Columbia Screwball

Columbia Screwball

13 Episodes

In the early 1930s, Columbia Pictures’ fate changed with the arrival of director Frank Capra, who quickly established a new archetype of Hollywood glamour in Jean Harlow’s moniker-defining Platinum Blonde and, just three years later, swept the Oscars with the comedy sensation It Happened One Night. The studio soon became the foremost home of screwball comedy, with stars such as Cary Grant (THE AWFUL TRUTH) and Jean Arthur (THE MORE THE MERRIER) and major directors like George Cukor (IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU) and Howard Hawks (HIS GIRL FRIDAY) taking the genre to dizzying heights of lunacy and sophistication. Defined by their rapid-fire (often female-driven) banter, playful sense of absurdism, effortless style, and topsy-turvy take on traditional gender roles, these films remain some of the most enduring treasures of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Columbia Screwball
  • Patton Oswalt on Screwball Comedy

    Episode 1

    This introduction by comedian and actor Patton Oswalt was recorded in 2022.

  • It Happened One Night

    Episode 2

    Directed by Frank Capra • 1934 • United States
    Starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly

    Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark...

  • It Should Happen to You

    Episode 3

    Directed by George Cukor • 1954 • United States
    Starring Judy Holliday, Peter Lawford, Jack Lemmon

    Screenwriter Garson Kanin and director George Cukor presciently satirize the rise of “famous for being famous” celebrity culture in this irresistible romantic comedy. With her career going nowhere,...

  • Platinum Blonde

    Episode 4

    Directed by Frank Capra • 1931 • United States
    Starring Jean Harlow, Robert Williams, Loretta Young

    Written to showcase Jean Harlow’s talent and charm, this romantic comedy from director Frank Capra is a glorious spoof of the newspaper business in New York City during the Depression. After marry...

  • His Girl Friday

    Episode 5

    Directed by Howard Hawks • 1940 • United States
    Starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

    One of the fastest, funniest, and most quotable films ever made, HIS GIRL FRIDAY stars Rosalind Russell as reporter Hildy Johnson, a standout among cinema’s powerful women. Hildy is matched in fo...

  • Twentieth Century

    Episode 6

    Directed by Howard Hawks • 1934 • United States
    Starring John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly

    Carole Lombard established her genius for screwball comedy with this madcap classic, which practically set the template for the genre. Scripted by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (adapting th...

  • The More the Merrier

    Episode 7

    Directed by George Stevens • 1943 • United States
    Starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn

    Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn find that three’s a crowd in this delightful screwball romp. Set during the 1940s wartime housing shortage, THE MORE THE MERRIER stars Arthur as Washin...

  • The Whole Town’s Talking

    Episode 8

    Directed by John Ford • 1935 • United States
    Starring Edward G. Robinson, Jean Arthur

    Edward G. Robinson spoofs his own tough-guy image in this lively gangster farce, one of director John Ford’s rare forays into straight comedy. In a delightful double role, Robinson plays mild-mannered office cl...

  • Theodora Goes Wild

    Episode 9

    Directed by Richard Boleslawski • 1936 • United States
    Starring Irene Dunne, Melvyn Douglas, Thomas Mitchell

    Irene Dunne established herself as one of screwball’s brightest comedic talents with this exuberant tale of a small-town girl living a double life as the secret author of a scandalous bes...

  • Phffft

    Episode 10

    Directed by Mark Robson • 1954 • United States
    Starring Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, Jack Carson

    After several years of domestic squabbles, the marriage of Nina (Judy Holliday) and Robert Tracey (Jack Lemmon) goes “phffft!” Upon receiving their divorce papers, Nina and Robert are certain that the...

  • You Can’t Take It With You

    Episode 11

    Directed by Frank Capra • 1938 • United States
    Starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart

    Frank Capra’s irresistible adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize–winning stage hit by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart is perhaps the most bighearted and optimistic comedy from a filmmaker who speciali...

  • Good Neighbor Sam

    Episode 12

    Directed by David Swift • 1964 • United States
    Starring Jack Lemmon, Romy Schneider, Dorothy Provine

    Romy Schneider shines in one of the very few films she made in Hollywood, an endearingly wacky farce that takes a classic screwball premise and gives it a gleaming 1960s Technicolor update. Happi...

  • The Awful Truth

    Episode 13

    Directed by Leo McCarey • 1937 • United States
    Starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy

    In this Oscar-winning farce, Cary Grant (in the role that first defined the Cary Grant persona) and Irene Dunne exude charm, cunning, and artless affection as an urbane couple who, fed up with each oth...