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In baseball, a screwball is an erratic pitch which is produced in a deliberate way by the pitcher, who throws the ball very fast, turning his wrist and letting the ball fly off his middle finger.
It confuses the batter who doesn't know what to expect.
The zany but glamorous characters often have contradictory desires for individual identity and for union in a romance under the most unorthodox, insane or implausible circumstances (such as in Preston Sturges' classic screwball comedy and battle of the sexes The Lady Eve).
This stylistic device did not originate in the screwballs (although it may be argued to have reached its zenith there): it can also be found in many of the old Hollywood cycles including the gangster film, romantic comedies, and others.
Many of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals of the 1930s also feature screwball comedy plots, notably The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935).
Screwball comedy was tied to a period of transition in American humor that gained momentum by the late 1920s.
Some of the stars often present in screwball comedies included Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, William Powell, and Carole Lombard.
In screwball comedy, the romantic couple at the center of the story are eccentrics, often portrayed through slapstick.