A thorough and fulfilling commentary on the birth, life, and death of Hollywood screwball comedies. The great ones--both films and actors--are all here, with 175 photographs. Film comedy has finally risen to the level of analysis that lyric poetry received from the midcentury critics, with William Powell and Myrna Loy being treated like the Brownings, and Lubitsch and Sturges like Wordsworth and Coleridge. Film critic and practicing playwright Harvey, who teaches English at SUNY, Stony Brook, looks into some 60 films to find their sources of life and tie them to their large but precious family of siblings from the Hollywood film factories. His clear style aspires to distinguished brilliance and only occasionally slips into muddle. As well as analyzing the bodies of work of top directors--Ernst Lubitsch, Frank Capra, Leo McCarey, George Stevens (the raucous Gunga Din and The More the Merrier, but often guilty of ""unrelieved solemnity""), Howard Hawks, and Preston Sturges--along with deep glances at Rouben Mamoulian, George Cukor, Gregory La Cava, and several others, Harvey also serves delicious chapters on the great screwball stars: Powell and Loy, Astaire and Rogers, Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert, and Jean Arthur, capped by a recent, charming interview with Dunne about her approach to comedy and working with Grant and McCarey. His outstanding chapter is on Cary Grant, in whom he finds fixed steady rage, the glow of anger, the murderous glare, fierceness--qualities rarely spied by others. An American miracle--anarchic, impertinent, exhilarating movies that challenged complacency with the dangerous possibilities of city life--appealingly X-rayed.