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Why the French Love Jerry Lewis: From Cabaret to Early Cinema

Why the French Love Jerry Lewis: From Cabaret to Early Cinema Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Vividly bringing to light the tradition of physical comedy in the French cabaret, café-concert, and early French film comedy, this book answers the perplexing question, “Why do the French love Jerry Lewis?” The extraordinary emphasis on nervous pathology in the Parisian café-concert, where the genres of the Epileptic Singer and the Idiot Comic took center stage, and where popular comic monologues and songs included “Man with a Tic” and “Im Neurasthenic,” points to a fascinating intersection between medicine and popular culture. The French tradition of comic performance style between 1870 and 1910 nearly exactly duplicates the movements, gestures, tics, grimaces, and speech anomalies found in nineteenth-century hysteria; the characteristics of hysteria became a new aesthetics.

Early French film comedy carried on this tradition of frenetic gesture and gait, as most film performers came from these entertainments and from the circus. Even before Chaplins films triumphed in France, film comics were instantly recognizable from their pathological gait, just as Jacques Tati would be a half-century later. Comedy, a genre that dominated French cinema until World War I, has often been linked to a mass public for film; the author elucidates this link by proposing a broadly generalized cultural-medical phenomenon as the explanation for the dominance of the comic genre. Comic performance style drew from a group of nervous disorders characterized by the psychological automatism emanating from the “lower faculties”: nervous reflex, motor impulses, sensation, and instinct.

Building on her previous work on hysteria, the cabaret, and pathologies of movement in the films of Georges Méliès, and drawing on over 400 French films made between 1896 and 1915, the author contributes to a new theory of spectatorship at work in the cabaret, in shows of magnetizers, and in early French film comedy. Jerry Lewis touches a nerve in French cultural memory because, more than any other film comic, he incarnates this tradition of performance style.

Book News Annotation:

To explain why the French adore Jerry Lewis, Gordon (French and comparative literature, U. of Connecticut) presents a theory of comic performance drawn as much from psychiatric theories of hysteria as from the French physical comedy tradition from 1870 to the early 20th century. The book includes "incoherent art" illustrations from cabaret and film performances, and substantial reference material.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Vividly bringing to light the tradition of physical comedy in the French cabaret, café -concert, and early French film comedy, this book answers the perplexing question, “ Why do the French love Jerry Lewis?” The extraordinary emphasis on nervous pathology in the Parisian café -concert, where the genres of the Epileptic Singer and the Idiot Comic took center stage, and where popular comic monologues and songs included “ Man with a Tic” and “ I’ m Neurasthenic, ” points to a fascinating intersection between medicine and popular culture. The French tradition of comic performance style between 1870 and 1910 nearly exactly duplicates the movements, gestures, tics, grimaces, and speech anomalies found in nineteenth-century hysteria; the characteristics of hysteria became a new aesthetics.

Early French film comedy carried on this tradition of frenetic gesture and gait, as most film performers came from these entertainments and from the circus. Even before Chaplin’ s films triumphed in France, film comics were instantly recognizable from their pathological gait, just as Jacques Tati would be a half-century later. Comedy, a genre that dominated French cinema until World War I, has often been linked to a mass public for film; the author elucidates this link by proposing a broadly generalized cultural-medical phenomenon as the explanation for the dominance of the comic genre. Comic performance style drew from a group of nervous disorders characterized by the psychological automatism emanating from the “ lower faculties” nervous reflex, motor impulses, sensation, and instinct.

Building on her previous work on hysteria, the cabaret, and pathologies of movement in the films of Georges Mé liè s, and drawing on over 400 French films made between 1896 and 1915, the author contributes to a new theory of spectatorship at work in the cabaret, in shows of magnetizers, and in early French film comedy. Jerry Lewis touches a nerve in French cultural memory because, more than any other film comic, he incarnates this tradition of performance style.

Synopsis:

“Why the French Love Jerry Lewis invites readers to consider the power of performance and cinematic illusion to tickle the funny-bone and agitate the senses, to produce involuntary laughter and shivers of delight.”—Michele Pierson, University of Queensland

“Gordons tome offers insights into German Expressionism, French eccentricity, and why large American audiences were thrilled with the late Marty Feldman, Sam Kinison, and Andy Kaufman.”— Humor

About the Author

Rae Beth Gordon is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut and the author of Ornament, Fantasy, and Desire in Nineteenth-Century French Literature.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations; Preface; 1. From Charcot to Charlot: The corporeal unconscious; 2. Imitation and contagion: magnetism as popular entertainment; 3. The cabaret and the body out of control; 4. Pantomine and the zigzag; 5. Hypnotism, somnambulism, and early cinema; 6. Hysterical gesture and movement in early film comedy; Epilogue: shock waves in the new wave and in the films of Jerry Lewis; Appendix; Notes; Works cited; Index.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780804738941
Subtitle:
From Cabaret to Early Cinema
Author:
Gordon, Rae Beth
Author:
Gordon, Rae
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
Location:
Stanford, Calif.
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Theater - General
Subject:
Comedy
Subject:
Hysteria
Subject:
Music-halls
Subject:
Hysteria in motion pictures.
Subject:
Music-halls (Variet
Subject:
Humor-Comedy Business and Criticism
Edition Number:
1
Edition Description:
1
Series Volume:
99-1
Publication Date:
20020401
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
296
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Drama » Acting
Arts and Entertainment » Drama » General
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Reference
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » World Cinema
Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Comedy Business and Criticism
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General Medicine
History and Social Science » Europe » France » Third Republic

Why the French Love Jerry Lewis: From Cabaret to Early Cinema
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$ In Stock
Product details 296 pages Stanford University Press - English 9780804738941 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Vividly bringing to light the tradition of physical comedy in the French cabaret, café -concert, and early French film comedy, this book answers the perplexing question, “ Why do the French love Jerry Lewis?” The extraordinary emphasis on nervous pathology in the Parisian café -concert, where the genres of the Epileptic Singer and the Idiot Comic took center stage, and where popular comic monologues and songs included “ Man with a Tic” and “ I’ m Neurasthenic, ” points to a fascinating intersection between medicine and popular culture. The French tradition of comic performance style between 1870 and 1910 nearly exactly duplicates the movements, gestures, tics, grimaces, and speech anomalies found in nineteenth-century hysteria; the characteristics of hysteria became a new aesthetics.

Early French film comedy carried on this tradition of frenetic gesture and gait, as most film performers came from these entertainments and from the circus. Even before Chaplin’ s films triumphed in France, film comics were instantly recognizable from their pathological gait, just as Jacques Tati would be a half-century later. Comedy, a genre that dominated French cinema until World War I, has often been linked to a mass public for film; the author elucidates this link by proposing a broadly generalized cultural-medical phenomenon as the explanation for the dominance of the comic genre. Comic performance style drew from a group of nervous disorders characterized by the psychological automatism emanating from the “ lower faculties” nervous reflex, motor impulses, sensation, and instinct.

Building on her previous work on hysteria, the cabaret, and pathologies of movement in the films of Georges Mé liè s, and drawing on over 400 French films made between 1896 and 1915, the author contributes to a new theory of spectatorship at work in the cabaret, in shows of magnetizers, and in early French film comedy. Jerry Lewis touches a nerve in French cultural memory because, more than any other film comic, he incarnates this tradition of performance style.

"Synopsis" by ,
“Why the French Love Jerry Lewis invites readers to consider the power of performance and cinematic illusion to tickle the funny-bone and agitate the senses, to produce involuntary laughter and shivers of delight.”—Michele Pierson, University of Queensland

“Gordons tome offers insights into German Expressionism, French eccentricity, and why large American audiences were thrilled with the late Marty Feldman, Sam Kinison, and Andy Kaufman.”— Humor

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