Monday, August 5, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Easy Living (1937) - Screwball Speed Lies in Cause-Effect

[Quick Summary: A fur coat hits young woman, which begins her romance comedy.]

I love screwball comedies for their speed and slapstick.

But how do writers also keep it funny?

Sturges used this cause-effect combination in this script:

Fast actions in one room ----> Leads to unexpected, funny effects in the another room

ex. Mary can't afford a meat pie from the Automat, a vending machine.

The busboy Johnny sneaks her one, but is caught by the house detective:

"JOHNNY AND THE DICK - ON THE FLOOR . They are nearly buried in knives, forks, coffee pots, and crockery, fighting vigorously. The dick tries to get to his feet and in grasping for something, his hand pulls a lever.  [Cause: A fight in the kitchen]

A COUPLE OF BUMS STANDING AT THE TOOTHPICK TABLE. Behind them stretches a long vista of food compartments. With a loud click all the doors in view fly open and remain open, vibrating slightly. The first bum turns his head, then clutches the second bum and points excitedly.

THE FIRST BUM: Horace!  [Effect: Free food in the dining room]

THE DICK AND JOHNNY WRESTLING - IN THE DEBRIS. The dick's feet tangle up in a couple more levers. [Cause: More fighting]

THE BEVERAGE PANEL. Simultaneously, tea, steaming coffee, milk, grape juice and orange juice start hissing their way into the world. From a large spigot next to them blobs of ice cream come plunking out." [Effect: Geyser of drinks and dessert]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The strong cause-effect makes the slapstick read faster. 

[I imagine Sturges started building the cause-effect first, then laid over the slapstick.]

Easy Living (1937)
by Preston Sturges
Adapted from the story by Vera Caspary

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