Tonight, at dinner with some friends, two gifted actors and a talented up and coming director, we noted how difficult it is to make a good comedy that is a powerful drama as well. While there are many great comedies like “RUTHLESS PEOPLE” which make us laugh, there are few flicks like the classic “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY” which stir our more tender — and deeper — emotions as they make us laugh. Indeed, the Greeks, those who “invented” the western concept of drama, staged entertainment, had their three great tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Eurpides) and their one great comedian (Aristophanes). None of these four greats ever seemed to “mix their genres.”
In addition to the Katharine Hepburn–Cary Grant–Jimmy Stewart classic (i.e., “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY“), we came up with a couple movies which were both dramas and comedies, notably “WHEN HARRY MET SALLY” and “AS GOOD AS IT GETS.” Now, I open it up to you, readers, to suggest other movies which succeed in blending these genres. I am particularly interested in gay movies which move us deeply while making us laugh. Maybe, “TRICK” . . . .
So, comment below or drop me an e-mail and let me know what you come up with. . .
UPDATE: Reader Terry writes in to note that I was incorrect to write that the four great Greek playwrights (whom he calls poets) did not “mix their genres.” Instaed, he points out, “the custom was to submit four plays during the festival, three tragedies and one comedy, all of these poets mixed genres, it’s just that the remnants of their opposite genres are few and limited, hence unread by those who only take the college survey course. Each poet had one day for their presentation, and at the end of the festival one was awarded the prize. Poets were expected to be able to master both tragedy and comedy in order to win the festival’s prize that year.”
UPDATE #3: A successful screenwriter e-mailed me, “I’d say most of the Billy Wilder comedies (esp. SOME LIKE IT HOT, THE APARTMENT) and the Preston Sturges comedies (esp. THE GREAT McGINTY and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS) as well as the Chaplin silents like THE GREAT DICTATOR, MODERN TIMES and Buster Keaton‘s THE GENERAL just to name a few.” (My friend’s e-mail reminds me of my favorite Chaplin flick: “CITY LIGHTS.”)