Slapstick

Written by Laura Mazzuca Toops
Review by India Edghill

In 1927, movies gained a voice — and many stars lost their careers. Slapstick chronicles the fall of silent screen comic genius Harold Gilbert, whose inability to adjust to the new world of talking pictures leads to his destruction. A comedian on a level with real-life clowns Chaplin and Keaton, Gilbert has kept the world laughing — but his personal life is less happy. And with the advent of sound, his carefully-constructed lifestyle begins to crumble as he finds it more and more difficult to cope with the future.

While Slapstick is competently written, it lacks the rich local color I’d hoped for, seeming more like a contemporary novel than a historical. By this, I mean it seems very much like a novel that was written at the time it’s set, rather than creating a vision of a lost past for a twenty-first century reader. And while the author has done a fine job of research, Gilbert’s refusal to adjust to the new world that sound creates for the movie industry often makes him seem less like a tragic hero than a Tinseltown Luddite. Basically, I found Slapstick enjoyable but too short and shallow for its material.