Yum! Free beef pie. Image: The New York Times

Gentle Reader, you’re likely bearing this time of pandemic and isolation with more patience than we.

Instead of being grateful that we – and everyone we know personally – remain virus-free, we tend to get a little grumpy about not being able to visit loved ones or go for a walk without feeling Guilty.

You’ve probably also noticed governments, while promising much-needed relief, are becoming Quite Bossy in ways that we in the West were once blissfully unaccustomed to.

Surely you have your ways of coping, whether it’s tackling long-delayed projects at home, or baking astounding new desserts. (If the latter, please let us know if you need a tester.)

We (yours truly) are still commuting to work, because we’re employed by an essential-services organization. Not that we are essential; we’re just lumped in with Those Who Are. So we like to pretend life doesn’t feel entirely different right now.

But it does.

A pandemic is a thief. It robs folks of freedom and livelihood, not to mention the lives it has taken.

It feels like it’s slowly choking all of us.

Yet, the other night, when we watched a 1930s screwball comedy, we realized how much we needed a bit of silliness for an escape.

Who hasn’t ever wanted to say this? Image: Tenor

Easy Living (1937) is a crazy screwball comedy, which is really saying something because a screwball comedy, by definition, is crazy.

Jean Arthur stars as an office worker who suddenly comes into possession of a sable fur coat worth $58,000 (approx. $1M US today).

Through a series of unfortunate – and fortunate – circumstances, the coat causes her to be fired, but it also presents spectacular opportunity. Because she is mistakenly thought to be the mistress of a middle-aged, married financier, our Jean is offered the penthouse suite in a luxury hotel in exchange for promoting the establishment to her “boyfriend”.

Meanwhile, she does meet a handsome young man (Ray Milland), who – unbeknownst to her – is the son of the aforementioned financier. Milland is trying to Make His Way in the world, without the aid of Dad’s moola, and he finds gainful employment as a busboy in an automat.

Now, we’re giving you a rather brief sketch of a film packed with personal ambitions, funny lines, and situations that would never happen in a billion years.

Which makes it utterly fabulous.

Mind the sable. Image: Cockeyed Caravan

As we watched Easy Living, with its ridiculous premise and inevitable automat food fight, we truly appreciated, we think, how this film might have felt to Depression-era audiences. This enormously fluffy story envelopes you and helps you forget the world outside.

It proves you haven’t lost your sense of humour and reminds you it’s okay to laugh.

Sometimes, that is exactly what we need.

Easy Living was written by screwball wunderkind Preston Sturges, and it has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch a restored version here, for free.


Easy Living: starring Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland. Directed by Mitchell Leisen. Written by Preston Sturges. Paramount Studios, 1937, B&W, 88 mins.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

50 Comment on “Why We Need Silly Movies

  1. Pingback: Why We Need Silly Movies — Silver Screenings | Los Angeles feedback film festival

  2. Pingback: Why We Need Silly Movies — Silver Screenings – Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival

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