Summer 2005
Fully Enrolled

Screwballs and Heroes: Romantic Comedies and Action Films in Hollywood

Ross,Sara A.; Higgins,Scott

06/27/2005 - 08/10/2005
Monday & Wednesday 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM

Downey 113

At first glance, the action film and the romantic comedy appear to be at two ends of the spectrum of Hollywood genre pictures. The action film seems to be all testosterone and spectacle, while the romantic comedy, with its "meet cute" and its character-driven comedy, is the quintessential chick flick. To what extent do these two genres offer fundamentally different viewing experiences? What commonalities of form, function, and history do they share? How can we explain the appeal of genre films for different audiences?

This course examines these two genres from cultural, technological, aesthetic, and economic perspectives. We will consider how the form and style of these genres have changed over time, placing the films within the industrial, historical, and cultural contexts that have influenced their production and reception. We will examine competing accounts of the pleasures and modes of spectatorship involved in viewing action films and romantic comedies. This will lead us to questions about how gender and genre interact, and about the ideological import of these films.

We will first consider the roots of film comedy and action cinema in early film, slapstick comedy, and the movie serial. We will then look at how these genres diverged and established their own cinematic traditions within classical Hollywood cinema, including sophisticated and screwball comedies, the historical adventure film, the spy film, and the cop film. We'll wrap up the semester with a look at the action film and the romantic comedy in contemporary Hollywood.

Class sessions will be run as seminars; they will include screenings and clips, discussions, and student presentations, with a minimum of lecturing.

Screenings may include Cops, Safety Last, City Lights, Our Hospitality, Ella Cinders, Twentieth Century, I'm No Angel, Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, The Palm Beach Story, Ball of Fire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Mark of Zorro, The Black Pirate, Captain Blood, Adventures of Robin Hood, Goldfinger, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, The Sure Thing, Aliens, Die Hard, The Matrix, While You Were Sleeping, Groundhog Day, and Run Lola Run.

Texts will include Maureen Turim, "Gentlemen Consume Blondes," Rereading Hollywood Films; Steve Neale and Frank Krutnik, "The Comedy of the Sexes," Popular Film and Television Comedy; Henry Jenkins, "`Don't Become Too Intimate with That Terrible Woman!" Unruly Wives, Female Performance, and Gendered Laughter in Early Sound Comedy," What Made Pistachio Nuts: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic; Tina Olsin Lent, "Romantic Love and Friendship: The redefinition of Gender Relations in Screwball Comedy"; Charles Musser, "Divorce, DeMille and the Comedy of Remarriage"; Ramona Curry, Goin' to Town and Beyond: Mae West, Film Censorship and the Comedy of Unmarriage"; Charles Musser, "Divorce, DeMille and the Comedy of Remarriage," all in Classical Hollywood Comedy; Rick Altman, Film/Genre; Brian Taves, The Romance of Adventure; Tom Gunning, "The Cinema of Attractions"; Donald Crafton, "Pie and Chase"; Bennett and Wollacott, Bond and Beyond; Jeanine Basinger, Silent Stars; Lea Jacobs and Ben Brewster, From Theater to Cinema.

Evaluation will be based on the student's contribution to class discussions, and a semester-long research project that will culminate in an in-class presentation and a paper.

Sara Ross(B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University of Wisconsin) teaches film studies at University of Hartford and Quinnipiac University. Her recent publications include "The Americanization of Tsuru Aoki: Orientalism, Melodrama, Star Image and the New Woman," Camera Obscura (2005)

Scott Higgins (B.A. Oakland University; M.A., Ph.D. University of Wisconsin) is assistant professor of film studies. His book, Harnessing the Rainbow: Technicolor Aesthetics in the 1930s, is forthcoming from the University of Texas Press and his scholarship has appeared in Convergence, Film History, and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Rick Altman, FILM/GENRE (British Film Institute), Paperback


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