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The one with the daffy heroine


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Why is it that the women are always the screwiest characters in screwball comedies?

 

There's the one with the daffy heroine and the alleged sugar daddy:

images6.jpg

 

The one with the daffy heroine and the cook:

1fools.jpg

 

And the one with the daffy heroine and the millionaire:

1christy.jpg

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TB, while it might be a fun exercise to think in these terms, that "women are always the screwiest characters in screwball comedies", I must differ with your basic premise, because if one would venture to the "Screwball Comedy film" Wikipedia page and find their list of films located near the bottom which they cite as notable examples of this genre, I believe you will discover that many of the films listed have female characters which are portrayed as much more than "ditsy"or "unintelligent".

 

Take for example the character played by Claudette Colbert in "It Happened One Night", and who while possibly is "unfocused" as to her direction in life, is definitely neither ditsy nor unintelligent.

 

And then take for example a few of the screwball comedies in which Barbara Stanwyck starred, "The Lady Eve" and "Ball of Fire". In both cases the character she played was smarter and quicker on the uptake than were her love interest/leading man.

 

And, going down that list I believe you'll notice and recognize a number of films in which the very same male/female dynamics are in play.

 

And so in closing and as I said at the beginning of this reply it might seem or be a fun exercise to list and discuss some of the instances in which the female lead in this genre is a bit "screwy", I think the implication that SOME of the female leads are "screwy" in SOME of the screwball comedies would lead us to the idea that this would be yet another example of the prevalence of the female negative stereotype(for want of a better term) in film over the years, would be an idea or premise which in this case does not hold true.

 

(...and hey, besides...why should it only have been the men who had all the fun over those years playing the clueless sort in movies and getting all the laughs, right?!) ;)

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> TopBilled wrote:

> Why is it that the women are always the screwiest characters in screwball comedies?

 

It is the nature of comedy to present things which are the opposite of reality:

An anvil falling on a person and squashing them into a bloody pulp is realistic and so it is not funny.

An anvil falling on a person and driving them into the ground as if they were a tent stake and a lump then rising to tip the anvil from their head is not realistic and so it is funny.

 

To have a woman acting irrationally is the opposite of reality and so it is funny.

 

To have a man acting irrationally is realistic and so it is not funny.

 

That is my story and I am sticking to it. :)

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HEY now, Sans!!! Keep makin' these kinda derogatory and sexists comments like this about us men and hurtin' my feelin' like this, and I JUST might have to contact our Admin around these here parts and have him send TB's thread here off to "The Land of Gay Martys and Botched Plastic Surgery" TOO!!!

 

LOL

 

;)

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Well said Dargo. I don't have actual statistical data that list what gender was more daffy in these screwball comedies. My gut tell me a few more women but not by a wide margin.

 

As you noted often both the man and the women are daffy. Take the HepburnGrant movies; In Bringing Up Baby I would say both are daffy but just in different ways. Yea, Grant is a professor so we can assume he is smart but his lack of social skills is a clear sign of daffyness.

 

In Holiday, Hepburn's character is more on the ball than Grant's (again, Grant is a smart man when it comes to business but clueless in other areas of life).

 

Yes, often the women character acts like she knows nothing but in fact she really is leading the show and the man is really the clueless one (he only thinks he isn't!). We see this in many of the PowellLoy movies. While Loy?s character does some daffy things at the end of the day she has it together.

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Interesting comments, Dargo. I have a feeling that if someone else had played Colbert's role in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, it would not have been presented as the woman having much brains. Especially if it was Jean Harlow or Lucille Ball in the lead. But like you said, even with Colbert, she is still a bit wishy-washy and cannot seem to make up her mind about men and matters of love.

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I think the reason I like Roz Russell comedies so much is that even when the situation is far-fetched, like we see in HIS GIRL FRIDAY or MY SISTER EILEEN, she still manages to convey the woman as at least somewhat intelligent. Russell also manages to give her characters a legitimate sense of purpose with some sort of direction, despite the flaws and errors.

 

In most of these other farces, the woman is hopelessly ridiculous.

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A lot of times for me, it seems like both the male and female characters are "daffy" but in different ways.

 

In "Arsenic and Old Lace," the aunts are definitely daffy; however, it's their ignorance that is driving them daffy. Cary Grant's character, however, isn't really daffy in the beginning when he's marrying Priscilla Lane, but basically is driven daffy upon finding out what his aunts have been up to and trying to protect them from being prosecuted by the law.

 

In "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," I would argue that both Cary Grant and Myrna Loy are daffy. They're daffy out of ignorance though. They have no idea what is all involved in building a home and they're basically done in by all the crazy things that went wrong while the house was being built.

 

A lot of the screwball comedies feature relatively "straight" main characters and it's the supporting character actors that are daffy and drive the main characters crazy.

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Interesting comments. I think the aunts in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE provide a good example. Speaking of Josephine Hull who played one of the aunts, her sanity is very much called into question in HARVEY, when Harvey's psychological problems are transferred on to her. She gets all the blame for everything wrong in that family.

 

>A lot of the screwball comedies feature relatively "straight" main characters and it's the supporting character actors that are daffy and drive the main characters crazy.

 

Are you saying that the women are supporting characters in screwball comedies?

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>Are you saying that the women are supporting characters in screwball comedies?

 

No, I was saying that the main characters (usually the male and female leads) are oftentimes the straight men and they're surrounded with daffy supporting characters that they either react to (or are driven daffy by) them.

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Okay, speedracer. That makes sense.

 

Earlier when we discussed ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, we overlooked Priscilla Lane. Even when Cary Grant starts acting more bizarre, he still seems relatively sane compared to the aunts and to Lane who is very flighty in this picture.

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Some more:

 

The one with the daffy heroine and the inventor:

images7.jpg

 

The one with the daffy heroine and the billboard:

1jh.png

 

The one with the daffy heroine and the advertising executive:

1jm.jpg

 

The one with the daffy heroine and the cowboy:

1mm.jpg

 

The one with the daffy heroine and the soap:

1dd.png1dday.png

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