Excerpt from James Agee’s “Comedy’s Greatest Era”

When someone asks me why they should care about Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin or Harold Llyod or silent film in general, I point them to this statement from the great James Agee.

All these people zipped and caromed about the pristine world of the screen as jazzily as a convention of water bugs. Words can hardly suggest how energetically they collided and bounced apart, meeting in full gallop around the house; how hard and how often they fell on their backsides; or with what fantastically adroit clumsiness they got themselves fouled up in folding ladders, garden hoses, tethered animals and each others’ headlong cross-purposes. The gestures were ferociously emphatic; not a line or motion of the body was wasted or inarticulate.

James Agee, “Comedy’s Greatest Era,” Life, September 5, 1949

Posted on October 2, 2011, in Readings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Yes…as “jazzily as waterbugs.” That’s exactly, exactly right.

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