Someone asked me to list my top ten favorite comedy screenplays. Fine, as long as I don’t have to do it in order and don’t have to limit myself to ten. These are my favorites, which means these are the movies I wish I had written.
ALL ABOUT EVE – Joseph Mankiewicz. Sharpest dialogue I’ve ever heard. The film is 60 years old and still crackles. Saw it again recently. What a pleasure to watch, especially now during the dumbing down of America.
SOME LIKE IT HOT – Billy Wilder & IAL Diamond. Disproves its classic last lane. Somebody IS perfect.
HEARTBREAK KID – Neil Simon (although the hand of director Elaine May is clearly evident). Jewish men generally love this movie, Jewish women hate it. A young Charles Grodin gives the comic performance of his career. And Eddie Albert (yes, Eddie Albert) will make you laugh out loud. Ignore the remake.
THE LADY EVE – Preston Sturgess, story by Monckton Hoffe & Preston Sturgess. Screwball comedy at its funniest and most sophisticated. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda – not who you naturally think of as a comedy team but they pull it off with ease.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY – Screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on the play by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur. Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell trade quips at a pace that makes THE NEWSROOM seem slow. And every word out of their mouths is a gem.
ARTHUR -- Steve Gordon's masterpiece. For more info on Steve and scenes that were cut from his original draft, check out my archives.
TOOTSIE – Larry Gelbart (although fifteen other writers also had a hand in it). If there seems to be a pattern in the comedies I like its men posing as women or “Eve” in the title.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN – Woody Allen. This movie was a revelation, especially when you consider that at the time (late 60’s) most “comedies” were lame Doris Day type films.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN – Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder. “Putting on the Ritz” scene alone puts this in my top ten.
ANNIE HALL -- Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman. For my money the perfect romantic comedy. (How could the same guy write HOLLYWOOD ENDING?)
MOONSTRUCK – John Patrick Shanley. Okay, so there are two perfect romantic comedies.
CHASING AMY – Kevin Smith. Funny, real, pitch perfect. What happened to Kevin after this?
AMERICAN GRAFFITI – George Lucas and Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck. A consistently funny movie that doesn’t even try to be a comedy. And what a soundtrack!
DR. STRANGELOVE – Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. The perfect black comedy. And there are no other perfect black comedies.
THE PRODUCERS – Mel Brooks. The movie not the movie of the musical based on the movie. That was dreadful.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES – Jean Poiret, Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Damon. Even the subtitles were funny.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL -- Richard Curtis. Even Andie McDowell couldn't kill this English confection. But boy did she try.
SHOWGIRLS – Joe Eszterhas. So unspeakably terrible on every level that you can’t help but laugh throughout. (Okay, so that’s one I’m glad I didn’t write). It's a tribute to Elizabeth Berkley's talent that after starring in this movie she still has a career.
Everyone is invited to list your favorites. Including VOLUNTEERS is not mandatory.