Tag Archive: screwball comedy


 One of the most venerable forms of comedic movies is the screwball comedy. The best examples come from the 1930s. Movies such as Bring Up Baby, It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday  

 Screwball comedies by definition are romantic comedies with farcical situations. These are sex comedies that have the sexual tension brimming underneath. Physical comedy or slapstick is plentiful. There is also a component of the main characters being idle rich and a working class person breaks into their world somehow. Lastly, there is usually quick and clever banter.  

 However, over the years it seems as if screwball comedy has fallen off the face of the earth. Some might say it is because of the changing times, a loss of innocence and end of the Depression. After all, how easy it is to laugh at the idle rich when so many of us are now middle class with everything we could want.  

Tine Fey and Steve Carell in the action Packed "Date Night," picture from IMDb.com

 

 A new romantic comedy has come out this week on DVD that appears it could have the elements of a screwball comedy. As much as I loved Date Night starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, I know that there are crucial elements missing to make it a true screwball comedy.  

 The story is about the Fosters who have their weekly date night which might be falling into a routine. Another couple they are friends with are getting divorced for no good reason, making Phil and Claire wonder about their marriage. So they up the ante for their date night and unknowingly walk into a bad situation that will keep their night action packed.  

There is the element of farcical situation, the quick and clever banter as well as something of the slapstick element. But the sexual tension is all in the open and our couple works too well with each other. It is a good romantic comedy but not screwball.  

Frances McDormand in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day before her transformation, picture from IMDb.com

 

 One modern movie that I find that hits the screwball comedy definition is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day starring Frances McDormand as an English governess who cannot seem to keep a job. So she becomes a social secretary for a nightclub singer who has a very busy love life.  

 Perhaps this movie works because it is set in the 1930s or because our couple that we are rooting for is  

And after her transformation, picture from IMDb.com

 

McDormand and Amy Adams. We want both women to succeed in love and their careers. Adams defines the somewhat idle rich while McDormand is the working class woman. And there is nothing more farcical than getting rid of one lover when your gangster boyfriend shows up for a little romance.  

Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Pcture from IMDb.com.

 

 It is these elements and a whole lot of charm that makes screwball comedies classic and so hard to create. Both of these selections are not meant for the youngest members of the family. Nor should you watch it with someone you would feel embarrassed with once the naughty parts come on screen. The latter is great to watch with girlfriends while the former is stay-at-home date night movie.  

 Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.  

 Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note to P.O. Box 306, St. Anne, IL 60964 or become my friend on Facebook.

The other night, I had a bunch of kids in the car and we started talking about silly stuff.

 For whatever reasons, I brought up running around with a leopard on a leash. (Can that be anymore dangerous than running around with my dog on a leash when he sees a cat?)

Bringing Up Baby, French movie poster, Picture from IMDb.com

The girls said “What?!?”

 That is when I said Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Classic movie, have you ever seen it? The girls look at me as if I am insane.

 So I go into a mini lecture about how it is one of the greatest screwball comedies ever. When you look up “Screwball Comedy” there will be a picture from that movie accompanying the story. The best part is the movie stars Cary Grant when he was young and hot.

First of all, I cannot resist that accent. Then there is his usual character — a generally decent guy. That is an attraction as well. Plus, Grant was a spot-on comedian. All you have to do is watch some of his other comedies and know that when it comes to screwball comedies, he is the king.

His Girl Friday, Picture from IMDb.com

Want a few other examples of the king? How about Arsenic and Old Lace? Or His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell set in a news room. He is the editor and she is the top reporter. The dialogue is fast and furious and witty. 

Another great movie in the screwball genre with Grant and Hepburn is The Philadelphia Story. I could go on and on. But then I would forget about the other classic screwball comedy from that era which is My Man Godfrey starring Carole Lombard and William Powell. The story is about a new butler who completely changes the life of a very rich family during the Depression.

My Man Godfrey, Picture frm IMDb.com

It is silly and goofy. Plus the print did not age well. But for those wanting to build your knowledge of film, it is a must see. Carole Lombard really has incredible comedic chops and she looks great in those thin satin dresses. William Powell may be playing it dry in this movie but he would up the ante when he worked on the Thin Man series with Myrna Loy.

 I know you are thinking this is a detective series but listen to the dialogue and watch the action. This is sophisticated screwball comedy at its best with two of the greatest practitioners.

William Powell, Maureen O'Sullivan (sitting) and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man, picture from IMDb.com

Comedies should make you laugh and smile and feel great at the end. All of these do just that. In a few weeks, I will talk about some modern screwball comedies. If you send me a suggestion, I will be sure to mention it.

 Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

 Let the world, or at least St. Anne, know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note to P.O. Box 306, St. Anne, IL 60964 or become my friend on Facebook.