Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Andy Clyde Reels in Laughter

Most movie fans know that Columbia produced short comedy films starring the Three Stooges for more than 20 years. But how many of us are as familiar with the studio's second-longest series of short subjects, starring comedian Andy Clyde? Those films are overdue for a fresh appraisal, and author James L. Neibaur does the job beautifully with his newest book The Andy Clyde Columbia Comedies (McFarland).

Clyde was still in his thirties when his short subjects popularized his characterization of a befuddled, sometimes grouchy old man whose comedic travails included domineering wives, interfering mothers-in-law, and shiftless brothers-in-law. A gifted slapstick comedian, he could perform physical comedy that belied his old-man image.

Neibaur, who has written extensively on classic film comedy, provides a well-researched and insightful study of Clyde's work. Unlike many writers and film historians, he can pin down on paper the elusive magic of a laugh, analyzing what makes a scene or bit funny without seeming pedantic, or killing the joke. The author considers how individual writers and directors enhanced, or detracted from, Clyde's comedy. He also examines the impact of studio budget cuts on the later films, which often recycled footage and ideas from previous shorts.

Those who already appreciate Clyde's comedy will be delighted by the new information (and rare illustrations) they'll find in Neibaur's book. It's also recommended for fans of Columbia comedy in general, as there's much to learn here about how the studio and its short subjects unit operated. As for me, I knew little about Clyde's work prior to reading this book, but now I'm anxious to seek it out. And isn't that the mark of any successful film book?

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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