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Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy Paperback – July 1, 2017
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I select books and materials for the American Vaudeville Collection at UA/Tucson. The 2000+ books thus far collected cover the full spectrum of show business because, technology aside, all performance, high or low art, is related. If I ever faced the prospect of being permitted only a suitcase of books (plus my laptop and a transmitting tower!) for exile on a desert island, Slapstick Divas by Steve Massa would be among the dozen or so indispensable books I’d take along.
Although I am a steadfast fan of Mae West, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, I’m certain there are many showbiz enthusiasts like me who do not need to read one more familiar anecdote or attempted analysis about any of them.
The incessant iteration of biographies of past yet still famous performers has caused other performers once as famous and as skilled to slip out of the pages of history. Congratulations and thanks to Steve Massa for rescuing from history’s cutting room floor the celluloid likes of Flora Finch, Louise Fazenda, Alice Howell, Polly Moran, Bea Lillie, Madge Kennedy, Dorothy Gish, Betty Balfour, Gale Henry, Elsie Janis and dozens more including the still familiar Mabel Normand, Marie Dressler, Marion Davies, Collee Moore and Clara Bow.
Such scope requires the intense and difficult research that fills over 600 pages. Nearly 200 of those pages given to thumbnail bios of (I’m guessing) 1000 female film comedians. A helpful list for further reading and a useful index add to the value and usefulness of Steve Mass’s monument to the forgotten goddesses of laughter.
founder: American Vaudeville Museum at UA/Tucson
This review refers to the ebook version, which, in my opinion, makes it an even more entertaining read in that you can actually go straight from the text to the many examples of comedies or comedy clips on archive.org as you go along. Film books have never been this much fun!