Who Says It’s No Time for Comedy?

I’m thinking that unless you’re an essential worker, you’ve been home a number of weeks.

I’m also guessing you’ve made a meal out of Netflix, bingeing on this show or that show, and in my previous article, I did sing the praises of this streaming service. (I did leave out certain shows that I’ve caught up with since, including The Stranger, Safe, Collateral, and Unorthodox—all limited-run series of eight episodes or less, and all worthwhile). However, for this entry in the “Be Your Own Programmer” series, I suggest you look unto You…as in YouTube.

Many people might consider YouTube to be a place for goofy clips, videos from aspiring web stars (or by now, established web celebrities—or a place to see the latest “cat” video. If you’re a movie fan though, and especially a classic movie fan without access to TCM or a streaming service that costs money, YouTube contains a wealth of options. In this piece, I’d like to share some suggestions in the realm of movie comedy, since there are many opportunities to re-acquaint yourself with a classic, or introduce yourself to that classic (or unsung film) that has escaped your radar.

For instance, if you’re a Bob Hope fan as I am (and I’m talking 40s and 50s Hope to be certain—not the threadbare, tired fare of the 1960s), there is so much to choose from. A few Hope/Crosby/Lamour “Road” films are there for free including Road to Rio (next to Road to Utopia, my favorite “Road” movie—it’s also on YouTube but you have to pay to rent Utopia) and Road to Bali (not their best, but very enjoyable). You can also enjoy Hope’s private-eye spoof My Favorite Brunette (a pristine print), Nothing But the Truth (with Paulette Goddard),and the swashbuckling send-up Monsieur Beaucaire.  The holiday staple The Lemon Drop Kid is also available, as well as two relatively lesser-known Hope vehicles: The Great Lover (grainy print but prime Hope, co-starring Rhonda Fleming), and That Certain Feeling, co-starring Eva Marie Saint and George Sanders. This one has yet to be released on DVD, which is a shame since it has Hope playing…well, himself, but with a little more dimension and a more character-driven story. Worth seeing.

Perhaps you’re fond of Jerry Lewis? You can choose between the Jerry Lewis of Dean (Martin) and Jerry or the Jerry Lewis that struck out on his own (perhaps a poor turn of phrase). If you like Dean and Jerry (there are hints in these films of the fine comedian Martin would become), you can see That’s My Boy, You’re Never Too Young, and their final teaming, the underrated Hollywood or Bust. If you need your Jerry solo, Rock a Bye, Baby, The Sad Sack (co-starring Peter Lorre), Visit to a Small Planet all have their charms. (I also discovered a more recent Lewis opus filmed in France: The Defective Detective—only see it if you need to see how he squandered the good will he earned after King of Comedy.)

If you desire your comedy to have a tad more sophistication, it’s hard to go wrong with Cary Grant (well, you can—just try Kiss Them for Me), and several of his classic comedies (and even comic thrillers) are here, in good prints and free of charge. His Girl Friday is here in a pristine print, as are two of his other collaborations with Howard Hawks, I Was a Male War Bride and Monkey Business (no Marx Brothers, but Marilyn Monroe and Ginger Rogers). You can also catch the peerless Charade with Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau as well as Indiscreet, re-teaming with Ingrid Bergman in a sublime romantic comedy of manners.

And since I’m a Jack Lemmon fan, I do want to draw your attention to two movies that may have slipped your attention. How to Murder Your Wife , co-starring Terry-Thomas and Virna Lisi has plenty of laughs (though it might be considered “politically incorrect” these days. Also—spoiler alert—no wives are actually murdered in this film) The real gem is The April Fools, a wistful, charming pairing with Catherine Deneuve that also has fine supporting turns by Peter Lawford, Myrna Loy and Charles Boyer.

I haven’t mentioned the Marx Brothers, because aside from the entertaining (but minor) A Night in Casablanca, there aren’t any full-length Marx Brothers classics. You can though see Groucho, Chico and Harpo in assorted classic clips, either together or separately. There is also a fine documentary, The Unknown Marx Brothers, that is well worth seeing. because, Goodness knows, there is enough to be concerned and even depressed over, (especially if you watch the news on a semi-regular basis), but I do hope that some of these choices can help bring a smile, and even a chuckle (or two).