Favorite Comedies: The 30’s

The 1930’s brought sound movies to the forefront. Along with it came the fast talking world of screwball comedies, the best of the Marx Brothers and much more. It was hard to limit this list to just ten. But that is the name of the game. The great film critic Andrew Sarris once described “screwball comedy as a sex comedy without the sex.”

This is the Part 3 in a monthly series.

A Night at the Opera


City Lights


The Dentist

Design for Living


Even though it was made during Hollywood’s pre-code era, it still amazes me how much Ernest Lubitch got away in this adaptation of Noel Coward’s tale of a ménage à trois. The threesome are Gary Cooper. Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March. The men are artists and both are in love with Hopkins, a “patron of the arts.” Both men love her, and she loves both so they decide to all live together. Much of Coward’s dialogue had to be changed for the screen and toned down. Still, this is spicy stuff even for a pre-code.

Duck Soup


Revolution for the Hell of It, Abbie Hoffman wrote back in the late 1960’s but he was way too late in his call. Some thirty-five years earlier, the Marx Brothers blew the lid off turning rebellion into a mischievous art form in Leo McCarey’s masterpiece of mayhem, Duck Soup. Marxist chaos rules in the land of Freedonia.

It is difficult to imagine what a depression era audience made of the pandemonium being presented to them on screen. Like in all previous films, the Marx Brothers have no respect for anything. All positions of authority are targets for ridicule. Anti-politics, anti-war, anti-authority; as Groucho once sang in an earlier film (Horse Feathers), Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.” To the Marx Brothers it was all fodder for their antics to exploit the self-righteous, the rich, and the pompous and most all themselves. Click here to read the rest of my review.

Horse Feathers


For The Marx Brothers the world and everyone in it is a target for ridicule. It makes no difference what ones position is in life: politician, policeman, intellectual, thug, society matron or bimbo, all are treated with equal irrelevance. No one is immune, all are exploited as asinine know nothings. Though the Marx’s share the same universal space as the rest of us, they are a law unto themselves and the first rule is…everything is irrelevant. As for all other rules, just refer back to rule number one. As Groucho sings in the opening minutes of Horse Feathers, their fourth film, Whatever It Is, I’m Against It. You can read the rest of my review here.


It’s a Gift


Modern Times


The Music Box


The Thin Man




5 comments on “Favorite Comedies: The 30’s

  1. Wowza! This was a great way to start the day. Cup of coffee and classic comedy. I’m ashamed to say it, but you reminded me that I haven’t shown my daughter Duck Soup. I am now doubting my parenting skills. I’ll pour another cup of coffee and watch It’s a Gift.

    I am really enjoying your series. Come on, May!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rick says:

    Another delightful list, John. I think that DUCK SOUP is the Marx Brothers’ finest film from start to finish.One has to watch it multiple times to truly enjoy it. Heck, even the title of their country is country is funny.


    • John Greco says:

      I agree, Rick. Straight satirical pandemonium, no annoying, at least to me, ingenue love stories with the likes of white bread Alan Jones and Kitty Carlisle or whoever.


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