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Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Harvard Film Studies) Paperback – February 14, 1984

ISBN-13: 978-0674739062 ISBN-10: 067473906X

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Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Harvard Film Studies) + Contesting Tears: The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman + Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard Film Studies (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 14, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067473906X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674739062
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

No book about the art of Hollywood I have ever read can make its readers stop and think more effectively than this one. (S. S. Prawer Times Literary Supplement)

This is a voice like no other in philosophy, today or ever. (Arthur C. Danto October)

The great achievement of…Pursuits of Happiness is that it finally provides a solid framework for the serious discussion of the great dialogue comedies of the thirties and forties, perhaps the most revived and loved movies of Hollywood's golden period. (Al LaValley American Film)

This just must be, in its close readings and its stunning associations, one of the most compelling accounts of its kind. The fact is, it just is its kind. (Geoffrey Hawthorn London Review of Books)

Stanley Cavell's book succeeds brilliantly…The individual 'readings' of the films and the general conceptual plan in which they are embedded are both so rich and rewarding that…'brilliant'…seems an understatement. (Gerald Mast Journal of Aesthetic Education)

About the Author

Stanley Cavell is Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 17, 1996
Format: Paperback
Cavell identifies the "comedies of remarriage," those romantic comedies and comic romances that lit the screens and the hearts of the audiences of the 1930's and 40's. With the mind of a philosopher and scholar and the passionate appreciation of a true fan, he examines classic romantic comedies (and comic romances), including "The Lady Eve," "The Awful Truth," and "The Philadelphia Story." In a classical context (he compares the role of the woods in Shakespeare to the role of Connecticut in "Bringing Up Baby") he manages to illuminate the films without disturbing the gossamer that holds them together. The best that can be said is that he does justice to these lovely films, and makes us understand how smart we were to adore them
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 1997
Format: Paperback
The goal of this book is to show that the classic American film comedies of the 30's and 40's are worthy of the best criticism. The author succeeds. If you love movies, and want to think about them seriously, this is your book. The films in it star Hepburn, Grant, Tracy, Gable, Stanwyck. This is a sophisticated book for a sophisticated film audience. The author is one of America's leading philosophers. Cavell brings his knowledge of concepts of friendship, conversation, gender, parenting, sexuality, fun, and adventure to bear on each of the romantic comedies he discusses. The genre explored here continues in GROUNDHOG DAY, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, ALL OF ME, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. This book is serious, and well worth it. It explores everything important to every romantic relationship. I highly recommend it to everyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George H. Sullivan on May 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary book, with an extraordinary personality. Its subject is the Hollywood screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, and it is first and foremost a serious work of film criticism, full of literary insight and philosophical speculation (the author is a well-known Harvard philosophy professor, now retired). But it is also full of fun. Laughter lurks everywhere, bubbling continually beneath the surface of the discourse, and Cavell's love of the films (and, not incidentally, his love of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and Rosalind Russell and Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert) is all but palpable. The result is a marriage of the serious and the playful that is, in my opinion, unique -- I know of no other work of literary or film criticism that so joyously celebrates its subject. In the years since the book was originally published in 1981, Cavell's phrase "comedy of remarriage" -- signifying a romance in which a made-for-each-other couple becomes estranged and then finds their way back to a deeper understanding of both themselves and their relationship -- has become standard filmcrit terminology. That's as it should be, because Cavell makes a brilliant case for his thesis, all the time (in a phrase from Emerson that serves as the book's epigraph) carrying the holiday in his eye. Bravo.
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By Stephen on February 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You will need to have your synapses securely bolted on for this one. A very serious thoughtful look at the 'comedy of re-marriage' as depicted in seven classic 1930's/40's Hollywood comedies: 'It Happened One Night,' 'The Awful Truth,' 'Bringing Up Baby,' 'The Philadelphia Story,' 'His Girl Friday,' 'The Lady Eve,' and 'Adam's Rib.' Professor Cavell spends a deal too much time (for this reader) justifying to himself that mere Hollywood comedies deserve such a deep philosophical treatment, (of course they do!) Each film is given a chapter, and some work better than others.'Bringing Up Baby' and 'The Awful Truth' especially good. This book is thirty years old, and was written before the days of readily available dvds to go and refer to; but it stands up well as the best (and maybe only) such treatment of this genre. But you will need to concentrate!
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13 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not for filmgoers. Its focus is geared to the elite and erudite college student who will be impressed by name dropping of prominent philosophers in Western Lit. To be polite, it is dripping in stream-of-consciousness commentary that reeks of self-indulgence, suggesting adult attention deficit problems. It is not uncommon to find sentences in excess of 50 words long, that if grammatically diagrammed would make Watson and Crick's double helix look like a straight arrow. Save time and save money. The clip art of movie scenes is primitive and should have been a clue as to the author's intent. A great disappointment.
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