Screwball Comedy

Frank Capra – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town [+commentary] (1936)

Synopsis:
Longfellow Deeds lives in a small town, leading a small town kind of life – including playing the tuba in the town band. When a relative dies and leaves Deeds a fortune, Longfellow picks up his tuba and moves to the big city where he becomes an instant target for everyone from the greedy opera committee to the sensationist daily newspaper. Deeds outwits them all until Babe Bennett comes along. Babe is a hot-shot reporter who figures the best way to get close to Deeds is to pose as a damsel in distress. When small-town boy meets big-city girl anything can, and does, happen. Read More »

Ernst Lubitsch – Ninotchka (1939)

Synopsis:
Ninotchka is a stern, straightlaced Communist Party member sent to Paris to finish the sale of Grand Duchess Swana’s jewels for the Soviet government. But, while studying the frivolous materialism of Paris, Ninotchka meets Leon, Swana’s lawyer and sometime lover, and the two become enamored with one another — without knowing each other’s identity. The Grand Duchess, in the meantime, is suing the USSR for ownership of the jewels. What follows is a delicate web of intrigue and deception as Swana tries to blackmail Ninotchka into leaving Paris. Soon the two lovers have to overcome political hurdles and cross borders just to be together. Read More »

Howard Hawks – His Girl Friday (1940)

Synopsis:
Having been away for four months, Hildy Johnson walks into the offices of the New York City based The Morning Post, where she is a star reporter, to tell her boss, editor Walter Burns, that she is quitting. The reason for her absence was among other things to get a Reno divorce, from, of all people, Walter, who admits he was a bad husband. Hildy divorced Walter largely because she wanted more of a home life, whereas Walter saw her more as a driven hard-boiled reporter than subservient homemaker. Hildy has also come to tell Walter that she is taking the afternoon train to Albany, where she will be getting married tomorrow to staid straight-laced insurance agent, Bruce Baldwin, with whose mother they will live, at least for the first year. Read More »

George Cukor – Holiday (1938)

Synopsis:
Free-thinking Johnny Case finds himself betrothed to a millionaire’s daughter. When her family, with the exception of black-sheep Linda and drunken Ned, want Johnny to settle down to big business, he rebels, wishing instead to spend the early years of his life on “holiday.” With the help of his friends Nick and Susan Potter, he makes up his mind as to which is the better course, and the better mate. Read More »

Leo McCarey – The Awful Truth (1937)

Synopsis:
Before their divorce becomes final, Jerry and Lucy Warriner both do their best to ruin each other’s plans for remarriage, Jerry to haughty socialite Barbara Vance, she to oil-rich bumpkin Daniel Leeson. Among their strategies: Jerry’s court-decreed visitation rights with Mr. Smith, their pet fox terrier, and Lucy doing her most flamboyant Dixie Belle Lee impersonation as Jerry’s brassy “sister” before his prospective bride’s scandalized family. Read More »

Claude Binyon – Family Honeymoon (1948)

Synopsis:
Grant Jordan, bachelor botany professor, marries Katie, a widow with three kids, despite the machinations of Grant’s former girlfriend Minna. But on the wedding day, Aunt Jo, who was to babysit, breaks a leg; so the kids come along on the honeymoon. After misadventures en route, they make it to the Grand Canyon, only to find Minna there, still scheming. Read More »

Preston Sturges – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)

Plot:
One of Paramount’s funniest films of the forties is this Preston Sturges screwball classic staring Betty Hutton (The Greatest Show on Earth) and Eddie Bracken (Hail the Conquering Hero.) Hutton is Trudy Kockenlocker, a small-town gal who feels it is her patriotic duty to dance the night away with soldiers who are headed oversees. Read More »