The comedy of remarriage is a subgenre of American comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s. At the time, the Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, banned any explicit references to or attempts to justify adultery and illicit sex. The comedy of remarriage with the same spouse enabled filmmakers to evade this provision of the Code. The protagonists divorced, flirted, or even had relationships, with strangers without risking the wrath of censorship, and then got back together.

The genre was given its name by the philosopher Stanley Cavell[1] in a series of academic articles that later became a 1981 book, Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Cavell argues that the genre represented Hollywood's crowning achievement, and that beneath all the slapstick and innuendo is a serious effort to create a new basis for marriage centered on mutual love – religious and economic necessity no longer applying for much of the American middle class.

In response to Cavell's article, scholar David R. Shumway claims it is possible "to make too much of the remarriage 'genre'". He points out that "only two of Cavell's seven comedies deal with characters who we actually see interacting as husband and wife for any length of time" and points out that all seven films fit into the screwball comedy genre.[2]

More recently, film critics A. O. Scott and David Edelstein both argued that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a 21st-century example of the genre.[3][4]

Notable comedies of remarriage

(Bold text denotes inclusion in Pursuits of Happiness)



  1. ^ Lynn R. Wilkinson (June 2008). "Marriage, Remarriage, and Other Language Games. Emma Gad's Ægtestand and De unge Drømme and the Comedy of Remarriage". Orbis Litterarum. 63 (3): 177–194. doi:10.1111/J.1600-0730.2008.00923.X. ISSN 0105-7510. Wikidata Q119777123.
  2. ^ Shumway, David R. (2003). "Screwball Comedies: Constructing Romance, Mystifying Marriage". In Grant, Barry Keith (ed.). Film Genre Reader III. University of Texas Press. p. 396. ISBN 9780292701854. OCLC 936762738.
  3. ^ Edelstein, David. "Forget Me Not: The genius of Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Slate (March 18, 2004)
  4. ^ Scott, A. O. "Charlie Kaufman's Critique of Pure Comedy". The New York Times (April 4, 2004)