Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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HinkyDinkyTruesmith
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#76 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:13 am

You should definitely remedy that for the 40s list! It’s my second favorite Lubitsch and one of my top 20 of all-time. Unfortunately there’s no quality release of it, but it does have a beautiful extant HD transfer that shows on TCM rarely (the same transfer they used on filmstruck).

I watched THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES and absolutely loved it. It’s always refreshing to stumble across one of those remarkably progressive Roosevelt era films, especially when they’re as remarkably shot and perfectly acted as this (even if Cummings is a little dry). And maybe I’ve been reading Sirk on Sirk too much but it also struck me as having a uniquely Euripedean ending, which blew me away.

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dustybooks
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#77 Post by dustybooks » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:30 pm

Just submitted my list, which was very canon-heavy, but in my case a lot of these are films that are still relatively new and fresh to me because I've only just seen them in the last few years. A couple of films moved up in my estimation not so much out of revisits but because of testimonials from the members here that made me think of them in a new light. It was also very helpful to consult the lists in the Screwball Guide thread linked in the first post. I really enjoyed this project.

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Shrew
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#78 Post by Shrew » Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:37 am

I'd lean No on Cluny, as I think the criteria it lacks--an aggressive female love interest and farcical plotting--are pretty important to screwball. Or to put it another way, screwball for me means romantic desire sublimated into banter and antics. And Lubitsch is about making romantic desire witty and fun, not sublimating it into something else, which is why so many of his films don't feel screwbally. It's only in Bluebeard's Eighth Wife that a plot needs to twist itself up to keep the lovers apart, letting screwball slapstick fill the void (That Uncertain Feeling, as a comedy of remarriage, also fits the bill, but that has the unfortunate distinction Lubitsch's worst American film outside of maybe Monte Carlo). Cluny Brown uses "plumbing" as a stand-in for the way polite society talks about sex, but I think that makes it more a comedy of manners than a screwball.

Speaking of which, I just watched Woman of the Year and The More the Merrier for this list, and feel they're probably more true "romantic comedy" than screwballs for similar reasons to the above. Both involve some pretty intimate courtship between the leads, and you can feel the wacky conventions of screwball confrontations slipping away under the laxer censorship of the war years.

There are a lot films I watched for this list but never got around to commenting on, but Vivacious Lady is great, maybe the best thing George Stevens did outside of Swing Time. Woman Chases Man is also a lot of fun, and much sharper than I expected it to be.

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HinkyDinkyTruesmith
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#79 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:17 am

I think the comedy of manners distinction is what sells me on it not being screwball. I hadn’t thought of that subgenre and invoking it helps clarify the film’s generic positioning a lot.

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domino harvey
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#80 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:10 pm

VOTING closed, results later today

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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#81 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:54 pm

Still tabulating but as a teaser, something happened with this list that has only ever happened once before in the history of the lists projects...

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swo17
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#82 Post by swo17 » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:02 pm

One film appearing on every single list?

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domino harvey
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#83 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:17 pm

Nope, that's happened three times so far: Out of the Past (Noir List), Persona (Bergman List), Trouble in Paradise (Pre-Code List), and did not occur here

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domino harvey
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#84 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:45 pm

Image

THE SCREWBALL COMEDIES OF THE 30s & 40s LIST

01 Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks 1938) 11 (5) + My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava 1936) 13 (3) Tie
03 the Lady Eve (Preston Sturges 1941) 11
04 His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks 1940) 10 (1)
05 the Awful Truth (Leo McCarey 1937) 11

06 Holiday (George Cukor 1938) 9 (1)
07 Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks 1934) 8 (1)
08 To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitch 1942) 6
09 It Happened One Night (Frank Capra 1934) 7 (2)
10 the Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges 1942) 6

11 Libeled Lady (Jack Conway 1936) 7
12 Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks 1941) 5
13 Easy Living (Mitchell Leisen 1937) 5 (1)
14 the Good Fairy (William Wyler 1935) 6
15 the Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges 1944) 5

16 Theodora Goes Wild (Richard Boleslawski 1936) 5
17 Midnight (Mitchell Leisen 1939) 5
18 the Philadelphia Story (George Cukor 1940) 4
18 the Devil and Miss Jones (Sam Wood 1941) 5
20 the More the Merrier (George Stevens 1943) 4

21 Christmas in July (Preston Sturges 1940) 5
22 Nothing Sacred (William A Wellman 1937) 3
23 Woman Chases Man (John G Blystone 1937) 5
24 Ruggles of Red Gap (Leo McCarey 1935) 4
25 It’s Love I’m After (Archie Mayo 1937) 2

ALSO RANS
Design For Living, I Was a Male War Bride, It Had to Be You, 5th Ave Girl, Vivacious Lady, I Married a Witch, Bachelor Mother, Sullivan’s Travels, Once More My Darling, Good Girls Go to Paris, the Mad Miss Manton, the Great Garrick, Arsenic and Old Lace


ORPHANS
Adam’s Rib, Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, Breakfast For Two, the Crystal Ball, the Doctor Takes a Wife, the Feminine Touch, Hands Across the Table, Here Comes Mr Jordan, I Love You Again, If You Could Only Cook, It’s A Wonderful World, Love Crazy, the Major and the Minor, the Moon’s Our Home, Mr and Mrs Smith, My Favorite Wife, Ninotchka, Nothing But the Truth, Roxie Hart, the Shop Around the Corner, Standing Room Only, the Strawberry Blonde, Sylvia Scarlett, Topper, Trouble in Paradise, Two in a Crowd, Unfaithfully Yours, You Can’t Take It With You, the Young in Heart

&

Image

THE POST-40s SCREWBALL COMEDIES LIST

01 They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich 1981) 3 (2)
02 Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson 2002) 3
03 What’s Up Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich 1972) 3 (2)
04 Rushmore (Wes Anderson 1998) 2
05 A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton 1988) 3
05 the Hudsucker Proxy (the Coen Brothers 1994) 2
05 I Heart Huckabees (David O Russell 2004) 3
05 NewsRadio (TV series 1995-1999) 2
09 the Baxter (MIchael Showalter 2005) 3
09 Moonlighting (TV series 1985-1989) 2

ALSO RANS
A New Leaf, Mistress America

ORPHANS
A Confucian Confusion (1), After Hours, Artists and Models, Bedtime Story (1), Bullets Over Broadway, Fais-moi plaisir!, Harold and Maude, the Heartbreak Kid, Joe vs the Volcano, Lover Come Back, Modern Romance, Monkey Business, Raising Arizona, Sex and the Single Girl, Some Like it Hot, Starting Over, State and Main, Susan Slept Here, Tall Story, the Trouble With Harry

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domino harvey
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#85 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:57 pm

I went about my lists a little differently than I usually do. Rather than ranking by my overall favorites from eligible films, I weighed for how the films I liked best represented the notion of ‘Screwball Comedy”— so films I love but don’t personally consider to be screwball, like Here Comes Mr Jordan, didn’t make the cut, and a film I wavered on either way for too long to make up my mind just got thrown in at the end (Holiday) even though I like it more than most of the other films above it on my list. I didn't take this to an extreme of voting for any films I don't enjoy apart from their fitting into the "Screwball" schema, though. Like Out of the Past for noir, Bringing Up Baby is so quintessentially the entire Screwball experience in one film that there was never any doubt it had to top-line my own list. As with the only other time we had a tie for first (in the Theatrical Adaptations List), I can't fault either title for duking it out all the way to the top.

Believe it or not, They All Laughed and the Baxter did so well on the modern list without my help— I think they’re great films, obviously, but neither came to mind when compiling and I wasn’t compelled to change my ballot after seeing them on other people’s lists (as there was some danger I might not have a list of mostly orphans otherwise perhaps!)

My lists + ORPHANS

01 Bringing Up Baby
02 Twentieth Century
03 It Had to Be You
04 the Doctor Takes a Wife
05 My Man Godfrey
06 the Feminine Touch
07 the More the Merrier
08 Once More, My Darling
09 the Devil and Miss Jones
10 the Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

11 5th Avenue Girl
12 Ball of Fire
13 the Crystal Ball
14 Libeled Lady
15 Woman Chases Man
16 Good Girls Go to Paris
17 I Married a Witch
18 the Good Fairy
19 Theodora Goes Wild
20 Holiday

&

01 Bedtime Story
02 Tall Story

03 NewsRadio
04 Moonlighting
05 Fais-moi plaisir!
06 What’s Up, Doc?
07 Susan Slept Here
08 Lover Come Back
09 Sex and the Single Girl

10 a New Leaf

.... I've seen 10/10 for the modern list and 24/25 for the 30s and 40s list-- It's Love I'm After was not on my radar at all!

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swo17
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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#86 Post by swo17 » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:14 pm

Thanks for compiling, and you should definitely check out It's Love I'm After (it's making my '30s list)

EDIT: I would've voted for Fais-moi plaisir! if I had thought of it!

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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#87 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 18, 2019 5:05 pm

Son of a bitch! I completely forgot, I’d have probably busted that tie at number one in favor of Godfrey, as it would have probably rated higher on my list.

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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#88 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 18, 2019 5:12 pm

Here's what my list would have been. The bottom was the hardest, but Holiday and Ruggles kept getting bumped down until they got bumped off as I kept adding films higher up.

1 It Happened One Night
2 My Man Godfrey
3 The Philadelphia Story
4 The Palm Beach Story
5 The Shop Around the Corner
6 Ninotchka
7 Bringing Up Baby
8 The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
9 His Girl Friday
10 The More the Merrier
11 The Devil and Miss Jones
12 Sullivan's Travels
13 Libeled Lady
14 Midnight
15 Merrily we Live

I'd have probably cut it off there, there's a lot of films on this list I'd like to revisit though, as I don't remember them very well (Twentieth Century, To Be or Not to Be and Nothing Sacred in particular).

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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#89 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:03 am

Thanks, Domino! Out of curiosity, if no film ended up on every list, how many lists did you end up with total?

There are a few from the final list I still intend to seek out, none more than To Be or Not to Be, while the film that I caught the night before the project ended that I think I undervalued tremendously by ranking it at number three (behind what turned out to be the final list’s tied #1s) was Twentieth Century.

What an awesome performance from John Barrymore, who beautifully chews through what might be the most quotable character of the decade. The inherently theatrical and deceptive natures of the lead characters make the transitions between the different layers of the various performances they give to whoever happens to be in the room with them at the moment so enjoyable. The same applies to Lombard’s evolution from a meek amateur to a full-fledged Hollywood diva and Barrymore’s decline from regal theatrical tyrant to, well, just a poorer theatrical tyrant.

Upon more than twelve hours of reflection, this is the one I’d most enjoy rewatching and showing others, and I should have put at #1; probably not enough of a move to nudge it into the top five, but still a shame.

[Insert GIF of Barrymore hurling black paint over my original list and screaming “ANATHEMA!”]

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Re: Screwball Comedies of the 30s & 40s Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#90 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 19, 2019 4:50 pm

Fourteen lists. Glad you dug Twentieth Century, it wasn’t my number one in this list, but...

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