When Obsessions Collide: Pfeiffer, Wilder and Maggie

After watching The Apartment again I’m still not sure if it is a screwball comedy, but it probably wouldn’t exist without screwball. At the very least it shares some DNA with classic Hawks and Lubitsch.As a 21st century viewer, watching Billy Wilder’s films might give you a feeling of deja-vu, but it is fine being able to spot Wilder’s deep influence on modern Hollywood. Although his storylines and formulas have been recycled endlessly, it’s hard to deny Wilder’s utter brilliance in creating something so novel. The Apartment does have some 1990’s rom-com feel, not least because Shirley MacLaine’s adorable Fran Kubelick reminds me of Meg Ryan in her heyday. Maybe it’s their button noses, grown-up, charming baby voices. and pixie cuts straight out of Godard’s Breathless.

It’s no secret, I miss the Meg Ryan movies of the 1990s desperately. Joe Versus the Volcano, Prelude to a Kiss, Sleepless in Seattle. They were breezy and care-free and there was nothing mean-spirited about them. How times have changed. Either that, or I’m just getting old. Whenever I write about those films, I can’t help thinking about Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s impossible to write about the nineties without mentioning Michelle. She wasn’t really thought of as a rom-com heroine, until One Fine Day positioned her as the aspiring heir to the screwball queens of yore.Michelle may have never received the best material from a Billy Wilder or a Nora Ephron, but she didn’t need it. She was a natural, the perfect mix of charm, intelligence, and beauty, all topped by the most beguiling of smiles. Only Pfeiffer could have made plausible cause for any fool forsaking the divine Meg Ryan, in fact whenever I watch Addicted to Love and French Kiss my mind reels at the thought of Michelle playing the “goddess” Juliette, or Maggie’s nemesis Linda. How hot would that have been? It’s probably just as well they never teamed up, because my Pfeiffer-addled brain tells me watching Mid-’90s Meg and Mid-’90s Michelle together on the same giant screen may have caused me to spontaneously combust.



Filed under Retrospective

20 responses to “When Obsessions Collide: Pfeiffer, Wilder and Maggie

  1. He he…that last sentence… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. RB

    It’s such a nice picture that you paint, and I could gaze at the artistry for a long time. What you’re leading me back to is a thought that I’ve had for a longer time. When were the last years that art, music and film were original… watch “Midnight in Paris” and it will send your mind humming… I maintain the answer to the question is from about 1920-1940…. so much since then has been recycled, or worse, lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really miss the Meg movies of the 1990s too. Romantic comedies since then, in my opinion, have not lived up to the wit and charm of those films.

    Now that I’ve read your post, I’ve got to re-watch “The Apartment” with your observations in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post 🙂 Again, please do not delete this entry because I love reading your posts and whenever a new one comes out, I just jump for joy 🙂 That opening paragraph about The Apartment and how it relates to the comedy of Hawks and Lubitsch is spot on. Not surprisingly, Wilder loved the work of Lubitsch, but then again you knew that 🙂 At the same time, The Apartment has more darker elements in spots. I too miss the Meg Ryan and Michelle Pfeiffer films of the day. I love Joe Versus the Volcano so much and as I said in another reply, her multiple performances are worthy of comparison to Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets and Peter Sellers in The Mouse That Roared and Dr. Strangelove. As for Michelle Pfeiffer, all of the works you mentioned are worthy candidates of greatness, but I would also love to add Into the Night and Married to the Mob among them. Nevertheless, I know you love those two as well. I would’ve loved to have seen Pfeiffer and Ryan have major roles in the same film. They would have done for the romantic comedy what Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi did for the horror film with The Black Cat (1934). Or Pacino and De Niro in Heat (1995). But maybe you are right that the two personas of that same era just might have made us “Spontaneously combust” as you so aptly state 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂


    • Thanks as always for your thoughts; I love reading them. Rest assured, I won’t be deleting this post. How could I when you and others have left such interesting, thoughtful posts in my comment section? It’s pfabulous!
      I’m so glad you mentioned Joe Versus the Volcano! It’s one of my favourite Meg movies, three great roles for Ryan in one film is almost too good to be true. Sadly in those days, few features were made with two starring actresses, unless they were romantic rivals. However, I do wish Pfeiffer and Ryan had somehow been able to make a “buddy” comedy where their styles might have complemented each other beautifully. Death Becomes Her or Practical Magic spring to mind. Anyway thanks for your support, I’ve just noticed Bringing up Baby is playing on BBC2 this afternoon, it’s going to be one fine screwball Sunday!


  5. I still didn’t watch Joe Versus the Volcano. I miss the 1990’s in general. movies, music and fashion wise. I understand that every time I watch a movie like Frankie and Johnny.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another wonderful post, Paul. It certainly makes me want to revisit The Apartment, a film I adore but haven’t seen in far too long.

    And I understand Pfeiffer-addled brains all too well. That’s me on a regular basis. And I kind of love it that way and wouldn’t want it any other way!

    Also, just wanted to note, I love the sense of community you have here. Each post generates so many comments! I’m jealous! I would love to see that sort of interaction and engagement on my blog. That said, thank you so much for supporting it and for stopping by to drop your two cents in. I very much appreciate it.


    • Thanks Michael, I’m very glad you enjoy what I do here. I do sometimes worry about the extent of my Pfeiffer pfixation. Having this place is good therapy, although I still tend to picture Michelle in most of the old films I watch. She is one of those rare actresses I could see in any era. Can you imagine her in the hands of Howard Hawks? Of Bergman or Hitchcock?
      As for the community here, you’re a part of that and you’ve no reason to feel jealous, you’re a far better writer than I am. It does takes a lot of time and hard work to build a following. I cherish every comment I receive on my posts and without them I wouldn’t carry on.
      Your site is excellent, and the number of comments is no reflection on the quality of your writing. I do think there is a divide between Blogspot and WordPress bloggers. That may be one reason people from this site don’t come across to comment on your posts. I don’t know, I’m not conceited enough to offer you advice, in my eyes you’re doing fine as you are


      • Thank you, my pfriend. Here I am, having my very own Michelle moment, similar to her breakdown in I Am Sam, and there you are to cheer me up. I really appreciate your kind words.

        Never worry about your pfixation—says the guy with a similar pfixation on our girl Michelle. She really would excel in any era, you’re so right about that. I finally saw Murder on the Orient Express this week—have you seen it? Suffice it to say, she’s lovely in it.

        Sometimes I wish I’d started my site on WordPress, but the thought of now trying to migrate it over there makes me cringe with fear. I feel like something would go wrong and I’d lose posts, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha!! Ha!! Enjoyable post as always!!
    I like your comparisons of Shirley MacLaine & Meg Ryan (they could easily pass off as mother & daughter) button noses, charming baby voices, pixie cuts…..
    By the way, it’s not you getting old. The Rom-com, as I believe I stated once before, died in the 90’s; & is yet to make a comeback. Today, what passes as Rom-com, are silly chick flicks, meant for giggly headed teenage girls.
    Am yet to see any really great Romantic Comedy, from this century.
    Prime (2005) is the only one that comes close; but that too is thanks to Meryl Streep; & less to do with the young lovers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Top 100 Movie Review: #93 – The Apartment (1960) – The Top 100 Reviews

  9. I still get shocked these actresses never had a film together. And that’s probably why your film plots that do are loved. Was this ever on the cards?

    Liked by 1 person

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