The strange deficiency [of German silent comedy cinema] may be connected with the character of the old screen buffooneries. Whether or not they indulged in slapstick, they invariably exposed their hero to all kinds of pitfalls and dangers, so that he depended upon one lucky accident after another to escape. When he crossed a railroad, a train would approach, threatening to crush him, and only in the very last moment would his life be spared as the train switched over to a track hitherto invisible. The hero—a sweet, rather helpless individual who would never harm anyone—pulled through in a world governed by chance. The comedy adjusted itself in this way to the specific conditions of the screen; for more than any other medium the film is able to point up the contingencies of life. It was a truly cinematic type of comedy. Had it a moral to impart? It sided with the little pigs against the big bad wolf by making luck the natural ally of its heroes. This, incidentally, was comforting to the poor. That such comedy founded on chance and a naïve desire for happiness should prove inaccessible to the Germans arises from their traditional ideology, which tends to discredit the notion of luck in favor of that of fate. The Germans have developed a native humor that holds wit and irony in contempt and has no place for happy-go-lucky figures. Theirs is an emotional humor which tries to reconcile mankind to its tragic plight and to make one not only laugh at the oddities of life but also realize through that laughter how fateful it is. Such dispositions were of course incompatible with the attitudes underlying the performances of a Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd. There exists, moreover, a close interrelationship between intellectual habits and bodily movements. The German actors may have felt that, owing to their credos, they were hardly the type for gags and gestures similar to those of the American film comedians.
—Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947)