A Lass and a Lack? Women in British Silent Comedy

Porter, Laraine (2013) A Lass and a Lack? Women in British Silent Comedy. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsacta/3821. In: Researching Women in Silent Cinema: New Findings and Perspectives. A cura di: Dall'Asta, Monica ; Duckett, Victoria ; Tralli, Lucia. Bologna: Dipartimento delle Arti - DAR, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, pp. 384-401. ISBN 9788898010103. In: Women and Screen Cultures, (1). A cura di: Dall'Asta, Monica ; Duckett, Victoria. ISSN 2283-6462.
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This chapter considers the role of women in British silent film comedy from 1895 to the end of the 1920s and their legacy into the early sound period. It argues that women comedians became increasingly marginalized as cinema developed into an industry, with the codes, form and style of the “mature silent cinema” restricting women into a narrow range of stereotypes that negated female agency and prioritized looks and glamour over personality or character. The dominance of a few male directors in British cinema, particularly Asquith and Hitchcock, narrowed opportunities for comedic women with their preponderance for objectifying women. It commences with a resume of women performing slapstick and physical comedy, using the Edwardian Tilly Girl comedies as case studies, arguing that women enjoyed relative comic freedom until the Great War, despite the plethora of stereotypes—coy young ladies, “old maids,” suffragettes, domineering wives etc—that characterized their representation in early cinema. Florence Turner is presented as a key figure in the pivotal period immediately following World War I, before falling victim to one of British cinema’s periodic recessions. Betty Balfour’s ingénue “Squibs” is emblematic of the early 1920s, but even her star wanes as she outgrows her youthful persona, becoming the butt of jokes around ageing in A Little Bit of Fluff (1928).

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Porter, Laraine
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28 Sep 2013 15:02
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13 Mar 2015 14:21

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