The short list of great sophisticated comedies has not grown longer over the years—an intelligent light comedy is one of the hardest of all things to create. The broad and the dumb have always carried the day, not only now but in the golden age of Hollywood.
Nineteen thirty-nine is justly celebrated as the year in movie history to have produced the most memorable movies of any other: The Wizard of Oz; Gone with the Wind; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; The Rules of the Game; Stagecoach; Le Jour Se Leve; Wuthering Heights; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum; and Dark Victory, among others on a long and still staggering list. Yet within the vault of that year’s vivid work, there are only two genuinely wonderful comedies: Ninotchka and Midnight, both written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. Many classic film–lovers know Ninotchka, but I’m amazed at how many people who know great movies don’t know Midnight.