Once New Year’s Day has been and gone, it’s hard to get excited about much of anything in the cold weather and biting winds. Thank goodness, then, for the BFI, who will be hosting a season of classic 30s and 40s Hollywood screwball comedies throughout January.
As expected, the season will include some of the genre’s best-known entries, including perhaps what is seen as the quintessential screwball comedy, His Girl Friday. Directed by Howard Hawks and starring Carey Grant and Jane Russell, it’s renowned for its rapid-fire dialogue and is continually cited as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, back when Hollywood was still making such things for adults. Also on the agenda is another Hawks classic, Bringing Up Baby, which sees Grant (again) co-star alongside Katherine Hepburn at her driest as an heiress who loses her pet leopard.
It wasn’t only Hawks that succeeded at the screwball genre, however. George Cukor directed two of the most beloved films of the era, Holiday, a delightful comedy about a man torn between his rich, respectable fiancé and her free-spirited sister, and The Philadelphia Story. Frank Capra, whose It’s A Wonderful Life will surely be on heavy rotation for many this Christmas, also shows up with both Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and You Can’t Take It With You.
Alongside such well-regarded classics, the BFI will also be screening some lesser-known screwball comedies, including Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, in which a young woman teaches her millionaire fiancé a valuable lesson upon learning he’s been married seven times previously, and Theodora Goes Wild, about an author who scandalises her community with the literature she writes under a pseudonym, becoming entangled with an illustrator who insinuates himself into her cosy small town life.
The Screwball Season runs from 1-29 January at the BFI on the South Bank, and tickets can be purchased from the BFI website.