Ever tried to hit a pitcher with a great screwball? Not many pitchers are masters of the screwball, but those that are tend to have incredible statistics. The screwball may not be quite as unpredictable as the knuckleball, but who would want to see a knuckleball comedy anyway?
Screwball Comedy derives its name from the screwball pitch. Another way of looking at screwball comedies is that they toss you a curve. Just when you are getting ready to dislodge that bat and knock that slowly approach ball ten yards past the fence, it suddenly drops out of sight and fools you. The life span of the screwball comedy was destined not to be very long. When unpredictably is an essential element to your success, it's only a matter of time before you have to go to ever increasing bizarre lengths to ensure the surprise that is expected. For this reason, the screwball comedy enjoyed one of the shortest heydays of any movie genre ever to produce a significant number of bona fide classics. Today, of course, the remnants of the screwball comedy is the Romantic Comedy in which, paradoxically, the utter lack of great surprises is what keeps the genre motor humming.
You can spot a screwball comedy from its juxtapositions. You will have rich versus poor. Or uptight versus free spirit. Honest versus dishonest. Helpless versus resourceful. That element of juxtaposing antagonistic forces is only tangentially included in the romantic comedy.
Today's romantic comedies ache to produce the same kind of feeling of the screwball comedy which is why you often see the two at the heart of things not liking each other very much. But today's couples who are juxtaposed against each other are usually satisfied merely with being antagonistic or disinterested. Watch a screwball comedy and you will occasionally grimace as you realize that these two people destined to fall in love with each other are very often quite cruel to each other until then. Screwball comedy can be downright vicious when it comes to the way that the lovers are kept apart. This viciousness in turn traces back to the precursor of the screwball film: William Shakespeare's comedies of love's labors lost and found.
If you have the stomach for it, screwball comedy can take you farther away from the rote mechanistic qualities of the modern romantic comedy than you would ever have thought possible. Give screwball comedies a chance and you just may find yourself making contact more often Rod Carew.
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