Monday, May 29, 2006
When watching a screwball comedy, one will notice that although there is a lot of sexual innuendo, there isn’t much in the way of sex. Had these movies been made before 1934 this may have been different, but 1934 was the year that Joseph Breen took over the administration of the Hollywood Production Code and started enforcing the Hays Code of 1930. Hence, Frank Capra had to be careful in the first successful screwball comedy, "It Happened One Night" (1934). Clark Gable was allowed to take off his shirt to reveal a bare chest in the motel room but with a blanket dividing the room between him and Claudette Colbert. (Note: that scene almost ruined the undershirt makers as men wanted to be like the ultra cool Gable and quit wearing undershirts.) "It Happened One Night" also incorporated a couple more traits of screwball comedy: strong willed women, and wealth by one or both parties. In this case, Colbert is the strong willed, runaway heiress being chased by reporter Gable and her harried father, Walter Connolly. A similar role is that of Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey". It’s hard to think of Lombard as anything but strong willed as she played a similar personality in other screwball favorites, "Nothing Sacred" (1937), "Twentieth Century" (1934), and "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" (1941).