'Gehring Lost & Found: Selected Essays'
By: Wes D. Gehring - BearManor Media, $25.00)
Description: “Gehring remains supreme in film comedy scholarship” – Choice.
In a 1979 Frank Capra letter to the author, the director wrote, in part, “ I thoroughly enjoyed your ‘McCarey vs Capra’ article [included in the anthology]. I must also tell you that we were intimate friends."
Verdict: I first learned of the author – a distinguished professor at Ball State University – a few years ago when I took my first online course. It was on Slapstick Comedy and he provided many of the lectures. He impressed me with his knowledge and with a half dozen previous books to his credit, mostly on film comedy, he certainly knows his stuff.
So, whether or not you have had the opportunity to read Dr. Gehring’s other books, this brand new one entitled 'Gehring Lost & Found: Selected Essays' is a wonderful quite collections of essays spanning his more than 40 years working in field of film studies.
After a page entitled "Film Comedy Is …" along with a page and a half of acknowledgments, and then two and a half pages of an Author's Preface, the book then opens with a chapter on Comedians - in this case, the brilliant pairing of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
As Gehring rightly points out off the bat (subtitled: Comic Antihero Extremes During the 1920s), one couldn't find two more either unique or different antiheroic types in American cinema than these two during the '20s.
He goes on to bestow them in righteous platitudes, before we next get his thoughts on both Johnny Bunny and, once again, Buster Keaton (subtitled: Beyond Just Bookends To Silent Film Comedy).
Me personally, I had never heard of the 260-pound Johnny Bunny before so I was immediately drawn in and so found this chapter alone to be very informative.
I won't go through each and every chapter like this or we'll all be here for the better part of the week, but a few of my favorite chapters included The Marx Of Time (all about the growth of, of course, the infamous Marx Brothers), America's Misunderstood Patriot (that focuses on a young Charlie Chaplin), and Fields & Falstaff (which talks about America's greatest native-born comedian, W.C. Fields and the many, if not fleeting, comparisons between his work and that of Shakespeare's Falstaff).
Another is The Last Patriotic Days of Carole Lombard (which includes a rather haunting photograph of Lomabard posing - having spent the day selling war bonds in Indianapolis - which was also the day before she passed away!), and the chapter Lived Issues vs. Raised Issues (which examines the links between mainstream genres - such as romantic comedy, horror, sci-fi, etc. - and art house movies - like Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal').
And toward the end, the magical, absolutely wonderful chapter read, Red Skelton: The Gift of Laughter is a true diamond to behold, as it is a recounting of Gehring's keynote address at Ball State University in 1986, when the University conferred on honorary Doctorate of Humanities upon Red Skelton.
A quite prolific, funny, endearing and totally mesmerizing take on Hollywood and all those that make us laugh and cry through the years, simply put, 'Gehring Lost & Found: Selected Essays' addresses comedians, controversy, and decoding the details found in film, incorporating key historical insight along the way.
Highly, oh so highly recommended.
About The Author: WES D. GEHRING is the Distinguished Professor of Film at Ball State University and associate media editor of USA Today Magazine, for which he also writes the column “Reel World.”
Author of 40 film books, their reception has resulted in speaking engagements from the Paris-Sorbonne University, to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
Since 2017 he has also been one of Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) on-screen scholars for their summer online classes.
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