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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.
The pitch was 'invented' by Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants in the early 1900s, but it was not until around 1930 when another New York Giants player, Carl Hubbell, gave the pitch its name.All these elements are generally delivered at break-neck speed.The earliest screwball comedy was Lewis Milestone's The Front Page (1931) but it first gained prominence in 1934 with It Happened One Night, and, although many film scholars would agree that its classic period ended sometime in the early 1940s, elements of the genre have persisted, or have been paid homage to, in contemporary film.Some scholars point to this frequent device as evidence of the shift in the American moral code as it showed freer attitudes about divorce (though the divorce always turns out to have been a mistake).
Other films from this period in other genres incorporate elements of the screwball comedy.
While there is no authoritative list of the defining characteristics of the screwball comedy genre, films considered to be definitive of the genre usually feature farcical situations, a combination of slapstick with fast-paced repartee, and a plot involving courtship and marriage or remarriage.