The Screwball Week Impossible Film Quiz: Ladies for a Day

Who were those ladies I saw without you last night? Or better yet, who are these man/woman crossover experiments, and in what films do they occur? An easier-than-usual Shadowplay Impossible Film Quiz. This next ones aren’t strictly drag, but is reasonably tricky.

Looked at all together, these images certainly suggest an obsession in the collective screwball unconscious. Come the forties, gender-bending is largely out, and the reinforcing of traditional societal norms, scarcely the most fecund comic terrain, is in. Forties comedies become depressingly centered on forcing the little woman back in the kitchen, while you get norms challenged in the film noir genre, but as a source of anxiety. But at least the femme fatale isn’t heading for that kitchen except at gunpoint.

The drag acts in screwball are, as in the later SOME LIKE IT HOT, generally performed under pressure of circumstance. But they aren’t just mean exercises in humiliation or emasculation. The screwball itself has something in its DNA to do with how liberating it can be to drop your dignity and your pants and make a fool of yourself. Feminine dignity is associated with being ladylike, so that has to get messed with, and male dignity has to do with machismo and competence and wearing the pants.

17 Responses to “The Screwball Week Impossible Film Quiz: Ladies for a Day”

  1. Chuck V. Says:

    3. Bringing Up Baby
    4. I Was a Male War Bride

    I only know the really easy ones.

  2. 1. Love Crazy

    I’ll leave the others for others to get.

  3. All correct so far!
    Good to say who the stars are too, as it won’t be obvious to everyone!

  4. mndean Says:

    Okay, then:
    1. The Dowager William Powell

  5. Chuck V. Says:

    #1 rather looks like Peter Cook at that angle.

    3 and 4 are Cary Grant, of course.

  6. 2 is Melvyn Douglas in The Amazing Mr Williams (I think).

  7. mndean Says:

    Oh well, one more:

    9. It’s A Wonderful World, James Stewart scouting.

  8. Yes to Melvyn and Williams, yes to Stewart scouting! And of course yes to Cary.

    For my money, one actor in the third last shot is very recognizable despite the mask.

    In the second last shot, it’s an actor we’ve already seen.

  9. Bert + beard = William Powell in Double Wedding!

  10. Beret, not Bert.

  11. is that Carole Lombard in the third last shot?

  12. That recognizable actor in the mask looks like Gable.

  13. Matthew Davis Says:

    I suspect number 5 is Roland Young

  14. 6 looks like Taylor Holmes, or perhaps Robert Montgomery, hamming.

  15. bensondonald Says:

    Amusing promo short for Jack Benny’s “Charley’s Aunt”:

    The feature was pretty good, making a few script adjustments for Benny’s age.

    I’m very partial to the Sydney Chaplin version, which meanders through a few reels of Syd as romcom lead before letting him go music hall wild in a dress.

    For mysterious reasons, the excellent musical version “Where’s Charley?” is readily available to anyone who wants to do it, but the movie with Ray Bolger is supposedly bottled up due to the terms of Brandon Thomas’s original contract.

  16. I think I have a dodgy copy of Where’s Charley?

    Clark gable is indeed one of the masked figures, but he’s not the most recognizable… Not Lombard though.

    W Powell is indeed the gent with beret and beard and bert, and Double Wedding is the film.

    And yes, 6 is Robert Montgomery hamming. He looks better with the camera inside looking out.

    5 is Roland Young, yes. Screwball whimsy and farce… care to guess at a title?

  17. Time for the full answers, I think.
    1) Wm Powell in Love Crazy
    2) Melvyn Douglas in The Amazing Mr Williams
    3) Archie Leach in Bringing Up Baby
    4) Archie again in I Was a Male War Bride
    5) Roland Young in Topper Takes a Trip
    6) Robt Montgomery in Forsaking All Others
    7) Joan Crawford (surely that’s obvious!) and Clark Gable in Love on the Run
    8) Wm Powell again in Double Wedding
    9) Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful World

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