THE RUNAWAY BRIDE: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the 1930's by Elizabeth Kendall

THE RUNAWAY BRIDE: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the 1930's

Email this review


Excelling study of Depression-era film heroines who lifted romantic comedy into heaven, by the author of Where She Danced (1979), a book about the birth of modern dance. Readers may fear from Kendall's opening pages that one more academic tour of Thirties romantic comedy lies before them--and that by a film feminist. But whatever feminist slant Kendall may favor fades before the brilliance of her ideas about the period's actresses and the heroines they played. Until the Thirties, a heroine--aside from ""It Girl"" Clara Bow--played second fiddle to the male lead. The Garbo and Dietrich heroines of the silents and early talkies were passive sex/love objects who expected to have their lives directed by men. Then came Barbara Stanwyck, who in Frank Capra's Ladies of Leisure broke the mold: ""Out of their collaboration had come a movie heroine who was not a scapegoat like a weeper heroine; she was a full protagonist. Things didn't happen to her, they happened within her. She was the one through whom the audience experienced the movie."" The first sensational heroine, however, was Claudette Colbert's Ellie in Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, a role Capra adapted from his string of Stanwyck vehicles. Suddenly the woman who knew her own mind burst onto celluloid. She was Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams, Stage Door and Bringing up Baby, Ginger Rogers in Swing Time and Stage Door, Jean Arthur in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey, and Stanwyck again as the cardsharp in The Lady Eve. Kendall dismantles all of these pictures and more, shows the male often as second fiddle to the bold female. Her views smack the reader as fresh and original, especially her overviews of all the ladies together forming a gutsy gallery of heroines whose every line strikes sparks and shows men how to think about feelings. Uplifting walk into the silver screen.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf