Screwball comedy film  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The screwball comedy is a subgenre of the comedy film genre. 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, and although many film scholars would agree that its classic period ended sometime in the early 1940s, elements of the genre have persisted, or have been paid homage to, in contemporary film.

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 a plot involving courtship and marriage or remarriage. The film critic Andrew Sarris has defined the screwball comedy as "a sex comedy without the sex."

The screwball comedy has close links with the theatrical genre of farce, 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, As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Other genres with which screwball comedy is associated include slapstick, situation comedy, and romantic comedy.

Contents

Thirty notable examples of the genre from its classic period

Other films from this period in other genres incorporate elements of the screwball comedy. For example, Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 thriller The 39 Steps 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 comedy The Thin Man portrays a witty, urbane couple who trade barbs as they solve mysteries together. Many of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals of the 1930s also feature screwball comedy plots, notably The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935).

Actors and actresses frequently featured in or associated with screwball comedy include:

Some notable directors of screwball comedies include:

Latter-day 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:


Elements of classic screwball comedy often found in more recent films which might otherwise simply be classified as romantic comedies include the "battle of the sexes" (Down with Love, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), witty repartee (Down with Love), and the contrast between the wealthy and the middle class (You've Got Mail, Two Weeks Notice). Modern updates on screwball comedy may also sometimes be categorized as black comedy (Intolerable Cruelty, which also features a twist on the classic screwball element of divorce and re-marriage).

Screwball comedy elements in other genres

Elements of screwball have also appeared in other genres altogether: the characters of Han Solo and Princess Leia in the film Star Wars come to mind.

The television series Moonlighting (1985–1989), NewsRadio (1995–1999), Gilmore Girls (2000–2007), and Standoff (2006–2007) have also adapted elements of the screwball comedy genre for the small screen.

The Tintin book, The Castafiore Emerald, contains settings, plots, comic devices and character types that share many similarities to screwball comedies.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Screwball comedy film" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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