Program Details

Zany Sophisticates: Great Screwball Comedies

Kurt F. Stone
Video Catch-up

Course Description

In baseball, the term “screwball” denotes a pitch that breaks in the precise opposite direction of the curve. In Hollywood, “screwball” connotes a film genre peopled with characters who act opposite from what one might expect. Often defined as “sex comedies without the sex,” screwball films are frequently set in high society, where eccentric behavior is perhaps more tolerable. Screwball comedies, Hollywood staple between roughly 1934 and 1946, are known for their antic characters, improbable plots, overlapping dialogue, and language that can often be as dizzy as the characters themselves. During this series, we will view screwball comedies, which, in the opinion of Dr. Stone, are, or at least should be, classics in the genre.


  1. "Twentieth Century" (1934) - Directed by Howard Hawks, starring John Barrymore and Carol Lombard. Simply one of the funniest films ever made.
  2. "Bombshell" (1933) - Jean Harlow at her best as glamorous film star rebels against the studio, her pushy press agent and a family of hangers-on.
  3. "Theodora Goes Wild" (1936) - Irene Dunn as the author of a controversially racy best-selling book tries to hide her celebrity status from her provincial small-town neighbors.
  4. "Stand-In" (1936) - Leslie Howard stars as a stuffy, bookish Brit sent to take over the reins of floundering Colossal Studios who finds the film community eyeing him with thinly-veiled amusement. Co-Starring Humphrey Bogart.
  5. "The Devil and Miss Jones" (1941) - Jean Arthur and Robert Cummings: A tycoon goes undercover to ferret out agitators at a department store, but gets involved in their lives instead.
  6. "Love Crazy" (1941) - Wm. Powell and Myrna Loy: A wife suspecting infidelity starts divorce proceedings, so the husband pretends to be insane in order to delay the divorce and clear up the misunderstanding.

About the Instructor

  • Now in his 25th year with Lifelong Learning Dr. Stone is a true "Hollywood Brat. His passion for film is, he says, "a matter of genetics."

    Recipient of the 2004 Excellence in Teaching Award