Shawn Levy writes:
"Currently, comedy on TV is also closely tied to personalities -- Tim Allen,
Paul Reiser, Roseanne, Fran Drescher, Seinfeld, etc. -- in a way that film
comedy rarely manages to be. Right now, Jim Carrey is enjoying a run the
likes of which hasn't been seen in years. But how many years of
3-$100-million-pictures can he realistically sustain? Movie actors who
continually trot out the same personality wane at the boxoffice; the Golden
Age studios knew this and cast for variety. Even Stallone and Arnie try new
things. A comic doing the same shtick on the big screen tires . . . "
In general, this is true of the current situation, but think of the number
of comedic actors who traded on what was essentially the same persona from
film to film throughout the "golden years" of Hollywoodd--W.C. Fields,
the Marx Brothers, not to mention the Little Tramp! Many of these performers
brought their personae to film from stage or (later) radio (and often
crossed over more successfully than TV performers have--though never in
giant hits). Like current actors, though, the schtick did get tired after
a while--even Groucho tried to branch out in his later years. Bob Hope
is perhaps the most egregious example of someone who outwore his welcome
long before he quit (but he remained fairly popular, if I'm correct).
For an interesting analysis of the transition from stage to film for
Eddy Cantor, see Henry Jenkins III article on the making of WHOOPEE in
CINMEA JOURNAL 29:3 (Spring 1980), 32-52.
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN