50DMC #25: Best-Scripted Movie

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s the best-scripted movie you’re ever seen?

My excuse for falling so far behind getting to this entry is that I was totally stumped by the question. And it’s true. Like Favorite Male and Female Performance, this ends up being an almost arbitrary choice, because there are so many movies with amazing scripts, and how do you even go about picking among them? I toyed with choosing The Social Network for a bit, because Sorkin is, let’s face it, incredible. I thought about choosing a Coen script for a while, because they’re all wonderful, but I decided I didn’t want to choose a writer/director for this question. That let out the Coens, Tarantino, Wilder, Sturges, Godard, and whole raft of other people which frankly made choosing a lot easier. But I was still left with a lot of choices, especially back in classic Hollywood when there were far fewer writer/directors. Is His Girl Friday great because of its script? Well, it has a great script, but it’s most memorable because of the rapid-fire delivery of its script. Maybe a Robert Riskin script, like It Happened One Night? Certainly tempting. What about Casablanca, it’s more dramatic than comedic, like most of the quip-heavy films that first sprang to mind, but it certainly has a lot of great lines.

Of course, a script is much more than just dialogue, but dialogue is the most noticable thing. I couldn’t quite pry myself away from thinking about dialogue when trying to answer this question, so movies like The Thin Man came up, but I did ultimately turn away from that because as awesome as the dialogue and the relationship between Nick and Nora is in that movie, there are some parts of the mystery that admittedly drag a bit. I still think all the films I mentioned and many more would’ve been fine choices, but I’m ultimately going with The Women. Again, largely because of the wonderfully witty and catty dialogue all throughout, but the narrative is also strong (aside from a bit of sentimentality that’s more due to Norma Shearer’s acting style than anything else) and clever. Though The Women was directed by a man, George Cukor (who is nonetheless known for his adeptness at working with casts full of women), it was scripted by two women, Anita Loos and Jane Murfin, and they capture the competitiveness of this group of women perfectly, working from the play by Clare Booth Luce. Female screenwriters were not quite as rare in Hollywood at the time as female directors, but they still weren’t plentiful; The Women is very fortunate to have three great women writers behind it, and such a fantastic all-female cast to bring the words to life (including Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main, and more).

Is it the best? Couldn’t say. Probably not. But it is a film I return to again and again, and a large part of that is due to the script. None of the clips from the film on YouTube are embeddable, but the image below links to a montage clip of several of the best scenes.