The history of romantic comedies for the past 100 years. Pure love

Romantic comedies, a subgenre that mixes romance and comedy, is very successful and leveraged the careers of actresses and actors such as Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts e Hugh Grant.

But, would it be a movie fad from the 1980s to here? What would be the best known movies of the genre? How about finding the answers to these and other questions? Well come more that today’s conversation is about the story of the Romantic Comedy or Rom-Coms no cinema.

Defining Romantic Comedy

First of all, research on gender begins in literature. Second Bill Johnson, in the article The Art of the Comedy Romantic, 1996, romantic comedies are dramas about romances presented in a light and relaxed way.

Thus, the narratives of the genre have three elements in common. One is the certainty that there is true love. Another certainty is that your date is waiting for you somewhere out there. Likewise the third element is the idea that love overcomes any and all obstacles.

Likewise the plot of these narratives consists of an encounter (meet cute) casual and catchy followed by some hitch. Thus, a separation will occur that will unfold into a series of confusing and comical situations, ending in a reunion and a happy ending. However, there are those comedies where couples don’t end up together, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a sad ending. Platonic Comedies is the name given to films with this ending.

Before cinema, literature

Well, now that we know the aspects that characterize the Romantic Comedy, it is important to know that the genre predates cinema, as its characteristics have existed in literature for centuries. The biggest example of this is William Shakespeare. Some of his works, such as Midsummer Night’s Dreams e the tame shrew have characteristics mentioned above.

As well as Shakespeare, the also British Jane Austen he mastered the structure of romantic comedy and used them in his works. Several times his classics were turned into audiovisual products of this genre. As an example we can mention how Emma e Pride and Prejudice.

Romantic comedies from the beginning of cinema

To some, it may seem like romantic comedies started there around the 1980s with teen movies from John Hughes or with that blonde girl simulating an orgasm in a diner. But make no mistake, because in the 1920s we could already find the themes and dynamics of the Rom-Coms in movies from Charles Chaplin e Buster Keaton.

In City lights the tramp falls in love with the blind florist and helps her regain her sight. Already in Sherlock Jr. the designer who wants to be a detective is accused of stealing his father-in-law’s watch and needs to prove his innocence. There are obstacles to the consummation of love in both films.

Buster Keaton Sherlock Jr

photo: film reproduction

Hollywood Golden Years

Similarly in the 1930s/40s, screwball comedies (crazy comedies). In these films, unreal situations are explored and involve secrets, in addition to quick dialogues that provoke comic situations. Some movies that mark the period are it happened that night (1934), Levada da Breca (1938) e The Three Nights of Eve (1941).

The actress Katherine Hepburn and the actor Cary Grant were two of the oldest ‘Darlings of America’. Interpreters who conquer the public and become ‘the face’ of romantic comedies win this title. Thus we find the duo in Scandal Nuptials (1940) again doing par.

Katherine Hepburn e Cary Grant

Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant – photo: film reproduction

1950s America’s Darlings

In the following decades some other divas stand out in classics that are still remembered today. In The Princess and the Commoner (1953), a princesa Ann (Audrey Hepburn) decides to live a day of anonymity and walk the streets of Rome when he meets Joe (Gregory Peck), a reporter pretending not to recognize her to get a scoop. As the rule dictates, the two fall in love. Soon after, Audrey would immortalize Holly Golightly in luxury doll, based on a book by Truman capote.

Furthermore, another darling of America was Norma Jean Mortenson, known for her innocent and fragile characters who got into trouble in the name of love. this was Marylin Monroe, who was next to Tony Curtis e Jack Lemmon in the hotter the better (1959), from Billy Wilder.

God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson

The 1960s and 1970s represent the renaissance of Hollywood. His films are marked by questioning the rules, presenting new views of the world and dialoguing with the youth who clamored for change. The changes in thinking at the time also affected romantic comedy cinema, and perhaps the best known of the films of the period is a man’s first night.

In this feature a newly formed man, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) returns to her parents’ home in the midst of a crisis about what to do with her life. Back home he falls in love with Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross), however the girl’s mother (Anne Bancroft) is willing to seduce him and drives the young couple away. So the trigger for adventure is given and Ben travels through several cities willing to find his beloved Elaine.

Likewise, Jack starred in two more Wilder films, also romantic comedies, making a romantic pair with Shirley MacLaine. In If My Apartment Talked (1960) he falls in love with the boss’s mistress. Already in Irma the sweet (1961), falls in love with a prostitute and, jealous of his clients, invents a farce so that she doesn’t have to work anymore. Note that couples formerly made up of singles in search of love acquire extra spice from being made up of people who are dissatisfied with their relationships and lovers.

In the 1970s, the two most outstanding titles are Neurotic Groom, Nervous Bride (1977) e Manhattan (1979), both from Woody Allen. Both films show the difficulties of maintaining a healthy relationship amidst marital and identity crises of a middle-aged man.

If my apartment spoke, scene

Scene from If My Apartment Talked

John Hughes and the magic formula

The American filmmaker, producer and screenwriter John Hughes was the most prolific name in cinema for the youth of the 1980s/90s. His films spoke of the conflicts of adolescence, the transition to adulthood, fears, desires, changes and friendship and family.

As a result, some of his romantic comedy titles are still emblematic today, among them Pink Shocking Girl (1986), in which the girl from Molly Ringwald takes a while to realize that the love of your life is by your side or 1000 grade woman (1985), who mixes science fiction by bringing two friends who create an idealized woman on the computer who creates life after a crash.

From now on, there are so many romantic comedies that…

… we will commit the sin of even mentioning a few. But okay, let’s remember those icons of a generation and use our imagination to think about how many movies of this genre were part of our lives. And we started with the orgasm blonde, herself, Meg Ryan. In Harry and Sally – Made for Each Other o par Meg e Billy Crystal meets sporadically over the course of a decade and this relationship begs the question, can men and women just be friends?

a year before John Landis he had presented the public with the African-American version of A Princesa eo Plebeu. A Prince in New York took the heir to the throne of Zamunda to Queens so that he could decide who he would marry. In 1990, we saw the diva Cher looking for a relationship that works in my mother is a mermaid and in 1994, we laughed and were thrilled with Four Weddings and One Funeral.

We saw Emma, ​​from Jane Austen, go to high school in Beverly Hills Patties (1995) and Shakespeare’s Tamed Shrew in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). we were enchanted by Julia Roberts in A beautiful woman (1990), My best friend’s wedding (1997) e A place called Notting Hill (1999).

four weddings and a funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral – photo: disclosure

More love and greater representation

Although we love several of the movies mentioned, we cannot fail to notice how much they are centered on heteronormative relationships and starred by white people. However over the years the representation has been increasing and the diversity of the characters too.

the singer and actress Queen Latifah stars right move (2010) e The Vacation of My Life (2006). Already Issa Rae it’s at one crime for two (2020) e Jessica Williams in The Amazing Jessica James (2017). A Nigerian Dakoren Adoken stars Isoken (2017) and lives the dilemma of having or not an interracial relationship. In contrast, Zainab Balogun is Ope, a chef who returns to her homeland to save her parents’ hotel and ends up becoming interested in the potential buyer of the property, inThe Royal Hibiscus Hotel (2017).

Similarly, we have sexual orientation taking on other contours in romantic comedy films. In a not so distant 1994, homosexuality and bisexuality was treated in Three Ways to Love. In 2005 we could see Lena Headey e Piper Perabo falling in love in Imagine me and You. Ten years later Katherine Heigl e Alexis Bledel get married in real marriage. In contrast, in the 2012 South Korean cinema, a gay friend and his lesbian friend get married in a fake ceremony in the film. Two Weddings and One Funeral, from Kim-Jho Gwangsoo , filmmaker who questions the taboos and prejudices of his culture in LGBTQIA+ themed films and in 2018 a gay teenager spoke openly about his sexual orientation in With love, Simon.

Queen Latifah in The Vacations of My Life

Scene from The Vacation of My Life

With each passing year, romantic comedy films change and adjust the romantic realities of their viewers. And we hope that more and more they can bring that warm in the heart of those who are living or looking for their great love.

Watch Yasmine Evaristo’s list of romantic comedies by clicking here!

Yasmine Evaristo

Visual artist, draftsman, majoring in Letters – Publishing Technologies. Film researcher, mainly in the fantastic genre, as well as representation and representation of black people in cinema. Devotee of the holy trinity Tarkovski-Kubrick-Lynch.