In July 1912 the American businessman and director Mack Sennett founded the Keystone Pictures Studio in Los Angeles, churning out comedies whose actors freely used the city’s streets as the backdrop to their entertaining pursuits and falls, dodging cars and trams, something that would be unthinkable today. The company helped to create a typology of distinctive characters, reflecting the archetypes the commedia dell´arte had produced during the Italian Renaissance. Many famous comedians, such as Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon and Mabel Normand, began their careers under Sennett’s orders, some of who can be seen in this cycle. Sennett’s strong independent personality helped to create a powerful star-system within this genre.
Comedy was one of the most popular genres in film during the silent period and it is striking to note that its golden age precisely came to an end around 1929, with the introduction of the talkies, which called for comic formulas in the form of dialogues as distinct from sign language, and which also coincided with the dramatic outbreak of the Great Depression, casting a shadow over the whole horizon of the performing arts and the lives of many citizens.
Román Gubern (series coordinator)