Today in Movie History: August 19

We’ve got two great comedies for you: one old and one new. We’ll start with the Marx Brothers, whose Horse Feathers still stands as one of their very best. It’s the usual cocktail of vaudeville gags, but story and plot were never the point, and for sheer comic lunacy, these boys have no peers. The university setting gives them plenty of stuffed shirts to deflate, and the climactic football game is a masterpiece of engineered mayhem. Horse Feathers opened today in 1932.

For a much more modern barrel of laughs, there’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which cemented the careers of both director Judd Apatow and star Steve Carell. Both had made a name for themselves on television — Apatow with the likes of Freaks and Geeks,  and Carell with a lengthy stint on the now-legendary The Daily Show — but while Carell had been stealing the show in supporting film performances, neither of them had a stand-out movie hit. The 40-Year-Old Virgin changed that, as audiences responded not only to the terrific gags, but to the sweet core of Carell’s befuddled title character. Best of all, it still holds up 10 years later. It opened today in 2005.


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