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Screwball comedy film

Screwball comedy film

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Encyclopedia
The screwball comedy is a principally American genre of comedy
Comedy film
Comedy film is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. They are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are mostly light-hearted dramas and are made to amuse and entertain the audiences...

 film that became popular during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, originating in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s. It is characterized by fast-paced repartee
Wit
Wit is a form of intellectual humour, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.-Forms of wit:...

, farcical situations, escapist themes, and plot lines involving courtship and marriage. Screwball comedies often depict social classes in conflict, as in It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter . The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel...

(1934) and My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Gregory La Cava. The screenplay was written by Morrie Ryskind, with uncredited contributions by La Cava, based on "1101 Park Avenue", a short story by Eric Hatch. The story concerns a socialite who hires a derelict to be her...

(1936). Some comic plays are also described as screwball comedies.

History


It has proven to be one of the most popular and enduring film genres. It first gained prominence in 1934 with It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter . The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel...

, which is often cited as being the first true screwball. Although many film scholars would agree that its classic period had effectively ended by 1942, elements of the genre have persisted, or have been paid homage, in contemporary film.

During the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, there was a general demand for films with a strong social class critique and hopeful, escapist-oriented themes. The screwball format arose largely as a result of the major film studios' desire to avoid censorship by the increasingly enforced Hays Code. As such, they were routinely able to incorporate adult, risqué elements, such as pre-marital sex and adultery, into their plots.

The screwball comedy has close links with the theatrical
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 genre of farce
Farce
In theatre, a farce is a comedy which aims at entertaining the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases,...

, and some comic plays are also described as screwball comedies. Many elements of the screwball genre can be traced back to such stage plays as Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

, As You Like It
As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

and A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

and Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

's The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

. Other genres with which screwball comedy is associated include slapstick
Slapstick
Slapstick is a type of comedy involving exaggerated violence and activities which may exceed the boundaries of common sense.- Origins :The phrase comes from the batacchio or bataccio — called the 'slap stick' in English — a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in Commedia dell'arte...

, situation comedy
Situation comedy
A situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a genre of comedy that features characters sharing the same common environment, such as a home or workplace, accompanied with jokes as part of the dialogue...

, and romantic comedy
Romantic Comedy
Romantic Comedy can refer to* Romantic Comedy , a 1979 play written by Bernard Slade* Romantic Comedy , a 1983 film adapted from the play and starring Dudley Moore and Mary Steenburgen...

.

Characteristics


While there is no authoritative list of the defining characteristics of the screwball comedy genre, films considered to be definitive of the genre usually feature farcical situations, a combination of slapstick with fast-paced repartee and show the struggle between economic classes. They also generally feature a self-confident and often stubborn central female protagonist and a plot involving courtship and marriage or remarriage. These traits can be seen in both It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter . The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel...

and My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Gregory La Cava. The screenplay was written by Morrie Ryskind, with uncredited contributions by La Cava, based on "1101 Park Avenue", a short story by Eric Hatch. The story concerns a socialite who hires a derelict to be her...

. The film critic Andrew Sarris
Andrew Sarris
Andrew Sarris is an American film critic and a leading proponent of the auteur theory of criticism.-Career:Sarris is generally credited with popularizing the auteur theory in the U.S...

 has defined the screwball comedy as "a sex comedy
Sex comedy
Sex comedy is a term for comedy movies with sexual content usually referring to those made in the United Kingdom in the mid 1970s. They may range from comic pornographic films like the Confessions series to relatively innocent comedies that include jokes about sex and other sexual related humour,...

 without the sex."

Like farce, screwball comedies often involve mistaken identities or other circumstances in which a character or characters try to keep some important fact a secret. Sometimes screwball comedies feature male characters cross-dressing
Cross-dressing
Cross-dressing is the wearing of clothing and other accoutrement commonly associated with a gender within a particular society that is seen as different than the one usually presented by the dresser...

, further contributing to the misunderstandings (Bringing Up Baby
Bringing up Baby
Bringing Up Baby is an American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures....

, I Was a Male War Bride
I Was a Male War Bride
I Was a Male War Bride is a 1949 comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan.This film was based on I was an Alien Spouse of Female Military Personnel Enroute to the United States Under Public Law 271 of the Congress, a biography of Henri Rochard, a Belgian who...

, Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot is an American comedy film, made in 1958 and released in 1959, which was directed by Billy Wilder and starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and George Raft. The supporting cast includes Joe E. Brown, Pat O'Brien and Nehemiah Persoff. The film is a remake by Wilder and I....

). They also involve a central romantic story, usually in which the couple seem mismatched and even hostile to each other at first, and "meet cute
Meet cute
A meet-cute is a situation in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing....

" in some way. Often this mismatch comes about because the man is much further down the economic scale than the woman (Bringing Up Baby
Bringing up Baby
Bringing Up Baby is an American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures....

, Holiday
Holiday (1930 film)
Holiday is a 1930 romantic comedy film which tells the story of a young man who is torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée's family. It stars Ann Harding, Mary Astor, Edward Everett Horton, Robert Ames and Hedda Hopper...

). The final romantic union is often planned by the woman from the outset, while the man doesn’t know at all. In Bringing Up Baby
Bringing up Baby
Bringing Up Baby is an American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures....

we find a rare statement on that, when the leading woman says, once speaking to someone other than her future husband: "He's the man I’m going to marry, he doesn’t know it, but I am."

These pictures also offered a kind of cultural escape valve: a safe battleground on which to explore serious issues like class under a comedic (and non-threatening) framework. Class issues are a strong component of screwball comedies: the upper class tend to be shown as idle and pampered, and have difficulty getting around in the real world. The most famous example is It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter . The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel...

; some critics believe that this portrayal of the upper class was brought about by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, and the poor moviegoing public's desire to see the rich upper class brought down a peg. By contrast, when lower-class people attempt to pass themselves off as upper-class, they are able to do so with relative ease (The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve is a 1941 American screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The film is based on a story by Monckton Hoffe about a mismatched couple who meet on board a luxury liner...

, My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Gregory La Cava. The screenplay was written by Morrie Ryskind, with uncredited contributions by La Cava, based on "1101 Park Avenue", a short story by Eric Hatch. The story concerns a socialite who hires a derelict to be her...

).

Another common element is fast-talking, witty repartee (You Can't Take It With You
You Can't Take It with You (film)
You Can't Take It With You Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The cast includes James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore and Edward Arnold....

, His Girl Friday
His Girl Friday
His Girl Friday is a 1940 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, an adaptation by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur of the play The Front Page by Hecht and MacArthur...

). This stylistic device did not originate in the screwballs (although it may be argued to have reached its zenith there): it can also be found in many of the old Hollywood cycles
Hollywood cycles
In the classic era of Hollywood cinema "cycles" or genres matured. They were called cycles, which was a short term for stories that were similar. While we would recognize many of the genres as Westerns, gangsters, musicals, etc., often the cycles were significantly more specific...

 including the gangster film, romantic comedies, and others.

Screwball comedies also tend to contain ridiculous, farcical
Farce
In theatre, a farce is a comedy which aims at entertaining the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases,...

 situations, such as in Bringing Up Baby
Bringing up Baby
Bringing Up Baby is an American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures....

, in which a couple must take care of a pet leopard during much of the film. Slapstick elements are also frequently present (such as the numerous pratfalls Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
Henry Jaynes Fonda was an American film and stage actor.Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor. He also appeared in 1938 in plays performed in White Plains, New York, with Joan Tompkins...

 takes in The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve is a 1941 American screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The film is based on a story by Monckton Hoffe about a mismatched couple who meet on board a luxury liner...

).

One subgenre of screwball is known as the comedy of remarriage
Comedy of remarriage
The comedy of remarriage is a subgenre of American cinematic comedy from the 1930s and 1940s. At the time, the Production Code banned any explicit references to or attempts to justify adultery and illicit sex. The comedy of remarriage enabled filmmakers to evade this provision of the Code...

, in which characters divorce and then remarry one another (The Awful Truth
The Awful Truth
The Awful Truth is a 1937 screwball comedy film starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The plot concerns the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, played by Dunne and Grant, who go to great lengths to try to ruin each other's romantic escapades...

, The Philadelphia Story). Some scholars point to this frequent device as evidence of the shift in the American moral code as it showed freer attitudes about divorce (though the divorce always turns out to have been a mistake).

The philosopher Stanley Cavell
Stanley Cavell
Stanley Louis Cavell is an American philosopher. He is the Walter M. Cabot Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University.-Life:...

 has noted that many classic screwball comedies turn on an interlude in the state of Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 (Bringing Up Baby
Bringing up Baby
Bringing Up Baby is an American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures....

, The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve is a 1941 American screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The film is based on a story by Monckton Hoffe about a mismatched couple who meet on board a luxury liner...

, The Awful Truth
The Awful Truth
The Awful Truth is a 1937 screwball comedy film starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The plot concerns the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, played by Dunne and Grant, who go to great lengths to try to ruin each other's romantic escapades...

).

Notable examples of the genre from its classic period



  • Trouble in Paradise (1932), d. Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

  • It Happened One Night
    It Happened One Night
    It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter . The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel...

    (1934), d. Frank Capra
    Frank Capra
    Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

  • Twentieth Century
    Twentieth Century (film)
    Twentieth Century is a 1934 American screwball comedy film. Much of the film is set on the 20th Century Limited train as it travels from Chicago to New York. The film was directed by Howard Hawks, stars John Barrymore and Carole Lombard, and features Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns and Edgar Kennedy...

    (1934), d. Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • Hands Across the Table
    Hands Across the Table
    Hands Across the Table is a 1935 American romantic screwball comedy film released by Paramount Pictures. It stars Carole Lombard as a manicurist looking for a rich husband and Fred MacMurray as a poor playboy, with Ralph Bellamy as a wealthy but handicapped ex-pilot...

    (1935), d. Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen was an American director, art director, and costume designer.-Film career:He entered the film industry in the 1920s, beginning in the art and costume departments...

  • She Married Her Boss
    She Married Her Boss
    She Married Her Boss is a 1935 film directed by Gregory La Cava, and starring Claudette Colbert and Melvyn Douglas.-Plot:It tells the story of a secretary who married with her boss, however she has a hard time living up to him.-Cast:...

    (1935), d. Gregory La Cava
    Gregory La Cava
    Gregory La Cava was an American film director best known for his films of the 1930s, including My Man Godfrey and Stage Door....

  • Libeled Lady
    Libeled Lady
    Libeled Lady is a 1936 screwball comedy film starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy, written by George Oppenheimer, Howard Emmett Rogers, Wallace Sullivan and Maurine Dallas Watkins, and directed by Jack Conway....

    (1936), d. Jack Conway
    Jack Conway (film-maker)
    Jack Ryan Conway was a film director and film producer, as well as an actor of many films in the first half of the 20th century....

  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
    Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
    Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Frank Capra, and starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in her first featured role...

    (1936), d. Frank Capra
    Frank Capra
    Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

  • My Man Godfrey
    My Man Godfrey
    My Man Godfrey is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Gregory La Cava. The screenplay was written by Morrie Ryskind, with uncredited contributions by La Cava, based on "1101 Park Avenue", a short story by Eric Hatch. The story concerns a socialite who hires a derelict to be her...

    (1936), d. Gregory LaCava
  • The Awful Truth
    The Awful Truth
    The Awful Truth is a 1937 screwball comedy film starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The plot concerns the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, played by Dunne and Grant, who go to great lengths to try to ruin each other's romantic escapades...

    (1937), d. Leo McCarey
    Leo McCarey
    Thomas Leo McCarey was an American film director, screenwriter and producer. During his lifetime he was involved in nearly 200 movies, especially comedies...

  • Easy Living (1937), d. Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen was an American director, art director, and costume designer.-Film career:He entered the film industry in the 1920s, beginning in the art and costume departments...

  • Nothing Sacred
    Nothing Sacred (film)
    Nothing Sacred is a 1937 Technicolor screwball comedy film made by Selznick International Pictures and distributed by United Artists. It was directed by William A. Wellman and produced by David O. Selznick, from a screenplay credited to Ben Hecht, based on a story by James H. Street...

    (1937), d. William A. Wellman
    William A. Wellman
    William Augustus Wellman was an American film director. Although Wellman began his film career as an actor, he worked on over 80 films, as director, producer and consultant but most often as a director, notable for his work in crime, adventure and action genre films, often focusing on aviation...

  • Tovarich
    Tovarich (film)
    Tovarich is a 1937 American comedy film directed by Anatole Litvak, based on the 1935 play by Robert E. Sherwood, which in turn was based on the 1933 French play Tovaritsch by Jacques Deval. It was produced by Litvak through Warner Bros., with Robert Lord as associate producer and Hal B. Wallis...

    (1937), d. Anatole Litvak
    Anatole Litvak
    Anatole Litvak was a Ukrainian-born filmmaker who wrote, directed, and produced films in a various countries and languages...

  • Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
    Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
    Bluebeard's Eighth Wife is a 1938 film made by Paramount Pictures, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and starring Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper. It is a farce about a millionaire banker and his wife...

    (1938), d. Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

  • Bringing Up Baby
    Bringing up Baby
    Bringing Up Baby is an American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures....

    (1938), d. Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • Holiday
    Holiday (1938 film)
    Holiday is a 1938 is a film directed by George Cukor, a remake of the 1930 film of the same name. The film is a romantic comedy which tells the story of a man who has risen from humble beginnings only to be torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée's family...

    (1938), d. George Cukor
    George Cukor
    George Dewey Cukor was an American film director. He mainly concentrated on comedies and literary adaptations. His career flourished at RKO and later MGM, where he directed What Price Hollywood? , A Bill of Divorcement , Dinner at Eight , Little Women , David Copperfield , Romeo and Juliet and...

  • Merrily We Live
    Merrily We Live
    Merrily We Live is a 1938 comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod. It stars Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne and features Ann Dvorak, Bonita Granville, Billie Burke, Tom Brown, Alan Mowbray, Clarence Kolb and Patsy Kelly. The film was produced by Hal Roach for Hal Roach Studios, and was...

    (1938), d. Norman Z. McLeod
    Norman Z. McLeod
    Norman Zenos McLeod was an American film director, cartoonist and writer...

  • You Can't Take It with You
    You Can't Take It with You
    You Can't Take It with You is a comedic play in three acts by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The original production of the play opened at the Booth Theater on December 14, 1936, and played for 837 performances...

    (1938), d. Frank Capra
    Frank Capra
    Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

  • Vivacious Lady
    Vivacious Lady
    Vivacious Lady is a 1938 American black-and-white romantic comedy film starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart, produced and directed by George Stevens, and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The screenplay was written by P.J. Wolfson and Ernest Pagano and adapted from a short story by I. A. R. Wylie...

    (1938), d. George Stevens
    George Stevens
    George Stevens was an American film director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer.Among his most notable films were Diary of Anne Frank , nominated for Best Director, Giant , winner of Oscar for Best Director, Shane , Oscar nominated, and A Place in the Sun , winner of Oscar for Best...

  • The Mad Miss Manton
    The Mad Miss Manton
    The Mad Miss Manton is a 1938 screwball comedy and mystery film starring Barbara Stanwyck as fun-loving socialite Melsa Manton and Henry Fonda as newspaper editor Peter Ames. Melsa and her debutante friends hunt for a murderer while eating bonbons, flirting with Ames, and otherwise behaving like...

    (1938), d. Leigh Jason
    Leigh Jason
    Leigh Jason was an American film director and sceeenwriter. He was born in New York, New York, and died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles.-Filmography:* The Price of Fear * Wolves of the City...

  • Bachelor Mother
    Bachelor Mother
    Bachelor Mother is an American comedy film directed by Garson Kanin, and starring Ginger Rogers , David Niven, and Charles Coburn. The screenplay was written by Norman Krasna based on a Academy Award nominated story by Felix Jackson...

    (1939), d. Garson Kanin
    Garson Kanin
    Garson Kanin was a prolific American writer and director of plays and films.-Film and stage career:...

  • It's a Wonderful World (1939), d. W. S. Van Dyke
    W. S. Van Dyke
    Woodbridge Strong "Woody" Van Dyke, Jr. was an American motion picture director.-Early life and career:...

  • Ninotchka
    Ninotchka
    Ninotchka is a 1939 American film made for Metro Goldwyn Mayer by producer and director Ernst Lubitsch which stars Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. It was written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch, based on a screen story by Melchior Lengyel. Ninotchka is Greta Garbo's first full...

    (1939), d. Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

  • Midnight
    Midnight (1939 film)
    Midnight is a 1939 romantic comedy directed by Mitchell Leisen and written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder based on a story by Edwin Justus Mayer and Franz Schulz. It starred Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore.-Plot:Eve Peabody is an out-of-work American showgirl...

    (1939), d. Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen was an American director, art director, and costume designer.-Film career:He entered the film industry in the 1920s, beginning in the art and costume departments...

  • His Girl Friday
    His Girl Friday
    His Girl Friday is a 1940 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, an adaptation by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur of the play The Front Page by Hecht and MacArthur...

    (1940), d. Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • Too Many Husbands
    Too Many Husbands
    Too Many Husbands is a 1940 romantic comedy film about a woman who loses her husband in a boating accident and remarries, only to have her first spouse reappear. The film stars Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas, and is based on the 1919 play "Home and Beauty" by W. Somerset Maugham...

    (1940), d. Wesley Ruggles
  • My Favorite Wife
    My Favorite Wife
    My Favorite Wife is a 1940 screwball comedy produced and co-written by Leo McCarey and directed by Garson Kanin. The movie stars Irene Dunne as a woman who returns to her husband and children after being shipwrecked on a tropical island for several years, and Cary Grant as her husband...

    (1940), d. Garson Kanin
    Garson Kanin
    Garson Kanin was a prolific American writer and director of plays and films.-Film and stage career:...

  • The Philadelphia Story (1940), d. George Cukor
    George Cukor
    George Dewey Cukor was an American film director. He mainly concentrated on comedies and literary adaptations. His career flourished at RKO and later MGM, where he directed What Price Hollywood? , A Bill of Divorcement , Dinner at Eight , Little Women , David Copperfield , Romeo and Juliet and...

  • That Uncertain Feeling
    That Uncertain Feeling (film)
    That Uncertain Feeling is a 1941 comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Merle Oberon, Melvyn Douglas and Burgess Meredith. The film is about the bored wife of an insurance salesman who meets an eccentric pianist and seeks a divorce. The screenplay by Walter Reisch and Donald Ogden...

    (1941), d. Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

  • Ball of Fire
    Ball of Fire
    Ball of Fire is a 1941 American romantic comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, and starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The RKO Pictures film is about a group of professors laboring to write an encyclopedia and their encounter with a nightclub performer who provides her own unique knowledge...

    (1941), d. Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • The Lady Eve
    The Lady Eve
    The Lady Eve is a 1941 American screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The film is based on a story by Monckton Hoffe about a mismatched couple who meet on board a luxury liner...

    (1941), d. Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges , originally Edmund Preston Biden, was a celebrated playwright, screenwriter and film director born in Chicago, Illinois...

  • Rings on Her Fingers
    Rings on Her Fingers
    Rings on Her Fingers is a 1942 screwball comedy film starring Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney. A poor man gets mistaken for a millionaire and is swindled out of his life savings.-Cast:* Henry Fonda as John Wheeler...

    (1942), d. Rouben Mamoulian
    Rouben Mamoulian
    Rouben Mamoulian was an Armenian-American film and theatre director.-Biography:Born in Tbilisi, Georgia to an Armenian family, Rouben relocated to England and started directing plays in London in 1922...

  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith
    Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941 film)
    Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a 1941 screwball comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Norman Krasna, and starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery...

    (1941), d. Alfred Hitchcock
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

  • The Palm Beach Story
    The Palm Beach Story
    The Palm Beach Story is a 1942 romantic screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor and Rudy Vallée. Victor Young contributed the lively musical score, including a fast-paced variation of William Tell Overture for the...

    (1942), d. Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges , originally Edmund Preston Biden, was a celebrated playwright, screenwriter and film director born in Chicago, Illinois...

  • To Be or Not to Be
    To Be or Not to Be (1942 film)
    To Be or Not to Be is a 1942 American comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch, about a troupe of actors in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who use their abilities at disguise and acting to fool the occupying troops. It was adapted by Lubitsch and Edwin Justus Mayer from the story by Melchior Lengyel...

    (1942), d. Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

  • The More the Merrier
    The More the Merrier
    The More the Merrier is a 1943 American comedy film made by Columbia Pictures which makes fun of the housing shortage during World War II, especially in Washington, D.C.. The picture stars Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn, Stanley Clements and Richard Gaines. The movie was directed by...

    (1943), d. George Stevens
    George Stevens
    George Stevens was an American film director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer.Among his most notable films were Diary of Anne Frank , nominated for Best Director, Giant , winner of Oscar for Best Director, Shane , Oscar nominated, and A Place in the Sun , winner of Oscar for Best...

  • Arsenic and Old Lace
    Arsenic and Old Lace (film)
    Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1944 film directed by Frank Capra based on Joseph Kesselring's play of the same name. The script adaptation was by twins Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. Capra actually filmed the movie in 1941, but it was not released until 1944, after the original stage version...

    (1944), d. Frank Capra
    Frank Capra
    Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...



Other films from this period in other genres incorporate elements of the screwball comedy. For example, Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's 1935 thriller 
The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps (1935 film)
The 39 Steps is a British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on the adventure novel The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan. The film stars Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll....

features the gimmick of a young couple who find themselves handcuffed together and who eventually, almost in spite of themselves, fall in love with one another, and Woody Van Dyke's 1934 detective
Detective
A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

 comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 
The Thin Man
The Thin Man (film)
The Thin Man is a 1934 American comic detective film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a flirtatious married couple who banter wittily as they solve crimes with ease. Nick is a hard drinking retired detective and Nora a wealthy heiress...

portrays a witty, urbane couple who trade barbs as they solve mysteries together. Many of the Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

 and Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers was an American actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in film, and on stage, radio, and television throughout much of the 20th century....

 musicals of the 1930s also feature screwball comedy plots, notably
The Gay Divorcee
The Gay Divorcee
The Gay Divorcee is a 1934 American film based on the musical play Gay Divorce written by Dwight Taylor, Kenneth S. Webb, Samuel Hoffenstein, with screenplay by George Marion Jr., Dorothy Yost and Edward Kaufman, from an unproduced play by J. Hartley Manners...

(1934) and Top Hat
Top Hat
Top Hat is a 1935 screwball comedy musical film in which Fred Astaire plays an American dancer named Jerry Travers, who comes to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick . He meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont to win her affection...

 (1935).

Actors and actresses frequently featured in or associated with screwball comedy include:
  • Jean Arthur
    Jean Arthur
    Jean Arthur was an American actress and a major film star of the 1930s and 1940s. She remains arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur...

  • Ralph Bellamy
    Ralph Bellamy
    Ralph Bellamy was an American actor whose career spanned sixty-two years.-Early life:He was born Ralph Rexford Bellamy in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Lilla Louise , a native of Canada, and Charles Rexford Bellamy. He ran away from home when he was fifteen and managed to get into a road show...

  • Claudette Colbert
    Claudette Colbert
    Claudette Colbert was a French-born American-based actress of stage and film.Born in Paris, France and raised in New York City, Colbert began her career in Broadway productions during the 1920s, progressing to film with the advent of talking pictures...

  • Gary Cooper
    Gary Cooper
    Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...

  • Melvyn Douglas
    Melvyn Douglas
    Melvyn Edouard Hesselberg , better known as Melvyn Douglas, was an American actor.Coming to prominence in the 1930s as a suave leading man , Douglas later transitioned into more mature and fatherly roles as in his Academy Award-winning performances in Hud...

  • Irene Dunne
    Irene Dunne
    Irene Dunne was an American film actress and singer of the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. Dunne was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performances in Cimarron , Theodora Goes Wild , The Awful Truth , Love Affair and I Remember Mama...

  • Clark Gable
    Clark Gable
    William Clark Gable , known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh...

  • Cary Grant
    Cary Grant
    Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

  • Jean Harlow
    Jean Harlow
    Jean Harlow was an American film actress and sex symbol of the 1930s. Known as the "Blonde Bombshell" and the "Platinum Blonde" , Harlow was ranked as one of the greatest movie stars of all time by the American Film Institute...

  • Katharine Hepburn
    Katharine Hepburn
    Katharine Houghton Hepburn was an American actress of film, stage, and television. In a career that spanned 62 years as a leading lady, she was best known for playing strong-willed, sophisticated women in both dramas and comedies...

  • Carole Lombard
    Carole Lombard
    Carole Lombard was an American actress. She was particularly noted for her comedic roles in the screwball comedies of the 1930s...

  • Myrna Loy
    Myrna Loy
    Myrna Loy was an American actress. Trained as a dancer, she devoted herself fully to an acting career following a few minor roles in silent films. Originally typecast in exotic roles, often as a vamp or a woman of Asian descent, her career prospects improved following her portrayal of Nora Charles...

  • William Powell
    William Powell
    William Horatio Powell was an American actor.A major star at MGM, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the popular Thin Man series in which Powell and Loy played Nick and Nora Charles...

  • Rosalind Russell
    Rosalind Russell
    Rosalind Russell was an American actress of stage and screen, perhaps best known for her role as a fast-talking newspaper reporter in the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday, as well as the role of Mame Dennis in the film Auntie Mame...

  • Barbara Stanwyck
    Barbara Stanwyck
    Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress. She was a film and television star, known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong screen presence, and a favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra...

  • James Stewart
    James Stewart (actor)
    James Maitland Stewart was an American film and stage actor, known for his distinctive voice and his everyman persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition and receiving one Lifetime...



Some notable directors of screwball comedies include:
  • Frank Capra
    Frank Capra
    Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

  • George Cukor
    George Cukor
    George Dewey Cukor was an American film director. He mainly concentrated on comedies and literary adaptations. His career flourished at RKO and later MGM, where he directed What Price Hollywood? , A Bill of Divorcement , Dinner at Eight , Little Women , David Copperfield , Romeo and Juliet and...

  • Woody Allen
    Woody Allen
    Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

  • Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • Garson Kanin
    Garson Kanin
    Garson Kanin was a prolific American writer and director of plays and films.-Film and stage career:...

  • Gregory La Cava
    Gregory La Cava
    Gregory La Cava was an American film director best known for his films of the 1930s, including My Man Godfrey and Stage Door....

  • Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen was an American director, art director, and costume designer.-Film career:He entered the film industry in the 1920s, beginning in the art and costume departments...

  • Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges , originally Edmund Preston Biden, was a celebrated playwright, screenwriter and film director born in Chicago, Illinois...

  • Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

  • Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch
    Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

  • W. S. Van Dyke
    W. S. Van Dyke
    Woodbridge Strong "Woody" Van Dyke, Jr. was an American motion picture director.-Early life and career:...


Later screwball comedies


Various later films are considered by some critics to have revived elements of the classic era screwball comedies. A partial list might include such films as:
  • The Mating Season
    The Mating Season (film)
    The Mating Season is a 1951 classic farce with elements of screwball comedy. A film made by Paramount Pictures, it was directed by Mitchell Leisen and produced by Charles Brackett from a screenplay by Charles Brackett, Richard Breen and Walter Reisch, based on the play Maggie by Caesar Dunn...

    (1951), d. Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen
    Mitchell Leisen was an American director, art director, and costume designer.-Film career:He entered the film industry in the 1920s, beginning in the art and costume departments...

  • Monkey Business
    Monkey Business (1952 film)
    Monkey Business is a screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Hugh Marlowe. To avoid confusion with the famous Marx Brothers movie of the same name, this film is sometimes referred to as Howard Hawks' Monkey...

    (1952), d. Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • How to Marry a Millionaire
    How to Marry a Millionaire
    How to Marry a Millionaire is a 1953 romantic comedy film made by 20th Century Fox, directed by Jean Negulesco and produced and written by Nunnally Johnson. The screenplay was based on the plays The Greeks Had a Word for It by Zoe Akins and Loco by Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert. The music score...

    (1953), d. Jean Negulesco
    Jean Negulesco
    Jean Negulesco was a Romanian-born American film director and screenwriter....

  • The Seven Year Itch
    The Seven Year Itch
    The Seven Year Itch is a 1955 American film based on a three-act play with the same name by George Axelrod. The film was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, and starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role...

    (1955), d. Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

  • Bell, Book and Candle (1958), d. Richard Quine
    Richard Quine
    Richard Quine was an American stage, film, and radio actor and film director.Quine was born in Detroit. He made his Broadway debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II musical Very Warm for May in 1939 and appeared in My Sister Eileen the following year...

  • Pillow Talk (1959), d. Michael Gordon
    Michael Gordon (film director)
    Michael Gordon was an American stage actor and stage and film director.-Life and career:Gordon was born in Baltimore and raised in a middle class Jewish community. He was a member of the Group Theatre , and was blacklisted as a Communist in the days of McCarthyism...

  • Some Like It Hot
    Some Like It Hot
    Some Like It Hot is an American comedy film, made in 1958 and released in 1959, which was directed by Billy Wilder and starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and George Raft. The supporting cast includes Joe E. Brown, Pat O'Brien and Nehemiah Persoff. The film is a remake by Wilder and I....

    (1959), d. Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

  • The Grass Is Greener
    The Grass Is Greener
    The Grass Is Greener is a 1960 comedy film featuring an ensemble cast consisting of screen veterans Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, and Jean Simmons,directed by Stanley Donen...

    (1960), d. Stanley Donen
    Stanley Donen
    Stanley Donen ; is an American film director and choreographer whose most celebrated works are Singin' in the Rain and On the Town, both of which he co-directed with Gene Kelly. His other noteworthy films include Royal Wedding, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, Indiscreet, Damn...

  • One, Two, Three
    One, Two, Three
    One, Two, Three is a 1961 American comedy film directed by Billy Wilder and written by him and I.A.L. Diamond. It is based on the 1929 Hungarian one-act play Egy, kettö, három by Ferenc Molnár, with a "plot borrowed partly from" Ninotchka, a 1939 film co-written by Wilder...

    (1961), d. Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder
    Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

  • Man's Favorite Sport?
    Man's Favorite Sport?
    Man's Favorite Sport? is a 1964 comedy film starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss. Released by Universal Pictures, the movie was directed and produced by Howard Hawks....

    (1964), d. Howard Hawks
    Howard Hawks
    Howard Winchester Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era...

  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) d. Richard Lester
    Richard Lester
    Richard Lester is an American film director based in Britain. Lester is notable for his work with The Beatles in the 1960s and his work on the Superman film series in the 1980s.-Early years and television:...

  • The Pink Panther
    The Pink Panther (1963 film)
    The Pink Panther is a 1963 American comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and co-written by Edwards and Maurice Richlin, starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, and Claudia Cardinale...

  • What's Up, Doc?
    What's Up, Doc? (1972 film)
    What's Up, Doc? is a 1972 screwball comedy film released by Warner Bros., directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, and Madeline Kahn...

    (1972), d. Peter Bogdanovich
    Peter Bogdanovich
    Peter Bogdanovich is an American film historian, director, writer, actor, producer, and critic. He was part of the wave of "New Hollywood" directors, which included William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino, and Francis Ford Coppola...

  • For Pete's Sake
    For Pete's Sake (film)
    For Pete's Sake is a 1974 American screwball comedy film directed by Peter Yates. The screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin chronicles the misadventures of a Brooklyn housewife...

    (1974), d. Peter Yates
    Peter Yates
    Peter James Yates was an English director and producer. He was born in Aldershot, Hampshire.The son of an army officer, he attended Charterhouse School as a boy, graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and worked for some years as an actor, director and stage manager...



Elements of classic screwball comedy often found in more recent films which might otherwise simply be classified as romantic comedies
Romantic Comedy
Romantic Comedy can refer to* Romantic Comedy , a 1979 play written by Bernard Slade* Romantic Comedy , a 1983 film adapted from the play and starring Dudley Moore and Mary Steenburgen...

 include the "battle of the sexes" (Down with Love
Down with Love
Down with Love is a 2003 romantic comedy film directed by Peyton Reed and written by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake. It stars Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, and is a pastiche of the romantic comedies of the early 1960s starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall such as Pillow Talk and Lover...

, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a 2003 romantic comedy film, directed by Donald Petrie, starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. It is based on a short cartoon book of the same name by Michele Alexander and Jeannie Long.-Plot:...

), witty repartee (Down with Love
Down with Love
Down with Love is a 2003 romantic comedy film directed by Peyton Reed and written by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake. It stars Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, and is a pastiche of the romantic comedies of the early 1960s starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall such as Pillow Talk and Lover...

), and the contrast between the wealthy and the middle class (You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail is a 1998 American romantic comedy film directed by Nora Ephron, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It was written by Nora and Delia Ephron based on the play Parfumerie by Miklós László. The film is about two letter-writing lovers who are completely unaware that their sweetheart is in...

, Two Weeks Notice
Two Weeks Notice
Two Weeks Notice is a 2002 romantic comedy film starring Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film was written and directed by Marc Lawrence. Upon release, the film received a successful box office run both in the United States and globally.-Plot:Lucy Kelson is a...

). Modern updates on screwball comedy may also sometimes be categorized as black comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 (Intolerable Cruelty
Intolerable Cruelty
Intolerable Cruelty is a 2003 romantic comedy film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and starring Academy Award winners George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton with Cedric the Entertainer...

, which also features a twist on the classic screwball element of divorce and re-marriage). The Coen Brothers often include screwball elements in a film which may not as a whole be considered screwball or even a comedy.

Screwball comedy elements in other genres


In his 2008 production of the classic Beaumarchais comedy The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata , K. 492, is an opera buffa composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro .Although the play by...

, author William James Royce trimmed the five-act play down to three acts and labeled it a "Classic Screwball Comedy." The playwright made Suzanne the central character, endowing her with all the feisty comedic strengths of her classic film counterparts. In his adaptation, entitled "One Mad Day!" (a play on Beaumarchais' original French title) Mr. Royce underscored all of the elments of the classic screwball comedy, suggesting that Beaumarchais may have had a hand in the origins of the genre.

The television series Moonlighting
Moonlighting (TV series)
Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14, 1989. The network aired a total of 66 episodes...

(1985–1989), Married... with Children
Married... with Children
Married... with Children is an American surrealistic sitcom that aired for 11 seasons that featured a dysfunctional family living in Chicago, Illinois. The show, notable for being the first prime time television series to air on Fox, ran from April 5, 1987, to June 9, 1997. The series was created...

(1987–1997), NewsRadio
NewsRadio
NewsRadio is an American television situation comedy that aired on NBC from 1995 to 1999. The series was created by executive producer Paul Simms, and was filmed in front of a studio audience at CBS Studio Center and Sunset Gower Studios...

(1995–1999), Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls is an American family comedy-drama series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, starring Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel. On October 5, 2000, the series debuted on The WB and was cancelled in its seventh season, ending on May 15, 2007 on The CW...

(2000–2007), and Standoff
Standoff (TV series)
Standoff is an American drama series that premiered on the Fox network on September 5, 2006. Created by Craig Silverstein, the series focused on an FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit whose members negotiated hostage situations and shared relationships. The show was produced by 20th Century Fox Television...

(2006–2007) have also adapted elements of the screwball comedy genre for the small screen.

The Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin is a series of classic comic books created by Belgian artist , who wrote under the pen name of Hergé...

 book, The Castafiore Emerald
The Castafiore Emerald
The Castafiore Emerald is an album in the classic comic-strip series The Adventures of Tintin by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero....

, contains settings, plots, comic devices and character types that share many similarities to screwball comedies.

See also

  • American screwball comedy films
  • Comedy of errors
    Comedy of errors
    A comedy of errors is a narrative work that is light and often humorous or satirical in tone, in which the action usually features a series of comic instances of mistaken identity, and which typically culminates in a happy resolution of the thematic conflict.-Satire and farce:A slight variation of...

     - similar genre
  • Farce
    Farce
    In theatre, a farce is a comedy which aims at entertaining the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases,...


Further reading


External links