Starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck with director Preston Sturges, this screwball comedy is a good one. The supporting cast is rounded out wonderfully by Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallete, and William Demarest. The story begins on a big ocean liner where a beautiful young woman (Stanwyck) tries to pull a con on a naive, rich bachelor (Fonda). Slowly however they begin to fall in love and they plan to get married. He catches wind of her notoriety and becomes cold and that ends their relationship. In an act of revenge she poses as someone’s niece, a Lady Eve, so that she can be close to him. Through a series of events he thinks she is a different person who looks similar and over time they decide to get married. When Eve tells him about all her boyfriends he feels he has made a mistake. Back on the ship he is ecstatic to see the first girl and they embrace. Fonda’s character feels guilty because he is already married but then again she is too…to him. This film has a great combination of wit and slapstick which makes it an enjoyable classic.
Starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, the film revolves around a young man (Cooper) and seven older intellectuals compiling a Encyclopedia who get involved with a burlesque dancer (Stanwyck). They are interested in her constant use of slang and she is happy to use them as a cover to avoid the cops while she waits for her gangster boyfriend. However, things take a turn when the young man falls for her and proposes. Little does he know they are being used until they unknowingly transport her back to the gangster. He feels betrayed and she realizes her love for the corny intellectual. Although they are held by the gangster’s thugs, the intellectuals join their wits to overcome their foe. In the nick of time they stop the marriage and the true loves get back together. Howard Hawks directs a nice combination of humor and romance. The story by Billy Wilder, is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with some major twists.
Starring a cast including Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas with director Ernst Lubitsch, the film opens in Paris with three quirky Soviet Russians. They are sent to sell some jewels and at the same time to marvel at the capitalist society. Their curt, robotic, and serious comrade arrives to help them. She meets a Parisian playboy and seriously hopes to learn about his society. However, after he finally makes her laugh the two of them become romantically involved. A jealous duchess manipulates the situation and Ninotchka is back in Moscow. She is reunited with her friends there but still is somber because she is no longer with her love. That changes quickly enough though. Lubitsch gives us another witty comedy that plays off the conflict between ideologies and cultures. Garbo, Douglas, and the three Russians are all likable characters that help make this film fairly good.
Starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur with director Frank Capra, this film follows a man from a small town who is left $2 million by a dead relative. Longfellow Deeds is thrust into a life in New York where everyone wants his attention in order to get money and support. However, this man they took for a stooge has common sense and grows fed up with them all. The only person he talks to is Arthur’s character who is actually a reporter. While she writes damaging articles, they slowly begin to fall for each other. He finds out what she did and eventually decides to give his money away. Fortune hunters try to claim he is crazy and they bring their case to court. Initially Deeds does not defend himself, but when his love speaks on his behalf he changes his mind and fights for his cause. Capra was wonderful at making the feel good films about the common man. Here he does it once again in a precursor to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Meet John Doe.
Starring William Powell and Carole Lombard with a zany cast of others, the film follows a funny socialite daughter who takes a “Forgotten Man” as her family’s butler. Godfrey takes the job and soon learns how to cope with the scatterbrained girl, her stuck up sister, their ditsy mother, their long suffering father, and Carlo who is the man patronized by Mrs. Bullock. On accident Godfrey comes in contact with an old friend and his secret almost comes out. In the cover up Lombard’s character believes him to be married with children. Because she loves him, she goes away to Europe to try and forget him. However, upon hearing the truth, she is ecstatic and Godfrey finds himself being married all of the sudden. This is a good example of the screwball comedies of the 1930s and I will admit, it is a pretty good film.
Oscar Jaffe is the undisputed king of Broadway and after he christens the inexperienced Mildred Plotka, Lily Garland, she becomes his box office Queen. He makes her into a great actress and their numerous collaborations turn out success after success. However, as several years pass Lily is fed up and she ends her connection with Jaffe in a volatile falling out after she finds that he has hired a private investigator to keep tabs on her. Without his starlet Jaffe produces flop after flop and he is endangered of being jailed by his backers. He escapes in disguise and boards the Twentieth Century Limited train. He is accompanied by his two quirky assistants and it just so happens that Lily has boarded that same train. Jaffe sees it as a chance to make amends, but Lily will have nothing of it. They have some more frenzied confrontations on the train as Jaffe tries to convince her to star in his next project. In a last ditch effort he pretends to be deathly ill after a scuffle so that she will sign a contract in her distress. In the end she proves to truly care for him and once again they are back on Broadway, Lily Garland star extraordinaire, and Oscar Jaffe the domineering visionary.
Along with It Happened One Night, this is one of the early examples of the screwball comedies. This was a perfect practice run at it for Howard Hawks who would direct the more well-known Bringing Up Baby in 1938. The leading performers are absolutely chaotic and over the top in their performances, but it’s the way it should be. Furthermore, like most screwball comedies the odd supporting characters are often a great source of laughs. The extended train sequence here reminded me somewhat of The Palm Beach Story another raucous film.