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Pursuits of Happiness: Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Harvard Film Studies) Hardcover – 1 Dec 1981

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (1 Dec. 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674739051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674739055
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 61.3 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,233,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The great achievement of..."Pursuits of Happiness" is that it finally provides a solid framework for the serious discussion of the great dialogue comedies of the thirties and forties, perhaps the most revived and loved movies of Hollywood's golden period. -- Al LaValley "American Film"

About the Author

Stanley Cavell is Walter M. Cabot Professor, Emeritus, of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Harvard University. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julia_Rees on 27 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
The introductory chapter is a little difficult to get through, but the chapters on individual films are just brilliant. This is a book that I keep returning to.
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0 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David A. Greenhalgh on 3 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I looked forward to reading this book because it covers a high point of romantic comedy. But the text obfuscates the subject with its pseudo philosophical interpretations. You will learn barely nothing from Cavell's study of some great films.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A critical appreciation of film's greatest romantic comedies 17 May 1996
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Cavell identifies the "comedies of remarriage," those romantic comedies and comic romances that lit the screens and the hearts of the audiences of the 1930's and 40's. With the mind of a philosopher and scholar and the passionate appreciation of a true fan, he examines classic romantic comedies (and comic romances), including "The Lady Eve," "The Awful Truth," and "The Philadelphia Story." In a classical context (he compares the role of the woods in Shakespeare to the role of Connecticut in "Bringing Up Baby") he manages to illuminate the films without disturbing the gossamer that holds them together. The best that can be said is that he does justice to these lovely films, and makes us understand how smart we were to adore them
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A great book for lovers of classical American movies. 29 Dec. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The goal of this book is to show that the classic American film comedies of the 30's and 40's are worthy of the best criticism. The author succeeds. If you love movies, and want to think about them seriously, this is your book. The films in it star Hepburn, Grant, Tracy, Gable, Stanwyck. This is a sophisticated book for a sophisticated film audience. The author is one of America's leading philosophers. Cavell brings his knowledge of concepts of friendship, conversation, gender, parenting, sexuality, fun, and adventure to bear on each of the romantic comedies he discusses. The genre explored here continues in GROUNDHOG DAY, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, ALL OF ME, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. This book is serious, and well worth it. It explores everything important to every romantic relationship. I highly recommend it to everyone.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A joyous, brilliant, unique work of film criticism 6 May 2010
By George H. Sullivan - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary book, with an extraordinary personality. Its subject is the Hollywood screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, and it is first and foremost a serious work of film criticism, full of literary insight and philosophical speculation (the author is a well-known Harvard philosophy professor, now retired). But it is also full of fun. Laughter lurks everywhere, bubbling continually beneath the surface of the discourse, and Cavell's love of the films (and, not incidentally, his love of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and Rosalind Russell and Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert) is all but palpable. The result is a marriage of the serious and the playful that is, in my opinion, unique -- I know of no other work of literary or film criticism that so joyously celebrates its subject. In the years since the book was originally published in 1981, Cavell's phrase "comedy of remarriage" -- signifying a romance in which a made-for-each-other couple becomes estranged and then finds their way back to a deeper understanding of both themselves and their relationship -- has become standard filmcrit terminology. That's as it should be, because Cavell makes a brilliant case for his thesis, all the time (in a phrase from Emerson that serves as the book's epigraph) carrying the holiday in his eye. Bravo.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Serious look at Screwball.... 27 Feb. 2013
By Stephen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You will need to have your synapses securely bolted on for this one. A very serious thoughtful look at the 'comedy of re-marriage' as depicted in seven classic 1930's/40's Hollywood comedies: 'It Happened One Night,' 'The Awful Truth,' 'Bringing Up Baby,' 'The Philadelphia Story,' 'His Girl Friday,' 'The Lady Eve,' and 'Adam's Rib.' Professor Cavell spends a deal too much time (for this reader) justifying to himself that mere Hollywood comedies deserve such a deep philosophical treatment, (of course they do!) Each film is given a chapter, and some work better than others.'Bringing Up Baby' and 'The Awful Truth' especially good. This book is thirty years old, and was written before the days of readily available dvds to go and refer to; but it stands up well as the best (and maybe only) such treatment of this genre. But you will need to concentrate!
Four Stars 28 Feb. 2015
By Chris Kang - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a analysis book of several classic romantic comedies.
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