Among the most famous early American films were comedies. Early screen stars included Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Harold Lloyd, and at the top of the list, genius Charlie Chaplin.
The genre is so important that the American Film Institute has its own list of best comedies–“AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 LAUGHS the 100 funniest American movies of all time.” The AFI list begs the question of whether films from one era should be compared with another. Some are from the 1920s, and others from the 1980s.
24/7 Tempo reviewed the American Film Institute’s list. The funniest American film is “Some Like It Hot,” which was released in 1959 and starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.
The advent of talking pictures allowed directors such as Frank Capra and Howard Hawks and writers like Garson Kanin to create memorable banter and repartee. Screwball comedies, popular during the Great Depression, featured farcical situations and fast-paced dialogue. Films such as “His Girl Friday,” “Bringing up Baby” and “The Philadelphia Story” helped make stars out of Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. (Here are the highest grossing movies every year of the sound era).
The 1930s also produced wonderfully chaotic Marx Brothers farces like “Duck Soup” and “A Night at the Opera” and introduced the urbane humor of the “Thin Man” series that starred William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Director Billy Wilder pushed the boundaries of comedy on the big screen in 1959 with his cross-dressing romp “Some Like it Hot,” starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Filmmakers became bolder in the 1960s, making black comedies like the Cold War parody “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” and satirical commentary about American society like “The Graduate.”
Comedy has become a bit randier in more recent times, with R-rated films such as “There’s Something About Mary.” But Americans will always make time for a good rom-com — for instance, “Groundhog Day.”