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‘The Screwball Comedy’ and Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night

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Presentation on theme: "‘The Screwball Comedy’ and Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night"— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘The Screwball Comedy’ and Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night
Genre Definition and a Film Analysis

2 What is the screwball comedy?
No general agreement among film historians on what constituted a screwball comedy or what films belong to the category. General agreement, however, is about the period in which the genre prospered - between 1934 and 1938.

3 What is the screwball comedy?
The genre began with Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) and ended with Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby (1938)

4 What is the screwball comedy?
One constant in this genre - the teaming up of a male star and a female star, who are entangled in love and the centre of comical spectacle. Some tendencies among film historians in understanding and identifying the genre, screwball comedy. Lewis Jacobs in his The Rise of the American Film (1939) - sociological discussion on the frustration and energy found screwball comedies. Jacobs ascribes it to the mood of the depression era.

5 What is the screwball comedy?
Andrew Bergman in his We’re in Money (1971) saw screwball comedies as a reactionary genre which was an attempt to clear up and purify rawer and more bawdry trends in comedy opened up by the Marx Brothers. Replaced humour.

6 What is the screwball comedy?
Griffith and Mayer in their The Movies find in the genre a new image of courtship and marriage combined with slapstick or violent elements. This is attributed to the frustration felt during the economic crisis. While acknowledging the genre elements identified by film historians, Sarris denies their sociological connection to the social milieu of the period, the Depression era in the 1930s.

7 What is the screwball comedy?
Andrew Sarris approach the genre not from the ideological but stylistic angle. The screwball comedy is the sex comedy without sex. Constants for screwball comedies Hardly no children and no babies. Comedies of courtship with propensities for quarrels and bickerings

8 Presence of talented comediennes with a variety of trick voices, insinuating mannerisms, and unearthly beauty. Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Myrna Loy, and Barbara Stanwyck

9 What is the screwball comedy?
The only actor indispensable to the genre - Cary Grant with shy, nervous detachment and clownish behaviour. He was often paired with Katharine Hepburn.

10 It Happened One Night Generally considered one of the greatest romantic comedies and the first screwball comedy. An escapist film about an unlikely pairing of a mismatched couple - a recently-fired newspaper man (Gable) and a wealthy heiress (Colbert) on a run.

11 It Happened One Night An unexpected box office hit and won five Academy Awards, unrivaled till One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest (1975) and then The Silence of the Lambs (1991) were awarded with five Oscars. Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay Columbia Pictures’ biggest hit till today.

12 Genre Elements Comic description of the process of a man and a woman falling in love after quarrels and bickering – Ellie and Peter meet by chance, have a series of disagreements and arguments at first, but gradually fall for each other. Strong but sweet at heart woman – Ellie played by Claudette Colbert Looking smart but not really so, but lovable man – Peter played by Clark Gable

13 Genre Elements Comic reliefs through ludicrous events in a romance – blancket walls separates their beds; Ellie manages to hitch a ride at her first attempt by revealing her shapely leg, while Peter keeps failing despite his boast. Fast paced verbal duel between a man and a woman – Peter’s sarcasm and Ellie’s irony and independent thought. Fast plot and plot twists – Ellie is mistaken that she is abandoned by Peter.

14 Genre Elements Battle of sexes – Ellie and Peter fight each other for dominance. Ambiguous feminist point. Does the rise of screwball comedy reflect the change in women’s status in the American society? Class battles – a heiress of a millionaire and a penniless journalist fall in love with each other. Ambiguous Marxist point. Classes coexist in harmony rather than in conflict.

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