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Why What’s Up, Doc? remains a perfect screwball comedy

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Why What’s Up, Doc? remains a perfect screwball comedy

Au start of the screening of the comedy What’s Up, Doc? by Peter Bogdanovich in 1972, Hollywood heavyweight audiences were initially skeptical. Then, after several minutes of tense silence interrupted by awkward laughter, actor John Cassavetes suddenly stood up, shouting, “I can’t believe he’s doing this!” Like Bogdanovich later recalled, “The place broke down and from that point on they loved it.”

What’s Up Doc is a jaw-dropping flurry of film, propelled by an increasingly absurd storyline, and underscored by a never-ending stream of thousand-by-minute dialogue, tossed back and forth between a wacky cast. of cartoon characters. It’s fast-paced, quick-witted, and, frankly, downright wacky – it’s not hard to see why the industry stars of the day didn’t know what to make of it.

For Bogdanovich, What’s Up Doc was decidedly new territory. By 1971, he had amassed eight Oscar nominations for his drama The Last Picture Show. He was in great demand. Warner Bros. approached him with a script intended for Barbra Streisand, but he turned it down, explaining that he instead wanted to do “a wacky comedy, like Bringing Up Baby, with Barbra.” A square professor and a daffy lady who breaks him live happily ever after. Three weeks later, he and a team of writers – Buck Henry, Robert Benton, and David Newman – had concocted what would become one of the last truly wacky comedies.

Screw comedy first appeared during the Great Depression of the 1930s and continued into the 1940s. Think “Raising a Baby,” “It Happened One Night,” “My Godfrey man ”,“ The Horrible Truth ”, and so on. The essence of a firecracker ball? It’s romance through biting remarks and whiplash-inducing lines. These are the stumbles and burlesque bumps of a Charlie Chaplin movie. These are wacky ploys, insane heiresses and mistaken identities, all spinning ever faster out of control until romantic and satisfying resolution.

It’s also the reversal of the classic dynamic of the genre, with, as Bogdanovich said, “a daffy lady” training with a “square teacher”. Doris Milberg writes in The Art of Screwball: “In screwball comedy everything is fair in love and war, with love always triumphant. In a mess, the boy gets the girl – or, more often, the girl gets the boy – after a rowdy-cutie encounter.

With What’s New, Doc ?, Bogdanovich stuck to this proven and reliable formula. The film follows the misadventures of four matching bags containing girl’s clothes, stones from an academic, diamonds from a millionaire and top secret documents from a government agent. Chaos – always of the burlesque variety – inevitably ensues when the owners of these four bags end up in the same hotel and the bags accidentally get tangled.

A fire breaks out in a hotel room, a shooting breaks out during a cocktail party. Ultimately, a messy car chase takes over the streets of San Francisco, involving unforgettable moments of psychic comedy – a large window is saved (then smashed), a bicycle ends up inside a Chinese dragon. sending it down the street, and a stolen “Just Married” car ends up floating in San Francisco Bay.

Of course, the whole bag fiasco isn’t really meant to make sense. As Streisand once noted, “I cannot follow the story myself.” Rather, it is meant to create an upside down backdrop in which the real story can unfold.

Why What’s Up, Doc? Remains A Perfect Screwball Comedy - Light Home News

At the center of the bag chaos is a “daffy lady” and a “square professor”. Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) is a chronic, fast-talking dropout. Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal) is a distracted professor in town for a musicology convention with his prudish and piercing fiancée, Eunice Burns (played by the iconic Madeline Khan).

After spotting Howard in the hotel lobby, Judy clings to him like a freakish leech (that is, if a leech said things like, “Look, kid, you can’t fight a tidal wave ”or:“ How would you like to swallow a sandwich of knuckles? ”) Judy and Howard pulled it off like only a crazy couple can – she follows him into a drugstore testing her patience, the inexplicably calling out Steve, ripping the back seam of his jacket in half (in an ode to Howard Hughes’ 1938 ball, Bringing Up Baby), and throwing things like, “What do you think I am, a ripe fruit that you can you extract the juice and set it aside? Howard maintains a measured but increasingly tense air of calm.

This dynamic carries them through the rest of the film, with Judy constantly showing up where she doesn’t belong and ending up shaking Howard from his distracted “Yes, Eunice” stupor. After finding Judy in her tub, Howard said in exasperation, “You are the straw that broke the camel’s back, you are the plague, you bring chaos and chaos to everyone, but why to me? Why, why, why? She smiles modestly. “Because you’re cute in your pajamas, Steve. “

What happened to the quick-witted romantic comedies, the absent-minded-out-of-indignation-stalkers-girls-boys of yore? While some contemporary filmmakers have attempted to update the crazy genre, few have come close to Bogdanovich, with the flawed and much-contested exceptions being films like Mistress America and Down With Love.

Watch What’s up, Doc? today, it’s hard not to be struck by a double dose of nostalgia for a sort of cinematic romance that has largely disappeared from our screens. The distinctive hallmark of slapstick comedy and barbed-wire romance in What’s Up, Doc? is a tribute to a bygone era of Hollywood cinema which, by 1972, was considered outdated. But Bogdanovich embraced him without irony.

After all, why not give Streisand the fearless lines of an extraordinary daffy lady? Why not lace up the script with 1930s slang? Why not fill the soundtrack with the jazzy sounds of Cole Porter? Why not create a plot so far-fetched that even the film’s own stars wouldn’t bother to follow it? Modern attempts at vis à vis are not so courageous. Fifty years later, the correct answer to What’s up, Doc? rest: “I can’t believe he’s doing this!”

Reference of the Article-post – lwlies