The birth of the screwball comedy can be attributed to many factors. America was dealing with the devastating effects of The Great Depression, and Americans were in no mood for any additional depression that might come with a particularly sad film. Although there are films that could be argued to be screwball comedies that date back before 1934, that specific year can be called the year of the true "birth" of the genre. In 1934, three of the most important and defining screwball comedies were released; It Happened One Night, Twentieth Century, and The Gay Divorcee. Each of the films was unique, but all of the films had some common themes and conventions, which the screwball genre would eventually be based on. Screwball comedies were notorious for the juxtaposition of sexes and classes, fast, smart and witty dialogue, and being cast with famous and talented stars.

From the 30s to the 50s, censorship was abundant in the film industry. The Hays Code, required screenwriters and filmmakers to adhere to certain rules when making a movie, or pay the consequences. What came from these boundaries were creative ways of breaking the rules, highly suggestive dialogue, actions, and mise en scène.

The screwball comedy genre did not last an exceptionally long time, as when World War II started up, comedy films were made much less frequently, the nation's tastes switching to more patriotic war films, and other forms of drama. The genre did leave its marks on film comedy in general, though, and although very few good screwball comedies were made after the early 40s, you can certainly see the influences it had in today's romantic comedy genre. The director Preston Sturges made many wonderful screwball comedies, but his style tends towards a romantic comedy that is more modern. Sturges was the man responsible for bridging the screwball comedy film with the more modern romantic comedy film.

Actors and especially actresses were typecast into these screwball roles, and unfortunately, some of them weren't able to escape the typecasts once the genre died out. Notable screwball actors:

Notable screwball actresses: Notable screwball directors: (Note that most of these directors are not purely screwball, and moved on to other things)

Notable screwball films:

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