Isn't It Romantic?

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Born Yesterday, 1950.

Born Yesterday, 1950. Source: Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Source: Getty Images

Listen, I love Reality Bites as much as the next girl — I went to high school in the nineties, I screamed the Lisa Loeb song at the top of my lungs. But my true love isn't the rom-coms of the nineties, it's the Lubitsch, Wilder, Cukor, and Preminger films that pre-date them. There's nothing sexier then the Pre-Code movies of the 1930's, but the screwball and romantic comedies made in the days of the Hollywood Production Code are also pretty marvelous. My favorite of these is Born Yesterday, made in 1950, starring William Holden, the delightfully daffy Judy Holliday, and Broderick Crawford. Based on a Garson Kanin play, Harry Brock (Crawford), a junk dealer, hires journalist Paul Verrall (Holden) to tutor his sweet but dim-witted mistress, a former chorus girl named Billie Dawn (Holliday). Of course, you know what happens — Billie Dawn discovers her latent love of democracy, newspapers, and of course, the nerdy, bespectacled, and principled Verrall (it's shot in Washington D.C., and is quite a love letter to my current hometown). Although the play was clearly written for a mature audience, writer Kanin and director George Cukor were forced to amend the screenplay to appease censors. Still, they were able to get my some of my favorite lines past the censors... such as this one, delivered by a besotted Billie to Paul, "Are you one of these talkers, or would you be innarested in a little action...?" It's sexy, delightful, and beautifully idealistic (it features a congressman that feels bad for taking a bribe — and he doesn't even get caught!).

All that is to say what A.O. Scott says in his wonderful ode to the old rom-coms (and pan of the new ones) — things were sexier before, well, sex. You can read the piece here, and leave your favorite romantic comedies here — old or new (I think The 40-Year-Old Virgin is brilliant, for instance).



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Bringing Up Baby - one of the funniest movies of all time.

Sent by Kate Brannen | 2:10 PM | 2-14-2008

I agree with you about "Born Yesterday." Does "Some Like it Hot" count as a romantic comedy? It's one of my favorite movies of all time.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest "Shrek" as a recent romantic comedy worth watching. If you look closely, you'll see that it owes a lot to "It Happened One Night."

Sent by janet | 2:28 PM | 2-14-2008

I know it's odd to think, but two of my favorite romantic comedies were "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" & "The Princess Bride". Sure, there is a lot of silliness thrown in but sometimes love can be pure silly.

Sent by William Babcock | 3:09 PM | 2-14-2008

Perhaps this disconnect between the old and the new can be attributed, at least in part, to a generational gap in terms of sense of humor. It isn't that one or the other generation is without humor but rather that they find different things funny. After all, sex - learning about it, talking about, and even seeing it - is integrated into our society in a way that it wasn't in the past and, as such, we view and make fun of relationships in a new/different way. It is no longer alluding to the intimate but rather whipping it out (literally in some movies!) and laughing at it directly. Would "The 40-year-old Virgin" have been a hit in the 1940's?

All this isn't to say that classic rom-coms weren't funny (I personally love them), many times what you don't talk about is just as funny as what you do.

In today's society we are constantly bomarded with movie after movie and the challenge now is to break the mold, show us a funny yet heartwarming story that isn't like all of the others.

My favorites? I have so many that I'll only include the top two: "Love Actually" and "Bridget Jones' Diary"

Sent by Melissa Chernick | 4:42 PM | 2-18-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from