Screwball Comedy: 1931-1956 Definitive List of Early Filmsby FilmCuckoo | created - 06 Mar 2017 | updated - 8 months ago | Public
Regarding the subject of debate, which films could be considered as "Screwball Comedy", the problem is much the same as with Film Noir, where the results are greatly depending on criteria used to define each film.
-It is worth noting in this context, that both Screwball comedy and Film Noir share striking similarities, even up to a point they are actually overlapping each other. A good example is "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944) - which could easily be considered as a Screwball Comedy, with film noir thematics and style. The difference is of course that while film noir is both a genre and a style, Screwball Comedy is just a style, making it relatively easy to apply to any genre, such as Western, which itself is also both style and a genre.
Also, it is worth noting that there is hardly any chance of ever finding two film scholars, who would ever be able to agree, which themes and plot devices would qualify any comedy as a Screwball Comedy, besides the established obvious ones.
Here is a list of my own, rather "loose" interpretation guide lines of the standard themes and plot devices for Screwball Comedy. However, in order for any comedy to "qualify" as a screwball comedy, at least four of the conditions below, must be filled.
- General set-up is within upper class or upper middle-class.
- The film is utilizing any variation of the "opposites attract" -theme, which often means verbal jousting between people from completely different social classes and/or backgrounds, or when seemingly totally incompatible couple find attraction towards each other, which then works as the main theme for the film. This also includes a very common theme for screwball comedy, "Battle of Sexes", where verbal jousting between male and female characters, forms the backbone to the entire plot.
- The events in the film occur right around Christmas time.
- Gender-roles reversed/challenged
- Authority or age status reversed/challenged (such as a child is presumed, or takes a role as an adult or an adult is presumed as a child or is placed in similar situation)
- Drag (straight) skits
- Multiple love interests competing (courting)
- Comedy created from "Force majeure" -lies/cheats
- Elements of screwy slapstick/pantomime/gag routines in situations, where in regular comedy they would be deemed inappropriate or unrealistic.
- Mistaken/false identity portrayed in comedic style, followed by comedy drawn from the rising issues as a result.
- Alcohol, drugs or medicine congested has a significant role with comedy/farcical issues following as a result, and usually would have a profound effect regarding the main plot or the story-line.
- Plus in addition, as a loose rule of thumb: If a romantic comedy involves New York or Connecticut as a location, plus there are any three or more of the themes mentioned above included.
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2. A Night to Remember (1942)
Approved | 91 min | Comedy, Mystery, Romance
A mystery writer and his newlywed wife move into a Greenwich Village apartment and find themselves with a corpse and a half dozen red herrings.
3. A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941)
Approved | 90 min | Comedy, Romance
Steve is a shy quiet man who is an executive for a shipping firm. He meets Dot at the Opera where she had his seats and the next day she shows up as his temporary secretary. Then Coffee Cup... See full summary »
5. A Millionaire for Christy (1951)
Approved | 91 min | Comedy, Romance
This hilarious comedy gave MacMurray a chance to show his comedic chops as Peter, a radio personality who is told he's just inherited two million dollars by a gold-digging secretary.
6. A Slight Case of Murder (1938)
Approved | 85 min | Comedy, Crime
Former bootlegger Remy Marco has a slight problem with forclosing bankers, a prospective son-in-law, and four hard-to-explain corpses.
7. Adam's Rib (1949)
Not Rated | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Domestic and professional tensions mount when a husband and wife work as opposing lawyers in a case involving a woman who shot her husband.
10. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Not Rated | 118 min | Comedy, Crime, Thriller
A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.
11. Bachelor Mother (1939)
Approved | 82 min | Comedy, Romance
An unemployed woman discovers an abandoned baby on the steps of an orphanage, and accepts an offer to take responsibility for the child in return for a job.
12. Ball of Fire (1941)
Approved | 111 min | Comedy, Romance
A group of professors working on a new encyclopedia encounter a mouthy nightclub singer who is wanted by the police to help bring down her mob boss lover.
14. Blithe Spirit (1945)
Not Rated | 96 min | Comedy, Fantasy
Charles (Sir Rex Harrison) and his second wife, Ruth (Constance Cummings), are haunted by the spirit of his first wife, Elvira (Kay Hammond). Medium Madame Arcati (Dame Margaret Rutherford) tries to help things out by contacting the ghost.
15. Blond Cheat (1938)
Approved | 62 min | Comedy, Music, Romance
Socially prominent Michael Ashburn, is the chief assistant to Rufus Trent, wealthy London loan broker. He has allowed himself to become engaged to the Rufus' daughter, Roberta, the match ... See full summary »
16. Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)
Passed | 85 min | Comedy, Romance
After learning her multi-millionaire fiancé has already been married seven times, the daughter of a penniless marquis decides to tame him.
20. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Not Rated | 102 min | Comedy, Family, Romance
While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard, Baby.
24. Call It a Day (1937)
Approved | 90 min | Comedy
The first day of spring has a profound affect on the Hilton family. The father, an accountant, finds himself unable to work, and when he tries to work, he is wooed by an actress whose taxes... See full summary »
25. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Not Rated | 101 min | Comedy, Romance
A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.
26. Christmas in July (1940)
Passed | 67 min | Comedy, Romance
When the co-workers of an ambitious clerk trick him into thinking he has won $25,000 in a slogan contest, he begins to use the money to fulfill his dreams. What will happen when the ruse is discovered?
27. Cinderella Jones (1946)
Passed | 90 min | Comedy, Music, Romance
Judy Jones, sings with a band and also works at an aircraft plant. She takes part in a "missing heirs" radio program and is discovered to be an heiress to a fortune. But the will provides ... See full summary »
28. Curtain Call (1940)
Approved | 63 min | Comedy, Romance
A naive playwright sells her awful play, "The End of Everything," to two Broadway producers who want to get even with an ungrateful star.
30. Day-Time Wife (1939)
Passed | 72 min | Comedy, Romance
When a young wife discovers her husband of two years is involved with his beautiful secretary, she applies for a job as secretary to a business rival.
31. Design for Living (1933)
Not Rated | 91 min | Comedy, Romance
A woman cannot decide between two men who love her, and the trio agree to try living together in a platonic friendly relationship.
33. Double Wedding (1937)
Passed | 87 min | Comedy, Romance
Two sisters of differing temperaments, the younger's milquetoast fiancé, and a free-spirited artist in an auto trailer are all experiencing romantic complications.
34. Down to Their Last Yacht (1934)
Passed | 64 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance
A family loses everything in the crash of 1929 except for their yacht. In order to make money, they rent out the yacht. A couple of guys feel sorry for the young maiden, who has everything ... See full summary »
35. Easy Living (1937)
Passed | 88 min | Comedy, Romance
A wealthy banker throws his wife's expensive fur coat off the roof of a building; it lands on the head of a stenographer, leading to everyone assuming she is his mistress and has access to his millions.
37. Ever Since Eve (1937)
Approved | 80 min | Comedy, Romance
Lecherous bosses make it difficult for an attractive secretary to keep jobs, so she decides to appear considerably more homely in hopes of holding onto work.
42. Footsteps in the Dark (1941)
Approved | 96 min | Comedy, Mystery, Crime
A respected investment advisor has a double life as a mystery writer and becomes involved in the real murder of a shady client.
43. Forsaking All Others (1934)
Passed | 83 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Dill leaves Mary standing at the altar in order to marry his old flame, Connie, instead. Knowing that Mary still has feelings for Dill, Jeff keeps quiet about his own love for her.
44. Four's a Crowd (1938)
Approved | 92 min | Comedy, Romance
Robert will do anything to get the big