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  • “The Stigma of Slapstick”: The Short-Subject Industry and Its Imagined Public

    Rob King

    Chapter from the book: King, R. 2017. Hokum!: The Early Sound Slapstick Short and Depression-Era Mass Culture.


    This chapter offers an overview of the short-subject industry’s main lines of development in the decade following sound. The focus is placed on the role of shorts within the industry’s evolving understanding of its public, pre- and post-Depression. In the earliest years of sound, the Hollywood studios had characteristically addressed their public in terms of the new language of metropolitan distinction broached in the previous chapter. But around the mid-1930s, this mode of address came to be replaced by a newly populist appeal informed by New Deal-era ideals of civic inclusivity and edification. The short-subject comedies of Algonquin wit Robert Benchley – first at Fox (1928-1929), later at MGM (1935-1944) – provide a case study for assessing how these changing frameworks of address were articulated through comedy. The chapter further considers the exhibition practice of the double bill and its role in shrinking the market for short subjects.

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    King, R. 2017. “The Stigma of Slapstick”: The Short-Subject Industry and Its Imagined Public. In: King, R, Hokum!. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.28.c

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    Published on April 7, 2017