Great Screwball Comedies
Screwball comedy: A type of comedy, mostly filmed in the 1930s and '40s, characterized by role and gender reversal, reverse class snobbery, fast-talking, witty repartee, and ridiculous, farcical situations; usually dealing with romantic mixups and misunderstandings.
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
- An easygoing drama critic discovers that his kind and gentle Aunts Abby and Martha have a bizarre habit of poisoning gentlemen callers and burying them in the cellar. Starring Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, and Jean Adair; directed by Frank Capra.
- The Awful Truth (1937) VHS
- A separated couple sabotages each other's love affairs while waiting for their divorce decree to become final. Starring Irene Dunn, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy; directed by Leo McCarey.
- Ball of Fire (1941)
- When a serious-minded professor and his highbrow colleagues begin work on a new encyclopedia, he enlists the aid of a beautiful but shady night club queen to explain slang, unaware that she is on the run from the mob. Starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Oscar Homolka; directed by Howard Hawks.
- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- Crazy comedy about an heiress who is determined to catch a stuffy zoologist and uses her pet leopard, Baby, to help get his attention. Starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charlie Ruggles; directed by Howard Hawks.
- The Gay Divorcee (1934) VHS
- Musical comedy of bedroom confusions and misunderstandings that result when an American dancer begins pursuing an English woman who, in turn, is trying to invent technical grounds for divorce from her husband. Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers; directed by Mark Sandrich.
- His Girl Friday (1940)
- A comedy feature in which an ace reporter is ready to quit journalism and get married, but her editor wants her to stay; an escaped murderer puts her determination to the test. Remake of The Front Page. Starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy; directed by Howard Hawks. Remade in 1987 as Switching Channels, starring Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds, and Christopher Reeve.
- Holiday (1938)
- An iconoclastic young man who's engaged to a snooty heiress discovers he's really in love with his fiancee's down-to-earth sister. Starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan; directed by George Cukor.
- It Happened One Night (1934)
- A runaway heiress falls in love with a reporter who is chasing her across America. Starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly; directed by Frank Capra.
- I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
- A French officer falls in love with and marries a woman lieutenant and must cross-dress in order to get into the United States. Starring Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan, Marion Marshall; directed by Howard Hawks.
- The Lady Eve (1941)
- Lady Eve, a calculating card shark, falls for one of her victims, a young millionaire herpetologist. He finds that she has been giving him a fast shuffle and his fondness fades. She works hard to win him back. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn; written and directed by Preston Sturges.
- Libeled Lady (1936)
- It all starts when society diva Loy slaps newsman Tracy with a libel suit. Tracy enlists fiancée Harlow and down-on-his luck Powell in a counter maneuver involving a rigged marriage, a phony seduction, a fabulously funny fishing scene, fisticuffs, broken promises and hearts and eventually, true love for all. Starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy; directed by Jack Conway.
- Love Crazy (1941) VHS
- A wife suspects her husband of seeing an old girlfriend and attempts to divorce him. He tries to plead insanity, but she gets him committed to an asylum. Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Gail Patrick; directed by Jack Conway.
- The Major and the Minor (1942) VHS
- After a year in New York, Susan Applegate decides to go home. Only the train fare has gone up, so she disguises herself as a 12-year-old, and buys a child's ticket. When the railroad tracks flood and the train stalls, Susan accompanies Major Kirby to a nearby military academy where she must remain in character. Starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland; directed by Billy Wilder.
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
- A comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock about a married couple who find out that through a technicality their marriage is invalid. Starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.
- My Favorite Wife (1940)
- A funny thing happens to Nick on his way to his honeymoon suite. He meets his wife. No, not his bride. He meets the wife that was lost at sea seven years ago and presumed dead. Starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott; directed by Garson Kanin. Remade in 1963 as Move Over, Darling starring Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen.
- My Man Godfrey (1936)
- A zany millionaire family invite a tramp to be their butler and find that he is richer than they are. Starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Eugene Pallette; directed by Gregory La Cava.
- Ninotchka (1939)
- A Soviet official in Paris soon turns to pleasure as she discovers the magic of Paris and finds herself succumbing to the special charms of a suave Frenchman. "Garbo laughs!" Starring Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire; directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
- Nothing Sacred (1937)
- A New York newspaper man tries to save his job with an exclusive story on a young woman thought to be dying from radium poisoning. Starring Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger; directed by William A. Wellman.
- The Palm Beach Story (1942) VID PALM BEA
- A young wife leaves her husband and heads for Palm Beach where she meets one of the world's richest men. When the husband shows up to reclaim his wife, the millionaire's man-mad sister falls for him! One of the giddiest of all the screwball comedies, featuring the
Wienie King and the Ale and Quail Club!
Starring Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor; written and directed by Preston Sturges.
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- A sophisticated romantic comedy about a rich, spoiled socialite who learns some things about who she is and what she really wants on the eve of her second marriage. Hepburn's 'come-back' film. Starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart; based on the play by Philip Barry; directed by George Cukor. Remade in 1956 as a musical, High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra.
- Some Like It Hot (1959)
- Two unemployed muscians accidently witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and flee to Miami disguised as female musicians.
Noted for one of the funniest last lines of all time.
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon; directed by Billy Wilder.
- Theodora Goes Wild (1936) VHS
- A staid Connecticut town gets its knickers in a twist when the author of a steamy best-selling novel is revealed to be Theodora Lynne, a young local woman. Starring Irene Dunne, Melvyn Douglas, Thomas Mitchell; directed by Richard Boleslawski.
- To Be or Not To Be (1942)
- A comedy film of wartime Poland about an acting troupe which becomes involved in international affairs. Starring Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack; directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Remade in 1983 in a version starring Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft and Tim Matheson.
- Topper (1947)
- A sophisticated and playful couple become ghosts and haunt the life of a stuffy banker. Starring Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Roland Young; directed by Norman Z. McLeod. Followed by a sequel, Topper Returns, in 1940 and a TV series featuring Leo G. Carroll which ran from 1953-55.
- Twentieth Century (1934) VHS
- A temperamental Broadway producer trains an untutored actress, but when a star, she proves a match for him. Starring John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly; directed by Howard Hawks.
- Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
- A famous conductor, blessed with both a brilliant career and a beautiful young wife, believes that she's having an affair with his handsome young secretary. The conductor fantasizes three insane scenes of revenge while conducting a concert and then tries to enact them in the brilliant conclusion. Starring Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallee; written and directed by Preston Sturges. Remade in 1984 in a version starring Dudley Moore, Nastassja Kinski, and Armand Assante.
- What's Up Doc? (1972)
- Judy, who is bright but a little strange, and Howard, a befuddled Iowa musicologist, meet in a San Francisco hotel. The only thing they have in common is their red plaid travelling cases (his holds rocks; hers, lingerie). Identical cases are owned by two of the hotel's other guests. Mrs. Van Hoskins keeps hers stuffed with jewelry, and Mr. Smith's holds a batch of top secret government documents. When the bags are mixed up, the result is chaos of the highest and most hilarious disorder. Director Peter Bogdanovich's homage to the screwball comedy, starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, and Kenneth Mars. Rated G.
- You Can't Take It with You (1938)
- Comedy about the Sycamores, an eccentric family of free spirits, and the problems that arise when Alice, the one stable member, falls for her boss's son. Starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart; directed by Frank Capra.
- Romantic comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges by James Harvey. New York : Knopf, 1987. 791.4309 H262r
- What could top the charm, the outlandishness, the wit, the loveliness of classic Hollywood romantic comedy? The triumph of James Harvey's book is its ability to convey the delights of the genre when it was at its best, during the 1930s and '40s, concentrating on two of its finest directors: Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges.
- Screwball : Hollywood's madcap romantic comedies by Ed Sikov. New York : Crown Publishers, 1989. 791.4309 S579s
- This oversize volume, illustrated with 240 black-and-white movie stills and publicity shots, examines the weird world of screwball comedy--a world where, as freelance film journalist Sikov writes, "hatred is no reason to give up on a relationship."
On the Web
- Screwball Comedy
- Description of the genre, audio clips, images, and bibliography, with related links. From Moderntimes Classic Film Pages.
- Home of the Screwball
- Devoted to the study of screwball comedy as a cultural force, with studies of several of the classics, including His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, and Bringing Up Baby.
- Screwball Comedy
- A discussion of several screwball comedy classics by Gregg Rickman, with additional viewing recommendations. From GreenCine.
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