Tag Archives: Carole Lombard

The Set of 400: #104 – My Favorite Intricate Chalk Blocking

Today! Because I wouldn’t wipe my feet on him if he were starving, and I hope he is –

Twentieth Century (1934)

Directed by Howard Hawks

Starring John Barrymore (x2), Carole Lombard (x5), Walter Connolly (x2), Roscoe Karns, Charles Lane (x2), Edgar Kennedy (x2), Ralph Forbes (x2), Etienne Girardot, Dale Fuller, Billie Seward

The fifth and final Lombard to make the list, and the one that made her a star, Twentieth Century hits that sweet spot of mine being a movie about plays and also tangentially about movies, replete with ridiculous over-the-top theater people delivering headspinning dialogue from Oscar winners Ben Hecht and Scranton’s own Charles MacArthur. This movie is also directly responsible for the inclusion of the later Lombard flick True Confession – as that movie reunited this film’s stars, largely because Barrymore was falling on hard times and she insisted he get cast, a move that elevated the picture above her more standard light comedy of that time.

Fun, contentious on-screen pair!

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The Set of 400: #142 – My Favorite Warsaw Shakespeare

Today! Because I’ll decide with whom my wife is going to have dinner and whom she’s going to kill –

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

Starring Jack Benny, Carole Lombard (x4), Robert Stack (x2), Lionel Atwill (x2), Sig Ruman (x4), Felix Bressart, Stanley Ridges, Tom Dugan, Halliwell Hobbes (x2), Miles Mander (x2), Charles Halton

Filmed just prior to America’s entry into WWII, To Be or Not to Be stands as one of the rare comedies of the era tackling the Nazi menace. Once the war began, the whole filmic enterprise took on a justifiably somber tone in regards to the conflict, and so comedies are few and far between. Chaplin’s The Great Dictator had been met with some audience hostility in 1940, so uncomfortable did German aggression make viewers, and so To Be or Not to Be was far from an easy sell when conceived, despite the tremendous script and no less a filmmaker than Ernst Lubitsch at the helm.

By the time the movie would premiere in March of ’42, America was squarely in the war and the film’s star Carole Lombard was dead – a January plane crash after a domestic trip selling war bonds killing her, her mother, and 15 U.S. soldiers. Indeed, Lombard is often referred to as the first female casualty of the war, given the reasons for her travels at the time. So this, coupled with the film’s obvious brilliance, changed the attitude of audiences to one more receptive and supportive of aggressively anti-Nazi pictures.  Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #190 – My Favorite Dying Charlatan

Today! Because we switched a whole study course from the menace of Communism to the inspiration of Hazel Flagg –

Nothing Sacred (1937)

Directed by William Wellman

Starring Carole Lombard (x3), Fredric March (x2), Walter Connolly, Charles Winninger, Sig Ruman (x2), Frank Fay, Margaret Hamilton, Maxie Rosenbloom, Charles Lane, Sidney Kibrick, Hattie McDaniel (x2), Hedda Hopper, Jinx Falkenburg, Billy Barty

The movie that kicked off my 2018 marathon of every existing Carole Lombard feature (all 42 of them), Nothing Sacred inspired this endeavor by functioning as the purest example of Lombard-led screwballery. The other (spoiler alert) four Lombard films on this list all feature an equally effective leading man performance, be it Fred MacMurray or Jack Benny or William Powell, but Fredric March is just big name window dressing in this all-out Lombard vehicle. She plays small-town Hazel Flagg, incorrectly diagnosed with a rapidly terminal illness, who is quickly whisked away to New York City by an unaware, enterprising reporter hot for a human interest story. Hazel can’t help but get caught up in the attention and glamour, and obvious issues arise when more and more people find out about this deception.

It’s a real rock ’em sock ’em affair

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The Set of 400: #211 – My Favorite Gorilla Impression

Today! Because I wish I had a sense of humor, but I can never think of the right thing to say until everybody’s gone home –

My Man Godfrey (1936)

Directed by Gregory La Cava

Starring William Powell (x2), Carole Lombard (x2), Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette, Gail Patrick, Mischa Auer, Jean Dixon, Alan Mowbray, Pat Flaherty, Robert Light, Franklin Pangborn (x2), Grady Sutton, Reginald Mason, Edward Gargan

Apparently my favorite movie from 1936 (suck it, #271 Modern Times and #303 After the Thin Man!), My Man Godfrey is the much-lauded screwballiest of screwball comedies from the late ’30s. The plot is pure pre-war, Great Depression social satire, with Lombard’s socialite Irene hiring Powell’s derelict Godfrey as the family butler following a somewhat cruel rich persons’ scavenger hunt to discover “the forgotten man.” We of course discover that rich people are bonkers and those falling on hard times in the decade were regular folks deserving of a break.

And were deserving of a bath!

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The Set of 400: #382 – My Favorite Pile of Lies

Today! Because Helen Bartlett is not Helen Bartlett alone. Helen Bartlett is womankind –

True Confession (1937)

Directed by Wesley Ruggles

Starring Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, John Barrymore, Edgar Kennedy, Porter Hall, Una Merkel, Lynne Overman, Hattie McDaniel, Byron Foulger, Irving Bacon

Just as a quick preface – herein is the first list appearance of the great Carole Lombard, maker of many a screwball romantic comedy of the 1930s and early ’40s, many of which are basically the same film over and over, the only difference being sometimes Carole was a socialite romantically involved below her, or she was a struggling working girl (no, not a prostitute, except in that one movie) romantically involved above her. I know this, as I watched every single one of her movies in 2018, mainly because they’re interchangeably nice and inoffensive and it was something to do. Some of these are still pretty good movies, but a handful manage to break away and really do something different.

Which brings us to True Confession, her second pairing with the fantastic John Barrymore and her fourth, final, and best film co-starring Fred MacMurray, this time as her lawyer husband trying to get her out of a murder rap. The grim set up is compounded by Carole’s character Helen being a chronic liar, mostly in the cause of doing good, but vastly complicated when on trial for her life. Naturally, hijinks ensue, including much complication brought about by Barrymore’s shady trial attendee and pub frequenter Charley, whose motives aren’t clear until well into the picture. Continue reading

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