Screwball comedy film

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The screwball comedy is a genre of comedy which is unconventional, goes in different directions, and behaves in unexpected ways.[1]

Contents

History

The screwball comedy features a kind of female character rarely seen in the history of the Western theater; while the main male roles found in Western comedies are four, their most common main female comic roles are only two: the beautiful Columbina and the ugly old hag.[2] The third role of an autonomous woman who can 'hold her own', is an exception in Western theatre, found in Aristophanes' Women in Parliament.[2]

It has proven to be one of the most popular and enduring film genres. It first gained prominence in 1934 with It Happened One Night,[3] and, although many film scholars would agree that its classic period ended sometime in the early 1940s,[4] elements of the genre have persisted, or have been paid homage, in contemporary film.

The screwball comedy has close links with the theatrical genre of farce, and some comic plays are also described as screwball comedies. Many elements of the screwball genre can be traced back to such stage plays as Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Other genres with which screwball comedy is associated include slapstick, situation comedy, and romantic comedy.

Characteristics

While there is no authoritative list of the defining characteristics of the screwball comedy genre, films considered to be definitive of the genre usually feature farcical situations, a combination of slapstick with fast-paced repartee, and a plot involving courtship and marriage or remarriage. The film critic Andrew Sarris has defined the screwball comedy as "a sex comedy without the sex."[5]

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