Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28485
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#1 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:12 am

Image

SCREWBALL COMEDIES (1934-1942)
As identified by Duane Byrge and Robert Milton Miller in
the Screwball Comedy Films: A History and Filmography, 1934-1942


the Awful Truth (Leo McCarey 1937) R1 Sony
Bachelor Mother (Garson Kanin 1939) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks 1941) R1 MGM
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (Ernst Lubitsch 1938) R1 Universal (Claudette Colbert Collection)
the Bride Came COD (William Keighley 1941) R1 Warners (James Cagney Signature Collection)
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks 1938) R1 Warners
the Devil and Miss Jones (Sam Wood 1941) R1/A Olive
the Doctor Takes a Wife (Alexander Hall 1940) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 2)
the Ex-Mrs Bradford (Stephen Roberts 1935) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Easy Living (Mitchell Leisen 1937) R1 Universal
the Feminine Touch (WS Van Dyke 1941) No commercial release
Fifth Avenue Girl (Gregory La Cava 1939) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Four's a Crowd (Michael Curtiz 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Gilded Lily (Wesley Ruggles 1935) R1 TCM Vault MOD DVD-R
Good Girls Go to Paris (Alexander Hall 1939) No commercial release
Hands Across the Table (Mitchell Leisen 1935) R1 Universal (Carole Lombard Glamour Collection)
Here Comes Mr Jordan (Alexander Hall 1941) R1 Sony
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks 1940) R1 Sony / PD
Holiday (George Cukor 1938) R1 Sony
I Married a Witch (Rene Clair 1942) R1/A Criterion
I Met Him In Paris (Wesley Ruggles 1937) R1 Universal (Claudette Colbert Collection)
It Happened One Night (Frank Capra 1934) R1/A Criterion / R1 Sony
Joy of Living (Tay Garnett 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Lady Eve (Preston Sturges 1941) R1 Criterion / Paramount
Lady in a Jam (Gregory La Cava 1942) R1 Universal MOD DVD-R
Libeled Lady (Jack Conway 1936) R1 Warners
the Mad Miss Manton (Leigh Jason 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Major and the Minor (Billy Wilder 1942) R1 Universal
Merrily We Live (Norman Z McLeod 1938) R1 Grapevine MOD DVD-R
Midnight (Mitchell Leisen 1939) R1 Universal
Mr and Mrs Smith (Alfred Hitchcock 1941) R1 Warner Archive MOD DVD-R (initially pressed)
My Favorite Wife (Garson Kanin 1940) R1 Warners
My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava 1936) R1 Criterion / PD
Nothing Sacred (William A Wellman 1937) R1/A Kino / PD
Once Upon a Honeymoon (Leo McCarey 1942) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges 1942) R1/A Criterion / Paramount
the Philadelphia Story (George Cukor 1940) R1 Warners
Ruggles of Red Gap (Leo McCarey 1935) R1 Universal MOD DVD-R / R2/B Masters of Cinema
She Married Her Boss (Gregory La Cava 1935) No commercial release
Take a Letter, Darling (Mitchell Leisen 1942) No commercial release
That Uncertain Feeling (Ernst Lubitsch 1941) PD
Theodora Goes Wild (Richard Boleslavski 1936) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 2)
the Thin Man (WS Van Dyke 1934) R1 Warners
Too Many Husbands (Wesley Ruggles 1940) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 1)
Topper (Norman Z McLeod 1937) PD
Topper Returns (Roy Del Ruth 1941) PD
Topper Takes a Trip (Norman Z McLeod 1938) No commercial release
True Confession (Wesley Ruggles 1937) R1 Universal (Carole Lombard Glamour Collection)
Turnabout (Hal Roach 1940) No commercial release
Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks 1934) R1 Sony (OOP)
Two-Faced Woman (George Cukor 1941) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Unfinished Business (Gregory La Cava 1941) No commercial release
Vivacious Lady (George Stevens 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Whole Town's Talking (John Ford 1935) R1 TCM Vault (John Ford Collection)
Woman Chases Man (John G Blystone 1937) No commercial release
You Belong to Me (Wesley Ruggles 1941) R1 Sony MOD DVD-R
You Can't Take It With You (Frank Capra 1938) R1 Sony


Image


FREQUENTLY CITED AS SCREWBALL COMEDIES

PRE-1934
Bombshell (Victor Fleming 1933) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
By Candlelight (James Whale 1933) No commercial release
Design For Living (Ernst Lubitsch 1933) R1/A Criterion / Universal
Goodbye Again (Michael Curtiz 1933) No commercial release
Laughter (Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast 1930) No commercial release
Rafter Romance (William A Seiter 1933) R1 TCM Vault MOD DVD-R
Should Ladies Behave (Harry Beaumont 1933) No commercial release
Three Cornered Moon (Elliott Nugent 1933) R1 Universal (Claudette Colbert Collection)
Topaze (Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast 1933) No commercial release

1934-1942
A Girl, A Guy, and A Gob (Richard Wallace 1941) No commercial release
A Slight Case of Murder (Lloyd Bacon 1938) R1 Warners
the Affairs of Annabel (Ben Stoloff 1938) No commercial release
the Affairs of Martha (Jules Dassin 1942) No commercial release
Affectionately Yours (Lloyd Bacon 1940) No commercial release
After the Thin Man (WS Van Dyke 1936) R1 Warners
the Amazing Mr Williams (Alexander Hall 1940) No commercial release
Annabel Takes a Tour (Lew Landers 1938) No commercial release
Another Thin Man (WS Van Dyke 1939) R1 Warners
Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra 1941) R1 Warners
the Baroness and the Butler (Walter Lang 1942) R1 Fox MOD DVD-R
Bedtime Story (Alexander Hall 1941) No commercial release
Blond Cheat (Joseph Santley 1938) No commercial release
Boy Meets Girl (Lloyd Bacon 1938) No commercial release
Breakfast For Two (Alfred Santell 1937) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Bridal Suite (Wilhelm Thiele 1939) No commercial release
the Bride Comes Home (Wesley Ruggles 1935) R1 TCM Vault MOD DVD-R
the Bride Walks Out (Leigh Jason 1936) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Brother Rat and a Baby (Ray Enright 1940) No commercial release
Cafe Society (Edward H Griffith 1939) No commercial release
Call it a Day (Archie Mayo 1937) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Carefree (Mark Sandrich 1938) R1 Warners
Christmas in July (Preston Sturges 1940) R1 Paramount
Curtain Call (Frank Woodruff 1940) No commercial release
Danger-- Love At Work! (Otto Preminger 1937) R2 BFI
Day-Time Wife (Gregory Ratoff 1939) R1 Fox (Tyrone Power Marquee Idol Collection)
Destry Rides Again (George Marshall 1939) R1 Universal
Double Wedding (Richard Thorpe 1937) R1 Warners (Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection)
Down to Their Last Yacht (Paul Sloane 1934) No commercial release
the Earl of Chicago (Richard Thorpe 1940) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R (Robert Montgomery Collection)
Eternally Yours (Tay Garnett 1939) PD
Ever Since Eve (Lloyd Bacon 1937) No commercial release
Fools For Scandal (Mervyn LeRoy 1938) No commercial release
the Footloose Heiress (William Clemens 1937) No commercial release
Footsteps in the Dark (Lloyd Bacon 1941) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Forsaking All Others (WS Van Dyke 1934) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Gay Bride (Jack Conway 1934) No commercial release
Gay Deception (William Wyler 1935) R1 Fox MOD DVD-R
the Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich 1934) R1 Warners
the Girl From Missouri (Jack Conway 1934) R1 Warners Archives MOD DVD-R
the Golden Arrow (Alfred E Green 1936) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Good Fairy (William Wyler 1935) R1 Kino
the Great Garrick (James Whale 1937) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Great Profile (Walter Land 1940) R1 Fox MOD DVD-R
Having Wonderful Time (Alfred Santell 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
He Married His Wife (Roy Del Ruth 1940) No commercial release
He Stayed For Breakfast (Alexander Hall 1940) No commercial release
Hired Wife (William A Seiter 1940) No commercial release
Honeymoon For Three (Lloyd Bacon 1941) No commercial release
Honeymoon in Bali (Edward H Griffith 1939) PD
the Housekeeper's Daughter (Hal Roach 1938) No commercial release
If Only You Could Cook (William A Seiter 1935) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 1)
I Live My Life (WS Van Dyke 1935) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
I Love You Again (WS Van Dyke 1940) R1 Warner (Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection)
I Met Him in Paris (Wesley Ruggles 1937) R1 Universal (Claudette Colbert Collection)
Idiot's Delight (Clarence Brown 1939) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
It's a Small World (Irving Cummings 1935) No commercial release
It's a Wonderful World (WS Van Dyke 1939) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
It's All Yours (Elliott Nugent 1937) No commercial release
It's Love I'm After (Archie Mayo 1937) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Jimmy the Gent (Michael Curtiz 1934) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Just Around the Corner (Irving Cummings 1938) R1 Fox
Ladies Should Listen (Frank Tuttle 1934) No commercial release
the Lady Has Plans (Sidney Lanfield 1942) No commercial release
Larceny Inc (Lloyd Bacon 1942) R1 Warners
Live, Love and Learn (George Fitzmaurice 1937) No commercial release
Love Before Breakfast (Walter Lang 1936) R1 Universal (Carole Lombard Collection)
Love Crazy (Jack Conway 1941) R1 Warners (Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection)
Love is News (Tay Garnett 1937) R1 Fox (Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection)
Love on the Run (WS Van Dyke 1936) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Lucky Partners (Lewis Milestone 1940) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Maid's Night Out (Ben Holmes 1938) No commercial release
Make a Million (Lewis D Collins 1935) No commercial release
the Male Animal (Elliott Nugent 1942) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Man Who Came to Dinner (William Keighley 1942) R1 Warners
Married Before Breakfast (Edwin L Marin 1937) No commercial release
Marry the Girl (William C McGann 1937) No commercial release
Meet the Missus (Joseph Santley 1937) No commercial release
Mister Cinderella (Edward Sedgwick 1936) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
the Moon's Our Home (William A Seiter 1936) R1 Universal MOD DVD-R
More Than a Secretary (Alfred E Green 1936) R1 TCM Vault (Jean Arthur Comedy Collection)
Mr and Mrs North (Robert B Sinclair 1940) No commercial release
Mr Deeds Goes to Town (Frank Capra 1936) R1 Sony
My Sister Eileen (Alexander Hall 1942) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 1)
Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch 1939) R1 Warners
No Time For Comedy (William Keighley 1940) R1 Warner Archives
One Night in Lisbon (Edward H Griffith 1941) No commercial release
One Rainy Afternoon (Rowland V Lee 1936) PD
Our Wife (John M Stahl 1941) No commercial release
Perfect Specimen (Michael Curtiz 1937) No commercial release
Personal Property (WS Van Dyke 1937) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Petticoat Fever (George Fitzmaurice 1936) No commercial release
Piccadilly Jim (Robert Z Leonard 1936) No commercial release
Pot O' Gold (George Marshall 1941) PD
the Princess Comes Across (William K Howard 1936) R1 Universal (Carole Lombard Collection)
Public Deb No 1 (Gregory Ratoff 1940) No commercial release
the Rage of Paris (Henry Koster 1938) No commercial release
Reckless (Victor Fleming 1935) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Red Salute (Sidney Lanfield 1935) No commercial release
Remember? (Norman Z McLeod 1939) No commercial release
Remember Last Night? (James Whale 1935) No commercial release
Remember the Night (Mitchell Leisen 1940) R1/A TCM Vault
the Richest Girl in the World (William A Seiter 1934) No commercial release
Rings on Her Fingers (Rouben Mamoulian 1942) No commercial release
Road Show (Hal Roach 1941) PD
Romance in Manhattan (Stephen Roberts 1935) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Roxie Hart (William A Wellman 1942) R1 Fox
Satan Met a Lady (William Dieterle 1936) R1 Warners (Maltese Falcon 3-Disc Edition)
Say It In French (Andrew L Stone 1938) No commercial release
Second Honeymoon (Walter Lang 1937) R1 Fox (Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection)
Shadow of the Thin Man (WS Van Dyke 1941) R1 Warners
She Couldn't Take It (Tay Garnett 1935) No commercial release
Smartest Girl in Town (Joseph Santley 1936) No commercial release
Snowed Under (Ray Enright 1936) No commercial release
Stand In (Tay Garnett 1937) R1 Image (OOP)
Star of Midnight (Stephen Roberts 1935) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges 1941) R1 Criterion / R2/B Arrow
There Goes My Girl (Ben Holmes 1937) No commercial release
There Goes My Heart (Norman Z McLeod 1938) No commercial release
There's Always a Woman (Alexander Hall 1938) R1 Sony MOD DVD-R
They All Kissed the Bride (Alexander Hall 1942) No commercial release
Third Finger, Left Hand (Robert Z Leonard 1940) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Three Blind Mice (William A Seiter 1938) R1 Fox MOD DVD-R
Three Girls About Town (Leigh Jason 1941) No commercial release
Three Loves Has Nancy (Richard Thorpe 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch 1942) R1/A Criterion
Tom, Dick and Harry (Garson Kanin 1941) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Too Hot to Handle (Jack Conway 1938) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Too Many Wives (Ben Holmes 1937) No commercial release
Tovarich (Anatole Litvak 1937) No commercial release
We're Not Dressing (Norman Taurog 1934) R1 Universal (Carole Lombard Glamour Collection)
We're Rich Again (William A Seiter 1934) No commercial release
Wedding Present (Richard Wallace 1936) R1 Sony (Cary Grant Collection)
Weekend for Three (Irving Reis 1941) No commercial release
Whistling in the Dark (S Sylvan Simon 1941) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Wife, Husband and Friend (Gregory Ratoff 1939) No commercial release
Wise Girl (Leigh Jason 1937) No commercial release
Woman Chases Man (John G Blystone 1937) No commercial release
Woman of the Year (George Stevens 1942) R1 Warners

POST-1942
A Lady Takes a Chance (William A Seiter 1943) R1 Lionsgate (OOP)
A Millionaire For Christy (George Marshall 1951) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
A Night to Remember (Richard Wallace 1943) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 2)
Adam's Rib (George Cukor 1949) R1 Warners
the Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (Irving Reis 1947) R1 Warners
Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godrey 1945) R1/A Warners
Cinderella Jones (Busby Berkeley 1946) No commercial release
the Corpse Came COD (Henry Levin 1947) No commercial release
the Crystal Ball (Elliott Nugent 1943) No commercial release
the Egg and I (Chester Erskine 1947) R1 Universal (Claudette Colbert Collection)
Eve Knew Her Apples (Will Jason 1945) No commercial release
Every Girl Should Be Married (Don Hartman 1948) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
Family Honeymoon (Claude Binyon 1949) R1 TCM Vault MOD DVD-R
Guest Wife (Sam Wood 1945) R1/A Olive
Heartbeat (Sam Wood 1946) PD
Hi Diddle Diddle (Andrew L Stone 1943) PD
the Horn Blows at Midnight (Raoul Walsh 1945) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
I Was a Male War Bride (Howard Hawks 1949) R1 Fox
It Happened on 5th Avenue (Roy Del Ruth 1947) R1 Warners
It's In the Bag! (Richard Wallace 1945) R1/A Olive
John Loves Mary (David Butler 1949) R1 Warners Archive MOD DVD-R
June Bride (Bretaigne Windust 1948) No commercial release
Lost Honeymoon (Leigh Jason 1947) PD
the Mating of Millie (Henry Levin 1948) No commercial release
the Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Preston Sturges 1944) R1 Warners / Paramount
Monkey Business (Howard Hawks 1952) R1 Fox (OOP)
the More the Merrier (George Stevens 1943) R1 Sony
Murder, He Says (George Marshall 1945) R1 TCM Vault MOD DVD-R
Never a Dull Moment (George Marshall 1950) No commercial release
Never Say Goodbye (James V Kern 1946) R1 Warner Archives MOD DVD-R
No Time For Love (Mitchell Leisen 1943) R1 Universal (Claudette Colbert Collection)
Once More, My Darling (Robert Montgomery 1949) No commercial release
Pardon My Past (Leslie Fenton 1945) No commercial release
the Perfect Marriage (Lewis Allen 1947) No commercial release
Pillow to Post (Vincent Sherman 1945) No commercial release
San Diego I Love You (Reginald Le Borg 1944) No commercial release
She Wouldn't Say Yes (Alexander Hall 1945) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 1)
the Sin of Harold Diddlebock (Preston Sturges 1947) PD
Song of the Thin Man (Edward Buzzell 1947) R1 Warners
That Wonderful Urge (Robert Sinclair 1948) R1 Fox (Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection)
Together Again (Charles Vidor 1944) R1 Sony (Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol 2)
Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges 1948) R1 Criterion
We're Not Married! (Edmund Goulding 1952) R1 Fox (OOP)
You Gotta Stay Happy (HC Potter 1948) R1 Universal (James Stewart Collection)


Image


EXISTING FORUM DISCUSSIONS
103 The Lady Eve
114 My Man Godfrey
118 Sullivan's Travels
670 To Be or Not to Be
676 I Married a Witch
736 It Happened One Night
742 The Palm Beach Story
1930s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)
1940s List Discussion and Suggestions
Addictive "NIghtlights"
Alfred Hitchcock
the Alternative American Film List
The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)
Arrow: Sullivan's Travels
Astaire & Rogers Collection
The Best Books About Film
Billy Wilder
Books on Screwball Comedies
Classic Holiday Collections
Columbia Classics
Defend Your Darlings, You Sad Pandas! (List Projects Vol. 3.0)
Films For Cancer Survivors
George Cukor
George Stevens
Howard Hawks
James Whale
Leatherheads (George Clooney, 2008)
Loy & Powell Collection
Mitchell Leisen
The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)
Nothing Sacred (Wellman, 1937) - who owns it?
Otto Preminger
The Philadelphia Story
Preston Sturges
Rosenbaum's The Unquiet American: 50 Transgressive Comedies
She's Funny That Way (Peter Bogdanovich, 2015)
Sissies, Pansies, Fairies, and Other Exotic Fruits
TCM Vault Collection
The Thin Man Collection
Universal Backlot Series / Universal Studio Selections
Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Warner Classic Comedies Collection

UPDATED 07/04/2015

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28485
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#2 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:12 am

PSHEW! Well, surprisingly there wasn't a place to talk broadly about screwball comedies on the board, so I've created a master-thread with both the above DVD Guide (If I missed a film that should be included, and no doubt I have, let me know) and to serve as a one-stop shop for discussing any of these films or the subgenre itself. With the recent Criterion releases of some true Screwball Comedy Classics, I figured there might be increased interest from both experts and novices in exploring the genre further, and so hopefully this thread can function in that capacity!

User avatar
hearthesilence
Posts: 4139
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#3 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:52 am

You left out Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast's 1930 feature Laughter, the prototype for the genre, and criminally difficult to find. It virtually never screens anywhere and all I can find is a crappy YouTube upload that's so bad, you can't even see anyone's faces or make out half the dialogue. From James Harvey's Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: "Six years later, during the heyday of screwball comedy, Herman Maniewicz recalled Laughter to an interviewer – ruefully. Reflecting on the success of such later films as It Happened One Night and My Man Godfrey, Maniewicz told the press: 'we' did it first, Laughter was 'the original of this madcap type of screen story.'"

User avatar
swo17
Posts: 13469
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#4 Post by swo17 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:10 pm

Nice work, but where's NewsRadio?

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Posts: 7316
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#5 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:10 pm

Interestingly enough, Japanese film makers began making proto-screwball comedies in the early 30s. For instance, there is Ozu's Lady and the Beard in 1931. A handsome (if nerdy) upper-class (albeit not immediately affluent) young man falls in love with a working girl -- and is also the object of affection of a gangster girl he has encountered and an upper class "appropriate" match. I assume that Ozu had some American models in mind, but am not sure what.

User avatar
aox
Posts: 2394
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
Location: nYc

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#6 Post by aox » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:43 pm

That's fantastic work, Dom. Cheers to you.

Unless I missed it in the OP (apologies in that case), can someone provide an (mostly agreed upon) academic definition of "Screwball Comedy"?

User avatar
hearthesilence
Posts: 4139
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#7 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:09 pm

aox wrote:That's fantastic work, Dom. Cheers to you.
Should've said that as well. Certainly grateful for the effort.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Posts: 7316
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#8 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:26 pm

Earlier precursors....

Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle (1924) and So this is Paris! (1926) seem to have most of the elements of screwball comedy. These have a very different look and feel (and setting) from his earlier more outlandish German farces (though they may have some link to his first unauthorized "adaptation" of Die Fledermaaus, Das fidele Gefängnis).

User avatar
Gregory
Posts: 5275
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#9 Post by Gregory » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:45 pm

Thanks. I now have a list of 10 more Warner Archive titles to catch up with soon.

Since Vivacious Lady, Bachelor Mother, and Tom, Dick and Harry are included it probably wouldn't be a stretch to include Kitty Foyle. And if the list didn't cut off after the early '50s, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! and Man's Favorite Sport would be good additions.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Posts: 1878
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#10 Post by Roger Ryan » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:05 pm

aox wrote:That's fantastic work, Dom. Cheers to you.

Unless I missed it in the OP (apologies in that case), can someone provide an (mostly agreed upon) academic definition of "Screwball Comedy"?
Yes, an excellent topic and nicely organized, Dom.

As concerning this thread, I have to assume we are following the definition provided by Duane Byrge and Robert Milton Miller in their book "The Screwball Comedy Films: A History and Filmography, 1934-1942" (as Dom notes in the OP). What that is I'm not quite sure, but I suspect it has more to do with how farce was presented in film between those years. Farce that did not have a direct connection to music hall, vaudeville or burlesque traditions (i.e. Chaplin, Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields) nor was penned by sophisticates like Noel Coward.

User avatar
zedz
Posts: 10297
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#11 Post by zedz » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:32 pm

Traditionally, and loosely, screwball comedy is considered a special evolution of romantic comedy in which the comic quirks of the supporting cast have been transposed to the romantic leads. If you look at the early Marx Brothers films, you can see that the lunatics have already taken over the asylum, but there's still the phantom limb of the 'straight' romantic leads (that nobody could care less about) existing in the margins of the film. Screwball allowed the leads to be their own comic relief, acting as zany, crazy or stylized as various esteemed character actors had previously. Lots of other characteristics of the genre emerged over time, but that, for me, is the distinctive core idea.

User avatar
Ashirg
Posts: 2118
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:10 am
Location: Atlanta

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#12 Post by Ashirg » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:37 pm

What about neo-screwball comedies like What's Up, Doc? (1972), For Pete's Sake (1974) and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)?

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Posts: 7316
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:41 pm

zedz -- those characteristics seem to apply to those 1920s Lubitsch films (especially So This Is Paris) and to Ozu's Lady and the Beard (and Ozu WAS a Lubitsch fan). The lead characters in STIP carry almost all the comic burden -- and the male lead (played by a frankly beautiful actor who also did lots of romantic stuff) was also the primary focus of the comedy.

User avatar
zedz
Posts: 10297
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#14 Post by zedz » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:05 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:zedz -- those characteristics seem to apply to those 1920s Lubitsch films (especially So This Is Paris) and to Ozu's Lady and the Beard (and Ozu WAS a Lubitsch fan). The lead characters in STIP carry almost all the comic burden -- and the male lead (played by a frankly beautiful actor who also did lots of romantic stuff) was also the primary focus of the comedy.
Well, I think Lubitsch is the clear progenitor of the genre, but back then it wasn't a genre, it was just Lubitsch being Lubitsch.

User avatar
knives
Posts: 13960
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#15 Post by knives » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:20 pm

In cinema at least. That very same quality was in literature for some time. Particularly stories like Shalom Aleichem's who Lubitsch without a doubt would have been familiar with.

User avatar
Gregory
Posts: 5275
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#16 Post by Gregory » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:48 pm

If I had to pick a single progenitor of it, it wouldn't be Lubitsch but McCarey. Two of the essential features of screwball, sight gags and the kind of comedic interaction between two main protagonists plus others, came right from the world of comedy teams, foremost Laurel and Hardy, who function as a "couple." So much of the humor of the great screwballs such as Bringing Up Baby and The Awful Truth is indebted to the verbal comedy, sight gags, and adults-behaving-like-children format of the Laurel and Hardy films.
I wouldn't deny that early Lubitsch had any role in influencing screwball, but in most of his films his comedy worked in a register of sophistication and charm, sometimes with undertones of screwball but more generally in the realm of non-screwball romantic comedy. I wouldn't consider Design for Living to be screwball, for example.

Philadelphia Story starts out with the unmistakeable markings of screwball but then becomes a sophisticated rom-com (and in my opinion becomes less and less funny and appealing as the film progresses, as the film's project becomes the misguided idea that Tracy can see the way to adopting a fully realized sexuality and personhood by having men lecture her about it). So I don't see any reason to accept the "remarriage" trope as a subgenre of comedy or as being necessary or sufficient for counting something as screwball.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Posts: 7316
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#17 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:03 pm

> verbal comedy, sight gags, and adults-behaving-like-children

Gregory -- Have you seen "So This Is Paris"? (or Ozu's Lady and the Beard). These elements are to be found in these -- verbal comedy courtesy of intertitles, of course, but the feeling of verbal comedy is indeed created. I suspect that these early films were not the only ones to already have the mix of romance plus the elements you list. (One finds many of these elements in Lloyd, but they never really come together in a way that is fully screwball -- though maybe Why Worry gets sort of close).

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28485
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#18 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:22 am

Roger Ryan wrote:As concerning this thread, I have to assume we are following the definition provided by Duane Byrge and Robert Milton Miller in their book "The Screwball Comedy Films: A History and Filmography, 1934-1942" (as Dom notes in the OP)
The book offers a four page definition in single space and small type, so I'll summarize as best I can (according to Byrge and Miller):

Common Features of American Screwball Comedies

+ Tied strongly with the New Deal era in which the core films were released and initially consumed
+ Combine "slapstick with sophistication"
+ Central narrative is one of a love story
+ Center on an aggressive female lead, frequently in pursuit of a pliable male lead
+ Much of humor is derived from embarrassment
+ Snowballing improbable events and narrative complications to which the final coupling is seen as the only logical way to find respite from the chaos
+ "Rules, customs, family obligations, [and] romantic rivals" stand in way of eccentric lovers' coupling
+ Subversion of "historic and contemporary class conflicts"
+ Happy ending of coupling of different classes transmits "unifying illusion" to audiences in time of social division
+ Overall attitude that life should be like a child's playtime, with characters driven by "defiant determination" to have fun / a good time regardless of societal or monetary cost
+ Individual self-assertion prized

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28485
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#19 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:08 am

Also, thanks guys, glad this thread is of use. Fun fact: this thread is already the second top search return on Google for Screwball Comedies Guide (behind Wikipedia, which will likely never be topped)! I've fixed some of the dates in my initial post because a few snuck past me. I've also run the numbers and discovered I've only seen a pitiful total number of films from the massive list, so I know what my next priority viewings look like and hey would you look at that here's a thread to discuss them in

User avatar
Gregory
Posts: 5275
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#20 Post by Gregory » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:37 am

Michael, I've seen The Lady and the Beard but not So This Is Paris. I can see some overlap with characteristics of the Hollywood screwball comedies in it, as well as some Lubitsch influence, but more than anything it seems to be squarely within the age-old comedy of manners tradition, but with the common Ozu themes of changing Japanese culture in the face of modernizing and westernizing influences. As a silent, of course, it relies less than usual for that form on witty dialogue. The plot is amusingly strange but not exactly anarchic.
...
To change the subject to the first of the Warner Archive titles I mentioned I'd be watching from the list compiled here, today's choice was Bombshell. Some consider this to be Harlow's best film, and she really got a chance to show how funny she could be and sustain interest as the center of almost relentless energy and activity throughout the film's 95 minutes. The story was based on Clara Bow and to a lesser extent Harlow's own life, and it seems like in the guise of comedic exaggeration allows it holds up a fairly damning mirror to the culture of Hollywood celebrity and public image. Lola is surrounded by frauds, backstabbers, manipulators, demanding and embarrassing family members, etc. She can't achieve a balanced, sane life because the whole social context of it is untenable—not only the "vamp"/motherhood trap but also the familiar 1930s theme of social station, and the perceived need for a star in a medium of "low culture" to prove that she can be "better" and lead a proper life, leaving behind the debauchery either real or imagined in the bad press that hounds her. One IMDb member said s/he couldn't appreciate the humor of this film because Lola's life is just too miserable. But I found it affirming to see a comedy (especially one from that era) with a woman in the spotlight as the sole protagonist—not half of a comedy couple or a love interest—who, even as she is jerked around and sabotaged, isn't a passive or willing victim.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Posts: 1878
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#21 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:56 am

domino harvey wrote:
Common Features of American Screwball Comedies

...+ Combine "slapstick with sophistication"...
Given the summary, I think I prefer "zedz"'s definition of "screwball comedy" more than Byrge and Miller's take on it. However, the idea of "combining slapstick with sophistication" is kind of what I was getting at earlier: the combination places "screwball" in a middle ground that is neither as lowbrow as Laurel and Hardy nor as sophisticated as Lubitsch. In the end, I agree that an easy identifier of "screwball" is when the romantic leads are as zany as the supporting cast and there need be no distinction between the straight world and the nutty one.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28485
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#22 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jan 08, 2015 2:55 am

Some recent viewings:

the Bride Came COD (William Keighley 1941) James Cagney is a cash-strapped pilot who plots with Eugene Pallette's millionaire to avert errant debutante Bette Davis' impending nuptials to Jack Carson via quasi-kidnapping. The film does manage to subvert expectations, but not narratively. Rather, Davis, who I figured was miscast as the screwball protagonist, throws herself (and her posterior) into the silliness (and the cacti) with game effort while it's Cagney that really sticks out here as a bad fit. It does not help matters that the creaky ghost town complications of the second half of the film aren't nearly as amusing as the film believes them to be. There are few things more tortuous than a screwball comedy that isn't working and yet keeps pummeling along at you!

the Ex-Mrs Bradford (Stephen Roberts 1936) Baldfaced attempt to replicate the Thin Man series of wealthy wits solving crimes by keeping William Powell but replacing Myrna Loy with Jean Arthur and halving the liquor budget. The end results are pretty dreadful I'm sad to say, with director Roberts showing no sense of comic timing and pacing-- this would be a lethargic slog in any genre but as a screwball comedy it's practically poison, gelatin-lined or otherwise. There are a few arrant chuckles I guess but the mystery at the heart of Powell and ex-wife Arthur's investigations hinges on a plot so stupid that I wish I could ask for alimony as recompense for a film's failed promises.

Fifth Avenue Girl (Gregory La Cava 1939) When Walter Connolly popped up at the beginning of this Ginger Rogers flick, I was pleased to see the always welcome bit player. Imagine my delight when I gradually realized he was the male lead! This film has such an infectious energy of cynical glee as Connolly befriends Rogers' fetching foulweather commentator and proceeds to use her to whip his family into shape via jealousy and their own extravagances. The first half put such a big and constant smile on my face that I can overlook the clumsy landing of the last ten minutes, where all the action is written into a corner and everyone just kind of gives up and the pic shoehorns in a disappointing and unnecessary romance between two of the main characters that is about one step removed from the romantic aura of a subway molestation. However, the attitudes here towards class are sharp and even efforts to undermine the comically exaggerated Marxism of the chauffeur are themselves undermined by the entire film's message of wisdom and strength originating down the ladder and crawling up, not trickling down. Even with caveats the parts that work here work so well that 5th Ave Girl has sprung to my top tier of efforts from this genre. Highly recommended.

the Gilded Lily (Wesley Ruggles 1935) Claudette Colbert is wooed and abandoned by an engaged aristocrat in disguise and her newspaperman bestie Fred MacMurray spins her story into a press sensation, creating an insta-celeb in her as "The 'No' Girl." The film works best when it showcases MacMurray's efforts to exploit Colbert's fame by selling her as a floorshow attraction, which Colbert is disastrously unprepared for in the film's best extended set piece. However, nothing here is particularly funny and none of the characters leave much of an impression. MacMurray and Colbert teamed up a lot, best to seek such pairings elsewhere.

Theodora Goes Wild (Richard Boleslawski 1936) Small town gal Irene Dunne is leading a double life as the author of Peyton Place-esque potboilers and big city cover artist Melvyn Douglas decides to break her down to size by brazenly wrecking her position within her carefully constructed but stifling existence. And then, in the film's masterstroke, halfway through the picture the film flips and resets itself as the liberated Dunne proceeds to do the same Douglas within his limiting environs! This one has a lot of grace and charm and maybe a bit too much glee in the cat-like behavior of the indignant close-minded matrons (who are literally intercut with mousers during one inspired montage) and the film's finish undermines its own gall by shoehorning in one last sock at the small town biddies that inadvertently weakens Dunne's final act in favor of easy audience pleasing. But on the whole this is a satisfying entry in the genre and Dunne is a lot of fun in her Oscar-nominated turn.

the Whole Town's Talking (John Ford 1935) John Ford tries his hand at Screwball and for a little while at least it looks like he might be on the right track with this silly tale of a mild-mannered office worker who is mistaken for an escaped murderer, both played by Edward G Robinson. This leads to a suitably chaotic confrontation with hundreds of police officers and reporters in the first act and is capped with a hilarious bit of business wherein Jean Arthur's office crush gets swept up with Robinson by the fuzz and proceeds to mimic a moll and lay claim to every litany of larceny made available to her. It's sadly the only really funny part of the film, though, as the pic loses any sense of comic possibilities as it takes itself more and more seriously as a ludicrous crime flick and then completely sidelines the only thing that even works here, Arthur, by the third act. The film at least convinced studio heads to give us Arthur in better screwballs, so some good came out of this underwhelming effort.

User avatar
Antares
Posts: 150
Joined: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:35 pm
Location: Richmond, Rhode Island

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#23 Post by Antares » Fri Jan 16, 2015 7:08 pm

domino harvey wrote:This leads to a suitably chaotic confrontation with hundreds of police officers and reporters in the first act and is capped with a hilarious bit of business wherein Jean Arthur's office crush gets swept up with Robinson by the fuzz and proceeds to mimic a moll and lay claim to every litany of larceny made available to her. It's sadly the only really funny part of the film, though, as the pic loses any sense of comic possibilities as it takes itself more and more seriously as a ludicrous crime flick and then completely sidelines the only thing that even works here, Arthur, by the third act. The film at least convinced studio heads to give us Arthur in better screwballs, so some good came out of this underwhelming effort.
So true, but it's worth watching this film just for that sequence. Whenever I'm discussing Jean Arthur with someone, I always recommend seeing the film just for that.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28485
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#24 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 12, 2015 11:33 pm

I've been casually working my way through these checklists (I'm a dozen short of seeing all 57 of Byrge and Milton's screwball comedies, and far far away from wrapping up the other categories) and I wish I could say I've encountered more hits than misses, but unfortunately a lot of these films have fallen to the wayside for a reason. It doesn't help that the screwball comedy formula gets a little tired when the eighth or ninth film starts recycling the same old mechanics with different Hollywood favorites as the new coat of paint (and sometimes not even that!). This is not a particularly good genre to binge watch, as the seams show more readily in close quarters.

That said, I'm learning important things. Like how there's no plot too stupid to be a screwball comedy (And Too Many Husbands and True Confession are probably bringing up the rear on that unenviable claim), or how I've gone from not minding Fred MacMurray to straight up hating his smug presence, or that after years of perilous devotion to the Horror List Project, the worst sequel I've ever seen wasn't some dumb slasher but rather Topper Takes a Trip, which doesn't even have the decency of a blood-soaked cash-in to be bad in a novel way (and I'm dreading the inevitable viewing of the third film in the series-- it will almost surely be the last film from the original 57 I watch). But there are also the silver linings. Woman Chases Man, with Miriam Hopkins giving a hilarious titular performance, is a speedy little screwball that only runs a little over an hour and zips by so quick it feels more like a manic short than a feature. And Unfinished Business gives Robert Montgomery a plum and immensely likable role as the poor sap stuck playing second fiddle to his lover's unrequited romance, made all the sadder by how she's in love with the heel who manipulated her virginity away. It's a wonderful culmination of Montgomery's safe party boy persona from countless earlier films, but I also think the whole affair ends up being more of a (not particularly successful) drama than a comedy, much less a screwball one, so I guess I'll have to take that up with B+M.

User avatar
Werewolf by Night
Posts: 710
Joined: Sun Nov 21, 2004 12:49 am
Location: Transylvania

Re: Screwball Comedies : A Guide and Discussion

#25 Post by Werewolf by Night » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:06 pm

I recently caught Smartest Girl in Town with Ann Sothern on TCM and would consider almost a textbook screwball comedy. As in, if I wanted to demonstrate to someone the plot setups and turns characteristic of a screwball comedy (without a lot of embellishment), I would show them this. Woman wants to marry a rich guy, rich guy meets woman and pretends not to have any money, woman hates him until she thinks something bad has happened to him and she realizes she actually loves him, guy reveals he is actually rich, they get married. And it's FIFTY-EIGHT MINUTES LONG. Plus, it has big roles for Helen Broderick, Eric Rhodes, and Eric Blore (who is actually pretty great in this).

Post Reply