On Thursday, a lively group gathered in Greenville Public Library’s third floor to watch Mary Pickford’s silent classic Sparrows, thus concluding the 2016 spring season for our Third Floor Film Series. Now, as promised, it’s time to announce our summer schedule (the fall line-up will be posted after August’s screening).
Since the Third Floor Film Series launched at the beginning of 2015, we’ve had no specific themes to our seasonal schedules. This summer, we’re changing that. I’m excited to announce A Screwball Summer, the Third Floor Film Series’ 2016 summer program.
The genre of screwball comedy emerged in the early 1930s, and the genre’s prime continued for over a decade, with occasional films in this style continuing for decades after the genre as a whole had slowed down. Screwball comedies were characterized by fast, witty dialogue, zany, farcical plots, comedic tension between the sexes (which, under the restrictive Hays Code, was used as a metaphorical stand-in for sexual tension), and a strong female lead who often flaunted the sexual and gender norms of the day and took control in her relationships with the men around her. While these movies contain many silly elements, they are an interesting commentary on the sexual norms and gender roles of mid-century America and tell us a lot about how Hollywood worked to subvert those roles and get around the Hollywood production code. Those who have attended the Third Floor Film Series for some time will remember His Girl Friday, a hilarious film in this genre we watched together in June 2015.
We will be screening three classic screwball comedies this summer:
Thursday, June 23 – The Lady Eve (1941). Barbara Stanwyck plays Jean Harrington, a con artist who, with her father, works to scam gullible rich bachelors. When she discovers brewery heir Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) on the ocean liner she’s on, she figures he’ll be an easy target. She’s right, but she unexpectedly falls in love with him. When her identity is revealed to Pike, he scorns her. But she doesn’t like losing, and she’s not giving up that easily.
Directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.
Thursday, July 21 – It Happened One Night (1934). Ellen Andrews (Claudette Colbert), the spoiled daughter of a very rich man, elopes with her lover in the film often credited with being the first true screwball comedy. Her father wants the marriage annulled because he suspects her new husband is only after her money. In protest, she jumps off a boat, swims to shore, and boards a bus to New York City to rendezvous with her new husband. An opportunistic reporter played by Clark Gable recognizes her and decides to tag along, much to her annoyance. She warms to him. You see where this is going, but not how it gets there.
Directed by Frank Capra. Starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable.
Thursday, August 11 – Some Like It Hot (1959). The film many feel signaled the final death knell of the Hays Code, this one plays wild and loose with the gender codes of the time, and features cross-dressing, insinuated same-sex attraction, and a whole lot of Marilyn Monroe. When two jazz musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) accidentally witness a gang killing in Chicago and fear retribution, they disguise themselves as women and join an all-female band headed to Florida. Their disguises work a little too well.
Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.
All shows will begin at 7:00 p.m. I will lead a brief discussion after each screening, and as always there will be free theater popcorn, candy, Jones Soda, and coffee for all shows. The screenings will be held in the public meeting room on the third floor of the library, and the movies will be viewed on our 80″ high definition flat screen television with our brand new surround sound system.
I am very excited to announce these films. Each one is a movie I love and I can’t wait to share them with you. I look forward to seeing you there!