A Chicago Night In

November 15, 2008

I'll Have What She's HavingHere in Chicago, the temperature just dropped to 20 degrees and no room feels warm enough, leaving few options as desirable as curling up with a blanket and movie. This weekend I watched His Girl Friday once again, lulled by Cary Grant’s mellifluous persuasion and Rosalind Russell’s feisty comebacks. The hectic tempo of dialogue left me dizzy, as the movie hurtled me between typewriters and quips of the newsroom.

His Girl Friday re-sparked my interest in those classic romantic comedies where wit alone seemed to bring characters together more surely than the batted eyelash. With sparkling dialogue and endless battle between the sexes, the best romantic comedies challenged even as they entertained. I wanted more. So Daniel M. Kimmel’s I’ll Have What She’s Having struck me as a perfect guide: detailing the tensions and hilarity between cast and crew, the behind-the-scenes anecdotes made me want to dive back into my old favorites and discover new films. Here are a few gems from the book, on two movies that I will be watching in the coming weeks.

Some Like It Hot (1959)

“According to Tony Curtis, having romantic scenes with Marilyn Monroe was like ‘kissing Hitler.’ Monroe could have so much trouble with a simple line (‘Where’s the bourbon?’) that it took two days to shoot. She would routinely show up late, even arriving several hours late to a party being held in her honor. Her co-stars were angry at her lack of concern for others. But as director Billy Wilder put it, he had a maiden aunt in Austria he could have cast who would show up on time and know all her lines. But who would pay to see her?”

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

“It’s probably the most famous romantic comedy most people haven’t seen. Its director, Ernst Lubitsch, was regarded as a master of sophistication and wit, and was able to get all sorts of things into his movies through suggestion and innuendo. He was able to imply that the characters played by Herbert Marshall and Kay Francis are having an affair simply by showing a series of clocks and, in one shot, allowing their shadows to lie side by side on a bed. Coming out two years before the Production Code began to be enforced, the film’s take on love and sex is astounding to viewers who think they know all about classic Hollywood movies.”