Slapstick (The Harold Gilbert Trilogy - Book ll)
By Patti Fleishman
Feb 3, 2004 - 1:19:00 PM

The 1920's were a highly tumultuous time in
America.  Prohibition caused much uproar and left a rather dry taste in the mouths of many. It sparked raids, drastic crime sprees and some of the most noted villains of our history. Women were given the right to vote, which took away their second-class status and opened the door to many exciting things for them.  The radio was what people sat and watched in order to while away their time.  And the movies - ah, yes, the movies.  Of course, these movies are not what we know today.  The movies of the early 20's had no voices.  They were silent except for the music that accompanied them.  Yes, this was the roaring 20's and these were the silent films that led the way to movies, as we know them today.

SLAPSTICK took me back in time - right into the life of Harold Gilbert, a highly successful silent film producer and actor.  He was not only a handsome leading man who had an array of friends, but he had a life that everyone else only dared to dream about.  His beautiful wife, Ella, had been a former leading lady and he had two wonderful children.  Gilbert's life was rich with material things that showed his power in Hollywood


But, even though he had the expensive car and the awesome mansion, his life was not all it could have been.  Dreams and fortunes are quick to die in this fantasyland of film.  Life does happen, good and bad, for richer and for poorer.  Only, the bad and the poorer can happen in the blink of an eye.


The old saying about what goes on behind closed doors rings true in Gilbert's world.  He's trying to come to terms with the fact that talkies are no longer a thing of the future - they are here now, and they are the enemy as far as he's concerned.  Some of his main people are defecting in order to take jobs with other companies who are in the process of making these talking pictures.  It leaves quite a bitter taste in Harold's mouth, and from this point his life begins to change all around him.


His wife lives within her own little world, loving her alcohol more than Harold.  His children become people he's not so sure he understands at all.  But, with great effort, Harold doesn't give up; he doesn't let the world drag him down.  He does the only thing he knows how to do and uses his gift of laughter to pull him through these tragic times. 

I've never before felt so emotional while reading a novel.  Harold's struggles and his attempts to keep his life and that of his family going gave me a sense of empowerment.  There were times while reading Ms. Toops novel that I wanted to cry out my opinion so that Harold could hear me. 

What I enjoyed most about this novel was the richness that was displayed for that time period.  Harold reminded me of many of the silent film stars of that bygone era. As I read SLAPSTICK by Laura Mazzuca Toops, I was taken back in time to the Hollywood of the 1920's and the array of silent film stars. 


I felt as if I was in a movie with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd, or even John Gilbert, the great lover of the silver screen.  I watched as Harold Lloyd clutched the hands of the clock, as he hung from a clock tower.  I saw that lovable scamp, Charlie Chaplin doing his shtick.  I marveled in awe as I remembered Buster Keaton, a great comic actor and felt as if I was in a room with all of them.  What I didn't want, though, was this novel to end.  It's been a source of wonderful discussions in my home because of Laura Mazzuca Toops wonderful gift of detail.  Thank you for this stunning piece.  

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