American comedy cinema

The American comic cinema encompasses all comedies products to the United States .


The silent film, and the beginning of the cartoon (1895 to 1929)

Comic films began to appear in large numbers in the silent film era, from about 1895 to 1930. The visual humor of many of these silent films was based on slapstick and burlesque. In American cinema, the most famous comic actors of the silent era were Charlie Chaplin (although born in England, his success was mainly in the United States), Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd . Throughout the world, Max Linder was an important comedy actor, and could be considered the first true movie star.

In the 1920s, the trend was the arrival of comedy in the form of cartoons , a new popular genre. Several popular characters of this period were in this form, including Felix the cat , Mickey Mouse , Oswald the lucky rabbit , and Betty Boop .

From the 1930s to 1940s

The slapstick and screwball comedies of the 1930s

Main articles: Burlesque and Screwball comedy .

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy , who had made a number of very popular, silent and short films, used the sound’s arrival to deepen their characters and improve their visual humor, so they continued to have a great success in talking cinema. Charlie Chaplin was one of the last to make silent films, and his films in the 1930s were devoid of dialogue, although they used sound effects.

The crazy comedies , such as those produced by Frank Capra , have idealized and portrayed a pleasant climate on social values ​​and have highlighted a certain optimism about everyday life. The movies still included burlesque humor, but these were now spoken.

During the war

Main article: Military comedy .

With the entry of the United States into World War II, Hollywood focused on issues related to the conflict. The comedies showed military themes such as the service, the civil defense, the training camps … Wartime restrictions on travel have favored the rise of Hollywood, and nearly a quarter of money spent was used to go to the movies.

The post-war period was an age of reflection on the war, and the emergence of television competition. In 1948, television began to gain commercial momentum and the following year there were nearly a hundred television transmitters in American cities.

Comedy from the 1940s to 1950s

Comedies of Hitchcock

Main articles: Police comedy and Comedy of remarriage .

Alfred Hitchcock directs several comedies:

  • as a remarriage comedy (in which married couples separate and then meet) 1 with marital joys in the 1940s.
  • in the form of a crime comedy with The Hand on the collar , and in the form of comedy macabre with But who killed Harry? in the 1950s.

In a 1967 interview, when asked why he never shot comedies 2 , Hitchcock replied, “But all the movies I do are comedies. » 3

Television, competing comedy movies

In the 1950s, the television industry became a serious competition from the film industry. Despite the technological limitations of television of the time, more and more Americans have chosen to stay at home watching television. Hollywood studios first saw television as a threat, and later as a commercial market. Several kinds of movies (cartoons, B-movies) that were previously for movie theaters were made for television.

In the 1950s, only Walt Disney Studios continued to perform regular family comedies. Indeed, the release of comedy films went down during this decade. In 1947, nearly one in five films made were animated cartoons, but in 1954 this figure dropped to ten percent.

The 1950s saw the decline of comedy stars of the past and a certain lack of new talent in Hollywood. Among the few new popular stars during this period were Judy Holliday and the comedy phenomenon team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis . Lewis followed in the footsteps of Keaton and Harold Lloyd , but his work was not well received by critics in the United States (unlike France where he was very popular).

From the 1960s to 1980s

Comedy of the 1960s and 1970s

The 1960s correspond to a growing number of great comedies (in which we find many stars in each film), such A crazy world, crazy, crazy, crazy (with Spencer Tracy ), These wonderful crazy flying in their funny machines , The Great Race Around the World (with Natalie Wood). By the middle of the decade, some of the generation of American actors of the 1950s, such as Jerry Lewis , went into decline, while Peter Sellers found success with an international audience in his first American film The Pink Panther . There was later a series of films based on the Pink Panther.

By the late 1950s, dark humor and more serious themes had begun to emerge, including satire. Dr. Folamour (1964) was a satirical comedy about the paranoia of the Cold War, while La Garçonnière (1960), Alfie the Flirty (1966) and The Laureate (1967) evoked sexual themes in a way that would have been impossible a few years earlier.

In 1970, the black comedies Catch 22 and MASH reflected the anti-war sentiment that prevailed then, as well as the treatment of a delicate subject, suicide. MASH was toned down, and wore on television in the next decade as a long series .

Comedy of manners 1970s

Main article: Comedy of manners .

Woody Allen and Mel Brooks are the leading comedy movies of the 1970s. Both have written, directed and appeared in their films. Brooks’ style was generally burlesque and zany by nature, often parodying styles and film genres, including horror movies ( Frankenstein Junior ), westerns ( The sheriff is in prison ) and Hitchcock movies ( The Great Frisson ) . After the success of the 1968 film Funny Couple , Neil Simon is again famous in the 1970s with his films The Sunshine Boys and California Suite . Famous comedians have appeared during this decade:Richard Pryor , Steve Martin and Burt Reynolds .

Family comedy and parody of the 1980s

In 1980, a new genre of film appeared with Is there a pilot on the plane?  : the parodic film of disaster. This paved the way for other films in the 1980s: Top Secret! Are there a cop to save Hollywood? … The popular comedy stars of the 1980s – most of whom began their career in television series – are Dudley Moore , Tom Hanks , Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd .

Also popular were John Hughes’s films like Ferris Bueller’s The Fool’s Day . Finally, in the late 1980s, the film Sweetie, I narrowed kids helped a revival in comedies, aimed at a family audience.

From the 1990s to the 2010s

Romantic comedy, and parody

Main article: Romantic comedy .

One of the major developments of the 1990s was the resurgence of the romantic comedy film, encouraged by the success of When Harry Meets Sally in 1989. So appear in the 1990s other romantic comedies like White Nights in Seattle , Clueless and You have a message . Similarly, British cinema has created a lot of romantic comedies in the 1990s like Four Weddings and a Funeral … The parodies have also remained very popular, like Scary Movie and Sex Academy .

Other forms of comedy

Main articles: Stoner comedy and Teen movie .

In the 2000s, there were stoner comedy developments that usually involve two people on an adventure with random things happening to them along the way. Great movies of this sub-genre are Dude, Where’s My Car? Big Nothing , Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Delirium Express .

Another development is the increasing use of “crude humor” (in English Off-color humor ), sub-genre of teen movie generally aimed at a younger audience, in films like Something About Mary , American Pie and its aftermath , and fuck you Freddy! . In the mid-2000s, the trend of “raw humor” films continued, with comedies for an adult audience achieving good box office results. In 2006, Borat mixed vulgar humor and cultural satire.

Decline of American comedies

Since the late 2000s, the American comedy film goes to some observers, in a severe period of decline due to brutal competition in developed markets 4 . There is a difficulty in exporting American comedy to more and more countries, because the humor in most comedy films is closely linked to the original culture of the creators of the films and does not translate well into other countries 4 .

List of notable films

List of American comedy films

Main article: List of American comedy films .

Notes and references



  1. ↑ Krohn (2008), p.  27 .
  2. ↑ The question is a bit awkward, given that Marital Joys (1941) and But who killed Harry? (1955) are purely comedies.
  3. ↑ Bryan Forbes , Alfred Hitchcock, and comedy “Alfred Hitchcock – Music and comedy”, 1967 interview at the National Film Theater (London)  [ archive ] , on the website of the British Film Institute (BFI); page consulted on April 19, 2010.
  4. ↑ a and b in ) John McDuling, ”  Hollywood Is Giving Up on Comedy  ”  [ archive ] , in The Atlantic Monthly Group ,

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