Classic Movie Junkie … Different Kinds of Funny

Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers

Inspector Clouseau: I must be envied by all other husbands.
Madame Clouseau: I’m sure no one ever had a husband like you.
[Kiss, kiss.]
Madame Clouseau: Ooh.
Inspector Clouseau: Oh my darling, don’t move. Don’t panic. All that has happened is that my hat has caught in one of your naughty little hairpins…

From The Pink Panther, United Artists 1963

Classic Movie Junkie

Who doesn’t love to laugh? It’s a happy coincidence that my two classic movie picks this week happen to be comedies. And that’s not all. They’re both 60s caper flicks and both feature stars from across the pond.

 Different Kinds of Funny …

There are almost as many forms of comedy as there are letters in the alphabet—banter, caricature, farce, parody, romantic, satire, sitcom, slapstick—and I could on. The humor I tend to gravitate toward is character-driven and situational. I’m also a sucker for witty dialogue (the more double entendres the better).

Sounds sort of smart, doesn’t it?

But occasionally—okay, more than occasionally—I fall off my high horse and find myself snickering like a kid at some silly bit of broad humor. (Hump Day Camel, anyone?)

When it comes to slapstick, the Three Stooges will probably always be lost on me, but Jim Carrey can put me on the floor (men’s room scene in Liar Liar) and don’t get me started on Ben Stiller’s fly zipper incident in There’s Something About Mary.

Which brings me to my point.

What any one of us finds funny—even from one day to the next—can be incredibly subjective and unpredictable. Over the years—and especially as a writer—I’ve begun to realize just how under appreciated comedy is. Think about it. Compared to gritty dramas, how many comedies have won Academy Awards?

And yet, to make even one person laugh—much less a majority of one’s audience—is more difficult than it is to make them cry. That’s why my admiration for comedy performers, directors and their writers only grows when I revisit classic films that still manage to tickle my funny bone.

So today I lift my cyber-glass to toast the masters and mistresses of classic comedy. Who are your favorite comedy actors and actresses?

Sunday March 16

Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine

4: 00 pm   Gambit. (1966)  Caper/Comedy/Romance. TCM.  A slick cat burglar recruits a beautiful, quirky dancer to help him pull off the perfect art heist. Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine.

Why?  Two major film stars on the bill and, still, this sweet, subtly funny confection of a caper flick manages to fly under the radar. How? I have no idea.  Catch this one if you can. Clever, innocently fun and delightfully unpredictable—right from the first thirty minutes. But you can predict this–you’ll be smiling when the credits roll.

Saturday March 22



8:00 pm  The Pink Panther (1963)  Comedy/Caper TCM. A bumbling French police inspector travels to a posh Switzerland ski resort to catch a notorious international jewel thief. David Niven, Peter Sellers, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Wagner, Capucine.

Why? Sign up for some silly. Watch this first Pink Panther movie with the knowledge that it was originally conceived as a comedic jewel heist caper film for David Niven, not Peter Sellers. Sellers wasn’t even the first pick for the supporting role of Inspector Clouseau, but he got the part., and—ten sequels and spin-offs later—the rest is history. Sellers is not in every scene, but he steals every one in which he appears. In particular, the bedroom antics between him and the duplicitous Capucine are still gold.

Times listed are EDST. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

Enjoy! And have a great week!

Photo credits:

Peter Sellers – By Chicago Sun Times / United Artists studios (Historical Images on eBay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Shirley MacLaine – By movie studio (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Capucine – By Trailer screenshot (The Pink Panther trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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