Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy

Overview

Charlie Chaplin. Buster Keaton. The Marx Brothers. Billy Wilder. Woody Allen. The Coen brothers. Where would the American film be without them? Yet the cinematic genre these artists represent--comedy--has perennially received short shrift from critics, film buffs, and the Academy Awards. 

Saul Austerlitz’s Another Fine Mess is an attempt to right that wrong. Running the gamut of film history from City Lights to Knocked Up, Another ...

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Overview

Charlie Chaplin. Buster Keaton. The Marx Brothers. Billy Wilder. Woody Allen. The Coen brothers. Where would the American film be without them? Yet the cinematic genre these artists represent--comedy--has perennially received short shrift from critics, film buffs, and the Academy Awards. 

Saul Austerlitz’s Another Fine Mess is an attempt to right that wrong. Running the gamut of film history from City Lights to Knocked Up, Another Fine Mess retells the story of American film from the perspective of its unwanted stepbrother--the comedy. In 30 long chapters and 100 shorter entries, each devoted primarily to a single performer or director, Another Fine Mess retraces the steps of the American comedy film, filling in the gaps and following the connections that link Mae West to Doris Day, or W. C. Fields to Will Ferrell. The first book of its kind in more than a generation, Another Fine Mess is an eye-opening, entertaining, and enlightening tour of the American comedy, encompassing the masterpieces, the box-office smashes, and all the little-known gems in between.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
American film comedy is barely a century old and already commentary on it can fill bookshelves, with countless pages devoted to the evolution of physical comedy, the influence of notable comedians like Charlie Chaplin, and the effects of technology on the form. Austerlitz touches on all of these things, but his objective is to provide a chronological set of biographies of the most important figures, both major (the top 30) and minor (over 100 more), and comment on their achievements and influence. The result is a comprehensive textbook that traces a legitimate line of succession from Chaplin to Apatow. Clearly Austerlitz has great affection for and knowledge of his subject; he can comment with equal skill on Renee Zellweger and W.C. Fields. Still, his take on the century is not without bias. Never less than candid ("Mel Brooks is overrated"), his tastes are also present in what he leaves out (Hal Ashby, Hal Hartley, and Cameron Crowe are all missing). Though readers will surely disagree with some of his choices, the breadth of material Austerlitz has compiled here is a feat. Photos. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"Entertaining reading."  —Booklist

“Conventional wisdom holds that analyzing comedy is a thankless task—who’s to say what’s funny, and why kill the fun of it?—but Saul Austerlitz’s wide-ranging survey of American film comedy is both illuminating and hugely enjoyable. With its sharp insights and vivid biographical sketches, it’s first-rate film criticism and a terrific resource to boot.”  —Dennis Lim, editor, The Village Voice Film Guide

"I was enrapt, argumentative, gobsmacked, amused and ready to rethink what I know about American film comedy. Crack this book open, and let the debate—and the flying pies—begin."  —Glen David Gold, author, Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside

"Comprehensive yet reader-friendly account."  LAWeekly.com

"A sprawling but incisive biography of film comedy history."  —North County Times

"Entertaining and amusing . . . this book truly highlights the best of the genre."  —COEDMagazine.com

"Clever and well-researched."  —Library Journal

"Sharp, scholarly."  —AmericanProfile.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556529511
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 815,819
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Saul Austerlitz is a writer living in New York City.  His work has been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Slate, the Boston Globe, and other publications.  He is the author of Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes.

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