There’s a pitch in baseball called a screwball, which was perfected by a pitcher named Carl Hubbell back in the 1930s. It’s a pitch with a particular spin that sort of flutters and drops and goes in very unexpected manners. . . screwball comedy was unconventional, and went in unexpected directions.
— Andrew Bergman
The screwball comedy can be described as a sex comedy without the sex.
— Andrew Sarris
Some characteristics of Screwball Comedy:
Reverse class snobbery, to be poor is somehow to be more noble. What’s more, to be rich is to be castigated, passions befitting theater patrons, during the Great Depression.
A very skillful blend of sophistication and slapstick. Although screwball characters move in an elegant world, where even a simple bathroom appears to be the center of their universe, they may still whack one another over the head, but while The Three Stooges use sledgehammers, screwball characters use silver chafing dishes, and the like—weapons of the upper class.
A well written script, laced with barbed dialog. An overlapping style of delivery, with lines tossed off in rapid fire.
An emphases on elegant clothes, cars, and furniture. The use of exotic locals, even the dump site in “My Man Godfrey”.
The hero or the heroine living by his or her wits alone, though this is often balanced by a reliable gainfully employed love interest.
Last and probably most important, supporting casts of first-rate character actors playing eccentric types as well as a stable of familiar faces in leading roles (Cary Grant, William Powell, Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Katharine Hepburn)