The screwball comedy is a beloved comedy subgenre that flourished in Hollywood from the mid-1930s through the early 1940s. The word “screwball” literally means crazy and therefore perfectly captures the spirit of fast-paced, zany mayhem that typifies many of the best comedies of that era. Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night is widely credited with kickstarting the genre by establishing its core conventions, the influence of which can still be found on Hollywood comedies today. Since the humor in screwball comedy is dependent upon language as much if not more so than sight gags, it is entirely logical that this genre would peak in the early sound era when sound recording technology was still relatively new.
The conventions of screwball comedy are:
– A battle-of-the-sexes love story (there is frequently a healthy sense of competition to go along with the courtship of the male and female leads)
– Rapid-fire, machine-gun paced dialogue (it is sometimes impossible to understand the characters, which doesn’t really matter as the sound and speed of their voices can be more important than what they’re actually saying)
– Female protagonists who are independent, strong-willed and free-spirited
– Situations that become increasingly ridiculous as the protagonists pursue their goals.
These conventions are all beautifully exemplified by three of my favorite screwball comedies, all of which I frequently show in film history classes: Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth (1937), Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby (1938) and Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve (1941).
When Leo McCarey won a Best Director Oscar for The Awful Truth in 1938 he noted in his acceptance speech that he had won the award for the wrong movie, a reference to his superb work on the tearjerker Make Way for Tomorrow, which he had directed the same year. Contemporary critics and viewers seem to have taken McCarey at his word; the reputation of Tomorrow has soared in recent years as that film has received deluxe home video releases in both America (The Criterion Collection) and the U.K. (a Masters of Cinema Blu-ray). It’s a shame though that the reputation of The Awful Truth, which is only available in a mediocre quality DVD released almost a decade ago, has been seemingly downgraded at the expense of Make Way for Tomorrow because the movie that actually won him the Oscar is one of the best and funniest screwball comedies ever made.
The Awful Truth tells the story of a married couple, Jerry and Lucy Warriner (the unbeatable pair of Cary Grant and Irene Dunne), who get divorced due to mutual suspicions concerning infidelity and then promptly proceed to sabotage one another’s new romantic relationships. The film is based on a stage play and yet, as was customary for McCarey, the final script evolved out of improvisations with the actors, resulting in a feeling of uncommon spontaneity. While a sense of carefully structured chaos characterizes McCarey’s very best comedies (he also directed the immortal and anarchic Marx Brothers romp Duck Soup), he lends the film’s two part structure a formal elegance and sense of harmony through a delightfully symbolic use of doors: characters are constantly hiding behind them or trying to knock them down, and scenes frequently begin and end with characters barging through them. The door symbology reaches its apex in the final shot of the film where a male figurine follows its female counterpart through the tiny door of a cuckoo-style clock, one of the cleverest instances of sexual innuendo in Hollywood’s studio system era.
The chemistry between Grant and Dunne is amazing. They make the viewer feel that, even though their characters seem to be at odds with one another, they each really want the same thing deep down inside, causing us to root for them into getting back together. A good example is the climactic scene where Lucy pretends to be Jerry’s drunken floozy of a sister in order to undermine his new engagement to a prim socialite. Jerry’s reaction to Lucy’s antics is a mixture of annoyance and barely concealed glee that lets us know he actually appreciates the cleverness of her performance. This makes us feel that these characters were meant to be together. If, as has been said, all screwball comedies are about either the construction or the re-construction of a couple, The Awful Truth is the best example of the latter that I have ever seen.
Bringing Up Baby, on the other hand, is a superb example of how the screwball comedy can chart the construction of a couple, which should not be surprising considering that screenwriters Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde fell in love while writing it. They, along with director Howard Hawks, clearly used The Awful Truth as their model. Bringing Up Baby, made just one year after McCarey’s film, carries over both Grant and Skippy (AKA Asta) the dog, as well as a reference to Grant’s character having the ridiculous nickname of “Jerry the Nipper.”
Bringing Up Baby concerns the misadventures of David Huxley (Grant, playing the straight man), a deadly serious paleontologist whose life is turned upside down by the madcap heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). After meeting cute on a golf course, Susan does everything she can to prevent David’s impending wedding to a frigid woman named Alice Swallow. This includes convincing David to help her escort a pet leopard (the “Baby” of the title) from her luxurious New York City apartment to her aunt’s house in the Connecticut countryside. The scenes become increasingly ridiculous as Susan, determined to prevent David from returning to New York, sends his clothes out to the dry cleaners while he’s taking a shower. This forces him to don a frilly, feminine-looking bathrobe, the only available clothing item in the house. When confronted by Susan’s aunt regarding his strange attire, the only explanation David can offer is that he “just went gay all of a sudden!” This line, which doesn’t appear in any known version of the screenplay, was apparently ad libbed by Grant and, due to the rapid-fire nature of the delivery, snuck past the censors of the time. It is now believed to be the first time the word “gay” was used in a Hollywood film to connote homosexuality, and the line always gets a big laugh from my students when I screen the film in class today.
In another memorable line of dialogue, David tells Susan that he’s strangely drawn to her in quiet moments . . . although there haven’t been any quiet moments. As McCarey did in The Awful Truth, Howard Hawks spins comic gold out of a scenario where Grant is tricked into going along with the harebrained scheme of a wacky female. Crucially, the success of this scenario in Baby stems from the audience’s belief that David has recognized that Susan, his opposite number, is somehow good for him and thus he has actually half-allowed himself to be virtually kidnapped.
While the battles-of-the-sexes on display in The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby prove that the women are at least equal to the men in terms of intelligence and cleverness, the balance shifts decisively in favor of the fairer sex in Preston Sturges’ 1941 film The Lady Eve. Sturges’ masterpiece concerns both the construction and reconstruction of the same couple. This is possible because the male lead, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda, sensational in his only comedic role), is so dumb that he never realizes the two different women he has fallen in love with, Jean Harrington and the Lady Eve Sidwich, are in fact the same person (Barbara Stanwyck in her prime). As the kids like to say, boo-yah!
The Lady Eve begins with Pike returning to “civilization” after spending a year up the Amazon studying snakes. (The snake imagery allows Sturges to sneak in a wealth of both biblical and sexual references.) While aboard a luxury liner that will take him back to America, Pike meets and falls in love with the con artist Jean. Although it is her initial plan to fleece the “tall, backward boy,” she unexpectedly falls in love with him. After Pike learns of her original intention, he unceremoniously dumps her, which causes Jean to create a new identity in an attempt to even the score. Preston Sturges was the first significant Hollywood director of the sound era to write his own screenplays and, elsewhere on this blog, I have compared him to Mark Twain for, among other things, his brilliant ear for satirical dialogue. Here is a small sampling from The Lady Eve to prove my point:
“I need him like the axe needs the turkey.”
“Well, it certainly took you long enough to come back in the same outfit.”
“I’m lucky to have this on. Mr. Pike has been up a river for a year.”
“You ought to put handles on that skull. Maybe you could grow geraniums in it.”
“If you waited for a man to propose to you from natural causes, you’d die of old maidenhood. That’s why I let you try my slippers on. And then I put my cheek against yours. And then I made you put your arms around me. And then I, I fell in love with you, which wasn’t in the cards.”
“I positively swill in their ale.”
“What I am trying to say is: I’m not a poet, I’m an ophiologist.”
And the memorable last line: “Positively the same dame!”
The specter of screwball still rears its head in the never-ending permutation of rom-coms today that, for many years running, all seem to star some combination of Kate Hudson/Gerard Butler/Jennifer Aniston/Matthew McConaughey/Katherine Heigl and blur together into one generic and forgettable movie. Sadly, Hollywood no longer produces comedic screenplays with dialogue like the kind cited above (which is not to say that such dialogue is no longer being written) and, for a variety of reasons, can’t seem to make movies that are nearly as funny today. But, to paraphrase Rick Blaine, we’ll always have the ’30s and ’40s, the golden age of the still uproarious screwball comedy.
November 12th, 2012 at 8:41 am
Thx, for this article, Michael–I’m adding these films to my “must see” list!
November 12th, 2012 at 10:02 am
These are three of the funniest movies ever made. I would recommend starting with The Awful Truth.
November 12th, 2012 at 12:21 pm
Great article. I would also add Twentieth Century, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, The Palm Beach Story, and Midnight.
November 12th, 2012 at 12:46 pm
Those are all quintessential screwball comedies, Miguel, and I love them all. Midnight is criminally underrated. My other favorite is The More the Merrier, which I know you love as well.
November 12th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
You should watch these two Allan Dwan screwballs: Up in Mabel’s Room and Getting Gertie’s Garter. They’re not bad.
November 12th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
I’ve seen Getting Gertie’s Garter, which I like a lot. Kent Jones wrote an excellent appreciation of it in his book Physical Evidence. I’ll definitely check out the other one. Dwan was a great director – and he was from Chicago!
November 13th, 2012 at 3:58 am
I’m have seen two of your fave three,and really would like to see either Criterion or Eureka releases The Awful Truth.
I haven’t seen too many Screwball comedies since they just talked too fast,the others I liked are My Man Godfrey and Libeled Lady.
November 13th, 2012 at 10:27 am
You bring up a good point, David. Screwball probably appeals the most to native English speakers. But I think every country probably has comedies like this. I’ve heard some people say that you have to speak Cantonese to fully appreciate Michael Hui.
February 20th, 2015 at 1:42 pm
Cary Grant is a very familiar actor to me. I really like the roles that he has taken in Hitchcock’s films. It does feel that in Bringing Up Baby he is much more comical than in Hitchcock’s films. Bringing Up Baby and North by Northwest are comparable because their plots feel alike in some aspects, but have differences in Grant’s character. In North by Northwest he plays the plain Roger Thornhill who is mistaken for a spy and is taken for a wild ride, from New York City to Mount Rushmore, by Ms. Kendall, who is played by Eva Marie Saint. As discussed in class, of the two films it seems that later on in his career he likes to be a little laid back with the comedy and more serious and romantic, but much earlier, he is very comical. It seems that Grant, as an actor, likes to be placed in crazy situations or romantic ones that emphasize relationships which drive the film forward and towards something memorable in his films.
February 20th, 2015 at 5:13 pm
Thanks for comparing and contrasting the “Grant persona” in these two great films. Another connection between them: they both end with Grant saving his leading lady by pulling her to safety with one hand!
February 23rd, 2015 at 9:23 pm
I think this is a very exact article on what “screwball comedy”. After watching Bringing up Baby, it got me thinking as to how sad and poor our movies are in the 20th century. A lot of what is out there is so money driven, that the art of film is lost throughout. It is comedy that actually has meaning that should make one laugh, not stupidity enhanced with a handsome or beautiful actress. It seems like we are all “getting screwed” for the time being!
February 23rd, 2015 at 10:42 pm
And what, pray tell, is the “meaning” that makes one laugh in Bringing Up Baby, Moses? 7/10
February 24th, 2015 at 12:46 pm
I thought the whole idea of the “battle of the sexes” meaning to it was well shown in the film, it kind of got me thinking about how both male and female characters contradicted one another. At one point Susan was this confident female character and then she fell in love with David and kind of became this jealous woman with a plot to win David’s heart and ruin the engagement that he had with Alice. However in the beginning of the film it was quite obvious that David wasn’t particularly happy with his engagement to Alice. Alice brought no excitement-Adventure to their relationship; she was a serious woman and as she said to David in the film, she did not their marriage get in the way of his work whatsoever. Which personally is odd for a female to say. In a way David liked the adventures he had with Susan and also kind of fell in love with her crazy ways. They were both very different type of people but they brought something good to one another. He even says at the end of the film how that was the best day hes ever had, he finally admits it.
February 26th, 2015 at 11:49 am
I appreciate the thoroughness of your response in noting the contradictory traits of these characters, izzie. 10/10
February 25th, 2015 at 11:01 pm
I think something that most people fail to realize about screwball comedies is that sometimes dialogue is meant to be heard, not understood. In Bringing Up Baby, loud, overlapping voices add chaos to scenes. When Susan’s aunt first meets David, she’s yelling at him for his feminine outfit, while her dog is yapping away. The confusion escalates when the maid and Susan become involved in the situation, creating so much noise that David can’t get a word in. David tries to interrupt, and then stops himself. He tries again, and gives up. This happens again in the jail scene. Susan and the detective/police officer are arguing at lightning speed while David, once again, attempts to interrupt but finally quits.
The constant talking and interrupting reminds me of You Can’t Take It With You. I have never seen the 1938 movie, but I was actually in the play last year. It is technically a romantic comedy, but it fits half the criteria for a screwball comedy. The situations get increasingly ridiculous, as you mentioned. For example, the end of Act 1 closes with the police barging in, stating that everyone in the house is under arrest, while the illegal fireworks factory in the basement explodes. There is constant speaking, I remember the director telling the cast that there should be no space between line delivery, and that everyone should start their line just as the previous person was finishing theirs. The speed was crucial to the comedy. Also, most of the female characters (except for the main “normal” one, coincidentally named Alice) are very wild and eccentric. But there is no battle-of-the-sexes element, excluding You Can’t Take It With You from the screwball subgenre.
Also, I noticed that in both Bringing Up Baby and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, there is a guy wearing a lady’s robe! Mr. Malone in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes wore one after the girls drugged his drink. Was Hawks referencing his earlier film?
February 26th, 2015 at 11:56 am
I think you are correct that the “man in a woman’s robe” image in GPB is an explicit reference to BABY. I’m glad you noted the importance of the “sound” of the dialogue. The speed with which Hepburn speaks is, at times, more important than what she’s actually saying. Sounds like you had a good director for YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU!
February 26th, 2015 at 12:54 pm
In your article you say, “Sadly, Hollywood no longer produces comedic screenplays with dialogue like the kind cited above…” and I agree with that. I think the reason why Hollywood no longer makes screwball comedy films like they used to is a sign of the times. In today’s drive-thru/smartphone/instant-streaming-video society, nearly everything is easily available. Just as easily available, punchlines are minimally packaged and basically thrown at us as Hollywood spits out rom-com’s left and right. I’ll admit, comedies starring Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Will Farrell, Jenifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, etc., are my guilty pleasure. I like to get my two laughs essentially handed to me, get out of the theater in ninety minutes, and get on with the rest of my evening. While I realize this is probably disheartening for movie aficionados to hear, this is the Hollywood era I’ve grown up in. However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate great films. Additionally, in today’s society we can’t even be bothered to pronounce words let alone sentences and most phrases are abbreviated. For example, OMG, Bradley Cooper is totes adorbs, but he looked jelly when he didn’t win an Oscar. LOL. I think as long as linguistics like that exists, the likelihood of “rapid-fire, machine-gun paced dialogue” seen in screwball comedies of the past are long gone.
February 26th, 2015 at 4:56 pm
Well, we are actually going to watch SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK on Friday, which I would argue DOES capture the flavor of the old-style screwball dialogue quite well. Can’t wait to hear what you think. 10/10
February 26th, 2015 at 4:30 pm
I agree with the line in your article that says Bringing Up Baby “…..is a superb example of how the screwball comedy can chart the construction of a couple.” I think it is only because of the elements of screwball comedy that Grant and Hepburn come together as a couple. We see Hepburn as being the very crazy and silly girl while we see Grant as being the serious and book smarter guy. Being such opposites, you would not expect the two to be attracted to each other. And actually Grant is engaged to a woman who is serious like himself. So in the beginning, Grant does try to avoid Hepburn. But Grant is forced to face Hepburn in different situations. It is through this battle of the sexes that Grant eventually figures out how his opposite is actually a good thing for him. The situations the two become involved in become increasingly ridiculous and this also helps the two characters to fall in love. Trying to find a bone for Grant and trying to find Hepburn’s pet leopard are examples of how they come together in situations where their guards are let down and they are just in the moment. The screwball comedy lets the characters be funny and unrealistic without being rude. Through their bickering and adventures they come to realize at the end of the film that they are perfect for each other.
February 26th, 2015 at 5:53 pm
Indeed, screwball comedies were a fantastic genre of movies to be displayed in the 1930’s and 40’s, and it is unfortunate that the same type of movies is not as prevalent in this day-and-age (although, some movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel still make it out there and have great success following the same style). Partially, this is due to the need for action and visuals in film, thus resulting in a vast array of super-hero and similarly-grouped movies. It is sad that it has come to this, because one of my favorite movies is Caddyshack (another screwball comedy), but it seems that the time has essentially come and gone for those movies.
I do enjoy the movies like this where the polar opposites somehow find their way next to each other, and you ask yourself “How in the world will this work out for them?” Through the ridiculousness with a leopard, crashing into a truck transporting chickens, stealing cars, being jailed by completely dumbfounded policemen, and nearly being mauled by a wild leopard, he somehow manages to have fun! He knows that if he goes through with his marriage with Alice, his life is going to be as linear as can be, and all there will be to his life is his dinosaur bone exhibit. With Susan, the amount of insanity that is experienced is unworldly, but it allows him to truly venture out into the unknown, where events he could not even dream of occur. Yet that’s the fun of it! She slowly but surely is able to drag him out of his shell and essentially save him from himself. He realizes that she will be perfect for him so that they can see the world and have immense joy while doing it. And thus, this realization finally brings them together at the conclusion of the film.
February 26th, 2015 at 7:37 pm
Under one of the convention of screwball comedy was a female protagonist who are independent, strong-willed and free spirited, and thats exactly what Susan was. When she fell in love with David, it led her to be in ridiculous situations to pursue her goal, to be with him. She did do everything in her power so David wouldn’t get married. I believe the rapid fire paced dialogue really did add to the Susan’s charter quite nicely nice she’s portrayed as this strong-willed and free spirited person . Their usual roles were switched in the film. Usually its the man chasing the women, but instead Susan is the one chasing David. Which to me I think that adds to her ‘independent’ character that she plays.
February 26th, 2015 at 8:38 pm
I absolutely love watching screw ball comedies because they depart from the stereotypical love story that most movies portray today in films. Screw ball comedies show the good, bad, funny, and crazy moments in a romantic comedy and leave nothing it. There is chaos and crazy moments between a couple but isn’t there always? No realtionship is perfect and that is what Hollywood films today show. They show a “Perfect” couple with no real disagreements or problems that every day people have until the climax where they fight but eventually get back together. In Bringing up Baby, they are constantly at each other’s throats and so much is happening throught the movie that when there is a moment of silence, that is almost like the climax of the movie because it is so rare. The one movie that I can see a screw ball comedy in today’s society is Silver Lingings Playbook. There are two very strong leads that fight constantly but have amazing chemistry, they both don’t get each other but at the same time connect in such a strong way. I love those types of movies because you really don’t come across them a lot.
February 26th, 2015 at 8:39 pm
leave nothing out*
February 26th, 2015 at 9:44 pm
After reading this article and experiencing ‘Bringing Up Baby’ in class, I’ve found a new appreciation for 1930’s screwball films. I loved the dynamic between David and Susan, along with the obvious fact that Susan was the one to wear the pants in their relationship. Susan was the one to whisk David away from his boring life in New York, with only the excitement of digging up bones as his entertainment, and Susan sweeps in to change all of that for him. Their loud arguments and crazy leopard-chases almost made me wonder if Hawks aimed for us to feel like we were in David’s position, because I felt myself getting overwhelmed with the stress of a leopard on the loose and the loud, over-the-top Susan screaming about everything and anything, doing whatever she could to waste time and keep David’s focus on her.
As you mentioned here and in class last week, “David tells Susan that he’s strangely drawn to her in quiet moments . . . although there haven’t been any quiet moments.” I found that this is what Hawks was aiming for the entire time, the fact that David’s life was soundless while engaged with Alice, and he found a woman who was his way out of such a dull silence.
After watching this film, I see screwball comedy to have almost a childlike humor, with the fast-paced loud-talking and constant adventure. It was interesting to see the lead actor’s playing such strong, yet opposite roles as to the conventional, more traditional roles they were most likely expected to play in the 1930’s.
February 26th, 2015 at 10:31 pm
I agree that it it is really hard to find modern romantic comedies that are as entertaining as in the 30s and 40s. Although the “battle of the sexes” is still a topic that is highly popular in modern movies I get the impression that those movies are just too predictable. I also feel like the chemistry of the actors is not as good as for example in “Bringing up Baby”. Here we can see how David and Susan are completely in contrast to each other because David, as a scientist stands for reason while Susan is completely emotional and chaotic. In my opinion, that’s why they complete each other as a couple. When I was watching modern screwball comedies like the ones with Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Aniston I got the feeling that the characters are only fighting at each other through the whole movie just to completely live in harmony in the end. It seems like the fighting was just a part of them getting together and not a part of the following relationship.
Also “Bringing up Baby” is not specifically showing the moment when the characters are falling in love. It is given through the process of them flirting and fighting at the same time, by small gestures and by hints like when David is telling Susan that he is “drawn to her in quiet moments” although there is no such thing as a quiet moment as soon as Susan appears.
Also I would even consider the screwball comedies from the ’30s and ’40s as more progressive when it comes to representing the female role. Today it is almoust impossible to find a romantic comedy with a female protagonist who is as independent, strong minded and determined as Susan. With her fast voice that she is using as a weapon to make everyone around her fall silent and with her strong temperament she is clearly showing her dominance. On top of that the movie contains another unusal element because the woman is actually the one to win the man and not the other way around. I think it is very refreshing that Susan is the one to kidnapp David and to be the one to decide that they should end up together.
February 27th, 2015 at 12:27 am
I thought the idea for “battle of the sexes” showed really well in this film. In a way the characters are walking in another’s shoes and acting as if they were the opposite sex. In the beginning of the film Susan was this confident and independent female character who later fell in love with David. Shortly after, she acted in a way of a jealous woman with a plan to ruin this man’s wedding day. It’s funny because in the start of the film I got the impression that David wasn’t too thrilled about his engagement with Alice. She wasn’t filled with excitement, passion, thrill or adventure. To me she presented herself as a serious and work oriented woman who didn’t want marriage to get in the way of David’s work…which is very strange to say in my opinion. Susan, on the other hand, brought adventure to David’s life and with all of their crazy moments he began to fall for her. David and Susan are complete opposites and yet, they seemed to work well with each other and they brought happiness to one another. Through all the bickering and flirting, they grew closer and at the end of the film David confesses that spending that day with Susan was the best day he has ever had.
February 27th, 2015 at 1:03 am
I love the style of the screwball comedy and I’m glad you showed us Bringing Up Baby in class. The film involves a serious paleontologist named David who plans to get married to a serious, no fun, work driven woman named Alice, whose last name, “Swallow” I find to be a perfect last name for the character. He meets a woman named Susan who has an opposite personality of him and Alice and is pulled into a big situation with her, which, as typical of screwball comedies, is very comical. I liked that Susan practically drove the plot as well. She drags David along with her own adventure related to her own independent problems and tries to prevent him from leaving.
Another thing I liked was that it was a set up for a relationship rather than based around a relationship. David deep down seems to want to be dragged along even though he says otherwise and he also even admits it was a great day at the very end. Susan clearly likes him for dragging him along and complementing him here and there. For example, saying he looks good without his glasses. At the end, you could see that a relationship was a possibility. This approach helped make the film feel more fresh and exciting.
February 27th, 2015 at 3:21 am
It is a shame that the true screwball sub-genre is becoming extinct. Comedy films today cannot replicate the cultural influence and classic storytelling that the movies of the 30’s and 40’s have. Bringing up baby is the perfect embodiment of screwball comedy filmmaking, and I thank you for showing it in class. It was funny, original, and witty, while not becoming tedious, as some films become after they don’t alter or add twists to the tone.
Being a true “battle of the sexes” screwball film, Bringing up Baby has numerous instances of this subtext, like when David (male love interest) is accidentally wearing a woman’s bathrobe, or more obviously, Susan’s (female love interest) independent, free spirit attitude. She is a woman who defies all social standards of what a woman is supposed to be. Her impulsive actions and personality (like when she continuously insists Dave comes with her to the house, or to put on different clothes, or makes him buy meat, or even take part in illegal actions such as stealing a car) are not what a “lady’s” role in society is supposed to be, at least back when this movie was made. Even more interesting, is Dave’s willingness to participate in these incidents. Dave was supposed to get married to a workaholic, controlling woman, and although he acted as if he didn’t enjoy Susan’s company, he actually did. His feelings were not as obviously portrayed as Susan’s, but he strayed from his role in society in his own way. Instead of being an uptight, obedient, intense paleontologist who’s wife would control his fun-free life, he decided to completely ignore his dull future and enjoy his unpredictable time with Susan.
Between the two protagonists, their quick, witty dialogue combined with their unfortunate coincidental situations are the basis for what a screwball comedy should look like. Combine it with an unconventional love story and you got a good motion picture. Usually involving a love story, as the many of the article’s films entail, screwball is although rare, it still lives through these films. When I think about it, the only movie in recent memory that really entails elements screwball comedy is Death at a Funeral and sequences of Raising Arizona. It is refreshing to get away from the often sub-par raunch comedies and even worse assembly line romantic comedies. Thanks for showing this film in class.
February 27th, 2015 at 9:20 am
I am a big fan of “screwball comedy” ever since seeing Bringing Up Baby and is a now definitely at the top of my list. But it is sad to see that movies like this are no longer around anymore today. As your article touches on one of the main aspects of screwball comedy being “battle of the sexes” we see this point thoroughly throughout the movie between Susan and David. David is a pretty serious, straight forward man and in the beginning we see that he wants nothing to do with Susan. This doesn’t stop Susan with her persistence to win over davids heart. Even though David is engaged with Alice as we get deeper and deeper into the movie we see that Susan brings this type of excitement into his life wasn’t such a bad thing since Alice is portrayed as this boring/fun sucking Wife that just wants him to focus on his career. But it is sad to us viewers in seeing that David is with someone like Alice because I think we all believe he could use someone like Susan bringing some fun and excitement into his life. In the end he even admits the best times he ever had were with Susan. This shows us that all us of need some crazy excitement in your life and you should not strive to be living a boring life but a life with meaning.
February 27th, 2015 at 9:55 am
Simply put, “they don’t make them like they used to!”
I absolutely loved the film “Bringing Up Baby”. The battle-of-the-sexes here, is genius because you have a woman who chases this man by not allowing him to leave her. In addition, this man does not want to leave and seems to almost be looking for an excuse not to marry his fiancé, but on the surface he portrays a man that is riddle with this pest of a woman who will not go away when he is the one who is really sticking around.
The jail scene was absolutely hilarious. I loved every second of the film. As mentioned throughout some of the other comments, I believe it to be very unfortunate that we do not see many movies with the genius of screwball comedy being done so well throughout the films. Films are much more obvious visually, due to modern technology, so sometimes there can be a lack of detail left to many other. I find it to be very interesting that in a more “primitive” time of film making the amount of creative is arguably higher than today’s very visually driven filmmaking era.