Salvador Dali, Buster Keaton Fan

When we read about history, it’s easy to forget how often various worlds would collide. For example, Harold Lloyd’s Speedy and Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc came out the same year, and Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford once had Albert Einstein over for dinner (Chaplin was invited too, and Pickford remembered him and Doug listening to the famed professor in awed “befuddlement”). And an artist like, say, the iconic Salvador Dalí would have grown up with silent comedies, and would’ve had his favorite comedians like everyone else.

It’s fairly common knowledge among classic comedy fans that Dalí was a Marx Brothers fan–or rather, fanatic. Once he gifted Harpo a custom-made harp with barbed wire strings, covered with spoons (as historian Joe Adamson humorously explained, Harpo “didn’t drop spoons, he dropped knives, that’s why Dalí used spoons”). He also presented the Marx Brothers with a screenplay called Giraffes on Horseback Salad, basically a living series of his paintings but with Marx Brothers. (They somewhat respectfully declined.) But not everyone knows that Dalí was a Buster Keaton fan, too.

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So What Exactly Was German Expressionism?

You run into it time and time again when reading about film history: “German Expressionism, German Expressionism.” It pops up even more than “French New Wave,” another term that tends to make people’s eyes glaze over. Silent newbies and casual fans probably wonder: just what exactly was this movement that all the film historians go nuts for?

To answer that, we have to glance through a little art history, learn a bit of theater history, reflect on WWI and Germany, and get acquainted with how “the ghosts which haunted the German Romantics had revived, like the shades of Hades after draughts of blood.”

From Morn to Midnight skeleton

AIIEEEEE!!!

Or something like that. Bear with me, for there’s a lot of pieces to put together to get a good picture of German Expressionism. Continue reading