Pretty much my head exploded after I started looking at movie comedies. I went to a list of the top 100 funniest movies from the American Film Institute (AMI) because they use solid criteria from people who work in the movie industry. It’s a great list. Every one of the movies on their list is a classic but the Apartment with Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine? Is it really a comedy? I’m not sure. And the Thin Man? The Thin Man is one of my favorite movies. William Powell and Myrna Loy were one of the great movie couples. Their chemistry is both brilliant and funny but the Thin Man novel is a hard boiled novel by the guy who invented hard boiled novels, Dashiell Hammett. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of a hard boiled murder mystery being a comedy. If you love movies every one of these movies is worth seeing but the Philadelphia Story is not a comedy and neither is Bull Durham. Both have some funny stuff in them but they’re not comedies. However that’s my opinion and all top ‘whatever’ movies lists are subjective. Here’s the list http://www.afi.com/100years/laughs.aspx Take and look and you decide. We own all these movies. The Sleeper of the bunch is Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. But be warned the Awful Truth is It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. You could laugh yourself silly.
“Dying is easy, comedy is hard” is supposedly a death bed quote attributed to character actor Edmund Gwenn. When director and screenwriter George Seaton visited Gwenn as he lay in bed ill, George Seaton said to Gwenn “This must be terribly difficult for you.” Edmund Gwenn is supposed to have replied. “Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy.” Whereupon Gwenn died. Over time and with many retellings this quote has mutated into its current form; “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Of course it could also be that it’s a traditional axiom of the English and American stage that just got attributed to Gwenn.
What mead me think about this was that a couple of days ago as I wandered by the television in the den, I caught a trio of giggling immature comedy writers discussing whether or not there ever be another PG rated comedy because it was getting harder and harder to push the gross-out envelope and people were getting used to seeing naked women on the screen. I wanted to throw something at them. Too much comedy today is of the fart-in-study-hall variety, it doesn’t take wit and imagination, it just takes gas. I mean Bringing Up Baby, Duck Soup, andSome Like It Hot are some the greatest movies ever made. One of my own personal favorite classic movie comedies is His Girl Friday, which is Howard Hawks directing Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Of course these movies are on everyone’s list of the greatest movies ever made but there are a host of funny movies you might not have heard of, such as One, Two, Three, in which is Jimmy Cagney does screwball comedy or We’re No Angelswhich is Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov with Basil Rathbone playing the straight man. Used Cars andCannery Row are two funny under the radar movies and I always liked Spielberg’s 1941 which the critics hated andAirheads which the critics can’t stand. John, one of our Librarians, chose Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and Airplane!to show for our Summer Reading Program summer Sunday movies which I think were inspired choices. It’s so easy to over look comedy that I do it too. Jeanne chose It Happened One Night as one of her SRP movies because it is the prototype for all Romantic Comedies that followed. Anyway I think I just talked myself into reviewing and updating Roger’s Public Library’s Comedy movie collection. Porky’s anyone?