Saturday, September 18, 2010

Another Fine Mess -- Saul Austerlitz

The subtitle of this book is A History of American Film Comedy, and Saul Austerlitz sets out to tell us about thirty great comic figures, devoting a chapter to each one. Surely there won't be any argument about his choices. Judd Apatow, anyone? Well, before you start, read the book. Austerlitz makes a case for at least a couple of figures that I'm really pleased to see included. Doris Day, for one. And while there's a chapter on Mel Brooks, Austerlitz thinks he's overrated.

The approach is roughly chronological, beginning with Charlie Chaplin and ending with Apatow, and the connections that Austerlitz makes are quite interesting.

But I just lied. The book doesn't end with Apatow. In fact, my favorite part of it comes after Chapter 30. There are almost 100 pages of "Short Entries" on various actors. These entries make for fascinating reading, especially when I agree with it. How could I not love a book whose author says, "Rio Bravo is not only the finest comic western ever made; it might also be the finest western, period." Take that, Brian Garfield!

The book's actual conclusion, and another thing that the docile readers of this blog won't care to argue with, I'm sure, is a list of the "Top 100 American Comedies."

This is a really entertaining and interesting book. If you care about comedy or movies, you'll certainly want to have it in your library.


Anonymous said...

Sounds good. I think Mel Brooks made a few great movies but yes, he's overrated.

And no, Judd Apatow is not on my list of greats.



Unknown said...

For funny westerns, I don't think you can beat McClintock. "Hey Macklin, where's the whiskey?"

Cap'n Bob said...

I agree about Brooks. If the Three Stooges aren't in there the book isn't worth owning.

Unknown said...

They get their own "Short Entry."