This is pretty much how 90% of discussions about silent movie comedians end up, Animated GIF


It has happened to all of us. We are going along, minding our own business when we accidentally step in it. What “it” is depends on who you are talking to. Maybe you expressed admiration for Chaplin in front of fans of that other comedian.* Maybe you accidentally said that their favorite movie was stupid. Whatever it was, the fight is on.

This is from The Merry Jail, which features Kitty Dewall and the ever-dapper Harry Liedtke and is directed by Ernst Lubitsch. If you think German films are all dour and humorless, this might change your mind. (You can read my review here.)

*For the record, I do love Buster Keaton but I find that a vocal 5% of his fans are incredibly obnoxious, bashing Chaplin whenever they get the chance. The Keaton vs. Chaplin thing, like cats vs. dogs and Kirk vs. Picard, is horribly tedious to those of us who prefer less emotion in our discussions. Inside voices, people, inside voices. If it gets bad enough, less combative folks may finally lose it and emulate Clara Bow in Parisian Love:


Forgive me for bringing up this topic again. I just saw someone pull the “Keaton was better and I’m right and you’re wrong!” thing– in response to someone else saying that one’s preferred comedian is a matter of taste! Point missed, I think.


24 Replies to “This is pretty much how 90% of discussions about silent movie comedians end up, Animated GIF”

  1. Hey, Fritzi, didn’t I see this in the Romantic Comedy Blogathon? Either way, it’s OK with us here at Team Bartilucci HQ! Your captions were delightful! πŸ˜€

  2. The same thing happened to a Tumblr acquaintance of mine the other day, except it was Chaplin fans insisting she was stupid for disliking Chaplin, even though she had been tactful when asked her views. It’s so, so stupid. And it’s only the Chaplin and Keaton fans; I never seem to see Harold Lloyd geeks going for blood in the same manner.

    1. Wow! Usually it is the Keaton fans on the offensive.The silent movie fandom seems to have been radicalized. Me? I’m a Harry Langdon and Charley Chase kinda gal but I don’t begrudge anyone their favorites.

  3. Heh. I tend to stay out of these discussions because both men were great at what they did and it’s too easy to find examples. On the other hand (hee-ho) mention the Ritz Bros. vs the Mark Bros. and there’s a one-sided KO about to happen no matter who you speak to (well, that’s what I’ve discovered)… πŸ˜€

  4. I don’t think I’ve had an argument on the topic of Keaton vs. Chaplin, but I have had similar arguments on other fronts. You wouldn’t believe how frustrating it can be trying to explain to a die hard James Bond fan why Connery’s films are incredibly sexist. Most try to be civil in their arguments, but I’ve dealt with a large number of angry fans who at best completely miss the point of what I’m saying and at worst attempt to deny the existence of the points I’ve made.

    A few weeks ago I also got into an intense discussion on Solaris. I’m in the small minority of people who found the 1972 Tarkovsky version way too slow and instead preferred the 2002 Clooney film. It wasn’t the first time I’d discussed it with these people but things got heated real quick. I was accused of having no basis for argument on the grounds that I hadn’t watched the movie to the end (and how could I when the film was so unbearably slow and scenes always went on longer than they needed to). My criticisms of choices like having 15 minutes of random POV shots of automobiles driving down roads were dismissed because supposedly I couldn’t be sure that there was no point because I hadn’t finished the movie, although I could plainly see no contribution to the story in those shots.

    Then of course there’s all the discussions I’ve gotten into about Jean-Luc Godard. So many people love his work but I can’t stand it. I’ve gotten into more than a few debates on whether Alphaville’s vision of the future was brilliant or the most pathetic ever put on film.

    1. I don’t really object to the hard-core fans having opinions, I object to those tedious people who review Keaton’s films and then always have to include a petty dig at Chaplin. It is, frankly, bizarre.

      I am not an enormous Tarkovsky fan myself. I prefer more grounded Soviet directors like Larissa Shepitko. Where I get myself in trouble is the subject of D.W. Griffith. I love his shorts but cannot sit through many of his features. This makes me a bit of a heretic. However, I absolutely do not try to forcibly convert his fans over to my way of thinking.

  5. What!? You have a different a opinion than me about dead comedians/European heartthrobs!? That’s it—put up your dukes! *shakes fists*

    In all seriousness, the fanwank generated from certain film topics is why I stay away from classic film message boards. When Tumblr of all places is better at keeping the peace when discussing some of the more volatile topics (I add this with a heavy dose of ‘generally’. It is still Tumblr.) than say, Nitrateville, that’s saying a whole lot. Though I admit, sometimes I’ll just pull out the popcorn and read some of the more nasty showdowns in threads for the amusement of it. Must be the American in me!

      1. Ah, Valentino fandom…on a possibly related note, there have been many times where I’ve been reminded that this world is an interesting place full of many wondrous curiosities. πŸ˜‰

      2. Yes, the Valentino fandom can definitely be one of those curiosities. As I am fond of saying, 90% of all silent (or in this case, Valentino) fans are delightful but that other 10%… wow. It’s at the point where his movies don’t even come into it.

      1. Speaking of them, that’s another fight I have witnessed and it gets just as nasty. Laurel & Hardy vs Abbott & Costello. While I am more in the Chaplin camp (though love and adore Buster), it’s hard to say which team I like more. I had the great privilege to interview Chris Costello a few years ago, and she didn’t understand the squabbling either, especially since each team were fans of each other.

        Ah, human beings. We can be a fickle, quarrelsome lot.

  6. I mainly run in Facebook silent film groups, where the active members seem to get along pretty darn well. Most complications seem to come along with the more unfamiliar members who seem to operate under the assumption that everyone comments like they do on Buzzfeed or Reddit. πŸ˜€ As far as Keaton fans “digging” at Chaplin…I agree, and I also think Roger Ebert’s thoughtful essay on The Circus might be the one exception for me.

    1. Comparing and contrasting Chaplin and Keaton is actually legitimate in some cases. What I find weird (and what I dare so most silent fans find weird) are the people who insist on bringing up Chaplin to bash when there is really no purpose and Chaplin has no connection to the article or conversation. It reminds me of “that” uncle who always starts off on some obscure political rant at family gatherings. (“And if I were president, I would ban seagulls from wearing pants!”) When the out-of-context Chaplin bashing begins, I am tempted to say, “That’s interesting, Uncle Jim, but could you pass the potato salad?”

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