Genre-Busting Dark Comedies of the 1970s

Twelve American Films


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About the Book

This examination of dark comedies of the 1970s focuses on films which concealed black humor behind a misleading genre label. All That Jazz (1979) is a musical…about death—hardly Fred and Ginger territory. This masking goes beyond misnomer to a breaking of formula that director Robert Altman called “anti-genre.” Altman’s MASH (1970) ridiculed the military establishment in general—the Vietnam War in particular—under the guise of a standard military service comedy. The picaresque Western Little Big Man (1970) turned the bluecoats vs. Indians formula upside-down—the audience roots for the Indians instead of the cavalry.
The book covers 12 essential films, including Harold and Maude (1971), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Being There (1979), with notes on A Clockwork Orange (1971). These films reveal a compounding complexity that reinforces the absurdity at the heart of dark comedy.

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 (7 x 10)
Pages: 252
Bibliographic Info: 43 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9542-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2251-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by David L. Smith 1

Preface and Acknowledgments 3

Prologue 5

1. MASH (1/24/70) 11

2. Catch–22 (6/20/70) 34

3. Little Big Man (12/15/70) 53

4. Harold and Maude (12/21/71) 68

5. Cabaret (2/14/72) 86

6. Slaughterhouse-Five (3/23/72) 105

7. Chinatown (6/21/74) 122

8. Love and Death (6/11/75) 139

9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (11/20/75) 155

10. Annie Hall (4/21/77) 169

11. Being There (12/20/79) 184

12. All That Jazz (12/20/79) 198

Epilogue with Notes on A Clockwork Orange (1971) 213

Chapter Notes 219

Filmography 221

Bibliography 232

Index 241

Book Reviews & Awards

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