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Laughing in the Dark, Movie Comedy from Groucho to Woody.

LAUGHING IN THE DARK, MOVIE COMEDY FROM GROUCHO TO WOODY by Ted Sennett (St. Martin's Press, 341 p.) is a handsome, expertly assembled and intelligently written reminder that there was comedy life before the sitcoms. Also, movie comedy not only provided superlative and often pertinent entertainment, but it also reflected the nation and its social, political and economic attitudes.

We laugh because, in the midst of trouble or chaos, laughter can be a healing balm. that reminds us of how absurdly we behave, how ridiculous we sometimes appear in the eyes of others, and how gallantly we confront a universe that is usually hostile," writes Sennett in his introduction.

His book serves as a vivid and useful reminder of the great evolution of movie comedy, from Chaplin and slapstick to the innocently-fun social commentary in It Happened One Night (1934), the romantic comedies of the 1940's, those great films teaming Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy; the marital satires and farces of the 1950's and again in the 1980's, etc. The list is endless, and Sennett does a superlative job in tying it all together, so that it makes sense in its time and place.

The Three Stooges, Claudette Colbert, Dustin Hoffman, Marilyn Monroe, or Dudley Moore - it's all there, effectively illustrated and very well commented on.

Comedy is a Hollywood staple, and a kind of lightening rod of American culture for decades. Sennett's book does full justice to the genre, and puts it into its proper perspective.
COPYRIGHT 1992 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:247
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