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Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  115 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
During the 30's and 40's, Hollywood produced a genre of madcap comedies that emphasized reuniting the central couple after divorce or separation. And the female protagonists were strong, independent, and sophisticated. Here, Stanley Cavell examines seven of those classic movies for their cinematic techniques, and for such varies themes as feminism, liberty and interdepende ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published January 15th 1984 by Harvard University Press (first published July 1st 1981)
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Elizabeth Knight
Nov 12, 2012 Elizabeth Knight rated it it was amazing
Not only is this a jaw droppingly gorgeous book about the very sophisticated and enlightened Romantic Comedy of the early-mid 20th C...but I'll be doggone if it isn't the best book on MARRIAGE itself I've ever read.
We start with the premise that all the couples in the films he discusses are independent, usually wealthy and childless. This means that each partner has a no compulsion to be in the relationship...and that it is the process of choosing a life and each other that spins at the center o
...more
I-kai
Sep 20, 2015 I-kai rated it really liked it
Glad that I took so long to finish this! The time in between reading other things makes the experience so much richer. Cavell obviously understands the connection between Kierkegaard's repetition, Nietzsche's eternal recurrence, and perhaps Heidegger's authenticity. While he says little with respect to recollection in Plato, he connects this with the Hollywood screwball comedies that effectively make divorce necessary for true marriage - in much the same way that only the second baptism is the f ...more
stephen k
May 13, 2015 stephen k rated it liked it
If you have any interest in marriage, getting married or being married, this is an absolute must-read. As much as this is a deep reading of seven remarkably entertaining films of early Hollywood, it's also a deep reading of what it is to spend your life with someone and what justifies such a commitment. The films that compose the genre examined here all challenge whether two people should really be together, and they offer to us what it takes to prove that they should. These aren't just lessons ...more
Banu Pluie
"bir metinden fazladan anlam çıkarmak, sanki orada olmayan bir şeyi metnin içine yerleştirmek gibi birşeyi canlandırır. sonra orada ne olduğunu söylersiniz ve metinden başka birşey olmadığı anlaşılır.

ancak metnin 'satır aralarını okumak', bir eleştiri terimi olarak, oldukça dikkate değer birşeyi, gerçek bir iz üzerinde bile olsa aşırıya kaçmak gibi bir şeyi ortaya atar. öyleyse sorulacak soru, çoğu kez felsefi bir soru olan, okumanın nasıl sonlandırılacağı sorusudur. bu durum, eleştiriye dışarda
...more
Sistermagpie
Mar 16, 2012 Sistermagpie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My one regret after reading Stanley Cavell's Purstuis of Happiness was that I hadn't seen all the movies recently enough to always remember what specific moments he referred to at every moment. The movie I know the best, The Awful Truth, was also the one essay that included a synopsis. I do now want to go back and watch the other films keeping in mind everything I read about them.

It definitely gave me a new way to think about the genre--and exciting way that makes me want to see all the movies a
...more
sharon
Jan 07, 2009 sharon added it
Shelves: movie
isn't it funny that life is unfair......but looking forward to the journey we endure we may realized that everything happened has a purpose that indeed God still has a good plan for us.Even in the midst of troubles, pressures, disappointments or even uncertain things that happens in our way still God has a good plan for us....while looking at the movie i remember the word that God promise us saying "plan to prosper us and not to harm us, plan to give us hope and a future" quoted "Jeremiah 29:11" ...more
Belinda
May 10, 2012 Belinda rated it liked it
Shelves: film-theory
This book has been very influential in film theory and is definitely worthwhile reading if you have an interesting in the Classical Hollywood period. Cavell makes some really insightful points and identifies a number of common themes and ideas in the screwball comedies of the '40s. However, I found it pretty hard-going - the language is very flowery and Cavell approaches film theory from a philosophical and literary background, which is vastly different to the semiotic, ideological and psychoana ...more
David
Sep 30, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2010
Cavell's reading of these films is challenging and delightful. If you've any appreciation for the old screwball comedy/romance movies discussed in this book (It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, etc.) you would do well to pick up this book and watch the films in concert with reading it. Cavell demonstrates wonderfully what a sophisticated and philosophically astute reading can add to already enjoyable works of art.

And if you haven't seen the films, we
...more
Nico
Sep 18, 2011 Nico rated it it was amazing
Cavell on Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday:

"These two simply appreciate one another more than either of them appreciates anyone else, and they would rather be appreciated by one another more than by anyone else. They just are at home with one another, whether or not they can ever live together under the same roof -- that is, ever find a roof they can live together under."

One of the best books about film -- and about marriage -- ever written, in my less-than-humble opinion. Stag
...more
robert
Apr 27, 2011 robert rated it really liked it
This book, while wonderfully erudite, does have one flaw. At times the prose clogs and you feel like you are reading a dense, philosophical treatise. Otherwise, it's perfect, with the best essay on "The Awful Truth" -- the greatest movie ever made -- that I have ever read. And it features this line on the ultimate screwball hero: Cary Grant "has the holiday in his eye."
Aileen
Mar 13, 2008 Aileen rated it really liked it
This book examines the remarriage comedies of the 30s and 40s - The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth, Adam's Rib, It Happened One Night, among others. Cavell reads the films using Kant and Freud, Milton and Luther. It's an interesting book, and one that you could even use as a sort of primer on marriage generally.
Lesley
Jan 18, 2009 Lesley rated it really liked it
Although the writing can be turgid, this books is as much marriage manual as film history. My own copy has fallen apart I've consulted it so many times.
Blair
Nov 15, 2013 Blair rated it it was amazing
A great feminist take on seven classical Hollywood films. Only Robin Wood does a comparable job of rewriting films of the period along the lines of gender.
Nancy L.
Aug 06, 2007 Nancy L. rated it it was amazing
I hope no one ever makes me pick between screwball comedies and pre-Code dramas. This is a great analysis of the former.
Amelia
Nov 09, 2008 Amelia rated it really liked it
N and I are taking a class on Screwball comedies. Love screwball comedies, love Cavell!
Casey
Sep 07, 2012 Casey rated it it was amazing
Can't say enough good things about this book.
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“On Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday:

"These two simply appreciate one another more than either of them appreciates anyone else, and they would rather be appreciated by one another more than by anyone else. They just are at home with one another, whether or not they can ever live together under the same roof -- that is, ever find a roof they can live together under.”
8 likes
“(Can human beings change? The humor, and the sadness, of remarriage comedies can be said to result from the fact that we have no good answer to that question.)” 1 likes
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