A Comedy of Slapstick Manners

Boireau cuirassier

André Deed, Pathé-Frères, France, 1912

Returning to Pathé after a three-year stint in Italy (1909-1912), Deed once again took up the role of “Boireau.” In the interim, a number of new comedians had established themselves, and the distinction had sharpened between Deed’s type of slapstick, which depended heavily on his acrobatic skills, and comedies of manners, which typically satirized social behavior in scenarios striving for more or less accurate depictions of class-bound life and customs. In a sense, Boireau cuirassier borrows something from both types of comedy. Deed plays a soldier who, despite his lowly rank, attends an upper-class reception decked out in an overly ornate (and oversized) officer’s uniform replete with plumed helmet, sword, and spurs. Chaos ensues as his spurs pick up a trailing carpet, his sword removes a woman’s dress, and the plume of his helmet brings down a chandelier. As Richard Abel suggests, the sendup is aimed either at pompously bedecked military heroes or at ordinary French bumblers whose existence makes a mockery of the whole idea of soldierly eminence.

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