My topic this week for the "Movies" bit on The Chris Vernon Show was "battle of the sexes," based on this week's #3 box-office film The Ugly Truth.
With this topic, it was hard not to make the list all movies from the 1940s, hands-down the finest decade for romantic comedies. But after an unavoidable top three that are all among my favorite films of any era or genre, I went fishing for a couple of more modern entries:
1. Adam's Rib (1949): The best of the Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn pairings. This classic comedy from director George Cukor depicts Tracy (the sly, jovial, unknowingly chauvinistic district attorney) and Hepburn (the sharp, feminist lady lawyer) as married attorneys who take opposite sides in the attempted murder case of a woman (Judy Holliday) who shot her philandering husband, the couple's work-day opposition ultimately straining their marriage.
2. His Girl Friday (1940): Probably the quickest, wittiest dialogue comedy every. This 1940 rom-com from director Howard Hawks is an adaptation of the stage play The Front Page, but with a gender twist: The editor/reporter duo from the play are now a divorced couple. Cary Grant is the editor. Rosalind Russell is his ex-wife and star reporter about the get remarried and quit the job, two things Grant's character is out to prevent (though not necessarily in that order of importance). The timing and wit of the talk is head-spinning.
The trailer for His Girl Friday doesn't do the dialogue and chemistry between Grant and Russell justice. So here's a longer clip, the duo's first extended scene together in the film, as Russell's Hildy returns to tell Grant's Walter she's quitting the paper and getting remarried:
3. The Lady Eve (1941): One of Preston Sturges' more relaxed romantic comedies. Henry Fonda is the stuff heir to a beer fortune obsessed with the scientific study of snakes. The untoppable Barbara Stanwyck is the grifter who sets her sights on him. Classic line: "I need him like the ax needs a turkey."
4. All of Me (1984): Director Carl Reiner turns the classic battle-of-the-sexes into a battle over a single body, in this case Steve Martin's. Dying heiress Lily Tomlin plans to have her soul transformed into a healthy female body, but lands inside Martin's lawyer instead, with the two sharing control. A great vehicle for Martin's spastic physical comedy.
5. The War of the Roses (1989): Danny DeVito-directed black comedy about a messy divorce between a couple played by ’80s touchstones Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.