Screwball Comedy When Hollywood Went Mad

The film critic Andrew Sarris defined a Screwball Comedy as “sex comedy without sex”. And indeed the leading characters keep fighting each other as long as possible. When two people would fall in love, they did not simply surrender to their feelings but battle it out. They would lie to one another, play the most hideous tricks on each other, until finally, after having run out of inventions, fall into each other’s arms. All of this using fast and witty dialogue as well as slap stick elements.

The genre developed with the Great Depression was not only designed to make audiences laugh but also to deal with social problems and sexual desires in a puritan country constrained by poverty and censorship. Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) is generally considered to be the first of this kind. Other directors famous for their screwball comedies include Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch, Howard Hawks, George Cukor, William Wyler, Leo McCarey, Preston Sturges, George Stevens and Gregory La Cava.The trend kept going until the early 40s. Major titles include My Man Godfrey, It Happened One Night, The Lady Eve, Bringing up Baby, I Was A Male Ware Bride and Some Like It Hot. The screwball comedies portrayed women, played by actresses such as Carol Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers and Irene Dunne, who were much more independent and intent on pursuing their own careers.

Directors: Clara Kuperberg & Julia Kuperberg
Production: Wichita Films
Producers: Clara Kuperberg & Julia Kuperberg
Network: OCS
Year : 2015
Time : 52 minutes


Molly Haskell
Film Critic and Film Historian

Joseph McBride
Author of Hawks by Hawks and Film Historian

Vivian Sobchack
Film Historian