Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movie laughter


There's always that problem. Movie characters laughing at funny things---like circus clowns---that while the movie audience sits stone-faced in the theater wonder what the hell they think is so funny.

Charlie Chaplin found a solution to this in the movie Limelight about a British Music Hall comic. He performs his acts in the film in front of a live audience, but we don't hear anything from them. No laughter of applause. The only audience response viewers of the movie heard were from other people in the theater. Which might not work very well now with DVD.

Then you have the other problem with laughter in film.

I sat through the movie The Trouble With Harry in a theater. Hitchcock's only actual comedy. Every time someone says something "funny" in the movie, they all pause a moment for the audience to stop laughing and compose themselves before going on.

There were several scenes where they did this in Blazing Saddles. I don't know what the audience response was when it was released, but watching on DVD I never felt I needed a moment to recover after Mel Brooks exclaims "Holy underwear!" or that other scene where Cleavon Little pulls the gun on himself.

Jack Lemmon discussed this in the movie Some Like It Hot. Remember the scene where he tells Tony Curtis that he's going to marry Joe E. Brown? He keeps playing the maracas as he talks. He explained in an interview that Billy Wilder had him do that to give the audience time to calm down between lines.

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