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The Awful Truth film image; couple side-eyeing each other

Film Studies: Screwball Express

Monday Mornings Mar 18 – Apr 29

Image: The Awful Truth at VIFF Centre

Film scholar Michael van den Bos takes us on a whirlwind tour of comedy classics from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Put a spring in your step and get the week off to a flying start with VIFF’s new six-part Film Studies course, a celebration of a genuine American art form: Screwball Comedy.

In this series Michael van den Bos explores different aspects of Screwball, unpacking the conventions of the genre and illuminating the contributions of key artists, including leading directors Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Preston Sturges.

Talks will last 25 minutes, followed by a film screening and an audience talk-back.

Screwball Comedy flourished in the latter half of the 1930s and early 40s, a bright and breezy counterpoint to the Depression and the war in Europe, and filmmakers’ subversive response to the puritanical strictures of the recently imposed Production Code.

Screwballs are sophisticated sex comedies marrying witty banter with farce, slapstick, and conducted at a breakneck pace, starring glamorous, self-possessed but often alarmingly ditzy dames like Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur, opposite such heartthrobs as Cary Grant, James Stewart, Henry Fonda and Don Ameche.

Film Studies will take place Monday mornings at 10:30 am March 18 – April 29.*

*No Film Studies screening April 1


Regular $18 | Senior/Student $16 | VIFF+ $15

*VIFF+ members must log in first to receive their discount.

Please note that these films from nine decades ago sometimes reflect attitudes and assumptions that are considered offensive today, in particular in regards to their treatment of racial and ethnic difference, as well as towards sexuality and gender. VIFF invites audiences to view these films through a historical lens and with the critical distance that time provides for us.

Screwball Express: Twentieth Century

In the first of our new spring Film Studies programs, Michael van den Bos explores screwball comedy's origins and characteristics in a 25 min intro to 1934 classic Twentieth Century starring Carole Lombard and John Barrymore.

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The Daffy & The Dizzy: Screwball Dames

In the second Screwball Express Film Studies session, Michael van den Bos takes a look at the key actresses of the genre—such as Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, and Jean Arthur— and then we savour Claudette Colbert in the sublime Cinderella story, Midnight.

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Madcap Marriages: The Awful Truth

"Just because I love you doesn’t mean I don’t hate you." Surviving manic marriages and delirious divorce in the world of screwball... Michael van den Bos is our love guru as he introduces Irene Dunne and Cary Grant in The Awful Truth.

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Masters of Screwball: Frank Capra

Director Frank Capra virtually created the screwball genre with It Happened One Night (1934). Michael van den Bos discusses Capra's key contributions to the golden age of screwball, followed by You Can’t Take It With You, starring Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur.

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Masters of Screwball: Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges created madcap movie magic with his dizzyingly deft blend of witty wordplay, slapstick schtick, kooky characters and risqué romances. Michael van den Bos probes Preston Sturges's sublime screwball style, followed by his film The Lady Eve.

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Masters of Screwball: Howard Hawks & Cary Grant

The Screwball Express reaches its final destination with an appreciation of two giants of the genre: director/producer Howard Hawks and leading man Cary Grant, followed by a screening of one of the funniest films ever made, Bringing Up Baby.

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