My Top 50 Comedies (Contd.)
10. Duck Soup Dir. Leo McCarey
(Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres)
Rufus T. Firefly, Prime Minister of Freedonia, wages war on neighbouring Sylvania, having paid a month's rent in advance on the battlefield.
Considered nowadays to be a satirical masterpiece, this is the Brothers' most sustained piece of insanity.
With so many hilarious one-liners and brilliant comedy routines, the one that stands out is the superbly executed mirror sequence.
9.Kind Hearts And Coronets Dir. Robert Hamer
(Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson)
The cast-off member of a titled family sets out to murder the eight members of the family who stand in the way of his inheriting the dukedom.
Peerless black comedy, in many respects the jewel in the crown of Ealing comedies.
A witty screenplay directed in genteel style, and with an incomparable cast. Alec Guinness' wonderful versatility in playing all eight members of the D'Ascoigne Family has led to the excellent performances of his co-stars being somewhat unfairly overlooked.
8. Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown Dir. Pedro Almodovar
(Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julietta Serrano, Maria Barranco)
A television actress whose married lover has left her, becomes involved with his family, and with a friend who is also involved with a group of Shiite terrorists.
The film which made Almodovar's international reputation.
It's a wonderfully inventive, colourful farce, fast paced, and with a cast who cannot be faulted in terms of their comic timing.
7. M. Hulot's Holiday Dir. Jacques Tati
(Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla, Louis Perrault, Andre Dubois)
Tati's first film to feature the character of M. Hulot, a bumbling but well meaning Frenchman on a summer holiday at the seaside.
It's an accurate but affectionate observation of the French at play, told almost as a silent film.
More a series of often hilarious vignettes than a coherent plot, but endlessly amusing and entertaining.
6. Bringing Up Baby Dir. Howard Hawks
(Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett)
Hepburn's only venture into slapstick comedy. She plays a madcap heiress who sets her sights on an absent-minded palaeontologist, and makes a shambles of his life.
The definitive screwball comedy, one of the fastest, funniest films ever made.
Dudley Nichols' and Hagar Wilde's screenplay gives the first-rate cast opportunity to shine, and Hawks' direction is a miracle of pace and wit.
5. Way Out West Dir. James W. Horne
(Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynn, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence)
Stan and Ollie travel to Brushwood Gulch to deliver the deed to a gold mine to the daughter of a prospector.
Crooked Finlayson and his equally reprehensible wife scheme to steal the inheritance.
A total joy of a film, with Stan and Ollie at the peak of their form.
The humour is gentle, the comic sequences are superbly executed and brilliantly timed, and the musical interludes, particularly Stan and Ollie's dance, are charming.
4. Some Like It Hot Dir. Billy Wilder
(Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Joe E. Brown, George Raft)
Two unemployed musicians witness the St Valentine's Day Massacre and hide out as members of an all-girl band heading for Miami.
A milestone of film comedy; fast paced, witty, inventive and with just enough of an edge of suspense to ensure that the interest never flags.
Lemmon and Curtis are marvellous, Monroe turns in one of her best comedy performances and it's capped off by one of the best punch lines ever.
3. Twentieth Century Dir. Howard Hawks
(John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns)
An egomanaiacal theatrical producer (Barrymore) makes a shop girl (Lombard) into a star. When she leaves him he does everything he can to lure her back during a lengthy trip on the train of the title.
Barrymore, in a deliciously hammy, over-the-top performance, has never been funnier, and is matched note for note by Lombard.
Connolly and Karns, as his long-suffering cronies, are ace.
The script sparkles, and the whole thing is directed at breakneck pace by Hawks.
2. The General Dir. Buster Keaton / Clyde Bruckman
(Buster Keaton, Marian Mack, Glen Cavender)
Buster's masterpiece, based on a true story and set during the American Civil War.
A Confederate train driver has his train and his sweetheart stolen by Union spies. He gets them back, and in the process is responsible for defeating the Union Army in battle.
Superbly mounted, historically accurate, endlessly inventive and very, very funny.
The beautifully timed series of sight gags, each one topping the one before, are a joy to behold.
1.To Be Or Not To Be Dir. Ernst Lubitsch
(Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart)
Jack Benny had the role of a lifetime as "That great, great Polish actor Joseph Tura", and Carole Lombard, in what was sadly to be her final role, was his wife, Maria.
They and their theatre troup become involved in espionage after the Nazis invade Poland and put them out of business.
The film begins as melodrama, progresses through romantic comedy and suspense into sheer farce. The transition is handled superbly by Lubitsch - it's his finest and most sustained piece of film making.
Felix Bressart and Sig Rumann are impressive in supporting roles.
How can I believe in God, when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?