Silent Film Comedy was a fortuitous combination of art and technology, where
the physical comedy skills and artistry passed down from the Commedia
dell'Arte, English music hall, and American vaudeville were captured for
posterity by the newly created motion picture camera. While the Chaplins,
Keatons, and Laurel & Hardys are still remembered and celebrated, this book
profiles unsung practitioners such as Billie Ritchie, Marcel Perez, Lige
Conley, and George Rowe, with special focus on the neglected comediennes
Alice Howell, Gale Henry, Fay Tincher, and Josie Sadler. Popular icons on
the order of Mack Sennett, Marie Dressler, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and W.C.
Fields are re-examined, plus detailed histories of silent comedy teams and
kid's comedies are offered. The book also includes selected filmographies
and is lavishly illustrated with more than 225 rarely-seen photographs and
Steve Massa is a leading enthusiast of silent comedy, who has devoted 45
years to researching the genre. A librarian in the Billy Rose Theatre
Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln
Center, he has organized comedy film programs for the Museum of Modern Art,
the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Pordenone
Silent Film Festival. In addition to consulting with the Eye Film Institute,
Netherlands and other archives, and writing for film journals such as
Griffithiana, he is a founding member of Silent Cinema Presentations which
produces NYC's Silent Clown Film Series. Steve has also contributed articles
and commentary tracks to many comedy DVD collections such as The Forgotten
Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Becoming Charley Chase, and Kino Video's
Buster Keaton: The Short Films Collection.
From The New York Times: (click here for full review)
These are films that only survive because they were reissued in 16-millimeter by companies catering to the home movie market before the days of VHS — hence the title of Mr. Model’s collection, “Accidentally Preserved.” Here, accompanied by program notes by Steve Massa (whose fine book on neglected silent comics, “Lame Brains and Lunatics,” was recently published by BearManor Media), are films featuring classic broad slapstick with stars like Paul Parrott and Clyde Cook, as well as extremely rare work by comedians like Wallace Lupino and Neal Burns, who followed Lloyd into more naturalistic characterizations.
"There is no question that Steve Massa’s research will remain a valuable guide for many years to come. His enthusiasm certainly makes one want to seek out many of these long-forgotten films."
- Leonard Maltin