Now, I know some of my posts fall on deaf ears (mostly because I live under the illusion that people are going to believe me when I say classical Hollywood is better than contemporary Hollywood). Regardless, I have high hopes that someday my posts will ignite a flame within the depths of a person’s movie-watching desires and point them in the proper direction. So, today, I want to talk a little bit about the screwball comedy subgenre.
There are people who argue that humour 80 or more years ago is no longer relevant to audiences today. I actually believe that it is, perhaps, the other way around. Audiences, general audiences, will watch just about any type of comedy these days including low-brow or vulgar jokes. The humour of films in the past remain relevant but the audience’s taste has become irrelevant. Why is The Hangover (2009) so hilarious? Knocked Up (2007)? The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)? I had to dig deep to remember even a handful of comedies in the last twenty years that are worth mentioning. The humour in these films are a dime a dozen and, not to offend anyone, require very little wit and intelligence from its audience members.
So, where does screwball comedy arrive in this soapbox rant? Somehow, we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking we’ve become smarter than our relatives from long ago. We can operate computers, develop technology far beyond their wildest imagination… but that’s become a detriment to our ability to think quickly because a computer can do the thinking for us. I believe the screwball comedies of the Great Depression require a degree of thinking so far beyond what audiences in theatres today are willing to handle. Now, one would think this generation would enjoy screwball for its fast-paced dialogue (think Gilmore Girls) or even gender role reversal, but I think the situation of farce as a commonality in these films are deemed to cheesy for audiences today. Okay, so maybe Katharine Hepburn and a leopard named “Baby” is a bit ridiculous. And Claudette Colbert’s escape in It Happened One Night (1934) is over the top. But if I think deeply about the plot of Date Night (2010) (I still love you, Tina Fey) … are we really that far off the mark?
Tomorrow, I plan on outlining a few screwball films that I hope one of you will someday take off the shelf or seek to watch. Until then, I’m curious about the type of comedy you enjoy? I’m not going to bash you for enjoying Two Weeks Notice, because I love it, too. However, I deem it a guilty pleasure….
Until tomorrow, ladies and geraniums.