The only non-comedy in the list, though it was actually quite funny at times. I think it could have used an extra ten minutes or so at the beginning to better establish the Grant-Bergman romance (okay, okay, so I just prefer romantic comedies to thrillers, so sue me). Though once it gets going, it really gets going. Hitchcock, as we all know, was basically God; the man knew how to make a movie, how to create suspense. I loved the subtext based around Bergman's slutty reputation (no, really, this is the heart of the romance, and Grant's distrust manifests itself in some truly cruel lines about her sleeping around), and the final scene will stay with you forever. Strangely enough, though, the whole living-with-a-psychopath angle reminded me of another Bergman film, Gaslight, which I think is actually much better. So my overwhelming feeling after finishing Notorious is that now I really want to watch Gaslight again. My mind works in very weird ways.
You Can't Take It With YouWas very excited to see this, and ended up quite a bit underwhelmed. I love Jean Arthur, as you know, and she was great, so no complaints on that account. And I won't deny that a couple of the scenes are hilarious. But the film was so gosh-darned preachy it almost made me sick. Honestly, are there really that many people who think that working late to make lots of money is more important than time spent with loved ones and family? Who would prefer a dull office job to fun and games at home? I seriously doubt it. Yet the movie goes on and on and on about how family and fun is more important than work. You think? Yet it's a completely false choice - you work hard not because you enjoy your job but because you need to support your family. I know I'm just paranoid, but the film seemed to me to be quite a piece of communist propaganda. Not just the whole 'let's all quit our jobs and live together in a commune' angle of it, but an actual commie-apologist subplot. This plot involves some harmless, slightly dull people who innocently hit upon the idea of making a fireworks recreation of the Russian Revolution and who advertise it by distributing little red pamphlets across the neighborhood, with the words "The Revolution is Coming." In the film, they are completely naive, harmless, and not communists at all, and the whole thing is played for farce, and the police who suspect a plot and come to investigate are portrayed as idiots. In real life, however, there were communists in America who did truly sinister work, and it seemed to me that the film was trying to create a narrative that excused them - oh, no, it's all an innocent, madcap misunderstanding, just like in our movie!
The More the MerrierAbsolutely loved the beginning, up until the romance started kicking in (I know, the exact opposite of my Notorious comments, but this romance was nothing special), at which point things went downhill quite fast. The beginning, when Coburn forces himself into sharing a small apartment with Arthur, out Odd-Couples the Odd Couple (and, indeed, the popularity of the Odd Couple proves that this movie could have had much greater success if it didn't bog things down by bringing in a third wheel). The very end, when things return to a screwball pace, is also very amusing.
Fairly dull script rescued by amazing, hilarious, perfect performances. Barrymore reminded me, bizarelly enough, of Kevin Kline. He and Lombard both know how to throw a tantrum. Two moments - one, when she is on her back and kicking him as he tries to come closer, and another, when they are trying to outdo each other with screaming fits in the same room - are the stuff of comic legend. There is a silly subplot about a madman thrown in at the last minute when the writers realized things needed to get more madcap. As long as either Barrymore or Lombard is on-screen, though, you can't look away.
It Happened One Night
Perfection. Exceeded even the highest of expectations. Brilliant performances backed up by a hilarious script. Never lags. Nothing more to say.
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
I will never understand why this movie isn't more well-known. Okay, it isn't as great as my absolute favorite, Bringing Up Baby, but it's close. Grant and Myrna Loy (my other love) at their absolute comic best, very funny script, very good direction, and the teenaged Shirley Temple isn't bad, either. So many great moments, I can't pick a favorite. This deserves to be right up there as one of the greatest comedies ever.
The Awful Truth
Once again, an occasionally uneven script is rescued by out-of-this-world comic performances. Sheila has a great post about it. However, while her focus is mainly on Grant, I think that Irene Dunne was even funnier. Both of them have a very subtle, understated style, saying so much with a slight shift in tone of voice or a tiny gesture, so you have to pay close attention - but be careful when you do, because there is almost no time to pause for air, you'll be laughing so loud. You really have to watch it over and over, it never gets old.
Recap: When it comes to the golden age of Hollywood stars, you are absolutely guaranteed a wonderful performance. These actors have a presence, a charisma, an aura, the likes of which no longer exists. And they are all very, very funny. The only question is whether the script and the story is up to snuff. When it is, as with It Happened One Night, sit back and enjoy absolute perfection. But even when it isn't, with movies like Twentieth Century or The Awful Truth, there remains so much to love in the performances, and in certain immortal moments, that you really can't help but fall in love anyway.