The seventh article in the novel, titled Classical Hollywood Comedy, this article (p.123-146), analyzes the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. Karnick argues that although the plots for these comedies were inherently similar, the humoristic elements in these films helped to distinguish themselves. Along with the similar plotlines, these films have common narrative structures that are further complicated by humor. Humor, according to the author, is the result of incongruity between what is expected and what is actually seen onscreen, and is eventually followed by resolution. This relationship of incongruity and resolution is thus a way to break up the narrative and lessen the predictability of the film.
Karnick also utilizes Vladimir Propp’s methodology of the establishment of genres to analyze screwball comedies. Propp’s work, which compared the themes of 150 Russian folktales by separating parts of tales into “functions,” “spheres of action,” and “moves,” showed that while characters’ names changed between the stories, their functions and actions within the actual narrative did not. Karnick thus uses this theory and applies it to the screwball comedy to explain the recurring plots, but different elements of humor. Karnick is thus able to categorize screwball comedies into two general groups, “Comedies of Commitment” and “Comedies of Reaffirmation.” Commitment comedies, such as Bringing Up Baby, tend to focus on the establishment a central couple, whereas reaffirmation comedies concern the reestablishment of a couple (131). According to Karnick, commitment comedies actually have multiple plotlines. In the case of Bringing Up Baby, Dr. Huxley is concerned about obtaining financing for his museum, but also about searching for the last bone to complete his dinosaur fossil. Commitment comedies also tend to exhibit the clashing of social classes—Dr. Huxley is a highly-educated man who is paired with Susan, a wealthy young woman with no need for a career. The promise of marriage at the end of the film is another characteristic of commitment comedies. In addition to these common themes, Karnick argues that this particular category shares character roles as well. There is a “first partner” (Huxley), an “initial partner” (Miss Swallow), a “second partner” (Susan), a “conscience figure” (Sarah, Nick, Ned), and a “blocking figure” (Mr. Seton). (133).
In the last part of the article, Karnick addresses the reaffirmation comedies, which she argues are essentially continuations of commitment comedies. Thus, like commitment comedies, this particular category also shares common themes, plotlines, and character roles as well.