Hollywood Screwball Comedy 1934-1945: Sex, Love, and Democratic Ideals


Product Details

Bloomsbury Academic
Publish Date
7.0 X 10.0 X 0.73 inches | 1.35 pounds

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About the Author

Grégoire Halbout is Associate Professor of English and Cinema at the University of Tours, France. He writes in French and English about Hollywood comedy and the social function of cultural industries, as well as gender and sexuality in contemporary film and television.


"The book is smartly written and deeply researched, and it joins foundational work by such scholars of the genre as Stanley Cavell, Kathrina Glitre, and Wes Gehring ... This indispensable book will be valuable for those interested in screwball comedies or Hollywood history. Summing Up: Essential. All readers." --CHOICE

"Synthesizing major strands of French and English-language scholarship on the theatrical and cinematic traditions of romantic comedy, Grégoire Halbout's Hollywood Screwball Comedy,1934-1945 offers a fresh and lively reappraisal of Hollywood screwball comedies as a distinctly American film genre. The scope of his approach alone is impressive. Adroitly side-stepping the pitfalls of genre studies that are limited to the inspection of a handful of celebrated films, Halbout identifies and explores an expansive corpus, one with permeable boundaries and in flux throughout the years bridging the Great Depression and the Second World War. With exactness, he also dives deeply into the records of Production Code Administration to demonstrate how evolving censorship practices in Hollywood triggered the emergence of new visual and verbal comic styles. He charts a cultural discourse crisscrossed with contradictory and conflicting voices, echoing public debates about sex, intimacy, and marriage at a time when a democratic mythos was under great strain. Brought to light in these pages are the institutional practices and creative responses through which the dialects and effects of 'screwball' surfaced and flourished on and beyond the screen." --Charles Wolfe, Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

"Initiated and propelled by the writing of Stanley Cavell, Grégoire Halbout offers here a capacious yet discerning analysis of the remarkably fecund genre known by the disarming, perhaps misleading name "screwball." Delighting in the glories of taking democratic entertainment seriously, Halbout treats readers to a lively taxonomy of the characteristics and criteria that make these films recognizable, including savvy assessments of the many directors who artfully troped love and sex into conversation-thereby eliding with comic flair the chaste restrictions of the Hays Code. Moreover, despite the madcap and zany attributes of these plots and their characters, pursuits of happiness-in their many incarnations-remain of immanent concern for one and all, on screen and off. In Halbout's company, we contend with the exigencies of marriage; the charged private and public spaces of intimacy and power; and the vexed romance of democracy. To these ends, Halbout seizes upon the narrative traits that keep these indelible films fresh, while encouraging us to ponder how and why they proliferated. Though readers familiar with Cavell's contributions will recognize "his films" in the line-up, they will also encounter an expanse of additional works that thrill-placing the achievements of the marquee instances in dialogue with the lesser known. Befitting his signal inspiration, Halbout sustains Cavell's influential investigation and extends it in dynamic ways, delivering in this volume what amounts to a now-indispensable companion for exploring the moral and aesthetic incitements of the genre-especially among its hilarious and profound exemplars." --David LaRocca, Cornell University, USA and editor of The Thought of Stanley Cavell and Cinema and Movies with Stanley Cavell in Mind