What elements in silent movies make them funny?
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Working under the assumption that the question implies those elements not intentionally meant to be funny, but funny to modern viewers, here are some elements found humorous nowadays:
- The words on the screen do not match the length of time that the actors appear to be talking.
- The use of framed explanation of dialogue or mimed action seems unnatural
- The melodrama of the acting, exaggerated facial expressions, body movements, accompanying music, and information screens is oddly humorous to viewers who are now used to talking films with method actors. Here is an example of one "intertitle" cards used that is very melodramatic:
That night, there occurred the first of a series of mysterious crimes. (written in shaky letters)
- The make-up on the male characters seems exaggerated.
- The use of stock characters, such as the Victorian stock villain of black handle-bar moustache, sinister looks, dark eyes, and swarthy complexion and the bumbling police, etc. strike the modern viewers as comical.
- The closing of a scene by the shrinking of a screen seems rather silly.
for me personally i think its the overdramatic actions like usually in alot of tom and jerry or Charley Chaplin etc.. but the music also helps
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