Sayonara Screwball!

Oh Tracy Lord…what a dame. Not only was she the wittiest, wiliest woman in all of Pennsylvania, but she could perform a perfect swan dive and, as The Philadelphia Story begins, seems to have created the perfect fiancé for herself through sheer force of will.Last week I really needed a good laugh and Katharine Hepburn provided (again). Today apropos of nothing I thought of Meg Ryan’s loony clowning in Addicted to Love and smiled. Silliness is so underrated on screen and in life.Sometimes the circumstances of my current life, the mixture of depression, underemployment and underachievement fuel my creativity. And then there are other times.The well runs dry, I don’t believe in myself, I don’t actually believe in these films either, these screwball comedies. Well, I don’t believe in the mechanics of them, but I do believe in the spirit of them.Nothing beats the classic era screwball comedies in general and Bringing Up Baby in particular. The Palm Beach Story begins at such a furious pace that you cannot take your eyes off the screen, as sexy Claudette Colbert slips out of her boring marriage to have fun with the Sausage King on a train heading south.Although the golden age of screwball comedy was the 1930s and ’40s, the genre never really went away.The ’80s and especially the ’90s, were an era of new screwball comedies that brought the the lightning-fast dialogue, pratfalls and double-takes of Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges to contemporary settings; think Addicted to Love, One Fine Day, Overboard and whatever the Coen brothers were cooking.Objectively speaking, One Fine Day is no His Girl Friday, but then neither is Addicted to Love, which is fine, but sometimes gets a little too loopy for its own good. One Fine Day is funny and heartwarming, considered strictly on their merits as screwball homages however, Addicted to Love is the better film.The practice of romantic films taking their titles from classic love songs and contemporary pop music has thankfully tailed off since Meg Ryan’s heyday, so it does make me smile that Addicted to Love is named after a Robert Palmer song, while One Fine Day was titled after a track by The Chiffons.As all great screwball couples must, Clooney and Pfeiffer tumble into instant dislike, before turning into a cooing couple. Their work here defines romantic chemistry, which is quite a feat since they don’t actually lock lips until the last few minutes of the film. Ah well, that’s why we have scene selection on DVDs.Michelle works like the muses in Greek mythology, rendering me incapable of writing a coherent review of One Fine Day. When I’m in a bad mood, this is the film I turn to. Is it a Screwball comedy? chick-flick? rom-com? Who cares? It makes me completely and utterly happy. What else needs to be said?



Filed under Retrospective

13 responses to “Sayonara Screwball!

  1. You can’t help but smile and even laugh at screwball comedies. It brings a feeling of being pulled into a world where you forget the big worries of life for a few hours, and your heart flutters in ways you didn’t think possible. I get that same feeling with noir movies and I really liked Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story and Holiday (1938). The music and dialogue just brings everything perfectly together. One Fine Day is a lovely movie which I really enjoyed too. Though I don’t tend to watch screwball movies much the choices here are also my favourites. I think you’re very fine tuned to write a review on the movie. Your writing is great I can tell you that much. 🙂

    • We have similar taste. It fascinates me that screwball comedy is some ways is the mirror opposite of the film noir. Sexual tension, gender politics and the roles of men and women in society, class struggle and social critique are all there, as is the idea of the male lead being somewhat dazed and confused, and a victim of his own role – it was all there in both genres, played for thrills in noir, and for laughs in screwball comedy.
      I do love film noir and wish I could write about them the way you do!

      • I feel very appreciated for the fact you think highly of my writing, I suppose it helps that it’s my favourite genre but sometimes it’s piecing everything together to make it sound good that can be challenging which does take time. I feel like all your entertaining pieces on such screwball movies are well written that though they may not be reviews, they are still some very splendid essay articles of fun.i agree, and there’s alot of comedy that are equally thrilling to watch in noir aswell. 🙂

  2. The way lines are delivered are key in these films. Katharine really had the gift for making a line funny because of how she said it. This is such a great film. James Stewart steals every scene he is in.

    • It’s a rare gem see Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart all in the same room and I love the dynamics of how it all played out. It’s an uplifting and witty story which played true to the era and a favourite of mine that makes me happy whenever I watched it.
      I know that no one ever should attempt to re-make The Philadelphia Story. But still, I’ve often imagined an homage akin to You’ve Got Mail‘s take on The Shop Around the Corner. Clooney would have taken the Cary Grant role, no question. And I could only see Tom Hanks as Jimmy Stewart… but who could ever fill the shoes of Tracy Lord?

  3. Great post 🙂 Speaking of your brief mention of the Coen Brothers, George Clooney (since you mention One Fine Day) worked with them four times (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading and Hail, Caesar). Also, did you ever see Out of Sight with Clooney? It is a great film and it has been said that the love making scene between his character and Jennifer Lopez’s character was shot and edited similarly by British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg in 1973 with Don’t Look Now. That one involved characters played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.
    Speaking of which, have you ever seen any of Roeg’s films? He has done some great stuff. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • I haven’t seen Out of Sight, hadn’t even considered watching it. Now I’m curious. Thinking about the Coen Brothers, Meg Ryan’s Maggie does sometime seem reminiscent of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s role in the Hudsucker Proxy. Many people deride JJL’s performance as simply copying Katharine Hepburn’s accent, Rosalind Russell’s rat-a-tat-tat speech, and Stanwyck’s attitude, without acknowledging that in fact her character is copying that speech pattern from the movies. In one scene she even has to restart her speech when she gets distracted in the middle. I do wonder though why I find Maggie completely amusing and alluring, but Amy Archer not quite right.

  4. You made me laugh with your mention of “The Sausage King.” Still giggling a little 🙂 The best part of screwball is the good writing. No, it’s the comic timing of the actors… no, the beautiful art direction…

    • Watching a screwball comedy is like drinking a chilled glass of champagne, down in one. It looks a bit dated and eccentric occasionally, but the sparkle and fizz are things of wonder.

  5. I’ve got so much catching up to do on your blog. Will bookmark this to read later as I dig your content.

  6. Paul without reading too much into anything may I just say often I draw comfort from knowing that whatever circumstance I am disappointed with in my own life, whatever thing about myself I am critical of and the feelings this creates in me I am often reminded that such circumstances and feelings are often felt by a great many others. We’re all in this together and we’re all getting the short end of the stick often but we keep punching. I enjoy your blog and look forward to many more posts.

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