December 3rd, 2010

carole lombard 05
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A different 'Screwball' pitch

As we watch Carole Lombard typing away, let's examine a book -- one entitled "Screwball."

No, not that one, which we've often discussed here. This is the "Screwball" I'm referring to, which also has Carole on the cover:

This particular "Screwball" deals with the film genre Lombard was most associated with; it was written by Ed Sikov in 1989, with a forward by noted film critic Molly Haskell. At 10" x 10" -- roughly the size of an early long-playing record jacket -- it's sort of a coffee-table volume, and in fact there are plenty of pictures throughout its 240 pages.

Sikov examines the rise and fall of the genre, and tries to define what is (and isn't) screwball. (His definition of screwball includes "Topper," though he doesn't feel the same way about its two sequels.) Lombard is frequently mentioned throughout the book; Sikov writes at length about "Twentieth Century," "My Man Godfrey," "Nothing Sacred" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (a film he admired before many other critics did).

The book contains lists of writers, directors, cinematographers and a selected filmography, movies Sikov rates from one to three stars. The four Lombard films mentioned above all received three stars, as did "Hands Across The Table," while "The Princess Comes Across" and "True Confession" each received two stars. (William Powell and Myrna Loy fans may argue with his giving "Libeled Lady" only two stars, the same as the lackluster "Double Wedding" and the superior "I Love You Again," although Sikov does give three stars to the hilarious "Love Crazy.")

Sikov's "Screwball" is currently out of print, although copies can be found at and eBay. It's worth tracking down.
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