Screwball Comedy

January 6, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Comedy
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Screwball Comedy Madcap Romance and Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday

Screwball: Etymology • Screwball - American colloquialism appeared in the mid-1930s signifying ‘eccentric person) • Derives from expressions such as ‘screw loose’ (being crazy) and ‘screwy’ (drunk) • At about the same time, ‘screwball’ became to be used - pitched ball moving in an unusual or unexpected way’

Screwball: Etymology

• ‘Gas House Gang’ - St. Louis Cardinals, the eccentric and scruffy world champions of 1934 • Jay Hanna ‘Dizzy’ Dean and Jerone Herman ‘Daffy’ Dean - two eccentric pitchers

Screwball Comedy: a Definition • The dominance of an eccentric female partner over her male less assertive and more frustrated partner • The eccentric courtship of a screwball couple in the present and the environment of the rich. • Tenuous plot which centres on slapstick romantic encounters and battles of sex

Screwball Comedy: A History

• Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) - a prototype though its male lead (Clark Gable) is as strong as its female lead (Claudette Colbert) • Howard Hawks’ Twentieth Century (1934) with John Barrymore and Carol Lombard is a more typical screwball comedy.

Screwball Comedy: A History

• W.S. Van Dyke’s The Thin Man - the male lead (William Powell) is a detective, capable enough but more vulnerable and frustrated than the classic detective and his wife (Myrna Loy) • John Ford’s The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) - a comedy gangster film, in which the accountant (Edward Robinson) has a striking resemblance to a killer. Jean Arthur is his love interest.

Screwball Comedy: A History

• Gregory LaCava’s My Man Godfrey (1935) - the most typical screwball comedy with a socialite (Carol Lombard) hiring a derelict (Powell) as a butler and eventually falling love with him. • The genre came to maturity in 1937 with five classics appeared Easy Living, Topper, The Awful Truth, Nothing Sacred and True Confession

Screwball Comedy: A History • Cary Grant emerged as a male screwball star after his success in Topper (1937) and The Awful Truth (1937) and even eclipsed female screwball stars with his appearance in Bringing up Baby (1938) and Holiday (1938)

Screwball Comedy: A History • Preston Sturges was a film director who kept the tradition of the screwball alive after the initial power of the genre was lost. • Comination of slapstick humour and high-class sofistication

Screwball Comedy: A History

• Screwball comedies continue to be made: Blake Edwards’ 10 (1979) and Steven Gordon’s Arthur (1981) • Reason for decline: anti-heroics and the image of courtship and marriage new to the 1930s and 40s became a norm for more contemporary Americans

Back to definition • Comic anti-hero - essential ingredient for the screwball comedy (1) abundant leisure time (2) childlike naïveté (3) life in the city (4) apolitical nature (5) frustration • Transition of comic type from cracker-barrel philosopher to cracker-barrel anti-hero

His Girl Friday • Produced and directed by Howard Hawks • Scripted by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based on the play, The Front Page • Starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

His Girl Friday

• Gender swap - satire and social comment on the operation of newspaper and the change taken place in the 1930s • Overlapping dialogue, simultaneous conversations, rapid-talk, break-neck speed, sexual innuendo, word gag,

His Girl Friday

• What does this film tell about the screwball comedy? • What makes the film a screwball comedy? • Sophisticated battles of sex

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