Screwball Comedy

James Whale – By Candlelight (1933)

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After directing three of Universal’s finest horror films, James Whale shifted gears with the elegant romantic comedy By Candlelight. Though quite miscast, Paul Lukas successfully conveys the role of Josef, ultra-dutiful valet to the libidinous Count Von Bommer (Nils Asther). Falling in love with Marie (Elissa Landi), whom he assumes to be a countess, Josef poses – quite convincingly – as his rakish master. The catch: Marie is herself a poseur, a mere maidservant to Count and Countess Von Rischenheim (Lawrence Grant, Dorothy Revier). Based on a play by Siegfried Geyer, By Candlelight is chock full of delightfully double-entendre pre-Code dialogue and dextrous directorial touches. Read More »

Harlan Thompson – Kiss and Make-Up (1934)

Dr. Maurice Lamar is a noted plastic-surgeon who makes his rich clients beautiful. He makes Eve Caron, the wife of Marcel Caron, so satisfied with his skilled hands that she leaves Marcel and marries Maurice. They go on a Mediterranean honeymoon, where he soon finds the effects of his own beauty regulations are more than he can handle. He bids adieu to his new bride, wings it back to Paris with the intention of giving up his practice and becoming a scientific researcher…after winning back the love of his simple, unadorned secretary, Anne.

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Lewis Milestone – Lucky Partners (1940)

Two strangers share a sweepstakes ticket and then embark on an “imaginary” honeymoon with their “winnings”. Read More »

Leigh Jason – The Bride Walks Out (1936)

A model marries a struggling engineer; but he won’t let her keep her job, and they can’t pay the bills, while she is wooed by a wealthy drinker.
Michael Martin (Gene Raymond) tells Paul Dodson (Ned Sparks) he knows of a better job, and they get fired. Michael asks modeling Carolyn (Barbara Stanwyck) to marry, but she wants to keep her job. After work they go dancing. Michael now earns $35 a week; but Carolyn makes $50. They get married during his lunch hour. Carolyn cries and quarrels with Michael. He hits an officer and is put in jail. In court the drunk Hugh McKenzie (Robert Young) is fined and meets Carolyn. She pleads for Michael, and he gets 30 days or $50. Hugh loans them the money. Michael’s electricity is off. Hugh is paid and reluctantly leaves. Read More »

Henry Koster – First Love (1939)

In this reworking of Cinderella, orphaned Connie Harding is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle after graduating from boarding school. She’s hardly received with open arms, especially by her snobby cousin Barbara. When the entire family is invited to a major social ball, Barbara sees to it that Connie is forced to stay home. With the aid of her uncle, who acts as her fairy godfather, Connie makes it to the ball and meets her Prince Charming in Ted Drake, her cousin’s boyfriend Read More »

Billy Wilder – The Major and the Minor (1942)

Synopsis:
Susan Applegate, tired of New York after one year and 25 jobs, decides to return to Iowa. Trouble is, when she saved money for the train fare home, she didn’t allow for inflation. So the audacious Susan disguises herself as a 12-year-old (!) and travels for half fare. Found out by the conductors, she hides out in the compartment of Major Philip Kirby, a military school instructor. The growing attraction between Susan and Kirby is complicated by his conniving fiancee…and by the myopic Kirby continuing to think “Su-Su” is only 12! Read More »

Alexander Hall – My Sister Eileen (1942)

Rosalind Russell plays aspiring Ohio journalist Ruth Sherwood, who heads for New York to seek her fortune, accompanied by her sister, Eileen (Janet Blair), an aspiring actress. The girls take a basement apartment in Greenwich Village, which becomes a gathering place for several oddball characters, including a football jock (Gordon Jones), his silly wife (Miss Jeff Donnell) and an eternally drunken fortuneteller (June Havoc). Ruth tries to sell her writing, but is advised by a friendly magazine editor (Brian Aherne) that she’ll never succeed unless she writes from her own experiences. Meanwhile, Eileen is continually getting in trouble due to her ingenuous attractiveness. Read More »