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Old 04-18-2018, 04:41 PM   #61
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...there's a fatal disconnect between Hitler and high hilarity. Mel Brooks pulled it off, but I can't think of another example.
There was Chaplin (The Great Dictator) and Lubitsch (To Be or Not to Be), but these were both done before knowledge of the Holocaust became widespread.

I believe you are spot on; the plot of The Producers was based on the notion that you could not use Hitler as entertainment.
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Old 04-18-2018, 07:00 PM   #62
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Ah, “Springtime for Hitler and Germany” - now there’s a song!

I find Fry a very charming and witty person, obviously very intelligent and widely read. So I went in to the book with high expectations based on all of that. There were certainly good parts to the book, but I just expected it to be so much better, and I’m sure a good editor could have helped to make it so.

It’s an interesting question whether it would have been published, at any rate in its present form, if it was by Steve Burns or whoever. I don’t know anything much about the publishing industry, but I believe it is very hard indeed for a book by an unknown to get into print.

I recently read a book of short stories by the actor Tom Hanks, and while they were okay, they were nothing really startlingly good, and again I wondered if they would have been published if he wasn’t already well known.

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Old 04-18-2018, 07:20 PM   #63
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The more I think about it, the more I think there was fatal dissonance between Fry's talents, witty repartee and wordplay, and the serious topics he wanted to treat, namely the Holocaust and gay rights. Not that it can't be done, but using the Holocaust as the vehicle for his examination of gay rights probably couldn't work well with the tools at Fry's command. If he could only have left the Holocaust out of it I think he might have pulled it off, with a very different story, of course.

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There was Chaplin (The Great Dictator) and Lubitsch (To Be or Not to Be), but these were both done before knowledge of the Holocaust became widespread.

I believe you are spot on; the plot of The Producers was based on the notion that you could not use Hitler as entertainment.
Yes. Before the war, Hitler could be seen as a figure of fun, even as late night comedians right now have substantial fodder in current events. Come Armageddon, none of it will seem that funny.

The other parody I can think of, of exactly the same vintage as The Producers, is the American sitcom Hogan's Heroes. It couldn't be produced now, but for some reason it was acceptable at that moment. One of the many ironies of Hogan's Heroes is that virtually all the German roles were played by German or Austrian Jews who'd managed to escape in time.
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:44 PM   #64
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The more I think about it, the more I think there was fatal dissonance between Fry's talents, witty repartee and wordplay, and the serious topics he wanted to treat, namely the Holocaust and gay rights. Not that it can't be done, but using the Holocaust as the vehicle for his examination of gay rights probably couldn't work well with the tools at Fry's command. If he could only have left the Holocaust out of it I think he might have pulled it off, with a very different story, of course.
Yes, even then it would be difficult. Even in something Like Four Weddings and a Funeral, the finest scene in the movie, Matthew's recital of Auden's poem at Gareth's funeral, is tragic. Laughter probably isn't the best vehicle for feeling someone's pain. I'm struggling to think of a comedic novel that argues effectively for gay rights.
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Old 04-18-2018, 10:42 PM   #65
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Yes, you could hardly make a funny moment of that heartbreaking poem of loss by a great poet. Indeed, some of the most powerful books, films etc for me are those that can mix grief in with humour. Very hard to pull off, but unforgettable when done well.

A film that springs to mind is Truly, Madly, Deeply, and a book that had me laughing most of the way but was also heartbreaking was Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. An amazing debut novel.

Hmm - no, I can’t think of a comedic novel arguing for gay rights, apart from the Fry. Of course, such books would only be of recent vintage, since it was such a taboo subject, as well as being illegal until appallingly recently.
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Old 04-19-2018, 12:10 AM   #66
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I went into this expecting to like it or at least to be entertained by it and I suppose to an extent I was, but it should have been better.
[...]
So, wandering into the purely speculative, I wonder if it's because as a group we're not really part of the Fry fandom [...]
If anything I think the disappointment is greater when you come to this as a fan of his other entertainment activities - or it was for me with the first of his books that I picked up (one of his autobiographical books). By the time I picked up this book I was expecting pretty much what we got.

I think the book could have been published by someone less famous (and I suspect it might have been a better book for being better edited). There is an interesting enough story with enough bits of cleverness in it that I think the right agent or editor might have decided was worth pursuing. Publishing has a large element of luck; only the already famous get a guaranteed audience.

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[...] If I can split hairs, I didn't think this was well done, but I didn't dislike it, in that it held my interest and I wasn't tempted to abandon it. A lot of the wordplay was clever and fun; I started laughing early on at the recaffeinated coffee. If Fry could have held onto the fun, it would have been a lot more enjoyable - but there's a fatal disconnect between Hitler and high hilarity. Mel Brooks pulled it off, but I can't think of another example.
It seemed to me that the book changed moods quite substantially as it progressed; I am not at all sure this was intentional. I can imagine this story being rewritten to get rid of someone historically anonymous (but significant to the main protagonist), but whose loss causes profound side effects for whatever obscure reason. Taking Hitler out would have opened up the possibilities and perhaps let Fry use his humour to better effect.
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Old 04-19-2018, 01:02 AM   #67
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I can imagine this story being rewritten to get rid of someone historically anonymous (but significant to the main protagonist), but whose loss causes profound side effects for whatever obscure reason. Taking Hitler out would have opened up the possibilities and perhaps let Fry use his humour to better effect.
Now that actually makes sense. Stephen Fry's humour is lost in this, and taking the focus away from Hitler might allow it to come forward.
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Old 04-19-2018, 07:24 AM   #68
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It seemed to me that the book changed moods quite substantially as it progressed; I am not at all sure this was intentional.
I agree with the change in mood. In fact, unlike what seems to be the feeling here, I liked the early parts best; I thought them most accomplished and most suited to Fry's talents. Even then, editing down would have helped, but I found the Cambridge hi-jinks amusing and the social commentary interesting - Michael's appalling attitude toward the college porter, for example, and the porter's effective resistance. I even wondered if there was supposed to be an echo there of the scenes with Alois Hitler at the border, because there was really no other point to that.
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Old 04-20-2018, 07:21 AM   #69
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Happy birthday to Michael Young, wherever he be.
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Old 04-21-2018, 03:48 AM   #70
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Well, he must be in his forties by now, so let’s hope he’s a lot more sensible than in earlier days.
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Old 06-25-2018, 07:56 AM   #71
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Overall I did enjoy the Making History. I found it a little bit lighter then I expected and the play-like scenes we could have done without that format. I did like the scenes in the past. It was interesting to go back to read about Hitler's parents. I just hope most of that was accurate enough.

I would have liked to have found out more about what was changed. We got some glimpse, but not enough. I jsut would have liked more substance and less fluff.

I felt that the part leading up to the event was too long and could have been shortened and the space used for more detail after the event. We didn't need to know so much of how Michael changed. We should have seen more of how the world changed.

Overall, I'd rate this a 3 of 5 stars.
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