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Eleanor Parker..No Actress for Comedy


kaleman
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See, to me it doesn't matter if they're remakes. It means that the studio still found them profitable to keep producing in the 50s and 60s. The musical CHICAGO is a remake, but are we going to say that the musical genre was dead or 'spent' like you said and that it could not experience a resurgence?

 

I think your definition of screwball as being applied to films from the 1930s is mistaken. The 1930s do not have a monopoly on screwball comedy. Maybe we can say the 30s gave us Depression era comedies, but not all of those were screwball comedies (like TUGBOAT ANNIE or MIN & BILL).

 

Judy Holliday's films are definitely screwball comedies, because they deal with social conditions of her era, in an exaggerated, playful sense.

 

As for Lombard, her final film was a cross between political satire and screwball comedy (TO BE OR NOT TO BE). I don't think she would've done dramas for the rest of her career. And we don't know if she would've gone into television...not everyone did. My guess is that she would've lasted till the early 60s, like Claudette Colbert did. Jean Harlow would've become a much-in-demand character actress once her youth and sexy looks faded.

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You may not have a 'hallelujah moment' if you see A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY again. Who knows. But I think it's a slightly above-average comedy that had the potential to be really great. I wouldn't go so far as to say Eleanor Parker was miscast. It was probably an experiment for her to see if the public would buy her in a light frothy comedy, and unfortunately they did not. She found success in other genres.

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The film THE AWFUL TRUTH, considered a quintessential screwball comedy from 1937, stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. It is a remake. In fact, that was the third time it had been made: previous efforts included a silent film in 1925, and a talkie starring Ina Claire in 1929. It was taken from a stage play by Arthur Richman. So, screwball really has its roots on the stage, going back to before the depression.

 

This story, AWFUL TRUTH, was made a fourth time. In 1953, Jane Wyman and Ray Milland did a new version called LET'S DO IT AGAIN. But we can hardly fault Columbia for reusing the formula, when it was already old hat in 1937.

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From all of these remarks, I have to conclude that it is not possible to agree, with respect to most films, whether or not it is definitively a "screwball comedy". To me, BRINGING UP BABY and MY MAN GODFREY are the classic examples of this genre. Virtually anything else could generate arguments.

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Most critics consider BRINGING UP BABY the ultimate screwball comedy.

 

Recently, I watched HOLIDAY, which is a remake and was done right before BABY. I actually prefer it to BABY. I think the supporting characters are given more to do. And there are exceptional second-tier actors like Lew Ayres, Binnie Barnes and Edward Everett Horton. I think the ultimate double feature would be HOLIDAY followed by THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.

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*See, to me it doesn't matter if they're remakes. It means that the studio still found them profitable to keep producing in the 50s and 60s. The musical CHICAGO is a remake, but are we going to say that the musical genre was dead or 'spent' like you said and that it could not experience a resurgence?*

 

Well, the screwball comedy WAS spent artistically in the 50s; they were considered thus by the end of the 30s; that is why there are (almost) no recognized classics from the the 50s. That they may have done well is another matter. Comedies were one of the bread and butter staples of every studios, and some were in the screwball vein. Those that came out in the 50s DID NOT lead to a resurgence of the genre. And I don't think that A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY, even if it had come out better, would have done it.

 

*I think your definition of screwball as being applied to films from the 1930s is mistaken. The 1930s do not have a monopoly on screwball comedy. Maybe we can say the 30s gave us Depression era comedies, but not all of those were screwball comedies (like TUGBOAT ANNIE or MIN & BILL).*

 

Screwball WAS one of the outstanding genres of the 30s; just about all of the acknowledged classics in this mode came out in that decade, beginning in 1934 (I NEVER said all comedies from the 30s were screwball, but rather"Screwball Comedy was coined to describe the crazy romantic comedies popular in the mid to late 1930s."). Yes, comedies in this vein continued into the 40s and 50s, but the times were wrong for it to thrive. Of the many remakes of them in the 50s, NOT ONE approaches the original. Yes, THE AWFUL TRUTH in 1937 was a remake, but it featured expert playing by its two marvelous leads as well as supporting cast, excellent writing and great direction. The 1953 remake was off on all counts. And so it went.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 9, 2010 1:53 PM

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How can you say THE AWFUL TRUTH from 1937 had excellent writing when it was the same writing, from the original source material, that was produced in the mid-20s. Good screwball comedy was developed on stage and back in the silent film days, even before the term was coined. I think you are biased in favor of _your_ favorite films from the 30s...but again, films from that decade do not hold a monopoly on the genre.

 

Personally, I prefer Marion Davies' screwball comedies from the 20s. She has been credited as being the first screwball comedienne.

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*Most critics consider BRINGING UP BABY the ultimate screwball comedy.*

 

 

*Recently, I watched HOLIDAY, which is a remake and was done right before BABY. I actually prefer it to BABY. I think the supporting characters are given more to do. And there are exceptional second-tier actors like Lew Ayres, Binnie Barnes and Edward Everett Horton. I think the ultimate double feature would be HOLIDAY followed by THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.*

 

I love HOLIDAY, although it was filmed AFTER Hepburn left RKO, thus after BUB. It is not manic like BABY; in fact, it is often just considered a romantic comedy, and not a screwball comedy. Phillip Berry, the writer of HOLIDAY, went on to fashion THE PHILADELPHIA STORY for Kate, for the stage; since she was considered Box-office poison at this time and her Hollywood prospects at this time were not to her liking.

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No, Arturo. HOLIDAY is considered a screwball comedy as well as a romantic comedy as well as a comedy-drama. It encapsulates several subgenres and genre-hybrids. You are right that it was produced after she left RKO, for Columbia.

 

A film does not have to be completely 'manic' to be classified as a screwball comedy.

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*How can you say THE AWFUL TRUTH from 1937 had excellent writing when it was the same writing, from the original source material, that was produced in the mid-20s. Good screwball comedy was developed on stage and back in the silent film days, even before the term was coined.*

 

Excellent writing is excellent writing, whatever the source material.

 

I think you are mistaken when you say that good screwball comedy was developed on stage. While obviously some stage works made it onto film at all times, and some became screwball classics (like 1937's THE AWFUL TRUTH), most weren't. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, THE THIN MAN, THEODORA GOES WILD, MY MAN GODFREY, LIBELED LADY, TOPPER, EASY LIVING-1937, BRINGING UP BABY, just to name of few of the acknowledged classics off the top of my head, did not have stage antecedents.

 

*I think you are biased in favor of your favorite films from the 30s...but again, films from that decade do not hold a monopoly on the genre.*

 

I DO like the many 30s screwball comedies (as well as some from later years), and if I am biased towards them, it's because most of the acknowledged classics (I really do hate repeating myself) came out in that decade, and most of those from later, especially the inferior 50s remakes, do not compare.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 9, 2010 2:14 PM

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 9, 2010 2:21 PM

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*No, Arturo. HOLIDAY is considered a screwball comedy as well as a romantic comedy as well as a comedy-drama. It encapsulates several subgenres and genre-hybrids.*

 

Whic is why some do not consider it a screwball comedy. It definitely is not PURE screwball the way BRINGING UP BABY is.

 

*A film does not have to be completely 'manic' to be classified as a screwball comedy.*

 

Point taken. I agree.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 9, 2010 2:22 PM

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> Excellent writing is excellent writing, whatever the source material.

 

But in the case of THE AWFUL TRUTH, it is a source that predates the talkies and originates on stage.

 

> I think you are mistaken when you say that good screwball comedy...did not have stage antecedents.

 

I think the comedy of manners on stage was the antecedent for all these films. It evolved to become more exaggerated and farcical, usually with social commentary thrown in about the U.S. caste system.

 

> I DO like the many 30s screwball comedies (as well as some from later years), and if I am biased towards them, it's because most of the acknowledged classics (I really do hate repeating myself) came out in that decade, and most of those from later, especially the inferior 50s remakes, do not compare.

>

 

Those are the classics acknowledged by you, Arturo. LOL I am sure that there are fans of the remakes that came later. And there are fans of the screwball comedies that are being made today (yes, there are some...they are now fused with romantic comedies).

 

The idea that there is a PURE screwball format seems unreasonable. Is there a PURE western? Or a PURE horror film? Technically, all dramatic action springs from the melodrama.

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One of the worst "screwball" comedies I've ever seen was "Never Say Good-bye" with Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker. I don't know if it was because of her; she was just sort of there, without any real presence. The script was awful, and the Flynn character behaved like a bad parody of himself. Yet, the material was similar to "The Awful Truth," which I could watch every week and never get tired of! What a difference the right cast, script, and director can make! Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are a hard couple to beat!

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*I think the comedy of manners on stage was the antecedent for all these films. It evolved to become more exaggerated and farcical, usually with social commentary thrown in about the U.S. caste system.*

 

Obviously, antecedents to any format can be found. However, screwball jelled as its own genre by the mid-30s.

 

*Those are the classics acknowledged by you, Arturo. LOL I am sure that there are fans of the remakes that came later.*

 

No, these are the classics as per movie history books, movie historians,etc. Because the remakes may have fans doesn't mean they are classics (and NONE are so deemed in the previously mentioned sources).

 

*The idea that there is a PURE screwball format seems unreasonable. Is there a PURE western? Or a PURE horror film? Technically, all dramatic action springs from the melodrama.*

 

I'm willing to settle for 2 impure parts per million as long as the operative word is pure fun, as MY MAN GODFREY and BRINGING UP BABY, to name just two, most definitely are.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 9, 2010 4:10 PM

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I had a thought about this thread when I went for a cup of coffee:

 

I think screwball probably has roots in Shakespeare. The scene of Pyramus and Thisby (the play within a play in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM) is a highly screwball scenario. The scene at the beginning of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (the play, not the films) where an old drunken man thinks he's rich and that a young man is his female companion. Later, in TAMING OF THE SHREW, the identity mixups that occur when the men are wooing Bianca.

 

But probably screwball goes back to the Greek comedies. Hollywood's screenwriters and directors did not invent this style of storytelling. They borrowed from what came before and helped comedy evolve.

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Getting back to Eleanor Parker, I thought she was okay in the role, and certainly had good chemistry with MacMurray. But as was usually the case with post-1941 screwball, the writing was spotty and the female character more often than not were made to look silly, not strong. I agree Parker was no Lombard (who would have been nearing 43 when this was released in September 1951) or Jean Arthur, but she doesn't embarrass herself, either. The conditions simply weren't right to produce first-rate screwball.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Watch Eleanor in "Caged." Fan-friggin-tastic! One of my favorite all-time movies, certainly prison movies. She's a very fine actress, and I've seen her in quite a number of movies. Give her another chance. And of course she played The Baroness in "The Sound of Music." Her character was disliked, which made her acting that much better. I really like her a lot.

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