Forties Film Funnymen

The Decade’s Great Comedians at Work in the Shadow of War


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About the Book

The twelve classic comedy films examined within these pages are distinguished by an equal number of defining comic performances. Ranging from The Great Dictator (1940) to A Southern Yankee (1948), each film focuses on the most central theme of “clown comedy”: Resilience, the encouragement or hope that one can survive the most daunting of life’s dilemmas—even during the war-torn 1940s. And each film can be regarded as a microcosm of the antiheroic world of its central clown (or clowns).
Among the performers represented are Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Jack Benny, Eddie Bracken, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd and Red Skelton. This lavishly illustrated work includes an introduction by noted film critic and historian Anthony Slide.

About the Author(s)

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 40 film books, including biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton and Charlie Chaplin.

Bibliographic Details

Wes D. Gehring
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 234
Bibliographic Info: 41 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4257-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5665-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents


Foreword by Anthony Slide      1

Preface and Acknowledgments      5

Introduction      9

1. Charlie Chaplin: The Great Dictator (1940)      13

2. W. C. Fields: The Bank Dick (1940)      30

3. Abbott & Costello: Buck Privates (1941)      46

4. Jack Benny: To Be or Not to Be (1942)      59

5. Eddie Bracken: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)      75

6. Bob Hope & Bing Crosby: The Road to Utopia (1946)      89

7. Danny Kaye: The Kid from Brooklyn (1946)      102

8. The Marx Brothers: A Night in Casablanca (1946)      115

9. Harold Lloyd: The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)      133

(a.k.a. Mad Wednesday)

10. Bob Hope: My Favorite Brunette (1947)      150

11. Charlie Chaplin: Monsieur Verdoux (1947)      165

12. Red Skelton: A Southern Yankee (1948)      179

Epilogue      192

Filmography      199

Chapter Notes      201

Bibliography      213

Index      223

Book Reviews & Awards

“Gehring remains supreme in film comedy scholarship”—Choice.