One of the ”What if?” games I like to play is to imagine my favourite films cast with stars other than the ones whose names linger in my memory as irreplaceable. Think of You’ve Got M@il, then of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, rather than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.Visualise Roman Holiday not with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn but Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor. What of Jean Arthur or Irene Dunne as His Girl Friday? Both coveted by Howard Hawks but no match for Rosalind Russell.Almost every one of the romantic classics I hold dear to my heart had a shadow cast: other stars who turned down roles for one reason or another. With the benefit of hindsight, when sparks fly between two people on the screen, it’s one of the X-factors of movies: it can’t be predicted or manufactured, and once struck, it remains a mystery.We have an instant combustion called star chemistry, and it happened to me with Addicted to Love, where Meg Ryan’s Maggie harassed Matthew Broderick’s banal astronomer into dizzy submission.But can you love a woman who takes the initiative and wrecks a poor guy’s life? Actually this question was a recurring feature of the screwball comedy, practiced by mistresses of mayhem such as Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve. These love stories, a little too acerbic for audiences of the time, are if anything more popular now, when their energetically even-handed stalker heroines seem right at home.Love is cruel and all is fair in love and war. So it is a surprise 90’s audiences weren’t ready to watch Meg Ryan display a slightly harsher, more aggressive side to her cute schtick persona.At this point, all those fluffy comedies were starting to blur together into one big schmaltzy epic; While You Were Sleeping in Seattle, Harry French-kissed Sally on One Fine Day. What’s a girl to do? Well, if it’s a 1990’s romantic comedy, the best thing to do was run around New York with George Clooney or Tom Hanks, engage in verbal sparring for 90 minutes, before melting into your suitor’s arms.If Meg Ryan was unavailable, than a Meg Ryan-manqué should be enlisted. Such is the case of One Fine Day where Michelle Pfeiffer’s Melanie projects the frantic, driven spirit of a classic Hollywood career woman. Had Michelle been born before 1910, she might have stolen roles from Carole Lombard and Myrna Loy, even so, I did find myself longing for Ryan to put in an appearance because Maggie in her prime could play opposite a lamp post and make it look romantic.If we’d had Clooney, Pfeiffer and Ryan then we really would have had something special. How, though, I wonder could George do the impossible: by choosing between Maggie and Melanie, for his screwball soulmate?Fantasy casting aside, this is still a fun, if predictable film. There’s nothing here to threaten the greatness of My Man Godfrey atop the screwball canon, but it’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes. With the emphasis on fast-talking humour and other conventions of the late 30s, I half expected to see Howard Hawks’ name above the title.
Tag Archives: One Fine Day
One of the surest cures for the winter blues is to settle down, pour yourself a drink and slip a screwball comedy into your DVD player. These are films that, by definition, are designed to brighten your day. Watching Bringing up Baby, His Girl Friday and Monkey Business recently, I’ve come to realise that if you want to see a good part for a woman, you’re better off with a random Howard Hawks movie than any current chick flick.
While he often used women to appease and sexualise the tough guys in films such as Red River, Scarface and Hatari!, they were the dominant force in his screwball comedies. Hawks liked to cast some of Hollywood’s most unusual and attractive ladies in the role of the Hawksian Woman; Katherine Hepburn was a Hawksian Woman and so was Carole Lombard in Twentieth Century.
Though few modern films qualify as out-and-out screwball, some memorable ones are kindred spirits. As Pfeiffer’s haughty, harassed Melanie Parker flits from phone call to phone call in One Fine Day, she recalls His Girl Friday’s Rosalind Russell and the greatest Hawksian woman of all Lauren Bacall.Michelle begets the line of Hawksian leading ladies– a true screwball heroine. Meg Ryan was nothing less in Addicted to Love. A venomous Hawksian hustler, streetwise photographer Maggie is a “marvellous girl, crazy as a bedbug.” Watching her is akin to laughing so hard champagne shoots out of your nose.
It makes you wonder what kind of career Ryan might have had if she’d been around in the 1930s. With her supernatural flair for this kind of comedy would she have riffed through the Richter scale with Cary Grant and Clark Gable? Vied with Hepburn and Lombard for box-office supremacy? It’s just a thought – and one that brings me a little joy in a world that is all too serious.