MR. & MRS. SMITH (1941)
1941, Warner Bros., 91 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Yes, there is a screwball comedy among the Hitchcock oeuvre, and a highly amusing one at that. When Robert Montgomery tells wife Carole Lombard that he wouldn’t marry her again, he soon regrets the joke - it turns out that, due to a technicality, their marriage was never valid, and that friend Gene Raymond has a thing for the suddenly available Lombard.


TO BE OR NOT TO BE
1942, Westchester Films, 99 min, USA, Dir: Ernst Lubitsch

The threat posed by Nazi Germany was very real when director Ernst Lubitsch took aim at the Third Reich in this now-classic comedy. Jack Benny and Carole Lombard (in her final role) are married actors in Warsaw when Hitler’s troops invade; they and the rest of their company must give the performances of their lives to save pilot Robert Stack and the Polish resistance from Nazi spies. No less a comedic great than Mel Brooks put his stamp of approval on the film, remaking it in 1983.


TWENTIETH CENTURY
1934, Sony Repertory, 91 min, USA, Dir: Howard Hawks

The granddaddy of all screwballs, as egomaniacal Broadway producer John Barrymore makes a star of shopgirl Carole Lombard (as this picture did in real life), then goes berserk trying to win her back after she leaves him. Totally uncompromising in every respect, this is a flat-out masterpiece. Hecht and MacArthur’s blistering script is marvelously made flesh by the two stars, as well as Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Charles Lane, Edgar Kennedy and Etienne Girardot.


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