Kirk Douglas’ Servant, er, Secretary

There’s some uncomfortable business in the 1948 comedy My Dear Secretary. It’s a film with plenty of witty lines and delightfully outlandish characters, as portrayed by Kirk Douglas, Laraine Day and a scene-stealing Keenan Wynn. My Dear Secretary is about a celebrity author named Owen Waterbury (Douglas), who regularly hires secretaries to whom he dictates his… Continue reading Kirk Douglas’ Servant, er, Secretary


Inigo Montoya’s Triumphant Speech

The Princess Bride (1987) has, arguably, the most laugh-out-loud lines of any Hollywood film of the 1980s. One example is the scene where two men engage in left-handed swordplay. Suddenly one of them makes an admission: Man 1: “I know something you do not know.” Man 2: “What’s that?” Man 1: “I am not left-handed.”… Continue reading Inigo Montoya’s Triumphant Speech

Comedy · Musical

How Fred Astaire Sells Musical Comedy

Naturally, we love Fred Astaire‘s dancing. He’s Fred Astaire, for pete sake. Yet, when we recently watched the musical comedy Shall We Dance (1937), we realized Astaire is also a gifted salesman. First, a little about the film, a madcap look at celebrity gossip and the media. Astaire plays an American ballet star saddled with… Continue reading How Fred Astaire Sells Musical Comedy


The 1930’s Screwball “Slumming Tour”

You can well imagine Anthony P. Kirby’s chagrin. In the 1938 screwball comedy, You Can’t Take It With You, Kirby (Edward Arnold) is a wealthy Wall Street tycoon, the type who buys federal regulators as easily as buying real estate. His latest deal involves munitions. Kirby is a man who has no time or inclination for underlings. And everyone is an… Continue reading The 1930’s Screwball “Slumming Tour”


Buster Keaton and the Important Things in Life

There is a scene in the 1928 comedy, Steamboat Bill, Jr., that beautifully showcases the genius of its star, Buster Keaton. It’s not the scene where he clings to a flying tree, or the scene where he piggybacks a girl while dangling from a rope over a ferocious river. Nay, we feel the genius of Buster Keaton is… Continue reading Buster Keaton and the Important Things in Life


Carole Lombard takes on the High-Profile Illness

Spoiler Alert You have to hand it to 1930s screwball comedies. They are, in part, a response to the Production Code (c.a. 1930-67), a set of rules about What Was Allowed in the movies. Screwball comedies wink at audiences while madly skidding around these rules. In a screwball comedy, the question is: See what we did there? But 1930s… Continue reading Carole Lombard takes on the High-Profile Illness

Comedy · Holiday

The Best Holiday Film You’ve (Maybe) Never Seen

We’re feeling all smug because we just learned two Big Things.* (*You’re probably familiar with these things already, but please humour us.) Big Thing #1  Did you know The New York Times publishes a list of people in need over the holidays, and has done so for 105 years? Big Thing #2  We learned about #1 from… Continue reading The Best Holiday Film You’ve (Maybe) Never Seen


Jane Wyman’s Love Letter to Aviation

A person can get a little jaded about air travel. You know – cramped legroom, unscheduled delays, highly contagious people. There was a time when commercial airline travel was portrayed as exciting, even romantic. One example is the 1951 comedy, Three Guys Named Mike (1951). Jane Wyman plays a delightful, almost-too-helpful woman who becomes a flight attendant… Continue reading Jane Wyman’s Love Letter to Aviation

Comedy · War

Peter Sellers presents: The Cold War

In the early 1960s, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was wrestling with a screenplay about an accidental nuclear strike. He was resisting the urge to turn it into a comedy. His screenplay was an adaptation of the 1958 novel Red Alert by Peter George, a grim story about a mentally-unstable general who orders a nuclear strike on Russia. “I… Continue reading Peter Sellers presents: The Cold War


The Charming World of Monsieur Hulot

Did you travel to the French seaside for your vacation this year? No? Sadly, neither did we. However, there is a way to experience a holiday on the French coast without cramped flights and awkwardly-managed security lines. Voilà! Here is Mr Hulot’s Holiday (Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot), a 1953 French comedy about a bumbling man who goes to… Continue reading The Charming World of Monsieur Hulot