Class, language, and American film comedy

"Counter This book examines the evolution of American film comedy through the lens of language and the portrayal of social class. Christopher Beach argues that class has been an important element in the development of sound comedy as a cinematic form. With the advent of sound in the late 1920s...

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Main Author: Beach, Christopher.
Format: Book Electronic
Published:Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Online Access:EBSCOhost Available to NLU students, faculty, and staff.
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Review by Choice Review

The themes of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion lurk behind this delightful and impressive study. Following the critical analysis provided by Steven Ross in his study of sociopolitical class in silent American films (Working-Class Hollywood, CH, May'98), Beach (Univ. of California, Irvine) begins with sound comedies, offering a rhetorical inquiry of the nature and scope of the representation of social codes involving speech. Brilliant close textual readings of the Marx Brothers' subversive anarchy and Lubitsch's refined speech acts present a convincing demonstration of how films teach what it means to talk and act like members of various social classes. His investigation into how class social structures are maintained and transgressed covers the hyperkinetic repartee of the 1930s screwball comedies, the populist patter of Frank Capra's films, the postmodern parodies of Woody Allen, and other portrayals of cinematic language. Within the "social habitus" of film, Beach guides the reader's attention to signs and codes that reveal remarkable insights into social class. To his credit, he avoids overuse of theoretical jargon and writes vivid descriptions of classic comic scenes and bits: in other words, he keeps it smart and funny. All collections. T. Lindvall Regent University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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