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Classic Comedies: 3 Movies That Helped Shaped the Genre

Image: Classic Comedies: 3 Movies That Helped Shaped the Genre
City Lights, 1931; Some Like it Hot, 1959; This is Spinal Tap, 1984. (imdb.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015 11:37 PM

The genre of comedies in Hollywood has generally been pretty serious business, just because the idea of generating genuine laughs is pretty hard accomplishment to achieve. Unlike like a stand-up comedian, who may or may not illicit instant feedback in front of a live audience, comedy actors are playing largely to silence in front of a camera – and there's no laugh track to prompt movie audiences to giggle like on TV.

More challenging yet, what people define as comedy is very subjective. Some audiences may find slapstick hilarious, for example, while others in the same theater may end up groaning. Here's a look at three comedies that helped define the genre.

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1. "City Lights" (1931)



Starring Charlie Chaplin, arguably one of the greatest comedians of all time, "City Lights" simply billed the actor as "A Tramp," a man who sets out to raise money to help take care of a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill). The film came after dozens of silent movie shorts starring Chaplin, who started in films 17 years before. "City Lights" has long been an audience favorite, placing No. 35 on the Internet Movie Database's list of the top 250 movies of all time with a collective rank of 8.6 (out of 10) based on more than 87,000 votes.

2. "Some Like it Hot" (1959)

With all due respect to Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello, it's hard to argue with the rankings of the American Film Institute, which considers "Some Like it Hot" as the No. 1 comedy of all time. The Billy Wilder-directed comedy is unique in that it's a gender-bending tale starring not only two prominent actors of the day (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis), but also features Hollywood bombshell Marilyn Monroe.

3. "This is Spinal Tap" (1984)

A mock documentary about a waning British rock band, "This is Spinal Tap" single-handedly created the "mockumentary" genre. The comedy, in which a film director, Marti DiBergi (Rob Reiner) follows the misadventures of Spinal Tap on what appears to be their last American tour, led by lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), guitarist/vocalist David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer). Although technically written by director Reiner and his three stars, the film features a large amount of improvisation, and the subsequent success of the film spurred Guest to direct and star in the classic mock documentaries "Waiting for Guffman" (1996),"Best in Show" (2000) and "A Mighty Wind" (2003).

Vote Now: Which of These Actors Stands the Test of Time?

In his four-star review of the film in 2001, Roger Ebert called "This is Spinal Tap" "one of the funniest movies ever made."

"There are two stories told in the film: the story of what the rock band Spinal Tap thinks, hopes, believes or fears is happening, and the story of what is actually happening," Ebert wrote.

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The genre of comedies in Hollywood has generally been pretty serious business, just because the idea of generating genuine laughs is pretty hard accomplishment to achieve. Here's a look at three comedies that helped define the genre.
comedies, movies, hollywood, classics
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2015-37-15
Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015 11:37 PM
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