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How to Read (1938)

Approved | | Comedy, Short | 27 August 1938 (USA)
Humorist Robert Benchley offers a tongue-in-cheek lesson on how to avoid eye strain while reading.


Roy Rowland


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Cast overview:
Robert Benchley ... Lecturer


A man reads that there is a lecture being given on how to read, which he thinks is absurd. He himself proceeds on providing a lecture on more important aspects of reading. One of those topics is eye strain caused by reading. As an example, a man is about to get ready to read while in bed. The problem becomes how to get into a comfortable position while getting close enough to the bedside table lamp to get enough light as not to strain the eyes. Another example is when one can't get the book close enough to the eyes, such as in a crowd where one has no elbow room. Another topic is reading aloud to another person, which can cause an emotional strain between the two if the listener is not listening to the reader. Another topic is the trouble one can get into when reading while preoccupied with other thoughts, such as fear. He then provides what he considers the perfect situation to read, if only the human factor is not involved. Written by Huggo

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Plot Keywords:

reading | eye | See All (2) »


Comedy | Short


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

27 August 1938 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

A Comedy Without the Laughs
1 May 2011 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

How to Read (1938)

** (out of 4)

Another minor entry in MGM's "How to..." series with Robert Benchley. True to form, Benchley sits at his desk and explains the proper ways of reading so that you don't strain your eyes. He tries to explain the proper way of sitting, how far from the light you should be and he also goes into detail about not reading while under stress. If you read under stress we're told you might not pay attention to everything you're reading and we also learn that if your wife reads to you then you better pay full attention or else. If you're familiar with the Robert Benchley series then you know that the comedy is rather dry and at times you'll be wondering if he's telling a joke or being serious about something. You never can fully tell because of the type of humor Benchley has and the way he delivers it. This entire series was always hit and miss with me and this here is one that doesn't work fully. The biggest problem is that some of the jokes are so one-note and exaggerated that it's rather impossible to laugh at them. Just check out the sequence where he's trying to read in bed and sitting in positions that no one in their right mind would do. Of course, this does lead to one of the best jokes and that involves why you shouldn't read big history books in bed.

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