My Top 50 Comedies (Contd.)
20. Divorce Italian Style Dir. Pietro Germi
(Marcello Mastoianni, Daniela Rocca, Stefania Sandrelli, Leopoldo Trieste, Odoardo Spadaro)
An Italian nobleman longs to marry his beautiful cousin. There's only one problem; he's already married, and living in a society which frowns upon divorce. He comes up with a plan to prove his wife an adultress, so that he can then kill her, as the society which won't allow divorce will forgive crimes of passion.
Wickedly funny black comic satire of Italy's antiquated laws and customs. It moves at a cracking pace, and while it won't make you laugh out loud, it will keep you chuckling all the way.
Mastroianni is superb.
19. Monty Python's Life Of Brian Dir. Terry Jones
(Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam)
By far the Pythons' best film. Controversial, and originally banned in parts of the UK and US.
It's a gloriously funny send-up of all those pious, po-faced, boring religious 'epics' such as Ben Hur, Quo Vadis and King Of Kings, with the Pythons all in top mickey-taking form.
The hilarious crucifixion finale shows that, as one reviewer put it, "When the Pythons were in peak form their talent seemed, well, God given."
18. Ninotchka Dir. Ernst Lubitsch
(Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach, Ina Claire)
A cold, straight-laced Russian emissary is sent to Paris to sell some royal jewels. She meets and falls in love with a playboy.
Somewhat of a change of pace for Lubitsch. More hard edged and cynical in tone than much of his other work - probably the influence of screenwriters Wilder and Brackett.
Nonetheless, this comedy sparkles, with Garbo showing not only a talent for romantic comedy, but also a touching vulnerability. Superb supporting cast.
17. The Ladykillers Dir. Alexander Mackendrick
(Alec Guinness, Katie Johnson, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers)
A little old lady takes in a lodger who is the leader of a gang of bank robbers. When she finds out, and threatens to go to the police, they plot to kill her but end up bumping one another off instead.
Droll, witty black comedy, with Guinness in top form, given wonderful support from a top-notch cast. One of the few comedies in which death is both shocking and very funny.
16. Bullets Over Broadway Dir. Woody Allen
(John Cusack, Chas Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly, Jim Broadbent)
A struggling playwright's latest play is funded by a mob boss on the condition that his talentless moll is cast as one of the leads.
One of the high points of Woody's 90's films, made with a beautiful feel for the period, with inspired characterisation, witty dialogue and true film making flair.
In a fine cast, Dianne Wiest and Chas Palminteri are standouts.
15. The Palm Beach Story Dir. Preston Sturges
(Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor)
The wife of a struggling engineer, believing that she's holding her husband back, takes off to Florida and becomes involved with a bumbling millionaire and his scatty, man crazy sister.
Sturges at his most manically hilarious, with virtually non-stop laughs.
The cast is uniformly excellent.
14. Easy Living Dir. Mitchell Leisen
(Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland, Franklin Pangborn, William Demarest)
Millionaire Arnold throws his wife's mink coat out of the window, and it falls onto poor working girl Arthur. Complications ensue, leading to her being suspected of being his mistress. Meanwhile, his son, Milland, determined to make his own way in the world, meets and falls in love with - you guessed it!
Sparkling romantic comedy written by Preston Sturges, and with a standout performance by Arnold.
13. The Philadelphia Story Dir. George Cukor
(Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Roland Young)
A stuffy, uptight society heiress, about to enter into her second marriage, is humanised by the influence of both her ex husband and the reporter who is sent to cover her wedding, and who falls for her.
Witty, literate adaptation of Phillip Barry's hit play, with a script which actually improves on the original. The performances, particularly Stewart's, are just perfect.
12. The Lady Eve Dir. Preston Sturges
(Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest)
Stanwyck and Coburn are father and daughter con artists who set their sights on shy, bewildered millionaire Fonda. Unfortunately, she finds herself falling in love with him.
Preston Sturges' most brilliant film, a combination of sparkling, witty dialogue and inspired slapstick. Stanwyck, Fonda and Coburn provide a masterclass of deftly comic performances. The Battle Of The Sexes has never been funnier.
11. Sherlock Jnr. Dir. Buster Keaton
(Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Ward Crane, Joseph Keaton)
A movie projectionist walks into the screen and takes part in the detective story being shown.
Buster was at his creative peak in this hilarious and beautifully constructed film.
The sight gags and the superb comic timing are as good as ever, and blended with the delightful fantasy make for a film whose influence can be seen in the work of directors as diverse as Woody Allen, Jacques Rivette and Luis Bunuel.
How can I believe in God, when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?