Dichotomy of the Clown

A clown has two faces: the smiling, cherry-cheeked joker and the dangerously depressed, homicidal boozer. One makes us laugh, and the other makes us crap our pants with fear. Silent film funnyman Fatty Arbuckle was a perfect case in point. The guy was so hilarious that he actually invented the whole pie-in-the-face gag. However, he also might or might not have raped and killed a wannabe actress named Virginia Rappe in 1921. (He was eventually acquitted after three manslaughter trials.) So forgive us if we find it kind of hard not to imagine the fat man lurking in the dark, armed with a Coca-Cola bottle and a cream pie.

Not that Arbuckle’s buddy, Buster Keaton, was any less conflicted — marrying repeatedly and frequently embarking on extended alcoholic blackouts. This Sunday, see these split-personality clowns side-by-side in the 20-minute silent comedy classic “Butcher Boy,” screening at Cinéclub 24 as part of the Comedy Time program. Two talkies will also show that afternoon: George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight and Howard Hawks’s The Twentieth Century.
Sun., Sept. 12, 3 p.m., 2010

 
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