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The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Isn't Romantic Comedy redundant?

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#1 My Man Godfrey & #2 Bringing Up Baby

Poll ended at March 13th, 2011, 12:21 am

My Man Godfrey
11
58%
Bringing Up Baby
8
42%
 
Total votes: 19

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MichiganJ
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Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby MichiganJ » March 18th, 2011, 7:50 am

One of the interesting things about this poll was reading which films are seen as screwball and which were not. The Philadelphia Story and The Thin Man being just two that were in debate. (Both are listed as such in Ed Sikov's book Screwball: Hollywood's Madcap Romantic Comedies, which doesn't necessarily make them so, I'm just saying.)

Now that the poll is over, can you tell us how screwball is defined in the class?
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ChiO
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Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby ChiO » March 19th, 2011, 7:06 pm

Never really defined. More like a list of common attributes. And you know the litany.

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ChiO
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Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby ChiO » March 20th, 2011, 5:44 pm

And one of those attributes that I'd never really thought about before:

If one thinks about the Golden Age of Screwball and the classic comedians of that Age -- Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Mae West, the Marx Brothers -- those comedians were not in Screwball Comedies. The big names of Screwball, though obviously skilled in comedic roles, were also skilled at what generally would be considered to be dramatic roles.

Is there an element of Screwball that demands a dramatic talent or persona that other comedies don't? Is it the romantic element that, though often farcical, requires that there not be a total suspension of disbelief in its possibility?
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

klondike

Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby klondike » March 20th, 2011, 6:52 pm

Only when listening to ventriloquists on the radio . . :idea:

jdb1

Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby jdb1 » March 21st, 2011, 12:20 pm

ChiO wrote:And one of those attributes that I'd never really thought about before:

If one thinks about the Golden Age of Screwball and the classic comedians of that Age -- Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Mae West, the Marx Brothers -- those comedians were not in Screwball Comedies. The big names of Screwball, though obviously skilled in comedic roles, were also skilled at what generally would be considered to be dramatic roles.

Is there an element of Screwball that demands a dramatic talent or persona that other comedies don't? Is it the romantic element that, though often farcical, requires that there not be a total suspension of disbelief in its possibility?


I have been thinking about this myself, since the first question was asked a few posts back.

I wonder: is it the audience's suspension of disbelief that counts, or is it the actors' willingness to suspend; that ability go that extra step, from comic acting, to . . . . I'm not sure what.

There has to be something that makes the difference. It's why I don't think something like You Can't Take it With You, at least the movie version, is very screwball. It's the actors who just don't cut it for me. Lionel Barrymore isn't nearly as screwy as his brother John. The role Spring Byington plays, as the mother, cries out for the expert screwiness of Billie Burke, and so on. A screwball has to have a sense of the absurd, and too many Hollywood actors just couldn't let go enough to get there. It's why I can't buy Lombard as a screwball actress, but I am all for Hepburn and Colbert. Perhaps the latter two were just more secure doing it screwy. For me, someone like Lombard is "acting" in a screwball, whereas Colbert or Hepburn seem to be living it. As I said before, I think comedy requires even more conviction than drama sometimes, and absolute screwball requires absolute conviction.

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Birdy
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Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby Birdy » March 31st, 2011, 11:06 pm

Judith,
That's so funny, because I can't buy Hepburn as a screwball actress and I can totally buy it in Lombard! I admit that BUB is funny, but for some reason, my teeth grate when she keeps bashing into his car and when she's crawling around looking for the dog and when she talks in that weird tone...I don't know.

I think a screwball comedy absolutely has to have a hero and heroine who are off their nut. I can think of other movies that the premise might fit but the leads are relatively sane even though the situation and character actors around them are nutty. And a couple I can think of are actually musicals with situation comedy.

Do the stars make the movie or does the movie make the stars? I think the latter.

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knitwit45
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Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby knitwit45 » April 1st, 2011, 7:40 am

I think a screwball comedy absolutely has to have a hero and heroine who are off their nut. I can think of other movies that the premise might fit but the leads are relatively sane even though the situation and character actors around them are nutty.


Hey Ms. Birdy, HI YA!!! Sure glad to see you here!!!

Birdy, I so agree. To me, You Can't Take It With You, and My Man Godfrey are prime examples.I would say, the main characters have to be reacting to screwball behavior. Their befuddlement to the 'nuts' around them is what makes a movie screwball for me.

In YCTIWY, the reactions of James Stewart and his family are so hilarious, and Jean Arthur's family's nuttiness is taken for granted as being 'normal' in her eyes. William Powell's reactions to the crazy events of Carole Lombard's family (but most of all, Jean Dixon's) are what make the movie, with the two of them observing screwball behavior in MMG.

And although I like BUB, I want to drop-kick Ms. Hepburn right out of the movie in the same scenes you mentioned. Funny? No. Obnoxious? Yes!

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JackFavell
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Re: The FINALS - Screwball Comedy

Postby JackFavell » April 1st, 2011, 9:27 am

I quite agree, but also part of the fun is the way that Powell and Stewart accept the nuttiness around them, generally speaking. Powell of course, accepts the Bullock family and their quirks, but sidesteps Irene when he starts feeling "too foolish". "That funny feeling" that comes over us when in love is synonymous with the nuttiness brought out by the leading lady (or man) and family in some of the best screwballs. I like MMG for the very reason that Godfrey saves the family from their own screwiness, but then falls for it himself.

"You know, there's no sense in struggling against a thing when it's got you. It's got you and that's all there is to it - it's got you."


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