Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-9996-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-2692-5
36 photos, notes, bibliography, filmography, index
212pp. softcover (7 x 10) 2016
Movie Comedians of the 1950s: Defining a New Era of Big Screen Comedy
The 1950s were a transitional period for film comedians. The artistic suppression of the McCarthy era and the advent of television often resulted in a dumbing down of motion pictures. Cartoonist-turned-director Frank Tashlin contributed a funny but cartoonish effect through his work with comedians like Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope. A new vanguard of comedians appeared without stock comic garb or make-up-fresh faces not easily pigeonholed as merely comedians, such as Tony Randall, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Some traditional comedians, like Charlie Chaplin, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye, continued their shtick, though with some evident tweaking.
This book provides insight into a misunderstood decade of film history with an examination of the "personality comedians." The talents of Dean Martin and Bob Hope are reappraised and the "dumb blonde" stereotype, as applied to Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, is deconstructed.
"Beyond a general revisionist look at 1950s film comedy, the goals of the work were to knock down Lewis' perspective that Martin was just a straight man, to undercut the dumb blonde stereotype, and to examine game-changing TV, often via the neglected Frank Tashlin" said Gehring. "I really think I provided important new insight on Tashlin by reading his films through his children's books."
About the Author
Wes D. Gehring is a distinguished professor of film at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column "Reel World." He is the author of 36 film-related books, including award-winning biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton and Charlie Chaplin.