one ever uses your comments section except for good ol' Ignatiy (I just had to google him to spell his name correctly), so I'm using it in place of a phone.

Key lime pie.