Ball of Fire (1941)

Ball of Fire Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

Ball of Fire Movie Review

Ball of Fire is a 1941 screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. It is a very charming and endearing screwball comedy.

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I love him because he’s the kind of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk,

and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears.

Love him because he doesn’t know how to kiss, the jerk!

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Ball of Fire Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

It follows a group of professors who are writing a big encyclopedia. A nightclub performer then comes to live with them for a while in order to provide her knowledge of slang to the linguistics professor and eventually the two fall in love. I found the film’s plot to actually be kind of genius. It is basically a modern retelling of the tale of Snow White and even though it is sort of a parody, it still managed to be original and interesting in its own right. I really liked how both of the subplots were well incorporated into a coherent whole even though its conclusion felt typical and somewhat unbelievable.

The characters are so great. All of the professors were wonderful and endearing. I liked their dynamic and that they worked superbly as a group. They never approached the quality of the dwarfs from the original fairy tale film, but they were still pretty good and memorable in their own right. I also found the gangsters to be surprisingly solid.

Professor Bertram Potts is such a kind and wonderful soul. He is such a likable protagonist. And of course Sugarpuss is the highlight and she is such a phenomenal character. I loved her conflict, the relationship between the two was wonderful and truly all of interactions between her and the others were fantastic.

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Ball of Fire Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

The acting is terrific. Every one of these talented older actors did a great job in their roles. Dana Andrews is also pretty memorable as the main villain. As for Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, I was surprised at how amazing this mix turned out to be. Naturally the clash between personalities is obvious and somewhat unrealistic, but it was still endearing to follow. Gary Cooper is as immensely likable as ever in this movie, if not the most likable. Barbara Stanwyck gave one of her finest performances here, she is professional, charismatic and she carried every scene she was in, whether emotional or comedic. She entirely deserved her Oscar nomination and truly the film’s acting and especially casting are top-notch.

Ball of Fire is truly such a great movie, but it isn’t fantastic as it just never reached that greatness somehow. I guess because it was way too predictable and because I never laughed out loud. The humor is actually very good and some lines and jokes were pretty funny, but none of it was as truly hilarious as I’ve come to expect from screwball comedies. But still, it came close and when screwball comedies from the forties are concerned, the film is definitely one of the best examples.

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Ball of Fire Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

Ball of Fire is very well edited and paced, never rushed and never slow. It is hugely entertaining from start to finish and it just flew by how fun it was. It provided me a wonderful and entertaining evening. The dialogue is as great as you would expect from everyone involved. Some of the lines felt overly childish and sometimes the film verged into caricaturing its characters, but it mostly managed to stay away from that and instead offer us such a likable bunch of people. The direction from Howard Hawks is expectedly great too.

Ball of Fire is such an immensely entertaining and charming film. It isn’t as hilarious as I’d come to expect from screwball comedies, but it is still pretty funny at times and it is actually one of the genre’s best when it comes to the forties. Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper are superb in their roles as is everyone else too, the story is such a fun rendition/parody of Snow White, the characters are so likable and the film is just so wonderful and fun that you just can’t resist it.

My Rating – 4.5

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My Man Godfrey (1936)

 My Man Godfrey Movie Review………………………………………………………….

My Man Godfrey Movie Review

My Man Godfrey is a 1936 screwball comedy film directed by Gregory La Cava and starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. It is definitely one of the finest screwball comedies.

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Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!

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 My Man Godfrey Movie Review………………………………………………………….

The story is about a socialite who hires a homeless man to be her family’s butler. She eventually falls in love with him, much to his dismay. The script here is so stellar and just perfect. Not only do you have a very entertaining and funny story populated with highly likable or amusing characters, but you still have a satire on class relations and truly its social commentary is not only smart and funny, but relevant to this day, thus only further adding to its timeless quality.

My Man Godfrey features absolutely amazing character development, truly an example of how to properly develop characters in a film. Almost all of them are likable, memorable and even funny plus they all felt like genuine human beings and I’ve felt in the end that I’ve just met them. Everyone gets a moment to shine.

Godfrey is fantastic and he carries this entire movie, the same goes for Irene and the two are such a charming couple. I loved his seriousness and elegance and how it clashed well with her childlike and energetic personality. Cornelia is quite memorable as this cold and manipulative brat and their father is very likable. And of course the mother is such a hilarious personality and she made me laugh the most. I liked Molly quite a bit as she’s so sweet to everyone, but only Carlo is the weak link as I felt that he was unnecessary for this movie and that is the only flaw I can find here, but a minor one nevertheless.

The acting is just marvelous with everyone delivering a terrific performance. Alice Brady steals every scene she’s in with a comedic gold of a performance and Gail Patrick is beautiful and memorable. Carole Lombard delivered her finest performance of her career in Godfrey as she’s just a force to be reckoned with. But to me William Powell is the most outstanding of the bunch as he’s one of my favorite comedy actors. Here his seriousness clashed well with the craziness of the others and his facial expressions are just priceless.

My Man Godfrey features probably the best humor of any 1930s films and that is in and of itself a major accolade. Everyone made me laugh and most especially Brady, Lombard and Powell’s characters. So good. The humor is so strong, yet also smart and sophisticated propelled by such a great dialogue. The facial expressions of Godfrey and over-the-top antics from the crazy family were the highlights. Such a memorable and hilarious crew of characters.

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 My Man Godfrey Movie Review………………………………………………………….

My Man Godfrey is brilliantly made as there isn’t a single flaw in it in terms of the execution. The direction from Gregory La Cava is simply great, the acting is exceptional and the editing is stellar. Truly nothing felt rushed nor prolonged. It lasts for just the right amount of time and is always absolutely compelling to watch.

The script is so good, but it is the dialogue that is one of the standouts. It is as brisk and as sophisticated and biting as you would expect form a 30s screwball comedy which is why it thoroughly succeeds in this genre and why it’s one of its finest representatives. It is also one of the very best that 1936 has to offer and shame on Academy for not nominating it for Best Picture.

Speaking of the Academy, it was nominated for six Oscars. I do not agree at all with the nod to Mischa Auer as his character is the weakest link as I’ve said above, but I thoroughly agree with other nominations with Powell, Lombard and Brady’s performances all being deserving of the nomination. The same goes for the director and the script, but it is ridiculous that it didn’t win any and it just goes to show how clueless they often were during this decade.

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 My Man Godfrey Movie Review………………………………………………………….

The tone is great as it shifts to dramatic and serious at just the right times. The themes and message are evident and of course the film looks good and works perfectly as a chamber drama and a theatrical one as it revolves almost entirely in one house and it makes use of that setting so well. And I have to say that the movie is so charming and so romantic as its romance is so well developed and so wonderful. I loved the ending where she chased him and made him marry her. Hilarious and beautiful.

With such a stellar script, sophisticated and hilarious dialogue, phenomenal humor as the movie consistently made me laugh and such outstanding performances from Alice Brady, Carole Lombard and William Powell, My Man Godfrey is an undisputed classic and one of the finest screwball comedies that is always funny and charming, yet smart and so polished technically too. It features characters that are all memorable, likable and funny and the film is almost flawless in execution and just brilliant.

My Rating – 5

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Topper (1937)

Topper Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………………

Topper Movie Review

Topper is a 1937 fantasy screwball comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod and starring Constance Bennett, Cary Grant and Roland Young. It is a disappointing comedy.

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I’ll be out before you can say Jack Robinson – only don’t say it for a few minutes.

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Topper Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………………

It follows a stuffy man who is haunted by the ghosts a fun-loving married couple who want to help him loosen up in order to get to heaven. The premise itself is marvelous and it really had potential for greatness, but the execution is weak and sometimes quite problematic leading to a disappointing movie that is just solid and never as great as it easily could have been.

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Topper Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………………

The acting is easily Topper’s biggest achievement. Everyone here did such a great job in excellent roles as the characters themselves are easy to define, but memorable and likable. Roland Young is the best and his Oscar nomination is very much deserved. Constance Bennett is also very good and quite charming and she steals every scene she’s in. But Cary Grant disappointed me. Not his performance as he is always great and is the same in this movie, but I expected his role to bigger as I am a big fan of his, but he is the least utilized of this threesome unfortunately.

Topper is well directed by Norman Z. McLeod and mostly really well paced and shot. I really liked its use of nature as that is always hard to come by in a 30s movie, but here it was all the more memorable for it. And I really liked the driving sequences which were of the most entertaining here. All of the characters are great and the wife of Cosmo is also really memorable and sometimes even quite funny.

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Topper Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………………

So what is the problem here? Well, that is the humor. Screwball comedies are my favorite subgenre of comedy as they are always charming and hilarious. But Topper is never hilarious and is in fact rarely genuinely funny which was so disappointing to witness. I don’t know why they didn’t utilize on this awesome premise, but somehow only the first act was quite funny at times and, as I said, those nature and driving sequences were excellent. But the second half is repetitive in its plot and humor and some of the humor as well as the supernatural aspects are very dated to be honest. Most of its supernatural aspects is solidly put together and the special effects are most definitely terrific for its time, but the rules here aren’t as well governed and the physical humor gets pretty repetitive and for a movie with ghosts in it, it is never inventive which was a real shame to see. Those are the reasons why the film left me unsatisfied in the end.

Topper is very well acted with Constance Bennett being very memorable in her role and Roland Young being deservedly nominated for an Oscar, the premise is terrific and some sequences here are charming and funny, but most of it isn’t as funny as it should have been and it is never as inventive or as entertaining as the premise demanded it leading to a disappointing screwball comedy.

My Rating – 3.5

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Midnight (1939)

Midnight

Midnight Review

Midnight is a 1939 screwball comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche. It is a wonderful movie and one of the most purely entertaining films of the decade.

It is about an unemployed showgirl stranded in Paris. She accidentally enters the high society and is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife’s affair with another man. Meanwhile, she is pursued by a taxi driver who is very much in love with her. Yes, this premise does sound convoluted, but it is complicated in a positive manner in that fine and endearing style of the genre. The whole premise of a girl accidentally entering aristocratic life is very intriguing and it brought many fantastic scenarios and great humor to the table.

The character development is awesome and the reason why Midnight works so well along with its terrific humor. Eve Peabody is so damn likable and such a fun woman with an endearing sense of adventure and humor. Tibor Czerny can be a bit annoying at times with him yelling too much, but I still liked him for the most part and the relationship between the two is really well established. Georges Flammarion is interesting and likable as well and the relationship between him and his wife Helen leads to many moving moments here. Jacque is a typical character, but he serves the plot and The Judge is such a great introduction near the end and his old-fashioned ideals and manners perfectly clash against the crazy and ridiculous behavior of our main characters.

The acting is absolutely fantastic. I still found Don Ameche’s acting a bit weak at times just like I did in ‘Heaven Can Wait‘, but he is mostly good and is very handsome to look at. John Barrymore is terrific in his subtle performance and Mary Astor is also really good. But this is Claudette Colbert’s show and she delivers! She steals every scene she is in and she gave an absolutely remarkable performance that is one of her best. I loved her facial expressions and they brought a lot of charm and humor to the table and she is perfectly cast in this role as well. She is one of the strongest points in Midnight, there is no doubt about that.

The highlights here are definitely that whole third act which is just hilarious and so crazy, but inherently sweet as well. It is also a perfect ending for this movie without any cheese or lame emotion whatsoever. The whole movie is slick and suave. Some other great scenes have to be those in which Eve puts the endless charade in order to stay in cover. Also, those first scenes where she starts pretending and especially the moments in the hotel are priceless.

Midnight admittedly has some problems which is the reason why it is far from a perfect screwball comedy, but is still one of the better and most entertaining examples of the genre. The directing from Mitchell Leisen is pretty weak and I could only imagine what another, more capable director would have done with this great material. Also, some of the humorous scenes are played out for too much time and there is too much yelling involved. And the first act could have been more memorable plus it can get a bit too convoluted and hard to buy at times, but the reason why that isn’t such a big flaw here is that the tone is so comedic and ridiculous that it is evident that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously which is great.

Midnight is very well paced and is incredibly involving. It is entertaining from beginning to end. The tone is great as thankfully romance doesn’t take away from comedy too much. The script is just fantastic with very well thought out scenarios and the dialogue is expectedly fast, clever, funny and always fascinating. The film is very memorable and it has a lot of heart without ever being corny. And the humor is terrific and the biggest reason to see the film. Everything here is funny from the characters to their behavior to the ridiculous scenarios they end up in. There are many laugh out loud moments to be had with this movie and I laughed hard so many times and held a smile for the entirety of the running time because of that great mix of charm and hilarity that only screwball comedies can offer. In a ridiculously good year that is 1939, this film really does stack well against the other classics and is such a pleasant surprise.

Midnight is a terrific screwball comedy with the right mix of charm and hilarity. Its first act is not as great as the rest of the picture, but it is otherwise a superb movie filled with endearing characters, ridiculous and always hilarious scenarios, a powerhouse performance from Claudette Colbert, great humor with many really funny scenes and such a crazy, but sweet finale. This is a delightful and an immensely entertaining charmer.

My Rating – 4.5

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Holiday (1938)

Holiday

Holiday Review

Holiday is a 1938 romantic comedy directed by George Cukor and starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. It is one of the most entertaining films of its time.

I absolutely loved this movie, every second of it. I enjoyed it immensely and as far as pure entertainment goes, it delivers. It has so much energy in its execution and inherent charm which are the qualities essential for a screwball comedy to work. What I loved most about it is its sense of fun and childlike wonder. The two main characters both possess such qualities and they both bring a lot of heart and charisma to the picture.

Johnny is such a good and well realized character. He is funny and is likable from beginning to end. But this is Linda’s show and she is just perfect. I adored her! She is definitely the major reason why the whole film works so well. She is so fun, so childlike, so endearing, so energetic and just so lovable that you can’t help but love her. I love characters such as this one as I can relate to them having in mind that I myself share some of these personality traits. But Julia serves her purpose and the father is of course typical, but well realized. The Potters are so much fun and I really enjoyed their characters as they wonderfully interact with Linda, but Ned is also so endearing as this troubled, but caring person and I just loved his last scene.

The acting is magnificent with each and every performance being so great and that lifted the movie to even greater heights. Edward Everett Horton is very good as Nick Potter and Henry Kolker is also quite good, but it is nice to see Lew Ayres as well and he did such a good job as Ned. But Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are marvelous. It is crazy to think about, but this movie came out in 1938 which is the same year that ‘Bringing Up Baby‘ was released, a movie that starred both of these talented actors. And while that movie is overall a bit better, I would have to say that I enjoyed this one more and the actors here are just as good as in that movie. Grant is fantastic as usual, but it is Hepburn who blew me away with her powerhouse performance and after this flick, I am definitely her fan. It is such a shame that she was double snubbed for an Oscar that year and that just goes to show how the Academy is ignorant towards comedies. But she is terrific and the two share such a great chemistry together and bring a lot of charisma to the table.

Holiday of course has simply phenomenal dialogue and the lines burst so fast and they are all so sophisticated and so funny. It is emotional as well and has a big heart and the highlights are those scenes when everyone arrives on the party and of course the scenes in the playroom are gems – so incredibly effervescent and beautifully innocent. The only flaws in this movie are those concerned of plot of course. Yes, we know how this movie will end, but thankfully the road to that ending isn’t as predictable as I thought it would be. And the third act of the film is definitely too serious and lacking humor. But overall the humor is superb and I laughed out loud many times. Linda cracked me out the most, but all of the characters have their moments and the humor here is of the best kind – childlike, energetic and quickly delivered. It is an underrated film in my opinion as it is really strong and it deserves its place on the lists of best screwball comedies for sure.

Holiday is such a wonderful movie. The acting is absolutely magnificent with Katharine Hepburn delivering one of her best performances here, the characters are so incredibly likable and the whole movie is so beautifully childlike, energetic and just a lot of fun. It is predictable and the third act is too serious, but it is mostly phenomenal with such a fantastic humor and it is one of the better screwball comedies for sure.

My Rating – 4.5

 

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The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner Review

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 romantic comedy film that is one of the most fondly regarded of the director’s films.

It is about two shop employees who can’t stand each other, but fall in love together through letters not knowing they are corresponding with each other. The story is my biggest complaint here in that it is sweet and really fun, but too familiar and predictable, never quite rising above its formula, like other screwball comedies did in the thirties. But it is very entertaining and charming throughout the whole short running time. I liked the inclusion of different characters besides the two and their working dynamic is what drives the movie in my opinion. It follows a very typical pattern, but it still does it with style and great charm.

The characters are all pretty well developed and really likable. Kralik and Novak are both superb and their romance is quite heartwarming and their bitter quarrels are rather amusing. As for the other characters in the shop, they all drive this movie as much as the two protagonists with of course the highlight being wonderful Hugo Matuschek. He is a typical old man and a typical boss but what sets him apart is his genuine care for his workers and his relationship with them is one of the standouts of this romantic comedy. I liked his story probably the most and he really is a very sympathetic character.

The acting is really good in The Shop Around the Corner. This is a typical role for James Stewarts, the role he gets typecast quite a bit, you could say. But that is for a reason as he is so good in it. Margaret Sullavan is also surprisingly good and I really liked her character and her performance quite a bit. And of course Frank Morgan did a great job in his role and he makes quite a presence.

The directing from Lubitsch is of course superb with his great touch and a rather playful tone once again exhibited here. But the confined space of a shop I thought did not work as well as some other classic films incorporated beautifully, for example ‘12 Angry Men‘. Here, it did not go smoothly with it as fine as I wished. Another complaint and a big problem in my opinion is the humor. It has its fair share of nice scenes that brought a smile to my face. But that is the point, it brought a smile, never genuine laughter. Not only is it not as hilarious as it should have been, but also it did not focus much on the comedy angle and it too much focused on romance and drama in the third act. The tone is definitely not handled well. But the directing and acting are both great and the pacing I found really polished with never a dragged or rushed scene. The dialogue is of course terrific with many beautifully delivered lines and the cast definitely has chemistry and screen presence. I also liked the romance in this movie quite a bit with the sequences between the two in the second half being quite heartwarming and sweet. Comparing it to ‘Trouble in Paradise‘, I would say that it is roughly on the same level of quality meaning that it has its flaws, but is very effervescent and romantic as well.

The Shop Around the Corner is never as funny as it should have been and the storyline is definitely predictable, but it is nevertheless a very effervescent film that is wonderfully directed, beautifully acted, very romantic and it has really likable characters.  It has its flaws, but it is overall a very entertaining and sweet film with a lot of charm at display.

My Rating – 4

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Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Trouble in Paradise (1932)Trouble in Paradise Review

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Marshall and Kay Francis, Trouble in Paradise is a 1932 screwball comedy that is regarded as one of the finest of the decade and a quintessential entry in the director’s filmography. While I cannot quite agree with that, I can see still see why critics feel that way.

It is a basic premise that of course gets convoluted as it progresses in a typical screwball comedy manner. It is about a thief and a lady pickpocket who team up in order to con a rich and beautiful woman. And of course hilarity and trouble ensues when he falls in love with the woman after spending more time with her. The story is probably the biggest reason why I was not particularly fond of this movie. It is good, very good indeed, but not a great genre movie mostly because the story never feels as believable or as fresh as some other iconic flicks of the type. And the running time is highly questionable because it clocks at just about 80 minutes which is certainly not enough for us to meet these characters properly. It should have been longer and it should have been much complex. However, the story is always engaging and very entertaining with some quite memorable scenes, mostly the great beginning and endearing finale.

As for the characters, they are very well developed despite the short running time. Lily is wonderful as this rich but passionate and kind woman while Gaston is the standout of course with evident charisma, good looks and charm in abundance. And although Colet simply pales in comparison to those two, she is still a realistic and solidly developed character. They are all beautifully portrayed by this very talented young actors who all give fantastic performances definitely helping the movie in the process a lot with their sophistication, good looks and professionalism.

Now, the humor. It is sweet naturally with its fair share of funny and memorable sequences that make you smile and feel at ease. But it is never hilarious and the movie needed much more humor to take it to the next level. What I found interesting about this movie is its sexy approach which was achieved due to pre-Code release date. It is done in the right and sophisticated manner with actors leaning in on each other, kissing, standing close and talking smoothly, but never going too far. It is suave, playful and energetic as is of course Lubitsch’s direction. He is great, no doubt about that. He achieves so much with this script and those actors, bringing a polished feel and authentic look to the picture.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning due to some impressive and original camera movements. And the editing is quick, the scenery beautiful. The tone is good with nice dramatic moments to accompany the comedic ones as well as fine romantic display and chemistry between the protagonists. And although the script is not as complex, polished or original, it is still never predictable which is great. And I have to add that the dialogue is splendid but that goes without saying because this genre is so good with it.

Thanks to fantastic acting, sweet humor, terrific characters and sexy approach with evident chemistry between the actors, Trouble in Paradise also manages to overcome its not that great script, too short running time and a lack of more comedic scenes with suave direction from Ernst Lubitsch, amazing performances, engaging story, endearing finale and playful tone. It is never as polished or as hilarious as other classic screwball comedies are and the vastly underrated ‘Ninotchka‘ is a much better work from the director, but this is still a fun, slick and smart picture with a lot of charm on display.

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