Romantic Comedy: Classic romcoms

Summer, they say, is for lovers.

However, if you and your sweetheart are in no position to hit the beach From Here To Eternity style, you can still prove the bromide true by snuggling up somewhere air conditioned with these romantic comedies:

His Girl Friday – 1940

It’s more of a newspaper picture, really, the most authentic and witty of its kind in fact, with romance superimposed on it. Director Howard Hawks took Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s classic play, about a fast-talking editor who talks his star reporter into covering one last story, and made the latter the formers’ ex. While Rosalind Russell gives her best ever screen performance as the reporter – tough, playful and attractive – she just barely manages to keep up with editor Cary Grant, who, as usual, comes fully alive under Hawk’s direction. Unlike other directors, Hawks never set out to accentuate Grant’s looks, classy manner or dignity. His intention was always to demythologize him; to encourage him to mug, whoop, or otherwise take the stuffing out of himself – something Grant, an old comic by trade and frustrated by his own image besides, was more than happy to do. He does it here in grand style, trading lightning-fast bits of the American stage’s best dialogue with Russell.

Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall don’t strike the spark of say, Tracy and Hepburn, but there’s a compatible coolness about both that is the engine of this Vincente Minelli comedy. Peck is a sportswriter who falls prey to both a ring of Damon Runyonesque criminals and his fashionista wife’s fits of jealousy. Like a lot of 1950s films, this flick is a reaction to then small and black and white television; It’s widescreen, colorful – azure blues, canary yellows, grapefruit pinks – and choc full of plot excuses for lush art direction and designer costumes. This being a Minelli picture, there’s even room for a musical number.

Love Me Or Leave Me – 1955

An interesting variation on the theme; all the makings of a backstage romance are here – a giddy 1920s setting, plenty of song and dance numbers, a pair of mismatched love birds – but are turned inside out. It’s supposedly the true story of Ruth Etting, an ambitious songstress, and her relationship with Svengali Marty “The Gimp” Snyder. Doris Day, in fine voice, plays Ruth – but despite showcase number after showcase number, what you walk away with – or limp away with – is James Cagney’s Snyder. Cagney had always been a powerhouse: energy, conviction, likeability, nerve. But there’s a vulnerability here audiences had never seen before. It’s an edgy tale of sexual politics you might want to play as a reminder to the two of you: never settle down with anyone until you’ve seen them at their absolute worst!

2 comments on “Romantic Comedy: Classic romcoms”

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