To Wit: Skin and Bones of Comedy

Penelope Gilliatt, Author Scribner Book Company $24.95 (314p) ISBN 978-0-684-19144-7
In this melange, a noted British critic and scriptwriter ( Sunday Bloody Sunday ) comments imaginatively and appreciatively on satire, comedy and comedians in the theater, on film and in literature. Chapters focus on the great mutes (Chaplin, Langdon, Linder and Lloyd), invocations of protocol by Bunuel and Tati, the anxiety and range of John Cleese, the ``thumb prickings'' of Renoir, Kubrick, Brecht and Whoopi Goldberg. But one chapter sashays from Genet, Ionesco, Pirandello, Pinter, Congreve, Stroheim, Feydeau, Kingsley Amis, Ruth Draper, Wilde, Shaw and Behan to Elaine May, Judy Holliday and Nigel Dennis; another, from W. C. Fields and Truffaut to Eddie Murphy, Tracy and Hepburn, and John Barrymore; still another, from Woody Allen, I. F. Stone, Fellini and Shakespeare to Wertmuller and the Beatles. Gilliatt's enthusiasms are infectious, but her references to personal associations with comedians seem gratuitous, and her coverage is spotty. Why no Ayckbourn or Stoppard, for example? (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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