Hollywood Screwball Comedies
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HF102
Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)
What is the course about?
Women disrupt the story at every turn with delightful results, as exemplified in the near-madness of Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks 1938 US). We soon realise that behind the farcical, seemingly anarchic plot, the movie itself is enormously complex and cunningly constructed, a riot of off-colour references and double entendres. Many secondary characteristics of this genre are similar to film noir, where a female dominates the relationship. These are the best comedies Hollywood ever produced, and for a short time, once upon a time in Hollywood, women had the major roles, the upper hand, and all the best lines.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
There were a variety of popular genres in Hollywood’s classical 1930s period, including backstage musicals and gangster films, but screwball comedies are still the least-dated and best-remembered. The Hays Production Code of 1934 made it almost impossible for movies to deal with sex and love—until screwball found a way around it, which led to Hollywood’s greatest era of romantic comedy. Directors combined slapstick, farce and sophisticated dialogue to trace the pitfalls of adult relationships. Zany, buoyant, anarchic energy became a suggestive way of making movies about sex without any sex in them. Screwball eventually led to film noir and Billy Wilder mastered both genres.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discover and understand the key themes and styles across a range of screwball comedies
• Demonstrate a knowledge of key directors such as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, and Preston Sturges.
•Distinguish the major women actors: Carole Lombard, Kate Hepburn, Ros Russell, Barbara Stanwyck.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
Suitable for all levels, this course requires only an enthusiasm to learn more about the value of cinema, to discuss films, share ideas and listen to the views of others. It provides an introduction to the subject but will also be valuable for those wishing to build on existing knowledge.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Opening lecture, viewing film extracts throughout with tutor-led discussion in the whole group and in small groups/breakout rooms. No prior preparation necessary. High-quality handouts for further research.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No other costs. Please bring pad or device for note taking.
Recommended (but not required) reading:
Screwball Comedy: Defining a Film Genre by Wes D. Gehring, 1983.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
For other film studies courses please visit our website at www.citylit.ac.uk/History, Culture and Writing/Film Studies.
John Wischmeyer (MA in Film Theory) set up, ran and programmed his own cinema in West London and has since taught film studies at the former Gainsborough studio, the BFI and City Lit since 1999, Hitchcock’s centenary year. John has covered a wide range film topics under the banner ‘Cinema Investigates America’ and has a particular interest in and considerable knowledge of Hitchcock, Hollywood studios, American independent cinema and film noir, film technique and style.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.