Edelson traces the growth of film comedy from Keystone days through Woody Allen, with gaps as big as the Rialto. However, Edelson settles in firmly, although without any particular distinction, on monoliths like Chaplin and Keaton, Stan and Ollie, the Marx Bros., etc. After Lloyd and Langdon (who has ever seen Langdon? Neither you nor I) Edelson moves to the talkies and W. C. Fields, the work of Capra, Wilder and Sturges, the short subjects (Kennedy, Errol and Our Gang) to an odd grab bag which includes Alec Guinness for British comedy, Hope, Skelton and Danny Kaye. Modern times means Lewis, Allen and Tati but not Mel Brooks. And there is no tribute at all to women comedians--the silents' Mabel Normand is briefly mentioned while Zazu Pitts or the great clown Martha Raye are ignored. Along the way Edelson retells scraps of plot, and attempts to catch the quality of bodily antics without analyzing the life out of them. Some of the time he manages: ""Harpo. . . simply sprints through the film madly, drinking ink and eating glass,"" may not be the most subtle evocation of genius, but who can argue with the general impression.