Screwball comedies and death: movies viewed

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) stars Katherine Hepburn as a beautiful divorcee about to marry again when drunken ex Cary Grant arrives at the festivities with tabloid reporters Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey in tow. Stewart is a complete, sneering cynic about rich people, but when he looks at Hepburn, he gets different feelings (much to Hussey’s displeasure) … The dialog is fun, the cast is awesome right down to the small roles and the romance plot packs in a few surprises. The one thing that dates the movie is its sexist insistence that Hepburn can be blamed for everything from Grant’s drinking to her father’s womanizing (she wasn’t devoted enough so he found a young woman who was); even so, I still rank it as a classic (but obviously YMMV).

This was a Criterion edition I picked up recently so it’s packed with extras. The commentary track by film scholar Jeanine Basinger discusses the challenges for Stewart (having to play someone who can be a serious rival to Grant for Hepburn’s affections) and for Grant (less of a dramatic arc than the other leads, fewer scenes) and a lot about the transition from the Broadway stage to film (Hepburn starred on stage, then used the film to erase her late-1930s rep as “box office poison”) which I’ll get to in another post. Other features include some backstory on the play and its writer, and two interviews between Katherine Hepburn and Dick Cavett. Overall, this was well worth the purchase price. “This is the voice of doom calling — your family is cursed unto the seventh son of the seventh son.”

BALL OF FIRE (1941) stars Gary Cooper as the leader of a research team (a former boy genius, he’s the only one under 50) who discovers their universal encyclopedia is decades out of date on the topic of slang. Recruiting people who can update that introduces Cooper to “Sugarpuss” O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), a nightclub singer who initially blows him off, then learns she needs to hide somewhere before the cops grill her for evidence against mob boyfriend Dana Andrews. So she shows up at Cooper’s mansion, flirts her way in … well we know how it’s going to end, but the journey sure is a delight. The cast includes Dan Duryea as a laughing hood, S.Z. Sakall among the scholars and Elisha Cook Jr. as one of Cooper’s other contacts. “I shall miss your keen mind, Miss O’Shea — unfortunately it’s inseparable from your extremely distracting body.”

Because my sister’s a big fan, I rewatched COCO (2017) during her recent visit. While I liked it on first viewing, the story of Coco trying to find his destiny in the land of the ead improved when seen on the TV rather than my iPad, as the colors and visuals were so much more vivid. “They drink the milk of the cactus — but it isn’t milk, it’s my tears!”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

1 Comment

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One response to “Screwball comedies and death: movies viewed

  1. Pingback: Philadelphia Story: Movie vs. Play vs. Book | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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