TCMFF Home Edition Plus Screwball Comedies
Cinema Junkie / April 11, 2020
Cinema Junkie offers up some quarantine viewing options that provide escapism. First up, TCM Classic Film Festival had to cancel its Hollywood event but has moved it to its TCM cable channel for a Home Edition that anyone can enjoy while sheltering at home. Charles Tabesh, senior vice president in charge of programming at Turner Classic Movies, previews the festival. The Nora Fiore, author of the Nitrate Diva blog, highlights the best screwball comedies to take your mind off the coronavirus pandemic. She suggests some well-known classics as well as under-appreciated gems. Plus enjoy a rendition of "The Good Ship Lollipop" that will delight and surprise you.
Speaker 1: 00:00:01 And in the words of that hymn auto bod Sammy with Jason OD Rez as it was about to be led to the [inaudible] team. Mate, don't you know everyone wants the lamb.
Speaker 2: 00:00:14 That's right. Today we're going to focus on laughter and escape as cinema junkie looks to the TCM classic film festival home edition and speaks with the nitrate diva Nora Fiori about the best screwball comedies to get you through the coronavirus pandemic with as much laughter as possible.
Speaker 3: 00:00:44 [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 00:00:45 Beth Mondo and welcome to another edition of listener supported KPBS cinema junkie podcast. Many of us have been sheltering at home or self isolating for almost a month now and while gamers might be thriving under these conditions, film goers tend to love watching movies with a bunch of strangers in the dark at a cinema. For us. Escape from the realities of life usually involves going out to a movie and enjoying the comfort of a bunch of other people laughing or crying with us as we watch stories unfold on the big screen. One of the best escapes is the annual TCM classic film festival in Hollywood where classic film lovers can congregate with other likeminded souls, but with gatherings of any kind no longer allowed. The festival has had to move its film presentations to its cable channel. While this is sad news to those of us who look forward to an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, it's good news for all of those who have never had a chance to attend the festival.
Speaker 2: 00:01:45 From April 16th to 19th TCM will be holding an online film festival complete with host introductions, some called from past TCM classic film festivals as well as celebrity interviews. I need to take the first of two short breaks and then I'll be back with a preview of the TCM classic film festival home edition with Charles Tabish, senior vice president in charge of programming at Turner classic movies and a programmer at the festival. And then in part two of today's podcast, I speak with Nora Fiori, author of the nitrate diva blog about the best screwball comedies to watch while in quarantine.
Speaker 4: 00:02:30 Charles, the TCM film festival was scheduled for April and you guys had to make a very tough decision while you're waiting to find out what kind of mandates the government was going to make. So what was that process like of trying to figure out what to do with the festival? Things were sort of happening pretty quickly and even before we decided to cancel it, there was a sense that, you know, this might not happen. Um, it was
Speaker 5: 00:03:00 getting worse and worse and I think it really felt to me, I think even, you know, a week or so before we ended up canceling it, but that's probably where it was headed. And I think other people in our world felt that too. But we had some time and we wanted to take that time just to see how things would play out. There was a week when a lot of the people from Atlanta were, were in LA and we were meeting and talking about what to do. And I think it just came to a point where we decided we needed to cancel it and we knew that was the right decision. I mean obviously now that where things are, it's not even close, close call at all. I think at the time it wasn't nearly as bad as that as it is now, but you can see where it was headed and the idea of putting a lot of people, especially older people and crowded movie theaters or any, getting them on airplanes to come and join us just didn't seem like a responsible thing to do. So it was pretty unanimous at the time, you know, everybody in our art group and on our team really at that time thought it was the right decision to, to cancel it. We knew it would disappoint people, but uh, I, I don't think it was a surprise to anyone and I think it was literally the worst thing to do.
Speaker 6: 00:04:07 Now, unlike a lot of film festivals, which exists solely in a real venue with a physical space, you guys did have an option that a lot of festivals didn't have because you have the TCM channel. So how fast was that decision to kind of try and create something that was in the virtual realm?
Speaker 5: 00:04:26 It was pretty fast. I, I can't remember exactly when it came up with the first thing a couple of people had said to me, Hey, why don't you do that? Instead of just doing the film festival this year, you know, in LA and Hollywood, why don't you do it on the channel? And the first thing I thought of was, well, you're, there are a lot of, there are some significant differences. One, the channel is still one movie at a time. The film festivals, five or six movies at a time, um, to the rights to the movies are very different. You can't, the rights to what you have, the rights to play live. It's different than what you have to play on, on television. And part of the festival experiences, the people doing the introductions and the pieces that are produced in the tributes and all that sort of stuff.
Speaker 5: 00:05:11 So the first part of it was like, that's a great idea. I don't know how we're, how we can do that. And then talking about it and thinking about it, it was determined, you know, Hey, we'll instead of, instead of just trying to take this year's dome festival and transpose it onto television, which isn't really practical for the reasons I just mentioned, why don't we take all the stuff that we've done over the last 10 years, put a lot of those movies on that have the rights to that are, that were big important movies that played at the festival or that have they know, premiere of a new restoration or had a key guest or had some meaning meaningful, um, place in, in the history of our 10 years surrounded with a lot of the things that we've created over those years in terms of a, we've filmed interviews that we've tanked with big stars or directors, um, tribute pieces that have, were produced and then make it feel like something that is capturing the flavor of the tone of the festival in a way that, that we can only do by kind of taking from what we've done in the past.
Speaker 5: 00:06:14 And so, so then it, it started to come together and then, and then putting that together was, uh, you know, I wouldn't say it was easy, but it, it fell into place. Decided to start with the, the very, some, some of the programming from the very first film festival that we did
Speaker 7: 00:06:31 back in 2010 started kicking off with the first movie that was premiered there. I watched the restoration of the star is born when something like this happens to you, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I didn't keep hoping it would happen. All the speeches that you've made up in your bedroom or in the bathtub go out of your mind completely and you find that out of all the words in the world, just to stick in your mind. Thank you.
Speaker 5: 00:07:04 And then follow that up with metropolis where we [inaudible] how'd the U S premiere of the new restoration with the footage that was discovered in Argentina and in an interview that we did with Louise Reiner. Um, so you know, some of the key things from that first year and we wanted to end it with some of the things that were planned for this year. Some of the people that were paying tribute to. So Thursday night is sort of the first year. Sunday night is sort of devoted to this year and some of the programming that was planned. And then everything in between is just kind of trying to get that mix of, but what we've done historically, um, the right mix of big blockbuster movies but also discoveries and interesting nuggets that people might have never seen or like I said, interviews with, with stars or uh, you know, mix of genres and an era's and, and try to give people a sense of what the programming is that you get when you go live and get an idea of what it would be like so they could see it on television and hopefully, hopefully we'll accomplish that. I know a lot of people behind the scenes are working really hard to put together at the last minute pieces that they've shot over the years. And I'm getting, we're getting footage that, you know, is, is rare that we can plug into, you know, in between some of the films so that it's not just a bunch of movies that it's a bunch of movies with a lot of context and texture.
Speaker 6: 00:08:24 And for this online or home version of the festival, it's essentially 24 hours a day for those days. Correct?
Speaker 5: 00:08:30 That's right. Yeah. 24 hours. Exactly. So, and it starts in, typically the festival starts on Thursday night and this does, and then it ends Sunday night as, as this does of course, we don't go from, you know, all night during the film festival, we're off from like two to 6:00 AM or two to 9:00 AM I guess. But here we're here. We do go all night. Okay.
Speaker 6: 00:08:50 Now TCM has created this kind of social media community where there's a of people who do Twitter parties, watched your films on TCM, how might that help kind of make this online festival a little more engaging and, and capture some of that flavor of
Speaker 5: 00:09:07 the real festival? Yeah. Well that's a, that's a great point because one of the key things about this film festival is it gets people together. It's people from all over the country. They come together and share their love of the movies and talk about it with each other. It's so great that now we can do that virtually. We can do it through social media and so I think our hope is that a lot of that that will happen online on various social media platforms where people will, will share and talk about the movies that they like or the stars or the directors that they like and and kind of engage with each other virtually as opposed to live, but still in a meaningful way. Yeah.
Speaker 6: 00:09:46 Now in terms of the films you look to to program for this, it seems like there's two ways you can go in terms of, you know, people are being quarantine, we're dealing with this Corona virus pandemic. You could go with films that kind of tap into the fears and anxieties that that creates or you can offer like escapism. Are you doing a little of both?
Speaker 5: 00:10:05 I would say a little of both. And, and that was, it's sort of in the back of my mind. Well, putting it together, both of those things. And at the same time the priority was still just trying to capture a variety of, of great films and, and, and meaningful movies that played. So for example, we are playing the seventh seal on a Friday morning, which a plagues, you know, movie. But that's, that's not throughout in any, in any sense. And, and it was very conscious to put in feel good movies like seeing the rain and Casablanca,
Speaker 3: 00:10:37 you must remember the QC is still a key is just a [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 00:10:50 comforting that we know and love
Speaker 3: 00:10:52 fundamental things up time goes. Uh,
Speaker 5: 00:11:00 I wanted to make sure we, we play obscurities like Vitaphone shorts that we played at the film festival a few years ago or pre-code movies that were the people have gone to and loved and, and we want it to be a place, a weekend where people not just sort of fall into the comfortable films, but also discover maybe things that they hadn't seen before. Like we'd like, like we hope for it, the at the life film festival. So it was really mainly about variety and variety and all sorts of ways as far as genres, big blockbusters versus obscure titles, that sort of thing mixed in with a lot of the, like I said, the interviews and the, and the, the pieces that we've produced over the years that sort of have been included in the film festival
Speaker 6: 00:11:46 now film often offers an escape for people. And I was just doing a podcast about screwball comedies, the early thirties, you know, being an escape for people going through the great depression. But you know, at that point in time people actually could congregate in a theater and have that community sense of other people laughing right next to them. How does kind of like, what film offer changes when kind of the whole way we're used to seeing films is,
Speaker 5: 00:12:17 is her different? No, you're right. And I, it's an, it's an important question. Um, and look, the truth is, it is a different experience seeing a film live with an audience and feeding off of that energy of everybody there. And I don't want to pretend like you're going to get that same experience no matter what on television or through TCM. I mean it's, it's different but, but when you have to be home or you want to be home, it's a great yeah place I think to go and enjoy a lot of these films. And as we were sort of discussing a minute ago with social media, you're able to connect with people and even though it's not the same as why we're talking to them face to face, it's, it, there is a way that you do it in engage, I think that is then is special and, and um, and is now part of the world we live in. I'm thankful for that. I think a lot of film fans are thankful for that. So it's not the exact same, it's something different, but it's still, it's still good and it still has a lot of the same qualities that you might get. Um, even if it is a little bit different or a lot different.
Speaker 6: 00:13:22 And are there any parts of the program or any films in particular that you'd like to highlight for people?
Speaker 5: 00:13:27 That's a good question because I, I, there are a lot, there's a lot that I really, I had fun kind of putting together or Reno remembering like metropolis when we, you know, the, the premiere at the film, the first film festival is such a special experience or when we premiered a hard day's night and you hear the first note of the, of the song when the movie starts in the audiences. Just so you know, enthralled from the very beginning.
Speaker 3: 00:14:13 [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 00:14:14 sure. A couple of examples that jump to mind. Pre codes. Like I said, I think the movies that for the live audience that sort of people I heard the most about were the three codes that we played. So red had woman is such a great, great film that uh, played in the film festival a few years ago. This year we were planning to play for the first time at the film festival, baby face with the, with the edited footage put back in. So movies like that I think are going to be maybe discoveries. Oh, the Vitaphone shorts, like I mentioned before. I mean they're fun and entertaining and people rarely see them. And I'm super excited about that. Oh, one of the things in prime time on, on Friday night, Harold, Harold and Lillian, a Hollywood love story is a, it's a documentary that I think is, that's a, just a feel good on engaging such a well made a film by Daniel rein, which, uh, I'm hopeful that a lot of people will sort of stumble upon to that and fall in love with it and the people in it.
Speaker 5: 00:15:08 But then beyond that, you know, I mean, again, North by Northwest and [inaudible] Casablanca and some like it hot and those sort of comfort films that a lot of us know and love [inaudible] you can watch it over and over again. And, and I, and I love all of those. And so to me, uh, it's great to have to have those that you can, you don't have to, the discovery is great and important and he, and it's throughout the weekend, but there are also some times to just, okay, I'm comfortable and relaxed. I know the story. I just want to settle in and enjoy it. I think there's plenty of that too.
Speaker 6: 00:15:42 And TCM always has hosts for films or most of your films and introductions and things like that. Is that, um, are those introductions now going to be tailored to that sense of feeling like you're part of a festival?
Speaker 5: 00:15:54 Yes. So Ben Mankiewicz will be doing most of the introductions throughout the weekend and, and talking about, uh, his, his introductions will, will provide context around how these and when these films played at the film festival. So he will talk about, Oh yes, we played North by Northwest and my friend Eva Marie Saint was there and she was with her with, you know, the late Martin Landau when they talked about, you know, so he'll provide some of that context in his intros. And that's very important. And like you said, we always do that. And then in between we'll also have like NSF pieces that we've produced over the years on opening night. The star is born. We'll have some of the footage from the premiere of the stars born in 1954. You know, Judy Carlin coming up to the Chinese theater and that sort of stuff there we'll have tribute pieces, um, that have been made for some of our guests over the years. So it'll be a combination of, of intro is provided by Ben Mankiewicz as well as [inaudible] pieces that have been produced in, in, um, in special, um, just special filler programming that gives you kind of a, you know, a deeper, a deeper connection to the movies and, and to the festival itself.
Speaker 6: 00:17:07 Well, it feels like in some ways this online festival is going to be a bit of a history of the festival as well.
Speaker 5: 00:17:13 Good point. That's like, yeah, maybe I guess it, I guess it is. Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 6: 00:17:18 Uh, is there anything else you want to add about this home version of the festival that people can access?
Speaker 5: 00:17:22 No, no. I just hope that, I hope everyone enjoys it. I hope you enjoy it. Beth. I'm so glad you're, you come every year and uh, I'm sorry I didn't get to see you live, but it's nice to, nice to see you on my, on my phone. So, um, I hope you, I hope you enjoy the weekend.
Speaker 6: 00:17:35 All right, well I want to thank you very much and I'm so glad that the festival is existing in some shape or form this year. It would have been really tragic to not have it at all.
Speaker 5: 00:17:44 Yeah, thank you. Yes, I'm really glad.
Speaker 3: 00:17:49 [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 00:17:49 was Charles Tabish, senior vice president in charge of programming at Turner classic movies, the TCM classic film festival home edition runs on TCM April 16th through 19th. Now for my last quick break and then I'll be back my interview with the nitrate diva about the most sparkling screwball comedies to take your mind off of your Corona virus anxieties. She highlights some well known classics as well as some underappreciated gems. So break out the bubbly and I'll be right back with my interview with Nora Fiori.
Speaker 8: 00:18:29 Nora, we met through TCM because we both have a love of old movies and classic films. Give us a little background on yourself and kind of how you came to love older movies cause you're not old enough to have been seeing these when they first came out.
Speaker 4: 00:18:45 No, I'm, I'm a millennial. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Vermont and these films really spoke to me from a very young age. My gateway to classic cinema was classic horror, but that quickly expanded to classic comedy through arsenic and old lace, which is, you know, this wonderful horror comedy hybrid. And I just got bitten by the bug. I loved the black and white. I love that it showed a world that I had not lived through. These are just simply some of the best films ever made. You know. So the, the greatest directors that ever lived the greatest screenwriters, you know, actors we're still talking about, still influenced by, I mean name a director working today who has not been heavily influenced by these films. Um, so they, they just really spoke to me with their, with their excellence, with their wit, with their sinister aspects. I'm a huge film more and horror fan still. Uh, so I, I just, they've been a very big
Speaker 8: 00:19:41 part of my life now that we're in this quarantine lockdown situation, a lot of people are turning to movies for escape. So for today we're going to choose to escape whatever anxieties and stress we may have and look to the world of screwball comedy, which you have a real love for. How do you define what makes a screwball comedy?
Speaker 4: 00:20:06 For me it's more about a sensibility that it's these wacky situations that people are thrown in that a lot of times it's about reversing the social order where you know, somebody who would usually be on top of society is in a position where they're more vulnerable and is then they're dependent on the working man to save them. Or it's this battle of the sexes where all the gender tensions and roles in society are being subverted. So they're, they're generally a very anarchic type of comedy. They're comedies that are really in revolt against the social order. It's rebellion, but it's rebellion in this breezy, flirtatious, extremely a sexy way that that makes it palatable. I mean, it's, it's worth noting that these films were made under under some pretty strict censorship, you know, in the form of the production code. They, there were a lot of limitations of what you could show in ways you could, uh, be irreverent. You know, you had to stay within certain moral confines. But writers, directors, actors, everybody had to come up with all these creative and unusual ways to evoke that revolt and that sexual chemistry without crossing lines of proprieties. So I feel like those films are kind of the sense of breaking through barriers and all of these creative and zany ways of this kind of subtle revolt, revolt that is expressed in an acute breezy manner.
Speaker 8: 00:21:25 Now, one thing that audiences today may have a little bit in common with the audiences in the 1930s was films were very much an escape during the depression, uh, during the depression. However, people could actually physically go to a theater to seek that escape. So, um, do you see that connection in terms of audiences maybe being able to find a similar sort of escape route through these films as people like in the 1930s did? Oh, absolutely.
Speaker 4: 00:21:54 Loosely. I think these are great escapist films. I think what makes them really great escapism is that they're wacky romantic fantasies that are still allowing us to process some of the underlying tensions in society. So they're their escape entertainment. I mean the, the spectacular costumes, the art direction, you know, the fact that these were shot in, in studios, so they have this intensely stylized look. And I know that's off putting for some people when they watch classic films. You know, nowadays everything has gone much more towards a sense of naturalism or perceived naturalism. So it can be a little off putting to see these films that are so intensely stylized. But I love that. It's like a dream world. It's like a fantasy world that really has this, this look that is so intensely designed in many case. So I feel like you just have to think of these as fantasies as, as a dreamworld. Um, and yet a dream world that is still metabolizing and, and digesting, you know, the crux of, of issues that are still with us. Things like, you know, class 10 tensions in gender relations and stuff.
Speaker 8: 00:22:52 Well that seems to be a perfect point to start with. The first film on your list, which is Frank Capra's, it happened one night from 1934 and this sense, this was from Columbia, which was considered poverty row. So it's a little different than some of the other films that you have on your list because the studio was not quite as glamorous as MGM, but this sense of having kind of the escapism but also that touch of realism is really clear in Capra's film.
Speaker 4: 00:23:24 Yes, absolutely. I think it's one of the most likable films ever made. I mean, there's hardly a day of the week when I couldn't watch this film and have my spirits lifted by it. But as you say, in contrast to some of the other films I'd like to talk about, this one has a little bit more of an aura of, uh, of looking into the real world because it is about an intensely sheltered young woman who decides that gonna play, that she's, she wants to marry a Playboy in her rich millionaire father says, no, you can't do that. So she, she escapes. But as soon as she gets out in the real world, she realizes that she doesn't have the skills to cope with that. And lucky for her out of work reporter a Clark Gable comes along and thanks, I'm going to get her story because by this point she's a sensation.
Speaker 4: 00:24:03 You know, she's the escape runaway Erez and in trying to get her story and keep her away from the cops and her father's hired goons, you know, they start to fall for each other and it has, you know, they have to become very resourceful to stay one step ahead of the people who are, are, are searching for them. And it's fun to watch all the identity play that takes place as they have to do that. You know, the famous scene that they have to share a hotel room for the night, which you know, was pretty racy for 1934, you know, good girl wasn't supposed to share a hotel room with some guy who just met in 1934. So what they do is they string up blanket in the middle of the room and they call it the walls of Jericho because nothing's going to bring that down. That's, that's there concession to propriety. Um, and you know, the famous scene where Clark Gable to keep her on her side of the room starts taking his clothes off.
Speaker 9: 00:24:51 Perhaps you're interested in how it man undresses it was a funny thing about that. Quite a study in psychology. No two men doing like, no, I want to do a man who kept his hat on until he was completely undressed. Yeah. Now he made a picture years later his secret came out. People are to pay. No, I have a method on my own. If you'll notice the Coke came first and the tie and the shirt. Now according to the hotel after that, the panel should be next. Here's where I'm different. I go for the shoes next first, the right and the left after that it's every man for himself
Speaker 4: 00:25:36 and she flees back to the other side. But quickly, you know to, to fool the cops who come looking for them, they, they pretend to be a, a plumber's daughter and her angry husband and you know, quickly you can see this era's who has lived this airless boring existence is really starting to enjoy this freewheeling life that she's gotten herself into by escaping. You know, some of the most beautiful scenes are the ones that take place outdoors. I love the scene where they cross the river and he just scoops her right up. And then there's this dreamy sequence where they're, they're finding a bed among hay bales and the moon shining on them. It just has this wonderful air of ordinary romanticism of the way in which for her everyday life becomes a Wonderland. It's this whole side of human existence that she has not discovered. And she, we get to see it almost through her eyes were things that ordinary Depression-era audiences would have been annoyed by. We know this would have been the, the daily, the mundane annoyance of their life. She sees as this world of freedom for her. So I think that's an interesting inversion in the film. Now Frank Capra is director I love,
Speaker 8: 00:26:43 but he has been, he's labeled himself as having Capricorn and a lot of people will look to something like it's a wonderful life, which he did later in his career as maybe being too corny or too sentimental. But what is it about him that you find really attractive and appealing, especially in this film?
Speaker 4: 00:27:04 Well, I think first of all, you know, when we talk about Frank Capra, we do tend to think of the films that he made that are the most well known, that are the greatest hits cause. But he made so many great films. I mean, you know, the films he made with this, you know, with Stanwyck likely ladies of leisure and the bitter tea of general yen. I mean there's a lot of darkness to those films. It's a wonderful life is an incredibly dark film in spots. I mean it's looking about what would happen if one good man didn't make this one feeble step towards making humanity better. And I feel like it happens, happened one night also has this darkness to it because you do wonder what would have happened to this girl had you know, had Clark Gable not come along, what would happen Clark Gable, she hadn't come along that they would have become very fixed, bitter people potentially and not have developed their, their higher nature's possibly a, you know, you do get the sense that for there are lots of good people in this film who who you can see are just fallen on tough times is a really moving sequence where they're in the bus and everybody's singing along and everybody's happy and then suddenly this woman just faints from hunger and you know, just brings you right back to the, to the idea that no matter how much joy we can find in these ordinary lives, there are really people who are suffering here.
Speaker 4: 00:28:12 And I think that that's a lot of what this film was about is a wake up call for the Erez character played by [inaudible] cold bears. She has to feel, she has to expand her empathy for others. And you know, wasn't it Roger Ebert who said that, you know, films are a machine for creating empathy and this is, this film is kind of showing that even within the film. And I think it's great in that regard and that acknowledges the pain of the depression while still giving you this beauty and this romance to [inaudible] put the wind in your sails.
Speaker 8: 00:28:41 As much as I hate to move on from it happened one night cause it's one of my favorites too. And the performances are great. Everything about it is just wonderful. But another film, which is one of my top films because it features a couple of actors I adore, is my man Godfrey, which is from 1936 and this stars the absolutely effervescent Carole Lombard and William Powell playing a homeless man, which usually we think of him as this very area, erudite, you know, Nick and Nora Charles. And, uh, mr [inaudible]. Yes. Yes. And so he's a homeless person in this. What about this film? Um, do you find particularly memorable?
Speaker 4: 00:29:20 Well, I, when I do think about it, I do always think about the sequence where Carole Lombard finds him at the city dump. Like you said, if only you could find William Powell at the city dump, you do not expect to see William pal just hanging around. But I think that that's such a key part of the movies commentary is that somebody from the upper class, you middle-class, you know, might look at, you know, somebody's fallen on hard and think that it's their fault or just discount them when you can see it's William pal. You know, it's, it's a film that really reminds you to always understand that you are where you are because you're, because of your luck in many cases, that the vagaries of fortune can take us all in strange directions. And I love that from the first she listens to him, you know her sister comes and they will, the, the setup is that Carole Lombard and her sister Gail Patrick are both these Daffy socialites who are doing a scavenger hunt. They're looking for things to bring to the club and to show off so that they can win a prize. And one of the things they have to get as a forgotten man, which you know, in depression era terms would have meant a man who it probably was a world war one veteran who had lost his job, who had fallen on hard times and was living as a bum.
Speaker 7: 00:30:26 Do you mind telling me just what a scavenger hunt is? Well, a scavenger hunt is exactly like a treasure hunt, except in a treasure hunt. You try to find something you want in a scavenger hunt. You try to find something that nobody wants, like a forgotten man. That's right. And the one that wins gets a prize on you. There really isn't a prize. It's just the honor of winning because all the money goes to charity. That is if there's any money left over, but then there never is. There's the whole amount her up beautifully. You know, I decided I don't want to play any more games with human beings. Adopt Jake. It's kind of sorted when you think of it. I mean when you think it over and I don't know, I haven't thought it over. He had, it was like change the subject, but he was telling me why you live in a place like this and there's so many other nice places you really want to know. I'm very curious because my real estate agent felt that the altitude would be very good for my asthma. Oh my uncle has asthma. No. Wow. Oh there is. I went to them. Well I suppose I should be going. Well she'll lie.
Speaker 7: 00:31:26 I want to see the one, the game. I suppose it was Carnegie again. She probably got another forgotten man by now. You want me, if you've talked to me along with you that you win the game. Is that the idea? Well, I might if I got that first. But after seeing what you did to cornea, I'm not saying anything, but you'd win if you got back first with me. They all say nice together, but I don't like to ask.
Speaker 4: 00:31:45 Uh, her sister just wants to kind of take him as a prize, but she really wants to listen to him. She wants to talk to him and she's a little intimidated by him, but he can sense that there's something in her that, that there's some openness there. Um, and of course she does. She loves him. She likes him so much. She's so charmed by his intelligence. And by the way, when he goes to the nightclub, he takes everybody on and calls them on their BS for hosting this ritzy party while people are starving. And he says, I have to go back to some really important people. That is to say back to his community of bums down to the [inaudible], the dump. And she, I love that. She loves that. You know, I love that she, she likes that he gives her the truth sort of like in, it happened one night, you know, this is a Daffy Erez character would become a fixture of these screwball comedies and in both cases, as with them, Ellie Andrews and it happened one night, Carol Lombard's character and my man Godfrey, she is open to hearing other, so she hires him to be her Butler and pal and Lombard.
Speaker 4: 00:32:43 They had been married and divorced by the time they made this film, but fortunately they stayed on good terms. William pal even recommended her for the role. He just thought she'd be perfect and I think that they're friendly chemistry makes this really a very sweet film to watch. I love Gilpatrick as the wicked writ sister who is just absolutely awful. She's just vial in the way she gets her knives out for Godfrey and tries to frame him and how, but one of the things I love about this film is that it is about fine again, felt like, like it happened one night. It's a film about finding your better self because even though the wicked Gail Patrick comes around at the end, so it's a, you know, it's a film about personal growth. Um, and it's interesting because on the one hand, while it's still doing all this social commentary on the idle rich, it's still does have this glamour that is very attractive. Carole Lombard in these to die for Travis Banton gowns and the fancy house. It has one of the absolute best screwball CAS ever. I mean, you know, I'm talking about pow and Lombard and Gail Patrick, and that would be enough for any other film. But in this case, you've also got Eugene pellet as the froggy voice, patriarch of a family who's actually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Right.
Speaker 7: 00:33:55 I've just been going over last month's bills and I find that you people have come to me with the treasury department. Oh, don't start that again. I don't mind even the government six different of what I made, but I can't do it when my family's spend 50%
Speaker 4: 00:34:08 you've got Alice Brady as the simpering mother who when she's drank too much, she sees Pixies everywhere and God has to come up and help her. You've got Jean Dixon. I feel like Jean Dixon may be, you know the real scene stealer in this film as the maid who kind of coaches Godfrey on how to handle this family. I wish Jean Dixon, it'd be more complete. He's just great as the wise cracking made. Molly, who has everybody's number, who is the seasoned campaigner as she says,
Speaker 7: 00:34:33 I know you're the new busser. How did you know when every day at this hour you're dropping in and out all the time. That'll get fired. Some quit. Is the family that exactly know that, that nothing. May I be Frank? Is that your name? My name is Godfrey [inaudible]. You're a quite from enthusiasm. Don't you worry about me? I'm a season campaigners. Maybe we'd be friends who I'm friends with all the butlers. Sit down,
Speaker 4: 00:35:09 you know? Then there's Misha hour as the hanger on in the family who's this Russian musician that the mother has taken under her wing as a protege and he's always playing the same roomy Russian song over and over again. I mean it's just, there is, there is more Dafina [inaudible] per minute in this film than maybe in any other films. So well, you know, I make it sound like it's this serious social commentary and that's there, but the paradox of it is that's all there while this crazy stuff is happening at the same time, that's really what screwball comedy did so well.
Speaker 8: 00:35:41 Well in Eugene pallet and probably also Edward Arnold in other films are always these patriarchs who seem so long suffering, putting up with all the zaniness of their household and all they want to do is like sit, have a cup of coffee and read their newspaper in the morning
Speaker 4: 00:35:56 and Walter Connolly, he's the other one who just is like, Oh please, no more grief. Leave me alone. Obviously you get this. And I think that that's kind of intentional for depression era audiences is part of the message is you don't really want to be a millionaire. It's not really that much fun to be a millionaire. They've got ulcers and they're kind of boring and they've got these families that are driving them crazy. So on the one hand, while Godfrey's living this tough life at the dump, on the other hand, he doesn't really end the Eugene fell out who has his hands full with his nutty family or Walter Connolly or Edward Arnold because they have their, their crazy lives that honestly are not that enviable. Even though they, they clearly are in the chips in a time when very few people were,
Speaker 8: 00:36:34 well, most people immediately think of people like Claudette Colbert and Carole Lombard as these kind of screwball comedy heroines. We're probably less likely to think of Betty Davis and Olivia de Havilland kind of in that mold. But you have a film called it's love I'm after, which has, um, Leslie Howard in it too from 1937. Tell us a little bit about this film.
Speaker 4: 00:36:54 Well, I think it's one of the great battle of the sexes. Comedies. Like you say, the unconventional cast is one of the jewels of this film that's just so exciting to see these three great dramatic actors show off their comedic chops. Uh, you've got Betty Davis and Leslie Howard, who of course were in the petrified forest and of human bondage together as these two great stage actors who are in a relationship that is electric with love, hate vibes of the film, opens with this terrific sequence of them playing the last scene of Romeo and Juliet. You know, one of the great tear jerking scenes in Shakespeare, but as they're playing it on a stage, they're trying to torment each other and upstage each other. So you have this incredible juxtaposition of the tragedy and the comedy and you know, you'd just very quickly get a sense of these people who are in this unhealthy relationship that they are, are locked in a perpetual war of love, which is actually a nice nod to Shakespeare, which is, you know, Shakespeare kind of pioneered the whole couple that hates each other but really loves each other.
Speaker 4: 00:37:57 With Beatrice and Benedick and much ado about nothing, you know, the whole Mary war idea. And that's really carried out very nicely here. But the standout for me is Olivia to have one who was very young here. And you know, when you think of Olivia de Havilland, you tend to think of these, these performances that are so sensitive and so subtle. You think of Melanie or you think of the, you know, the snake pit or you know, yeah. Just so many roles. She, she brought such life to me and really good as playing these, these good girls and bring a lot of nuanced reports as the Erez. Um, but here she's just a wild fan girl. She is so Daffy and adorable. She is squealing and shrieking with love for her stage idle Leslie Howard to the point where she is scaring him. Loving anyone. Woman.
Speaker 8: 00:38:42 Yeah.
Speaker 4: 00:38:46 It's fun to see Leslie Howard play more or less who I think he was in real life. He was known to be a ladies man, which is funny, you know, you play these dreamy British gentlemen in film, but in life he was, he was kind of a devil and it's fun to watch him play slide those stage idle with a roving eye who is even so a little freaked out by how into him Olivia to have Lynn is, she just comes right up to him backstage and says, you are my deal. Just they have a wonderful chemistry in this where everything he does to try to get her off his case because Betty Davis is, you know, jealous heartbeat, uh, in the best possible sense. It doesn't work. Everything he tries backfires, you know, he tries to be rude. She loves it. He tries to tell her that she's on attractive.
Speaker 4: 00:39:28 She's says, maybe I am, you know, he tries to put the moves on her and she puts the moves on him. So again, you get this subversive gender relations where all the typical scenarios that he would try to, to keep her at arms length. Uh, she actually gets the upper hand on him. Olivia, to have Lynn's character. Does that. The script is just breathtakingly witty. It was, I looked up who did, it was Casey Robinson who worked on a bunch of Betty Davis vehicles, particularly dramatic. Um, but you know, this film is so infused with wit, the wisecracks come so fast, you know, it's just nonstop banter and jabs I've needed, I've watched it a couple times and I still feel like every time I watch it, there is a line that I haven't heard before that I'm like, wow, that's a really great line. Um, another standout in this is Eric Blore, who is another one of the rotating screwball comedy character actors in this case, he's Leslie Howard's man servant who is, who has kept the ledger of all of Leslie Howard's conquests.
Speaker 4: 00:40:20 And at one point he says, digs Leslie Howard says, digs. Do we know a girl called Marcia West? And he says, not unless you've been cheating on me, sir, is this great moment between them so that, you know, Eric Flores, Leslie Howard's wing man is great. Betty Davis gets to do, you know, even though she's playing a comedic role, which you tend to think of her as more of a dramatic actress, she does still get to put her typical Betty Davis, uh, you know, slant on things. At one point she says, when Leslie Howard is threatening to do damage to himself, out of love her, she says, good, let's have blood and destruction. So you know, she still gets to rip into some Betty Davis badass material on this. It's really, I think a, a hidden gem in a film that I am loudly talking about. Every chance I get on Twitter, I hope more people will see it.
Speaker 8: 00:41:05 Well, since you brought up script, this is a good way to segue into your next film, which is easy living from 1937, which has a script by Preston Sturges who also went on to direct or also did a direct a number of films. But Sturges always had some of the best dialogue and the craziest characters. And I do think that script writing is one of the things that really highlights these screwball. Like they are so
Speaker 4: 00:41:35 rapid in the dialogue and just everything moves so fast and they're just amazing in that respect. Yes, they really are definitely written. And you know, this is why when people say to me, why do you like old movies? And I say, because they're good. You know, they're just, some of the greatest screenwriters of all time were working on these films. I mean, not only are they staggeringly Swift and economical and their storytelling, you know, I, I think probably all the movies we're discussing today are around 90 minutes long or shorter. Uh, they're, you know, they, they really managed to cram a lot of these zigzagging plots into a very short amount of time. And, and on top of that, you know, icing on the cake is all these wonderful banter and dialogue that they have. Easy living is an interesting example of the screenwriter being kind of unhappy with what the director did with it.
Speaker 4: 00:42:23 I know Preston Sturges was not a fan of Mitchell Alizen and even said that lies in having control over a Sturgis material was one of the reasons why Sturges decided that he, he wanted to direct himself. But I think that's kind of unfair and I think Mitchell lies in is kind of a maligned director because the more I see of his films, the more impressed I am with how he handles pacing and performance with how he he was. Um, you know, I know Billy Wilder was not a fan of him too, and thought that he was basically a glorified art director. But I think that the, the lush visuals of his films really help. I don't think that they detract from, you know, the, the fantastic dialogue. Again, I think it's just another layer of icing and sprinkles on the cake that's making it that much more enjoyable. And in the case of easy living, we have one of the great screwball actresses. You know the magnificent Jean Arthur who I think described her, I think it was. She described her own voice as being a cross between Donald duck, a Stradivarius, which is absolutely true because there's this strange quality to it, but it is a Melissa Lewis voice. So she plays this ordinary working girl who through a strange set of circumstances has a fur coat fall onto her shoulders.
Speaker 10: 00:43:32 Hey, look what you did to my house. Do you own a fur coat? No, I don't. That's where you're wrong. You all met one happy birthday now. Just a minute. Santa Claus. Huh? What's the matter with it? Is it hot? I don't know. I've never worn one zebra under the what you want to know? Yes, I'd like to know how you get, let me give you a piece of advice. Young lady. Don't be too wise. Don't kick. You know all the answers. Things had been done for people. Many nice days. Remember that
Speaker 4: 00:44:02 this newly acquired signifier of elicit of ill gotten gains turns her life upside down and sends her down a rabbit hole of all these strange coincidences. Meanwhile, the millionaire's son played by the eternally charming Ray Midland, ends up in a hotel room with her and they get wrapped up in all these shenanigans. They just have magnificent chemistry and it's a film with all these, as in so many of these films, these wacky class inversions where people go from the bottom to the top and from the top to the bottom with a vertiginous speed and
Speaker 8: 00:44:38 [inaudible].
Speaker 4: 00:44:38 In that way you can see the revolt there because these things that we tend to see as very fixed as you know, class structures, they're, they're getting pulled in all kinds of different directions. And we can see that mixing between classes, that taking these conventions and overturning them always leads to a positive conclusion. And the fun thing about easy living is that it has this magnificent cyclical structure where at the very end it gets called back to the beginning, you know, and it's almost the exact same way it begins. So it's sort of suggesting this eternal cycle of strange
Speaker 8: 00:45:10 a people that are just going to shake people loose from their social stations and put them into interesting situations. Well, I'm glad you mentioned Jean Arthur cause she is one of my favorites. And for some reason I don't think she's appreciated quite as much now as some of these other iconic actresses like Carol Lombard and caudate called bear. But she was just so wonderful, especially in a lot of the Frank Capra films. She was a great star in like Mr. Smith goes to Washington, she really can do it all.
Speaker 4: 00:45:38 You, you watch a film like only angels have wings and you can see this more dramatic side in her. You know, her last film role was the mother and Shane where she's great. You know, I love, there's a really underrated screwball comedy called too many husbands where she's a woman who married a man who was presumed dead. So she married another man and then her first husband comes [inaudible]. And without giving away too much about this film, uh, it certainly ends not the way you would expect the film to end for that era because instead of having to choose a husband, she does not have to choose a husband. Um, so she, she had one, uh, the talk of the town. And another one I love with Jean Arthur, I agree that she does tend to be a little less well known maybe because she was less of a, it was marketed less as a glamour girl in her time, unlike Carole Lombard, who was, I think just perceived as more of a glamour girl. And of course, in fact the Carole Lombard died so young, unfortunately, while it robbed us of more of her films, I think it April a little bit more of a, an ARRA NMSDC that endures to this day. I'm unlike Jean Arthur who kind of aged out of it, um, and decided to retire.
Speaker 8: 00:46:44 And Carole Lombard is in the next film you want to talk about, which is true confession. And from 1937, which also has a John Barrymore in it who managed to extend his career from the stage to film for quite a bit into the 1930s. So tell us a little bit about a true confession. True confession as a really wacky film in the sense that there's a lot of dark
Speaker 4: 00:47:09 content. And I know we've talked about dark content so far, but this one has, this one actually has a murder in it. Um, so it's Carole Lombard is this writer, uh, who was also a pathological liar and she's married to a lawyer, played by Fred with Barry, who is totally a straight arrow who was just really intense about being honest.
Speaker 10: 00:47:30 I got a case for you. Oh, who is it? Oh, a ball. Let's make markets two stars this side of the corner. You know the cinema that's going to Sue us if we don't pay. Well, it's not Mr. Zimmerman, but it's mr Zimmerman's wife's cousin. But by what's happened, Tony crotch is in trouble. He's accused of stealing a car load of hams. And mrs Emma knows that you're a lawyer and she thinks maybe if you handle the case for Tony crouch, we'll be able to pass. And he didn't do it. Did he? I mean he didn't really steal a lot of ham city. Oh I forgot to ask, but probably didn't Ken will. I'm sure he didn't. What do you mean if he did? You've got to take the case. You just can't represent people who want guilty. You can't afford to.
Speaker 4: 00:48:10 There's a mismatched couple, four year from the very start. So she goes to apply for this job to try to support them during the depression. And when she goes to this job, she gets basically chased around the office by the guy and then that guy turns up dead. Um, and so her husband has to defend her in court. Um, and, and it's, you know, it's interesting cause it's like, you know, it's a comedy. It's taking the situation and looking at the lighter view of it. But it has this kind of prodo me to subtext of what a woman has to endure in the workplace. And then you've got John Barrymore who pops up as the guy who decides to blackmail Carole Lombard and he, he's just okay doing his absolutely eccentric weirdo thing that he seemed to have slipped into it a little bit by this time in his career.
Speaker 4: 00:49:01 And he's, he's great. Um, it's fun to see him play scenes with Carolina. He loved Carol lumber and actually a film I really thought about including on this list, but it's so heavy on Carole Lombard already is 20th century from 1934 where they are more evenly matched where he is the Broadway impresario who thinks that he has created Carole Lombard and she's going to show him that no, you didn't create me. I created me. I'm, and that's a great battle of the sexist comedy directed by Howard Hawks. But in this one, it's sad to see that Barry Moore is no longer really at the height of his powers, you know, like in 20th century where he's okay, uh, just if full gent with this comic potentially is a little bit diminished by true confession, but he still gets some nice bits with Lombard where he's taunting her and teasing her and just generally making her life a living hell.
Speaker 4: 00:49:43 She negotiates this situation. She's got herself into one thing I will say about true confession. So she's a pathological liar and right before she is about to do a lie, she has this tick where she puts her tongue into the side of her cheek and it's, I don't know how they got away with it in 1937 so it's, it's kind of an interesting film with all these weird little bits in it. Um, another thing I mentioned about true confession, I, you know, it's another screwball classic actress. We've got una Merkel and this as Carol Lombard's confidant and best friend. There's a great moment or a, Merkel does the original FML moment where she bangs her head against a post. Like, I just cannot believe this situation gotten ourselves into. Um, so it's fun to watch Carole Lombard and Merkel play off each other as well on this one.
Speaker 8: 00:50:32 And one of my favorites is nothing sacred from 1937. And this is Carol Lombard and Fredric March directed by William Wellman. And this is one of those that really has a delicious battle of the sexes that plays out with generally
Speaker 4: 00:50:51 boxing match between the sexes. And when you look at posters for the film at the time it said, see the big fight March versus Lombard. You know,
Speaker 9: 00:51:01 ladies and gentlemen announcing the battle of the century ghetto Lombard versus perfect Marchon, nothing sacred. Let me suck. You just wants, just walked on the job. I don't care what happened. What caused this peaceful little country girl to declare war on the handsome snicker from New York. Nothing sacred tells you why but solves no other law problem.
Speaker 8: 00:51:24 Talk a little bit though about how these battle of the sexist played out in screwball comedies in the sense that there really was a kind of equality. I mean the, the, the women were never really necessarily weaker or given less like material to work with. I mean it was a very kind of satisfying battle of the sexes that didn't play out quite so equally. Maybe like in the 50s or something with some of these other comedies. But talk a little bit about that kind of, um, quality of the screwball comedies.
Speaker 4: 00:51:55 Yeah, I feel like this is one of the big misconceptions that, you know, people who love classic movies are often working against is the idea that because the thirties and forties were era where there was a lot of sexism in society that, that necessarily women weren't strong in those movies. And I think that that is just a real misconception. I mean, it's important to remember that these actresses wielded tremendous power that they were in many cases what people were paying to see. So they got great roles and you know, screenwriters were giving them great dialogue and they do often end up with the upper hand in these films. I think that that's, that's part of the revolt that's inherent in screwball comedy is that even though they might end in a way that seems like people are going to settle down or that there's going to be some kind of traditional union throughout this whole film, usually the woman's been well as often running rings around the man or in some ways it is matching him.
Speaker 4: 00:52:48 Like even it happened one night where technically Ellie Andrews is working at a disadvantage because she's in this world that Clark Gable just has a lot more experience in and that Pete has a lot more experience in, you know, she, she quickly shows that she is his equal, that even though this is a new world to her, she is smart enough to negotiate it. She is sassy enough to negotiate and in some cases she has what he doesn't have and that is, you know, she can flash her thighs and get a ride whenever she wants to. So the women are often more adept at wielding their sexual power and these group all comedies, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally and there are often consequences to that. But I certainly don't feel like of these films that I've listed here are in any way making [inaudible] the woman, a lesser partner in many cases.
Speaker 4: 00:53:31 You know, she's the Daffy area, so she's got the money on her side, or maybe she is a little bit more of a streetwise character or you know, even in the case of nothing sacred, she's not a streetwise character. She's from the middle of nowhere. And yet she gets everybody jumping through hoops, um, because she's just a clever, clever chick. Um, and this film and William Wellman may not be best remembered for doing screwball comedy, but he really handles this quite well. Oh, I agree. He absolutely does. I think he had a kind of a strange perspective on life and he was a tremendously adventurous guy. He had been a pilot during Roper one. He was just a real tough take them as they come kind of guy. Um, so I think that his perspective made nothing sacred that much more of a, of a biting satire.
Speaker 4: 00:54:17 You know, this was the same year he did a star is born, which is such a biting satire on Hollywood. Nothing sacred is again a satire on fame and a look at the way in which society puts people on pedestals and then you know, it was also just as [inaudible] promptly excited to forget about them or to, you know, crucify them. It's a film that will probably insult just about everybody at some point. I mean of all the films on this list, this is probably the most politically incorrect one, so I want to give fair warning. There are lots of gags that are very offensive in this, but it is a film that seems like it hates everybody equally or more or less equally. I mean, I don't think anybody escaped unscathed or nobody, nobody comes off smelling like roses out of this one. One thing that's interesting about it is that it is a Technicolor film, so even though it's made in 1937 it's cool to see the world and Technicolor to see some, some shots of New York in Technicolor.
Speaker 4: 00:55:08 It's just a little bit more of a surreal thing to see, um, you know, the typical screwball comedy proceedings, but in color, in glorious color. Um, it's about, uh, I personally love it because being from Vermont, it's about a Vermont girl called Hazel flag who is incorrectly diagnosed with radium poisoning. So this New York newspaper decides to make her a big sensation, even though she realizes that she is not actually dying from radium poisoning. She thinks, Hey, free trip to New York. Why not? Um, in a way it's a film that feels perhaps a little more contrived than some screwball comedies. And yet I think that the, the perspective on fame, on the fact that she becomes a viral sensation, it feels very appreciated. I think that the whole look at instant celebrity at somebody who just wants to be famous for being famous in many ways, feels very timely.
Speaker 4: 00:56:00 You know, given the social media celebrity and the rise of all of that. Um, it's really it. Oh, I should also mention it. It has a screenplay by Ben. Heck. So you know, we're talking wisecrack you're talking about great dialogue. You know this, this film has it, uh, in, in bucketfuls and uh, it's great. You know, Fredric March and Carole Lombard did not like each other supposedly, but I think that adds a certain bite to their chemistry even though he is, he falls in love with her because he thinks she's dying on part because he thinks she's dying, dying, you know, he puts her on this pedestal of it. So this poor, tragic girl, you know, she only has a few weeks to live. I'm going to make this time as happy for her as I can. And then when he finds out that she's not, in a way, he's almost even more impressed with her.
Speaker 4: 00:56:42 Like how God that was evil. I'd like it. You know, we're going to have, we're going to fight until the end of our lives now. This is, this is our thing now, which is kind of what you get. The sense is going to happen at the end of the screwball comedy scenes, Michelle, mismatch unions, you don't get the sense that these are people who are going to settle down and have extremely dull lives. You get the feeling that they're going to settle down and probably bicker and vie for power until the end of their days and most likely be pretty happy doing that too. You know, it's a very modern conception of marriage where it's going to be that Mary war until the end.
Speaker 8: 00:57:16 Yeah, I think I blame screwball comedies for setting the bar too high on what marriage should be like.
Speaker 4: 00:57:21 Oh absolutely. The knockdown drag out witticism battle constantly. That's, you know, a marriage would be much better if it was going to be scripted by Ben. Heck if every morning you got script pages from from Ben Hector Preston Sturges or a Robert Riskin or someone that it would be much more exciting.
Speaker 8: 00:57:39 One of the films you have here is the stand in from 1937 and again I want to highlight the female star of this because she's one of my favorites and again she's somebody who I don't think is quite as well remembered, which is Joan Blondell and she is such a wonderful wise cracking, smart female character.
Speaker 4: 00:57:58 Joan Blondell could do it all. I mean, she could do a sequence like the end of Goldfinger's of 1933 where she's talk singing about the forgotten man and just ripped your heart through your chest. Or she could be incredibly funny and sassy and a screwball comedy end up with the best of them. And in the standing she has, she is the titular stand in, um, she plays a former child star who as she's grown older, has lost her place in the hearts of the public. So now she's a stand in,
Speaker 11: 00:58:28 pardon mine crowding. But would you mind telling me who is telling machete and watches this standing? I go without Piper. We could tell him. I can hear you say that, but you're doing a lot of stories, don't you? Well, vaguely is how you must get around. Well, don't miss she raise a star like most stars. She's a pretty fragile kind of steak. She must've beat the tape there must and above all she was never based off voguers to conspire and sustain and does her sweating for actually, sorry, but I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. Now. Look, you wouldn't expect to start and do it that he did the lights while I setting up the cameras. Microphone. No, I suppose. No, no. So they dig up a gal that's me to stand in for a lot. All this torture goes on. Then when everything's said the star recruit in the Macklin, but today didn't feed them the chocolate and the stand and morning Wilton fades out of the picture and business cause on as usual.
Speaker 4: 00:59:19 So the story revolves around Leslie is this [inaudible] GRI, stuffy accountant who set, who is, I'm sent to Hollywood [inaudible]. Either liquidate a studio or decide if the asset holders want to keep it going to decide whether it's worth it and the depth to the depression to keep it this movie studio going. So obviously everybody involved with the studio has an interest in getting him on their side and in trying to woo him over to the side of, you know, please keep it going. Please keep it alive in these dark times. And Blondell as the stand in, she kind of takes them under her wing and offers to be his, his tour guide through the bizarreness of Hollywood. So it's a very Hollywood screwball. It's this great satire on all the wacky types. And Hollywood's a pretty gentle satire on Hollywood. You know, it never gets really bitter, but you do get a sense that this is where all the strange people have come to earn a living. You know, there's a train seal, there's, you know, these weird child stars. At one point when Joan Blondell was explaining why she used to be a star, but isn't a star no longer to illustrate what she's talking about. She does a Shirley temple impression and sings on the good ship lollipop a and boy you have never seen on the good ship lollipop until you've seen Joan Blondell doing it.
Speaker 11: 01:00:44 Hey,
Speaker 10: 01:00:44 no,
Speaker 11: 01:00:57 you like it be tolerable ms plumber. Sure. But when I was so gross, it was awful cute. But the point is Dannyboy boy that I now dishing raspberry and John public still likes vanilla. Oh, I'm not squawking because old age got me. I've still got my social security number.
Speaker 4: 01:01:13 Another thing I love about this film is that Leslie Howard is retained with Humphrey Bogart who plays this producer who's a little on the skids. And he, Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart had a very strong relationship going back to the petrified forest when Leslie Howard insisted that Humphrey Bogart play the role of Duke Manti on that he not be cutting film that and not be recast. And that of course relaunched and reinvigorated Humphrey Bogart his career really put them on the map and his star Rose from there. So there was a lot of affection between those two men. Every poker named his daughter Leslie and honor of Leslie Howard. And it's fun to watch those two. And then in more comedic roles, uh, you know, playing off each other. There's a great line where when Leslie Howard decides that he is going to save the studio and he is going to help everybody, Humphrey Bogart says hunting.
Speaker 4: 01:01:58 If you could cook, I would marry ya. Which you know, is cute little bromance line between those two. And Leslie Howard seems not displeased to have heard that. So it's, it's a really sweet film and I think it's a film that deserves to be better known in the sense that it takes these screwball conventions, these wacky situations, and sets them in a Hollywood studio. So it gives you this great backstage, you know, insider look into Hollywood, no matter how sugarcoated and goofy that is. And the last film you have on your list, although I'm sure you wanted to add many more. Yes, I didn't even get to the forties. I mean, I didn't even get to ball of buyer. And you know, the lady, this was, this was merciless, this was brutal. But I, as you can see, I've had a grand old time talking just 30 screwball comedies. So we have midnight with credit, Cole bear and Donna Meechie, John Barry Morgan. And this is one scripted by Billy Wilder, but not directed by him. It's sort of a riff on the Cinderella story. Um, you know, hence the title midnight for every Cinderella. There must be a midnight, you know, there's this time where she has to turn back into an ordinary ladies.
Speaker 9: 01:03:04 Once upon a time you would remember there was a girl named Cinderella. She had a fairy godmother, a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and the Prince charming, but she had to leave her potty at midnight. Now we'd like you to meet a modern streamlined Cinderella whose party begins where the, Oh, they left off at midnight. Her name also starts with a C Claude, that cold there.
Speaker 4: 01:03:29 Our Cinderella in this case is Claudette Colbert, who turns up in Paris, I believe on a freight train where she's, you know, all out of money and she manages to end up in the good graces of this cabby who sort of takes pity on her. And that's, that's Donna Meechie. And he takes her around the town where she tries to audition for all these singing gigs she's never sung before in her life. And you know, this is where if it were a typical classic Hollywood film, we would discover that in fact she is a great singer and she would get a singing gig. But no, this is not that classic Hollywood film. And I kind of love that, that you think, Oh, is she going to be a singer? You know, she's not, she's going to strike out and every front and end up hanging out with a cabbie at this little working class bar in Paris.
Speaker 4: 01:04:07 But she has her sights set on, you know, on the big time. I love this character in that she wants to be a gold Digger, but somehow can never quite pull it off. You know, she's sort of this failed gold Digger, you know, this American showgirl who's trying to be a goal vigor and just really can't, can't quite do it. You know, there's just too much, too much going on in her emotionally to really to have the follow through to be a gold Digger. Although she sometimes has gotten some illicit money for maybe saying no to the right man when his family is like, Oh, thank God. Um, so when she ends up is a, she ends up becoming an ally of John Barrymore who is trying to make his wife played by Mary, asked her jealous. Uh, and you know, Mary, her, I was taken this suave continental lover played by Francis letters.
Speaker 4: 01:04:51 So John Barrymore uses Eve Peabody who uses clotted, called Berez, his pawn in his war against his wife to try to get her off of this guy. Um, and it, it's just, it's a really delightful film. It's got these great ballrooms sequences. It's also, uh, like easy living directly by a mutual wisen who had a gift for these. Yeah. Imaginative decor is these, these scenes that just look tremendously stylized and elegant and exotic to the modern eye. You know, these studio sets that I have, this publisher will look to them and all these gowns that are just drop dead gorgeous. But you know, as with all of these films, what you thank you want might not actually be the thing that you want. You know, a lot in a number of these films, you know, nothing's sacred. She wants to be a celebrity. She decides she's not sure she wants to be a celebrity in it happened one night. She wants to run off with this Playboy. She decides, no, that's not for me. And it's love. I'm after Olivia to have Lynn is lusting after Leslie Howard. In the end she finds it. Maybe that's not the right thing for me. Midnight is also a journey of self discovery where caudate called burrs character discovers that the things that she set her sights on are perhaps not the right things for her. And it's a very sweet little film I think.
Speaker 8: 01:06:04 So to wrap this all up, what do you think about screwball comedies offers the kind of escapism that might help people through some of this self isolation?
Speaker 4: 01:06:13 That's a great question. I think that the sheer speed and amount of wit and joy in these films can really take a load off your mind. They're so fast paced and they're so beautiful. Look at, they're so well acted. They're so well directed and in most cases that you kind of can't take your eyes off them. You can't take your mind off them. So they really do pull you out of reality for that span of time and plunge you into this other world. And yet, you know it's not, it's not brain candy. It's not just totally numbing you out or taking you out. I mean, in many ways I find that these films are like exercise for the mind because as I said, I've watched a bunch of them many times and I still feel like I notice new details and new lines and new nuances to the characters. So I feel like they're kind of keeping you alert and keeping you engaged with human emotions, uh, with, you know, both high and low emotions. Um, even while they are delighting you with this, this might have this, this make believe world, uh, that Hollywood created so exquisitely all those years ago.
Speaker 8: 01:07:20 And if people want to find out more about the films you're writing about, where can they find your,
Speaker 4: 01:07:27 uh, well, I, I do chat a lot about films on Twitter. I'm at nitrate diva on Twitter. I also have, uh, a blog, which is nitrate email@example.com. I should probably write more about screwball comedy. I tended to write a little bit more about Fillmore lately, but I will get back on that because escapism does seem to be the flavor Devor as an an understandably so.
Speaker 8: 01:07:46 Well, I want to thank you very much for taking some time to escape from some of the stress and anxiety of today's world.
Speaker 4: 01:07:53 Oh, thank you. This has been a delight. This is talking about screwball comedy has been a tremendous, the delightful escape for me. So thank you so much for inviting me to talk about them.
Speaker 3: 01:08:11 [inaudible]
Speaker 4: 01:08:11 that was Nora Fiori, author of the blog than nitrate diva. Be listening
Speaker 2: 01:08:16 for a second podcast featuring more delightful escapist fare when I speak with will McKinley about some family viewing options and James Patrick about fun spy movies. And if you prefer to heighten your fears and anxieties, I'll also be having a podcast about the best pandemic theme movies with neuroscientist, Eric Lee and artists. So till our next film fix on Beth haka, Mondo your residents, and I'm a junkie.
Speaker 3: 01:08:59 [inaudible].
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place