Great Classic Romantic Comedies of The 40s

Posted on 5 Dec 00:00


1)  Blithe Spirit (1945)


Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison), a novelist, is seeking background material to use for a mystery he is working on. He invites eccentric medium Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford) to his home to conduct a seance. Charles, his wife Ruth (Constance Cummings), and their guests, George (Hugh Wakefield) and Violet Bradman (Joyce Carey) try to restrain themselves from laughing as Madame Arcati performs a peculiar rituals and later goes into trance. Later, Charles hears the voice of his late wife Elvira, but the others cannot hear it, so he passes it as a joke. Arcati recovers and becomes certain that something extraordinary has occurred, however, everyone else denies it.

Madame Arcati and Bradmans leave, Charles is not able to convince Ruth that he was joking. Ruth retires for the night, Elvira (Kay Hammond) becomes visible, but only to Charles, who becomes dismayed as well as amused by the situation. Charles and Ruth’s relationship become strained, so Charles persuades Elvira to act as a poltergeist and transport a vase and a chair in front of Ruth.

Later, Ruth seeks the help of Madam Arcati to send Elvira back to where she came from, but she says she does not know how. Ruth warns Charles that Elvira wants to reunite with him by arranging his demise, but in the end, the spirit miscalculates and instead of Charles dying, Ruth ends up dying. Ruth, now in spirit form, sets out to harass Elvira. In desperation, Charles asks Madame Arcati`s for help who then initiates incantations. The incantations fail and Arcati realizes that it was the Condomine`s maid, Edith, who summoned Elvira. Charles sets out on a long vacation, but he gets into a fatal accident while driving and he soon joins Elvira and Ruth.

Director: David Lean

Awards and Nominations
Tom Howard won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1947. The movie was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

2)  Pride and Prejudice (1940)

This is an American movie cast in 1940. It is an adaptation of Jane Austen`s novel Pride and Prejudice. The movie is about five sisters from an English family dealing with issues of marriage, morality, and misconceptions.


Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) together with her elder daughters, Jane (Maureen O`Sullivan) and Elizabeth (Greer Garson) have gone to shop for new dresses. They see two gentlemen Mr. Bingley (Bruce Lester) and Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier) and a lady alight from an expensive carriage outside. The two gentlemen are wealthy and eligible bachelors which excites Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet and her daughters return home, and tells Mr. Bennet to call on Mr. Bingley, but he refuses.

Elizabeth notices that Mr. Darcy is proud after refusing to dance with her. She meets Mr. Wickham who tells her how Darcy did a 'terrible thing'. Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper) who is also The Bennet`s cousin, will inherit the Bennet estate upon the death of Mr. Bennet. He arrives looking for a wife and decides to settle for Elizabeth. He constantly follows her around. Darcy and Elizabeth later dance together. However, after seeing the reckless behavior of her mother and younger sisters, he leaves Elizabeth again and she becomes angry. The next day Collins asks Elizabeth for her hand in marriage, but she refuses. He later becomes engaged to her best friend, Charlotte Lucas (Karen Morley).

Elizabeth returns home to find Lydia and Wickham have run away. Mr. Bennet and his brother try to find Lydia, but they are unsuccessful. Darcy returns to Elizabeth and is ready to offer his services. He tells Elizabeth that Lydia and Wickham will never get married and that Wickham had tried to elope with his sister Georgina, who is younger than Lydia. Elizabeth sees a different, kinder side of Darcy, and realizes that she loves him.

Lydia and Wickham return to the house married. Lady Catherine arrives and tells Elizabeth that Darcy found Lydia and forced Wickham to marry her and he gave Wickham substantial amount of money. She tells Elizabeth not to become engaged to Darcy, but Elizabeth refuses. Darcy and Elizabeth  proclaim their love for each other. They have a long kiss. Mrs. Bennet is spying on both couples and is joyful that here daughters have found suitable partners.

Director:  Robert Z. Leonard

Awards and Nominations
The movie received an Academy Award for Best Art Direction

3)  The Shop around the Corner (1940)

This is an American romantic comedy cast in 1940. The movie is based on the 1937 Hungarian play revolving around regional politics in the years leading to World War II. It is about two employees in a leather goods shop who can barely stand each other, but are falling in love


The story takes place in Budpest.  Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) is the top and most trusted salesman at the leather goods shop that is owned by Mr. Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan). Kralik`s coworkers include Pirovitch (Felix Bressart), Ferencz Vadas (Joseph Schildkraut), Ilona Novotny (Inez Courtney), Flora Kaczek (Sara Haden), and Pepi Katona (William Tracy).

Kralik reveals to Pirovitch that he is corresponding with an intelligent and cultured woman, anonymously, who he contacted through a newspaper. Although Kralik is the most trusted employee, there is tension between him and his employer. They are in an argument over his employer’s idea to sell a cigarette box that plays “Ochi Chernye” when opened. Meanwhile, Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) enters the shop in search of a job. Kralik tells her there is no job opening, but when she is able to sell one of the cigarette boxes (as a candy box), Mr. Matuschek hires her, however, Klara does not get along with Kralik.

Kralik prepares to meet his mysterious correspondent over dinner before Christmas. The meeting does not take place as Mr. Matuschek demands that everyone stay after work. Kralik is later fired after Mr. Matuschek accuses him of having an affair with his wife. Nevertheless, a private investigator informs Mr. Matuschek that one of his employees- Ferencz Vada is the one having an affair with his wife. Mr. Matusckek is about to commit suicide, but Pepsi returns to the shop in time and saves him.

When Kralik enters café Nizza, he realizes that his mysterious correspondent is Klara Novak. He is disappointed, but he goes in and talks with her, pretending to be meeting Pirovitch. Kralik tries to reconcile the her.

Later during the night, Kralik visits Mr. Matuschek in the hospital, who offers him a job as a manager in his company. Mr. Matuschek promotes Pepi to a clerk. The next day Miss Novak falls sick and Kralik goes to visit her at her apartment. During his visit, she receives a letter from her correspondent and she reads it in front of Kralik who in actuality wrote the letter.

On Christmas Eve, Matuschek and Company achieve a sales good record. Kralik and Miss Novak alone in the shop talk about their planned dates and Miss Novak reveals that she has a crush on Kralik when they first met. Kralik also reveals to Miss Novak that he is her mysterious correspondent, they kiss.

Director:  Ernst Lubitsch

4) Adam’s Rib (1949)


Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) follows her husband (Tom Ewell) with a gun because she suspects he is having an affair with another woman (Jean Hagen). She fires wildly and blindly around the room and one bullet hits her husband on the shoulder.

Lawyers Adam (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn) read about the incidence in the newspaper and they argue over the case. Amanda sympathizes with the woman while Adam thinks Doris is guilty of attempted murder. Adam learns that he has been assigned to prosecute the case, as a result, Amanda seeks out Doris and becomes her defense lawyer.

Amanda bases her case on the belief that men and women are equal and that Doris was forced into the situation because of her husband`s poor treatment of her. Adam thinks that Amanda disregards the court as there should never be an excuse for such a behavior. This leads to tension at home as they battle it out in court. Adam feels humiliated in court when Amanda asks one of her witnesses, a woman weightlifter, to lift him overhead. After the judgment Doris is acquitted.

Amanda and Adam are in the midst of a divorce, they meet their tax accountant to go through their expenses for the year as they talk about their relationship in the past tense. Tears begin to roll down Adam’s cheeks, Amanda bundles her sobbing husband out of the office and to the farm. Later, Adam announces that he has been selected to be the Republican nominee for County Court Judge. Amanda jokes about it and says she will consider running for the post as a Democratic candidate. Adam opposes. Amanda shows that there is no difference between sexes or maybe there is a little difference.

Director:  George Cukor

Awards and Nominations
The movie was nominated for both AFI`s and passions

5)  I Married a Witch (1942)

I married a Witch is an American fantasy romantic movie cast in 1942. The movie is based on the novel “The passionate Witch “by Thorne Smith and partly Norman H. Matson.


 Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father, Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) are two witches burned at the stake after being denounced by Puritan Jonathan Wooley (Fredric March). Their ashes are buried beneath a tree to imprison their evil spirits. However, Jennifer curses Wooley and all his male descendants to always marry the wrong woman. As a result, generation after generation, Wooley men marry cruel, shrewish women. But, in 1942, lightning strikes the tree where the ashes were buried and the spirits are set free when Wallace Wooley is about to marry an ambitious and spoiled  Estelle Masterson (Susan Hayward). Jennifer and Daniel manifest themselves as white vertical smoky trails who hide in empty or almost empty bottles of alcohol. Jennifer persuades Daniel to create a human body for her so she can torment Wallace. Daniel burns down a building, the Pilgrim Hotel, to perform the spell. Jennifer uses that chance to get the passing Wallace to rescue her from the flames. Jennifer tries to seduce Wallace, but Wallace does not put off his marriage, in spire to the use of a love potion.

Daniel conjures himself a body and he and Jennifer crash the wedding. Estelle finds Wallace and Jennifer embracing and the wedding is called off. Estelle`s father promises to denounce his candidature in all newspapers. Finally, Wallace admits he loves Jennifer and they elope.

Jennifer rescues Wallace`s political career through witchcraft by brainwashing voters to support Wallace and he is elected in a landslide. This makes Wallace believe that Jennifer is a witch. In disgust, Daniel strips his daughter her magical powers and vows to return to the tree that imprisoned them.

As a result, Jennifer interrupts Wallace`s victory speech and asks him to help her escape. Unknowingly, the getaway taxi is being driven by Daniel and he leads them back to the tree. At midnight, Wallace is left with Jennifer`s lifeless body and two plumes of a smoke. Jennifer reclaims her body and declares that “Love is stronger than witchcraft”. She puts the top back to the bottle of liquor her father is hiding making him powerless. After some years, Wallace and Jennifer have children.

Director:  Rene Clair

Awards and Nominations
The movie was nominated for an Academy Awards for Best Music

6)  Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)


Ann (Carole Lombard) and David Smith (Robert Montgomery) are married and living in New York City. They are in love, but have disagreements that last for days. Ann asks David if he would marry him again if they were to start all over again, he says he is happy with her and will never marry anyone else. He says he will not, for it will cost him his freedom and independence. Later, Harry Deever (Charles Halton) a county official informs David that due to a jurisdictional mishap their three-year marriage is not valid. Deever also tells Ann and her mother (Esther Dale) the same thing, however, Ann does not tell David but believes he will marry her when he invites her to a romantic dinner at a restaurant they visit frequently. 

They arrive at the restaurant, but it has become run down so they go back home. Ann confronts David and accuses him of refusing to marry her again. David protests and insiststhat he was going to ask her shortly, however, Ann dismisses this and throws him out of the apartment. David spends the night in his club. His attempts to meet Ann are thwarted by Ann`s maid who refuses him entry. Therefore, David waits in the lobby where he sees Ann return with an older gentleman. David becomes angry and disheartened and threatens to withhold her financial support. He gets her fired from her job. David`s friend who is also a law partner, Jefferson “Jeff” Custer (Gene Raymond) tells David to persuade Ann to remarry, Ann refuses. David realizes that Jeff has agreed to legally represent Ann through the legal issues. Jeff asks Ann for dinner, but David tells Ann if she agrees their marriage will be over, nevertheless, Ann accepts the invitation. They go to The Fair, but are stuck on the parachute ride and exposed to hours of rain and cold. They go back to Jeff`s apartment, Ann gives Jeff medicinal liquor to prevent a cold, but he becomes drunk. Ann returns home, but they continue to date. Jeff meets Ann’s parents and they go on a vacation. They meet David at a resort where his cabin was next to theirs. David pretends to be sick and Ann becomes furious when she discovers it is a ruse. Ann manipulates Jeff to fight David, but Jeff realizes Ann and David are meant for each other.

Director:  Alfred Hitchcock

7)  The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story is an American romantic comedy cast in 1940. The story is about a socialite whose wedding plans are complicated by her ex-husband and a tabloid magazine journalist


Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) the elder daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia Main Line socialite family was married to C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) but divorced him since he did not meet the standards set for her family. Now, she is marrying a rich, “man of the people “George Kittredge (John Howard). Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell, New York-Spy magazine publisher wants to cover the wedding. He assigns a reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) the task. Dexter assists in the affair since he has been working for Spy in South America. Dexter wants to introduce them as friends of Tracy`s brother Junius, but Tracy is not fooled. However, Dexter tells Tracy that Kidd has threatened the reputation of her family regarding her father`s affair with a dancer. Therefore, to protect her family reputation, Tracy agrees to let Mike and Liz stay and cover her wedding. 

Before the wedding, Tracy is drunk for the second time in her life and takes a midnight swim with Mike. George assumes the worst when he sees Mike is carrying an intoxicated Tracy into the house. The following day, George demands an explanation from Tracy before going ahead with the wedding since he has loved her as a perfect, ideal-a virginal statue-not as a human being. She breaks off the engagement, then she realizes all the guests have arrived waiting for the ceremony to begin. Mike volunteers to marry her, but she declines. However, she agrees to marry Dexter, whose plan was always  to get her back.

Director:  George Cukor

Awards and Nominations
The movie won an Academy of Awards, James Stewart won Best Actor, four nominations; outstanding production, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.Conclusion


The greatest classic romantic comedies are a representation of joy. They focus on humor revolving around romantic ideas. In addition, they show how true love is able to overcome obstacles

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