Kevin Brownlow’s Top 10 Silent Comedies

Some of you may be aware that recently London’s famous listings magazine, Time Out, published a list of the 1oo Best Comedy Movies. They compiled the list based on the responses on 200 contributors most of whom seem to be practicing comedians/comics. Glancing through the list we were surprised (if not a little shocked) to see that not one silent comedy featured *See below. Hard to believe isn’t it? The building blocks on which arguably the whole of contemporary comedy is built, completely ignored. Not that we think silent comedies should be included in the list just as a historical nod to the fact that they were where it all started, we truly believe a lot of the silent era’s best comedies are the funniest moments of recorded film ever. If you’ve ever attended our annual Slapstick Festival you’ll know the audience are in hysterics throughout every screening. To not include a single silent comedy in the list strikes us as perverse to say the least.

Anyway, we thought as a riposte to the list we’d try to compile a list of our own. As the Time Out list neglected to include any silent comedies our list is going to include nothing but silent comedies. Take that Time Out! Over the next few months we’re going to ask our patrons & supporters for their favourite silent comedies, the idea being that we’ll announce the list in January just prior to Slapstick Festival 2012. We haven’t quite drawn up the rules yet but as a teaser we shot off an email to Kevin Brownlow to pool his opinion of the best silent comedies of all time. Below is his response.

Bear in mind that the following list is in no particular order, we’ll pin Kevin down to be more precise  for the final list. Also bear in mind that, in Kevins own words “There are equally wonderful films I’ve had to cut out” & “I’ve limited it to one title per comedian”.

If you would like more information on any of the films click on the title & you’ll open the chosen films IMDB page:

CITY LIGHTS 1931 Chaplin

THE GENERAL 1927  Keaton


KID BROTHER 1926  Lloyd

SHOW PEOPLE 1928 Marion Davies


THE STRONG MAN 1926 Langdon/ Capra

EXIT SMILING 1926 Beatrice Lillie/ Sam Taylor

MANTRAP 1926 Clara Bow/ Victor Fleming

HANDS UP 1926 Raymond Griffith/ Clarence Badger

An impressive list wouldn’t you say? Watch this space for future updates.

*Ok, so it’s just been pointed out to us that The General was actually in the Time Out list at no. 70. We still think there should have been more silent comedies in it though!

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  1. #1 by Guenter on September 27, 2011 - 7:10 pm

    Where does comedy start, where does tragedy end? Maybe CITY LIGHTS is a (the) masterpiece of both. THE GENERAL, I like, but I have emotional difficulties with the war scene at the end….My favourite Keaton is (maybe) OUR HOSPITALITY. Thank you, Kevin, for having Italian Straw Hat and Trubnaja SQ on that list…. and, I must mention, I never had a louder and crying and laughing and tigh slapping audience of adult (swiss) bankers and farmers and distinguished ladies than with Chaplin´s THE CIRCUS !

  2. #2 by James on October 6, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    I agree with Gunter, really happy to see Italian Straw Hat and Trubnaja Square there. I need to get around to seeing Exit Smiling… one for a later Slapstick screening possibly?!

    Rather surprised of Mantrap; although Clara Bow is (as always) wonderful to watch…

    I got to be honest, Sherlock Jr is most certainly one I would go for as well as Chaplin’s Easy Street…

  3. #3 by James Harrison on October 10, 2011 - 6:40 pm

    I love Pass the Gravy (1928) as well… Maybe we should make our own lists…

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