Screwball: It’s Love I’m After

Yesterday I listened to the Cinema Junkie episode on screwball comedies with CineBeth and the Nitrate Diva. I was delighted to learn about films I didn’t even know in addition to some old favourites. Screwball comedy is just the thing for these stressful and worrying times: after all they were born in a time of uncertainty and economic peril, offering a chance to laugh and be distracted for a while from the terrible things surrounding folks. As they point out, they’re not just escapist though: many have a surprising social edge to them.

One of the films they mentioned was It’s Love I’m After which stars Bette Davis, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland. How could I have missed this one?! Davis and Howard play bickering Broadway stars, Basil Underwood and Joyce Arden, savaging each other through the chapel scene of Romeo and Juliet then bowing to an adoring audience–very Lunt and Fonntane. De Havilland plays a starstruck deb who’s completely smitten with Howard’s preening Lothario: ‘After all, what am I? Just the greatest actor in the world!’

There’s not nearly enough Davis to satisfy, but Howard and character actor Eric Blore go to town on scheming to try to get rid of the nuisance after her fiancé turns out to be the son of Underwood’s benefactor. They run through every can’t-fail scheme they’ve learned from scripts over the years. De Havilland seems to be having a blast playing the dotty rich girl who finds every attempt at cruelty only more reason to adore him.

There’s a fantastic supporting cast including the ever wonderful Spring Byington, E. E. Clive, George Barbier and an exuberant Bonita Granville as a keyhole-peeping incorrigible gal who spurs Underwood to comment tartly, ‘Are there no reformatories in California?’ There’s even a Gertrude Lawrence connection (she has come up half a dozen times in the last week or so — more soon).

Great fun! Check it out. And watch more screwball comedy!

Director: Archie Mayo

Writers: Casey Robinson (screen play), Maurice Hanline (original story “Gentlemen After Midnight”)