Sunday, August 15, 2010

Romantic Comedies' Golden Age, When Wit Was Front Row Center

Romantic Comedies' Golden Age, When Wit Was Front Row Center

Ed here: Here's a long piece about the state of romantic comedies today. As somebody who generally prefers the screwball comedies of the Thirties and early Forties to today's films, I was all ready to disagree with Cannon but after reading his argument I have to agree with him. At the end of the piece he lists a number of contemporary romantic comedies that hold up very well.

Executive Editor

It's easy to say that no one is making romantic comedies like "Philadelphia Story" (1940) anymore, because it's true. But is that really the test? Maybe we're being too hard on contemporary filmmakers who, after all, reflect their times just as much as politicians and journalists do. I'm getting ahead of myself, however, so let's back up.

Earlier this week, in a column headlined the "Tragedy of Comedy," New York Times luminary Maureen Dowd treated her readers to an engaging back-and-forth with Sam Wasson, the author of a new bestseller about the making of the classic 1961 movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Their online lament about the state of the romantic comedy is entertaining from the first exchange.

Maureen Dowd: "How did we get from "Two for the Road" to "The Bounty Hunter" and "He's Just Not That Into You"?
Sam Wasson: "This is the question I ask myself every morning and keep asking all day, and annoy all my friends and lovers with . . . "

With that, Dowd and Wasson are off and running. They agree on the basics: namely, that when it comes to the genre of romantic comedy, Hollywood isn't showcasing writers such as Preston Sturges or directors like Ernst Lubitsch much anymore, not to mention Billy Wilder, who produced, directed, and wrote screenplays. It's also clear to Ms. Dowd and Mr. Wasson that no equal to Cary Grant walks among us today, and that the Hepburns -- Audrey and Katharine -- are a lost breed.

They'll get little argument with these assessments, or with their joint declaration that 1930s and 1940s represented the "golden age of American wit." But why is that so? This is worth another conversation. It just might be that Sturges and Lubitsch and their contemporaries had a more hospitable environment for drollery. If so, maybe -- just maybe -- today's screenwriters and movie-makers are to be commended for their effort.

for the rest go here:
Romantic Comedies' Golden Age, When Wit Was Front Row Center


Anonymous said...

Never understood the appeal of Breakfast at Tiffanys. George Peppard was a pretty charmless actor and Mickey Rooneys blantantly racist performance jusy kills it for me.
Some of the examples of modern romances that work also leaves me scratching my head. My Big Fat Greek Wedding?Annoying characters. Arthur? Liza Minneli romantically interesting to a straight man? She too creepy. And never much cared for Knocked Up(could never buy the relationship) and Juno I hated.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read the Dowd article and suffered the same regrets. What was the last good romantic comedy? BOT was nothing like the book and poorly cast. Only Audrey and the song were good.
At some point, even Woody forgot how to make good romantic comedies. I'd be hard pressed to name one in the last decade. Or two.

Anonymous said...

There was a blip in the early 80s of good screwballs, mostly made on the cheap by Disney's Touchstone division. "Splash" "Down and out in Beverly Hills" and "Ruthless People." They weren't very romantic but they did capture that same sense of comedic energy.

Other than that I can only name the BBCs "Coupling" as decent screwball or romantic comedy.

Dan Luft

Anders E said...

Maybe the witty repartee went to television instead? The dialogue in for instance THE GILMORE GIRLS often felt like a homage to old screwball comedies.

That list of modern romances that work is not very good. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY really is good, but Judd Apatow is likely the most overrated person in movies. I'd list the following:

Roxanne (1987)
Say Anything (1989)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Clueless (1995)
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

And if one is not too picky about what constitutes a romantic comedy, there is also:

Raising Arizona (1987)
Hairspray (1988)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
Legally Blonde (2001)

Todd Mason said...

recent romantic comedies I've enjoyed:
and it might be stretching it a bit, but one could argue that ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND is among other things a romcom as well as a satire of romcoms...