Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo - CONFERENZE, Women and the Silent Screen Conference

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However Odd: Elsa Lanchester
Amy Sargeant

Last modified: 2010-05-28


The proposed paper will discuss the role of Elsa Lanchester in British silent cinema, notably in the short films The Scarlet Woman (1924), The Tonic, Bluebottles and Daydreams (1929) and the feature film, The Constant Nymph (1928), starring Mabel Poulton as the classic child/woman of British literature and British 1920s cinema. Lanchester's gawky angularity seems to have prompted her casting in character parts, rather than as a leading lady in the 1920s and 1930s.

A specific comparison will be made with the "exaggerated," non-naturalistic style of Aleksandra Khokhlova - notably in Lev Kuleshov's 1924 The Extraordinary Adventues of Mr West -- and the critical appraisal of her work in Eisenstein's essay, "However Odd! -- Khokhlova." I shall suggest that both artistes, excluded from conventional casting regimes, provide performances which are not simply comedic, but which create a space in which irony (and even satire) -- following Linda Hutcheon -- is allowed "to happen."

The paper will build on work on Lanchester already published in "Elsa Lanchester and Chaplinism," in Crossing the Pond (2002), British Cinema: A Critical History (2005) and on the WSBC website.

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