Screwball Comedy

  • Preston Sturges – Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

    1941-1950ComedyPreston SturgesRomanceScrewball ComedyUSA

    A brilliant black comedy by Preston Sturges, developed from a script he had written as early as 1932 and tried in vain to get Fox, Universal and Paramount intrested in producing. The script’s early provinence must be the reason that it’s the only one of his four post-Paramount pictures to feature dialogue comparable to (and sometimes surpassing) that found in the eight great comedies he wrote and directed in 1940–44, as well as numerous comedies that he had scripted in 1930s. The studios’ reluctance to make the film at that time is indicative of why it became a critical and a box office failure: the morbid subject matter, combined with the recent suicide of actress Carole Landis (who was suspected of having an affair with Rex Harrison, who plays the lead here), simply drove audiences away from it and for decades gave it a reputation of a film maudit.Read More »

  • Hal Roach – The Housekeeper’s Daughter (1939)

    1931-1940ComedyCrimeHal RoachScrewball ComedyUSA

    A gangster’s moll runs home to mother, with reporters and amateur detectives hot on her tail. Cast: Joan Bennett, Adolphe Menjou, William Gargan, Victor Mature.Read More »

  • Gregory La Cava – Unfinished Business (1941)

    1941-1950ClassicsGregory La CavaRomanceScrewball ComedyUSA

    In Unfinished Business, a light romantic comedy directed by Gregory La Cava, Irene Dunne plays a young woman worried she’s “going to seed” after spending her life in small-town Messina Ohio caring for her sister and father and having no love or adventure for herself. After her sister marries, she spontaneously takes the train ride to New York she’s always fantasized about to seek a career as a singer. On the train she meets a womanizer (Preston Foster) who sweeps her off her feet and leaves her flat at the station. She marries on the rebound (Robert Montgomery) but remains torn between two lovers — who happen to be brothers.Read More »

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

    1941-1950ComedyMysteryScrewball ComedyUSAW.S. Van Dyke

    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)

    1941-1950ComedyFantasyPreston SturgesScrewball ComedyUSA

    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)

    1931-1940ComedyRichard BoleslawskiRomanceScrewball Comedy

    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)

    1931-1940ComedyMitchell LeisenRomanceScrewball ComedyUSA

    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)

    1931-1940ComedyRomanceScrewball ComedyUSAWilliam Wyler

    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)

    1931-1940ComedyJames WhaleRomanceScrewball Comedy

    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 »

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