The Economics of Pratfalls

The Slapstick Linguist explored the both the codes and conventions and the values, beliefs & ideologies of the slapstick genre in cinema through visual culture. It evaluated the language usage and meaning in the lingo, signposts and slang of the slapstick genre; a genre usually discussed in non-linguistic terms because of their highly visual style and stereo typically silent form.
In the Economics of Pratfalls the blogger looks at the connection of the slapstick & screwball comedy genres to the development of age of mass production in the early 20th century and failure of that economic driver during the 1930s.


Slapstick, like Noir, is a film genre tethered to the industrialized modern world. The most famous jokes involve enormous buildings (Harry Lloyd), coal-powered trains (Buster Keaton), unforgiving factories/nations (Charlie Chaplin), etc. There is further evidence of this link throughout the 20’s and 30’s in Hal Roach productions, early Capra, and on and on. Those of you following along at home can perform a pratfall as such:

What is it? It’s a wide shot, confirmed by Chaplin and Keaton. Why? Because we have to see the entire fall, the whole fall, uninterrupted, uncorrupted, unadulterated. It is a beautiful thing and therefore can speak for itself.

But as sound enters into films – 29-ish – the pratfall begins to obscure and fragment, as though filmmakers (except Hitchcock) have forgotten how to use them. We see by end of the twentieth century they have all but disappeared from movie houses.

There is the…

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