Screwball comedies

We’re getting prepared for our screening of Frank Capra’s lighthearted and endearing It Happened One Night, this Saturday. It’s part of our ongoing series for the CMPCA in Brighton, at St Michael’s Church Hall. There are a few tickets left, so for full details, please see our main website.

In the meantime, we’ve picked out five of our favourite screwball comedies (aside from It Happened One Night), to get you all in the mood:


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Frank Capra, the director of It Happened One Night hit gold with this dark, but delightfully silly screwball comedy featuring Cary Grant. Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, who discovers a corpse hidden in window box at the house of his two sweet, harmless aunts…

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This classic is bring rereleased in cinemas by the BFI at the moment, so do look out for screenings of it locally. George Cukor’s sparkling film is regarded as one of the best examples of the popular ‘comedy of remarriage’ – a common theme from the ‘production code era, when depictions of extramarital affairs were prohibited – a couple divorce, flirt with outsiders and then remarry.

Top Hat (1935)

Probably the best known work to come from the dance partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this musical has some some rather fun and dazzling set pieces. Irving Berlin wrote the music, with many of the songs now regarded as classics (such as ‘Cheek to Cheek’).

Design for Living (1933)

Ernst Lubitsch is the director most closely linked to the Screwball genre, and this quirky film is possibly his finest. Loosely based on a play of the same name by Noel Coward (who famously said “I’m told that there are three of my original lines left in the film—such original ones as ‘Pass the mustard'”), the film is surprising to today’s audience: it is much more racy than you would expect! It was made pre-code, and features a woman (Miriam Hopkins) leaving her husband for two  men (Frederic March and Gary Cooper).

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Although not a hit on release (it did moderately well, but nothing to write home about), Howard Hawks’s Bringing up Baby is now widely regarded as a classic, and features on the AFI’s ‘100 Greatest American Films of All Time’ list. Katherine Hepburn is delightfully aggravating as a dotty heiress who turns the life of Cary Grant’s palaeontologist upside down.


Filmspot gets slushy

So, here we go, Valentine’s Day – the day for half the population to go all lovey-dovey and the other half to huff about the former half and their lovey-dovey-ness.

Team Filmspot like any excuse to put together lists of films, though, so beware you cynics – here comes some of the Filmspot team’s favourite romantic films. We usually try to limit ourselves to 5 films, but we’ve come to realise that we’re hopeless romantics here in the Filmspot office, so please humour us!

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Bryan Ferry aside, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love is an utterly spellbinding romantic melodrama. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung play neighbours who both suspect their spouses are having an affair, only to find themselves infatuated with each other. It is gently paced, dreamy and enigmatic. Christopher Doyle’s cinematography gives a beautifully nostalgic atmosphere, which complements its 1960s setting. Cheung exudes Hepburn-eque elegance – which alone is surely reason enough to watch it!

Gregory’s Girl (1981)

America has a great many films about love-lorn teenagers, but none of them can quite come up to John Gordon Sinclair‘s gawkish Gregory. Bill Forsyth’s very funny romantic comedy, set in a Scottish comprehensive school, is refreshing in that the teenagers aren’t angst-ridden or brooding – they all seem to be pretty nice, well adjusted (although somewhat quirky) kids. Gregory has an incredibly appealing, upbeat approach to life – a nice antidote to the current popular view of teenagers!

A Matter of Life & Death (1946)

One of Powell & Pressburger’s many masterpieces, A Matter of Life & Death is not only one of the great romantic films, but one of the most vivid screen fantasies. David Niven and Kim Hunter’s first scene together (above) is utterly heartbreaking. Niven plays Squadron Leader Peter Carter, who should have died when his Lancaster Bomber went down after a mission in 1945, but his ‘guide’ to the ‘other world’ (Marius Goring) cannot find him because of thick fog. Before his ‘guide’ catches up with him, Carter meets and falls in love with June (Hunter), and has to battle with ‘the powers that be’ to remain on earth with her. Unlikely though it sounds, this is a film that manages to reach its own ambitions!

Chico & Rita (2010)

This animated film, directed by  Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, is a vibrant slice of sunshine, music and romance. Set in the 1940s and 50s, it follows the fate of two promising musicians, Chico, a pianist, and Rita, a singer. The stylish animation and beautiful music make up for the fact that this is a plot line you will have seen before – and by the last scene, there won’t be a dry eye in the house!

Bringing up Baby (1938)

Howard Hawk’s hilarious comedy starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn is pure cinematic genius. If you don’t fall for the nervous, bookish museum paleontologist  Dr Huxley (Grant) or the irritating and eccentric heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn), you surely have a heart of stone! It’s difficult to believe that it received poor reviews on its release, but Bringing up Baby has certainly stood the test of time, and is now justly seen as one of the great screwball classics.

Brief Encounter (1945)

Surely any list of romantic films worth its mettle must include David Lean’s masterpiece? Timeless in theme, but very much of its time, Brief Encounter is an essentially British love story. Everything about this film is pitch-perfect: it will leave even the least emotional amongst us struggling with ‘itchy eyes’.

NB – apologies to those of you waiting to hear of our upcoming Filmspot events. We promised you an update in this blog post, but sadly we are still awaiting confirmation of a couple of dates! We can let you know that there are a number of events planned for the coming months – with our first Filmspot of the year planned for April. More news is forthcoming!