Crazy situations, fast and sophisticated dialogue, and conflict arising from the roles of men and women in modern society? these are the essential elements of the Screwball Comedy. The Awful Truth, Twentieth Century, Holiday, His Girl Friday and The More the Merrier are prime examples of what would become a hallmark for Columbia Screwball Comedies. With superb production values, top directors (Capra, Hawks, Cukor, Stevens) and major stars, these classic films are some of the best known screwballs. For the second volume of Columbia's Screw Ball Comedies form the '30s and '40s, we return to the vaults to rediscover more classics of the beloved genre featuring two of its most glamorous leading ladies. The Legendary Irene Dunne plays a small-town author whose racy bestsellers, written under a pseudonym, bring her notoriety when a New Yorker (Melvyn Douglas) discovers her secret, in THEODORA GOES WILD. In TOGETHER AGAIN, Dunne plays the mayor's widow who falls for a sculptor (Charles Boyer)
The vaults of Columbia Pictures provide four screwball titles from the silly era, a package evenly split between two sylphlike stars, Irene Dunne and Loretta Young. Dunne gloriously shines in Theodora Goes Wild
, a 1936 classic that changed her image from a serious actress to a skilled comedian. She plays Theodora, the author of a slightly racy novel--but she keeps her authorship secret for fear of scandalizing her neighbors, whose small town is the subject of the book. Enter smoothie Melvyn Douglas and a serving of cocktails, and Theodora's staid personality loosens up. Richard Boleslawki's spritzy film depends on Dunne's delightful touch with line readings, a touch that would blossom so memorably in The Awful Truth
a year later. Alas, Together Again
(1944) is a much less successful vehicle for the actress, reunited here with her Love Affair
costar Charles Boyer. Dunne's a small-town mayor, Boyer's a sculptor, the screwball situations are busy--but the whole thing comes across like day-old champagne.
The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) is a likable outing: Loretta Young is a bestselling author of an advice book for unmarried ladies--which makes it difficult to explain her sudden marriage to a physician (Ray Milland) she just met. The explanation is one of those screwball contrivances--it'll spare a scandal, for starters--required for the plot to work. And, largely because of the deft playing of Young and Milland, it does work. The 1942 A Night to Remember sounds like more fun than it is: Young and hubby Brian Aherne arrive at their new Greenwich Village apartment only to learn the place comes furnished… with a corpse. Alas, the body isn't the only stiff in sight: the comic sleuthing is surely meant to evoke the Thin Man series, but despite Aherne's breezy approach, the movie clumps badly. In this company, Theodora reigns head and shoulders above the rest. --Robert Horton