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The 10 essential Cary Grant comedies

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Has there ever been a more charismatic leading man than Cary Grant? From Clark Gable to George Clooney, no screen star ever radiated affable likability and suave charm like the former Archie Leach. He was a movie star back in the era when being a movie star meant something beyond being derided for expressing political opinions (something Grant himself always opposed), and many consider him to be the greatest movie star of all time. He was quick with his wit as he was with a smile, and his comedies are every bit as entertaining as his dramas. Now this list is certainly not a comprehensive one – most Grant fans will tell you that all of his comedies are essential, and you should check them all out when you have the time. It’ll be time amusingly spent – and here’s a list of ten great Cary Grant comedies to start with, in chronological order.


1. “The Awful Truth” (1937)

Director Leo McCarey’s screwball comedy about a divorcing couple who spend their time trying to completely undermine each other’s attempts to move on to new loves was the first time Grant’s trademark light-comic bantering style hit the silver screen, opposite the fantastically game Irene Dunne. In fact, McCarey is credited with helping develop that persona of Grant’s. Even though there was tension on the set between the two, Grant would work with McCarey three more times. This is also one of three ‘couples on the verge of divorce rediscovering their love’ comedies on this list alone.


2. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938)

This Howard Hawks farce was a revelation of Katherine Hepburn’s comic talents, as she plays Susan Vance, a free-spirited heiress who’s been given a tamed leopard named Baby to deliver to her aunt on behalf of her brother. Grant, meanwhile, plays uptight paleontologist David Huxley, who is slated to get married the next day to a less-than-charming woman named Alice Swallow. Susan thinks he’s some kind of animal expert rather than a fossil expert, and she conspires to rope him into her shenanigans once she realizes she’s in love with the exasperated man. While this didn’t do exceptional business at the box office, it’s since grown into one of Grant’s most beloved films.


3. “His Girl Friday (1940)”

Another Hawks effort, this time pitting Grant’s hard-nosed Morning Post newspaper editor Walter Burns opposite Rosalind Russell’s Hildy Johnson, ex-star reporter and Burns’ ex-wife. It seems she’s got marriage plans he’s out to ruin by, among other things, getting her fiancé repeatedly arrested for ridiculous reasons. What proves to be the winning formula, however, is when the case of an escaped death-row convict falls into her lap, and the lure of her job proves too much to resist. The dialog is absolutely rapid-fire here, and although Russell’s part was originally written for a man, and then for several other actresses before she stepped in, she was so determined to make her mark on this picture that she hired her own writer to punch up her scripted lines, disguised as ad-libs, in order to be a match for Grant.


4. “The Philadelphia Story” (1940)

Another remarriage comedy that teamed Grant up with Hepburn once again by director George Cukor, this time with Jimmy Stewart thrown into the mix. Stewart is Mike Connor, a writer and reluctant society reporter with more intellectual aspirations assigned to cover the impending marriage of socialite Tracy Haven (Hepburn) to the newly rich George Kittredge (John Howard), something which both Connor and Tracy’s ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) have seen fit to sabotage. The ensuing back and forth and forth and back again has Tracy torn between the three men. Although Grant and Hepburn had worked together often, she had the reputation of being box office poison for a long while until this film gave her the hit she needed – and the hit she deserved, quite frankly. Aside from the comedy, it’s one of the absolutely classic romantic movies of all time as well.


5. “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944)

One of the most popular Cary Grant performances is also one he didn’t think was very good. He’s very frenetic in this macabre comedy as Mortimer Bewster, the newlywed author who discovers that his brother thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt and his aunts have taken up the habit of poisoning lonely old men. Throw in Mortimer’s other brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey in a role written for Boris Karloff) and his alcoholic partner Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) trying to find a place to dispose of a body they’ve killed (and eventually decide they want to kill Mortimer), all while his wife Elaine (Priscilla Lane) is waiting to start their honeymoon, and you’ve got a really twisted gem from Frank Capra.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.