Music Hall Mimesis in British Film, 1895-1960: On the Halls on the Screen

Music Hall Mimesis in British Film, 1895-1960: On the Halls on the Screen

by Paul Matthew St Pierre


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In Music Hall Mimesis in British Film, 1895-1960, Dr. St. Pierre examines strategies of representing British music hall performance (1854-1919) and the performance of the body in British cinema in the silent era (1895-1927) and the sound era (1927-60). The focus is on films of Fred and Joe Evans, Frank Randle, Will Hay, George Formby, Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane, Cicely Courtneidge, Jessie Matthews, Norman Evans, Max Miller, Stanley Holloway, Jack Warner, Gracie Fields, and Charles Chaplin. Consideration is given to themes such as war propaganda and gender impersonation.

The book proposes a historical paradox: that cinema, along with the other twentieth-century media-radio, gramophone, and television-helped to darken the music halls, but also has preserved music hall performances in archival film stock, particularly of artists such as G. H. Chirgwin, Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd, George Robey, Florrie Ford, and Charles Coborn, whose final performances were recorded in short and feature films.

The strengths of the book include its scope and its comprehensiveness. It uses performance theory to scrutinize the biomechanics of movement in performances; literary theory to interpret lyrics and dialogue; and film theory. The latter is used, for example, to explain how Chaplin engineered his tracking shot to follow the Little Tramp along the trench in Shoulder Arms (1918) before the crane shot was invented or how he exploited the traveling matte for comic purposes in The Great Dictator (1940). The methodology combines mimetic and biosemiotic theory and body performance poetics.

This scholarly book will also appeal to general readers interested in British film history and music hallvariety entertainers and performance. It will especially be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, academics, and independent scholars in the fields of film, theater, and performance studies as well as those who wish to know more about British film, comedy, and performance, or who have a fondness for nostalgia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780838641910
Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Pages: 262
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9

Introduction 11

1 Silence Is Silver: The Transmutation of British Music Hall Artists to the Silent Silver Screen 21

2 Patriotism or Propaganda?: Actualities of War and British Music Hall 46

3 Performing Music Hall on Radio, Television, and Stage in Film 79

4 Screening Pantomime Dames and Principal Boys 107

5 Narratives on the Boards in Film: The Spectator-Narratee 134

6 Movie Star and Other Funny Turns 163

7 Pantomime and Music Hall Performative in the Films of Charles Chaplin 193

Conclusion Music Hall Mimesis in British Film: Art, Fact, Artifact 226

Filmography 233

Notes 239

Bibliography 245

Index 251

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