If you live in the United Kingdom or are traveling there soon, here's something to consider: several Carole Lombard films are being shown there this month as part of a month-long festival on women in film comedy.
The annual Birds Eye View festival honoring women filmmakers (as anyone who recalls Carnaby Street and the "swingin' sixties" knows, "bird" is British slang for woman) is taking place, with this year's focus on comedy. Officials explain why:
"There are some who say that women tend to make certain kinds of movies: a bit weepy, a little earnest, kinda intense. We pondered this, and acknowledge that women have excelled at some beautifully crafted, emotionally complex movies. But we also look around at each other and spy some side-splittingly funny sorts. Daft, quick-witted, dry, dappy... So why not on film? Think of Hollywood's greatest comics and a blaze of boys come to mind –- the brilliant Jack Black, the unstoppable Woody Allen, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray… But who are the girls?
"We thought, and looked, and started digging around in the dusty depths of the archives, and discovered that in days gone by far more women were making the silver screen crackle with their comic brilliance. We're not quite sure what's happened. But we want things to change again. And so we're on the hunt for a new generation of comedy film writers, who can pen the characters we're craving."
In other words, to improve the future, acknowledge your past. (We're all for that.) And among the festival's 70 or so events are a few of interest to the classic film buff.
Throughout March, in cooperation with the British Film Institute, the festival is running "Screwball Women: Comediennes in Classical Hollywood." A total of 11 films are being run, none of them particularly obscure, but all worth checking out on the big screen. Two of the 11 star Lombard: "My Man Godfrey," to be shown March 23 and 24...
...and her final film, "To Be Or Not To Be," with showings on March 20 and 23...
Note that the films on March 23 are back-to-back: "To Be Or Not To Be" at 6:15 p.m., "My Man Godfrey" at 8:50.
For a complete schedule, whichopens tonight with "Stage Door," visit http://www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/bfi_southbank/screwball_women.
Lombard and the other star actresses of '30s comedy cast such giant shadows it almost sometimes seems as if women weren't allowed to be funny before 1930. We know better, of course, and the festival proves it with another event, "Clowning Glories: Women in Film Comedy Before 1930." These films will run for eight days, beginning Friday, and highlight the contributions women made to comedy duri9ng the silent and early sound era.
While none of Lombard's Mack Sennett films are on the bill, you'll find her nonetheless. That's because the schedule includes the 1927 Mary Pickford comedy "My Best Girl," in which she has a small, uncredited part (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/33953.html). That's her with Buddy Rogers, later Pickford's husband.
The schedule of films includes Carole's good friend Marion Davies in what's generally considered to be her masterpiece, "Show People," Clara Bow in "The Wild Party" and a panel discussion next Monday featuring the great film historian Kevin Brownlow. Find more info at http://birds-eye-view.co.uk/2008/clowning.htm.
Incidentally, a few weeks ago Tim Robey of the Telegraph, a top UK newspaper, wrote a perceptive piece on the problems women are facing in the industry these days called "Why is Hollywood going for bloke?" Give it a read at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/02/16/bfmacho116.xml