I love the screwball, slapstick, fast-talking romantic comedies of the first half of the 20th Century. Wild dream sequences? Triangles? Ridiculous misunderstandings? Yes please!
I’m slowly working my way through a perhaps-too-academic study of the genre, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges by James Harvey. It relates what I always suspected: the best directors of the era felt duty-bound to “get really dirty jokes into [their] script or picture, and to get away with them.”
Lubitsch and Sturges were probably the all-time champions of this sneaky ribaldry. The 1944 New York Times review of the wartime comedy The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek begins by marvelling that Sturges got its “irrepressible impudence” past the Hays office, and, after relating the bold content of the film, concludes that “he made the film so innocently amusing, so full of candor, that no one could take offense.”
What might this bold content be? Betty Hutton plays Trudy Kockenlocker (that's right, Kockenlocker), who goes out for a night on the town to support the troops and gets hit on the head, then gets married. The next day she can't remember the name of the soldier who she got hitched to. And she's pregnant.
So, in less coy terms, this is a frothy 1944 comedy about a small town girl who gets drunk and knocked up. The performances are excellent, with Eddie Bracken and William Demarest rounding out the cast as Hutton’s hapless paramour and harried father, respectively.
And for more in sophisticated risqué viewing, from the falling of walls of Jericho between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable to the wholesome sexiness of Doris Day bottling ketchup, take a look at the list Romantic comedies with a double dash of sass.