Screwball Comedy

W.S. Van Dyke – Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

High society sleuths Nick and Nora Charles run into a variety of shady characters while investigating a race-track murder. Read More »

Preston Sturges – The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)

Also known as Mad Wednesday, this collaboration between silent comedy star Harold Lloyd and screwball comedy genius Preston Sturges was meant to be a splashy comeback for both. Unfortunately, it sank at the box office.

The film starts with original footage from Lloyd’s 1925 classic The Freshman. Because of his success on the football field, Harold Diddlebock (Lloyd, who seems to have hardly changed in 22 years, – still sporting a straw hat, and horn rimmed glasses) is offered a job. Full of hope and promise, the former gridiron champ finds himself in a minor bookkeeping position, where he remains forgotten for the next 22 years, until he’s abruptly fired. Read More »

Richard Boleslawski – Theodora Goes Wild (1936)

The small-town prudes of Lynnfield are up in arms over ‘The Sinner,’ a sexy best-seller. They little suspect that author ‘Caroline Adams’ is really Theodora Lynn, scion of the town’s leading family. Michael Grant, devil-may-care book jacket illustrator, penetrates Theodora’s incognito and sets out to ‘free her’ from Lynnfield against her will. But Michael has a secret too, and gets a taste of his own medicine…. Read More »

Mitchell Leisen – Midnight (1939)

Frank S. Nugent wrote:
‘Midnight,’ With Don Ameche and Claudette Colbert, Strikes a Seasonal High in Comedy at the Paramount

The ice went out of the river at the Paramount yesterday, and Spring came laughing in with “Midnight,” one of the liveliest, gayest, wittiest and naughtiest comedies of a long hard season. Its direction, by Mitchell Leisen, is strikingly reminiscent of that of the old Lubitsch. Its cast, led by Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore and Francis Lederer, is in the best of spirits. Its script, by too many authors to mention, is a model of deft phrasing and glib narrative joinery; and its production, while handsome, never has been permitted to bulk larger than its players. The call is for three cheers and a tiger: the Paramount is back on Broadway again. Read More »

William Wyler – The Good Fairy (1935)

Synopsis:
When a brash movie theatre owner needs usherettes for his Budapest cinema, he recruits young Luisa Ginglebusher from a nearby orphanage. Encouraged by her kindly guardian to “spread your wings,” Lu naively embarks on her quest to live the life of a fairy tale angel. Quickly encountering the debonair wolves that roam the sidewalks of Hungary, Lu randomly chooses a man to play the role of her husband: Dr. Max Sporum, a humble and idealistic lawyer. As Lu’s simple ruse grows hopelessly complicated, the dreamy-eyed girl refuses to abandon the charade, determined to evade one suitor’s wiley grasp, provide Max the prosperity he so deserves, and allow the opportunity for true love to enter her life. Read More »

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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