November 2006, issue 19
"Don't you know that the greatest men in the world have told lies and let things be misunderstood if it was useful to them? Didn't you ever hear of a campaign promise?" --Gerry Jeffers [Claudette Colbert], The Palm Beach Story, 1942.
Rom-Com? What's a Rom-Com? Does Captain Kirk have one? James Bond? Can They Play mp3's?
I was reading that pocket-sized, ultra-hip LES-BKLYN 'zine The L the other day [their holiday movie preview], when I came across what I guess is an ultra-hip new shortenization of Romantic Comedy: the Rom-Com. Now, maybe this hyphenized shortcut first appeared in Variety, I don't know, but it seems a little forced to me. For instance, how do you pronounce it? "Romantic" has a long "o" and "comedy" has a short "o," so it doesn't rhyme, even if it seems like it wants to. "Rome-cahm?" "Rahm-cahm" is what they're after, I suppose, but that sounds more like a wireless conglomerate than a sophisticated-if-ever-so-slight-sweet-and-funny-boy-meets-girl story. Speaking of rom-coms, see this one, or this one, or this one, and you will understand why this made-for-text-messaging phrase is oh, so woefully inadequate.
Which brings me to one of my favorite Hollywood genres of all time: the Screwball Comedy [Scroo-Com? Uh, nope. Scroob-Com? Pass. Screwbomedy? Nuh-uh. Scromedy? Yuck].
What's a Screwball Comedy, you ask? Glad you asked, chum. They are fast, raucous, daffy, wild, sexy. Throw in, more or less, a kooky heiress, a feisty dame, a dumb but lovable lug, a fast-talking smoothie, a flawless, or flaw-ridden, con-game, a kick in the keyster, and you're off and running. Screwballs are full of smart and sexy dialogue, are directed at a breakneck pace by someone like Howard Hawks or Preston Sturges [the first great writer-director], and guy gets girl, or, more likely, vice-versa, in the end. But rather than listen to my inept description, take one home for Thanksgiving [we can all use a laugh on Turkey Day] and enjoy. A few cherce and by no means exhaustive recommendations from the glory days of zany madcap:
· It Happened One Night "Excuse me, lady, but that upon which you sit is mine."
· The Lady Eve "Let us be crooked, but never common."
· The Palm Beach Story "We should have met sooner. If I'd seen you around, we would have!"
· The Miracle of Morgan's Creek "Daughters. Phooey."
· Bringing Up Baby "Now it isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you, but - well, there haven't been any quiet moments."
· Ball of Fire "Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind; unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body."
· Nothing Sacred "For good, clean fun, there's nothing like a wake."
· My Man Godfrey "I wish I had a sense of humor, but I can never think of the right thing to say until everybody's gone home."
· The Awful Truth "You've come back and caught me in the truth, and there's nothing less logical than the truth."
· The Philadelphia Story "The time to make up your mind about people is never."
· His Girl Friday "Why, divorce doesn't mean anything nowadays, Hildy. Just a few words mumbled over you by a judge."
Jazz Icons DVD Series
We have a brand-new set of never-before released, complete concerts from European tours of some of the greatest Jazz artists of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Nine of the coolest of the cool Jazz musicians in the hottest performances: Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Thelonius Monk, Chet Baker, Buddy Rich, Quincy Jones, and Dizzy Gillespie. This is a wonderful addition to an already wondrous collection of Jazz on video in the BCLMC. Treat yourself to some of these tasty concerts right away, you dig?
Jack Palance, 1919 - 2006
He was a craggy and intimidating heavy who is also remembered for his feats of strength on the Oscar stage when he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1991. If you see nothing else with him, see his turn as the sadistic, steely-eyed hired gun in Shane. Other films in our collection include his first role, as a thug carrying bubonic plague, in Panic in the Streets, and a fine film noir turn as a Hollywood actor beset on all sides by misfortune in The Big Knife.
"I love him because he's the kind of guy who gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk, and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. I love him because he doesn't know how to kiss, the jerk!" --Sugarpuss O'Shea [Barbara Stanwyck] Ball of Fire, 1941.
In the Mix: a random shuffle of some movies we've played recently in our Now Playing program:
Look at Billy Shakespeare [who else?] and his comedies for the roots of Screwball Comedy. Slapstick, mistaken identity, love potions, cross-dressing, suggestive banter, long lost twins, and the wildest coincidences can all be found in Shakespeare's comedies. Try Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Comedy of Errors, and A Midsummer Night's Dream for starters.
And there a few later films and tv shows that aspire to the Screwball tradition and acquit themselves quite well, thanks: Some Like it Hot, The Sure Thing, Adams' Rib, Intolerable Cruelty, Clueless, Cheers.
Other sites we like:
The Media Center is located on the fifth floor of the Library Learning Center. Come up and see us some time.
This issue of BCLMC is brought to you all the way from the back row by Media Assistant and dumb but lovable lug Patrick "Hopsi" Jewell. Tell your friends.
BCLMC BROOKLYN CAMPUS LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER
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