screwball noir
n. A film that combines antic or comedic scenes with a bleak or shadowy atmosphere.

Example Citation:
Rudolph's latest effort, 'Trixie,' is emblematic. A 'screwball noir' about a humble woman security guard prone to malapropisms who uncovers crooked dealings in a small resort town, it's got a talented cast headed by the sublime Emily Watson.
—Marc Mohan, "A World of His Own," The Oregonian, December 8, 2000

Earliest Citation:
Together, Beatty and Bening, in her most potent and volatile performance thus far, fight, love, split and come together in a tempestuous series of scenes that are sometimes erotic, sometimes funny — screwball noir."
—Malcolm Johnson, "Beatty and Bening make 'Bugsy' a beaut," The Hartford Courant, December 20, 1991

Notes:
Today's genre-bender of a phrase combines two types of movies: the screwball comedy (earliest use: 1938), "a whimsical, witty movie about the amusing antics and battles of eccentric, often romantically-linked characters"; and the film noir (1958), "a movie characterized by dim lighting, a bleak urban backdrop, and shadowy, cynical characters." Although the screwball noir label has been pinned on movies from the 50s and 60s, its use appears to stretch back only to the early 90s.

Included in the credits for today's post is subscriber James Callan, who told me about this phrase.

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