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Tag Archives: screwball comedy

Bringing Up Baby

Image credit: Bringing Up Baby, 1938

So a leopard, a dog, and a paleontologist walk into a bar… Not really, but this week’s film Bringing Up Baby (Disc/Download) definitely feels like one long, preposterous joke you tell after a few strong drinks.  From Cary Grant in a frilly bathrobe, to Katharine Hepburn hanging off the edge of a Brontosaurus skeleton, the hits just keep on coming.

Directed by Howard Hawks, this fast-talking screwball comedy shows what happens when a buttoned-up paleontologist (Grant) meets his match in a flighty, chaotic socialite (Hepburn). She steals his golf ball and his car, he laments the cruel twist of fate that sent this #hotmessexpress careening into his ordered life, and before you know it, they’re ripping each other’s clothes off. Things get really crazy when a “tame” leopard gets delivered to Hepburn’s mansion, the family dog buries a priceless dinosaur bone, and the circus comes to town. I love any movie with a fast-paced plot and rapid dialogue, and it doesn’t get faster (or zanier) than this. Having been a longtime fan of the Grant/Hepburn pairing in The Philadelphia Story, it’s fun to see them in the meet-cute stage of a relationship, as opposed to bickering divorcees. Almost as though Bringing Up Baby is the prequel to their later film, back when this onscreen couple was just figuring out how to be “yar”.

Fans of The Thin Man will probably recognize doggie star “Skippy”, who achieved even greater fame as Nick and Nora Charles’s pooch Asta. Here he plays George, a pampered scoundrel who likes to steal bones and hide them all over his owner’s sprawling estate. One such bone is the missing piece to Cary Grant’s prized Brontosaurus skeleton, so while you’re watching Bringing Up Baby, I recommend joining the fun with this Skeleton Key cocktail.

Skeleton Key

1 ½ oz Bourbon

¾ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

8 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine bourbon, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice with ice in a Collins glass. Stir to combine and chill, then top with more ice, and ginger beer. Stir, and top with eight dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Fizzy and sweet, the drink also has a bit of a bite to it, mirroring the sharp tongues of our hero and heroine. For witty banter, hilarious physical comedy, and chemistry that’s off the charts, give these screwballs a watch. Cheers!

It Happened One Night

Image Credit: It Happened One Night, 1934.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I have a thing for grumpy heroes in popular culture. I guess when I really stop to think about it, I’m the grumpy hero of my own life: I don’t have time for nonsense, my baseline descriptors are sarcastic and pessimistic, but deep down inside I’m a romantic puddle of mush. Maybe that’s why I adore Clark Gable so much in this week’s film It Happened One Night (Disc/Download)—we are two cynics who found love, despite our better instincts.

Hailed as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, It Happened One Night 100% lives up to the hype. It’s amazing to me how this 1930s screwball comedy about a scandalized socialite falling for a wisecracking journalist still manages to feel fresh and relevant nearly a century later. Featuring tropes as old as time (enemies-to-lovers + forced proximity), Frank Capra’s ode to romance on the road is smart, daring, and unbelievably funny. While the script is great, it’s the acting that really sells it for me. Claudette Colbert is both ballsy and vulnerable, so desperate to get to The Wrong Man that she jumps off a yacht, hops on a Greyhound, spends the night with a total stranger (The Right Man), and flashes her gams while hitchhiking. And yet, she still needs Clark Gable to tell her how bus schedules work, and the proper way to dunk a donut, and how to not stand out like a sore thumb among the plebeians. Meanwhile, he needs a woman who makes him laugh, calls him out on his oversized ego, and is ready and willing to take the leap into a life of adventure. These two may be on opposite sides of the curtain, but we know it’s only a matter of time before those walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Claudette Colbert’s character Ellie Andrews is described as a spoiled brat, but I think she’s more of a pissed-off brat. She’s tired of other people calling the shots in her life, and she’s ready to take the reins. This cocktail I found a few months ago in the New York Times cooking section seems tailor-made for Ellie- The Bitter Heiress!

The Bitter Heiress

3 oz Lillet

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

½ oz Campari

Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the first three ingredients. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Take the orange peel, hold it over the glass with the skin facing down, then strike a match and hold it between the peel and the drink. Squeeze peel toward match to spray citrus oil onto the surface of the drink, and discard. Garnish with a fresh slice of peel.

If you need a fun romp for an at-home date night, or just a solo screening that’ll make you feel a little less pessimistic about the world, quit bawlin’ and give It Happened One Night a chance. Here’s to the merry go round!

What’s Up, Doc?

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Whats Up Doc

Image credit: Whats Up Doc?, 1972

The 1970’s were a really unfortunate time for hair. Also luggage. But there was one great thing that set the decade apart from all others- Barbra Streisand. Specifically, young, gamine, fresh-faced Barbra Streisand, before she was Oprah-rich and started cloning her dogs. In this week’s film What’s Up, Doc? (DVD/Download), she’s at the top of her game, but isn’t afraid to pratfall down to the bottom.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, What’s Up, Doc? pays homage to the great screwball comedies of the 1930’s. Fast dialogue, rapid fire puns, etc.- it’s like Bringing Up 70’s Baby. Four people show up at the same hotel carrying the same ugly suitcase. Naturally the suitcases get mixed up, and chaos ensues. Barbra is radiant as flighty Judy Maxwell, and her zany romance with engaged musicologist (played by Ryan O’Neal), is great fun to watch. The script is still remarkably fresh, and I found myself imagining who’d play these roles in the remake. Dream cast: Ryan Reynolds as Howard Bannister, Aya Cash as Judy Maxwell, and Kate McKinnon as Eunice Burns. Boom.

One of my favorite scenes involves Judy and Howard meeting on an abandoned floor of the hotel.  The stuffy musicologist plays “As Time Goes By” (because every construction site has a spare piano lying around…) and they gaze into each other’s eyes, and…. (insert *sigh* here). This cocktail is as sparkling as the movie dialogue, as sweet as the romance, and naturally, on the rocks. While watching What’s Up, Doc?, I recommend drinking an Elderflower Collins (on the rocks).

Elderflower Collins (on the rocks)

2 oz gin

1 oz St. Germain

1 oz lemon juice

2 oz Lemon Elderflower Soda

2 oz Topo Chico

Fill a highball glass with ice, then build drink, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon slice.

elderflower fizz

If you’re traveling to San Francisco anytime soon, I’d highly recommend giving this movie a watch. So many great location shots of the city, including some truly epic car chases up and down the hills. Bogdanovich throws every sight and sound gag at us, and luckily, most of them work. In What’s Up, Doc?, anything goes. Cheers!