August 6th, 2008

carole lombard 03
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Confessions of a funny lady

Q. Was that a conscious decision, to abandon comedy for a while?

A. Yeah, it was my big fat idea to go do some straight drama roles. Because it's very hard to do comedy, and I'm one of the few people on Earth who can. Great idea! So yeah, that was my mistake. Sorry!

You might think that quote came from Carole Lombard circa 1941, regarding her return to comedy in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" -- but you'd be wrong (and while Carole certainly enjoyed comedy, she had few, if any, regrets about extending her range).

No, the quote from a long, revealing interview with one of the best comedic actresses of the past few decades, someone who's charmed audiences in many a film and TV show. I am speaking of the wonderful Teri Garr:

That's what Teri looked like in 1990, when her career was riding high. She'd made many films during the 1980s, most of which let her show off her considerable comedic skills, and won an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for "Tootsie" (only to lose to fellow cast member Jessica Lange). In those days, she was also a frequent guest of David Letterman and other talk shows. Had she made a few different career moves, perhaps she could have reached the heights of a Goldie Hawn.

What happened to Teri? Health problems, notably multiple sclerosis, which impaired her walking and other movement. She's become a spokeswoman for the fight against MS, and has done a splendid job to raise public awareness. In late 2006, she also suffered a brain aneurysm; she has since recovered, and has resumed her acting career in character parts.

The interview with Garr, where she discusses just about every film of note she ever made, can be found at It's worth checking out, as is her autobiography from a few years ago, "Speedbumps"; she's a bright, likable woman with plenty to say.

I should note that in the late 1980s, I read a magazine article where Garr said she was considering remaking one of Carole Lombard's comedies. Obviously, that project never came to pass, but it begs the question: What Lombard film could be remade today? (For our purposes, we'll assume the setting would be updated to present times, with a few necessary minor revisions; the 1930s would be an alien setting to many current movie fans.)

Of course, quite a few of Carole's films have already been remade -- "My Man Godfrey" in 1957, "True Confession" as "Cross My Heart" in 1946, "Nothing Sacred" as "Living It Up" in 1954, "To Be Or Not To Be" in 1983.

To my mind, "Hands Across The Table" could be updated with relatively minimal changes (although the manicurist character would probably have to live in a blue-collar neighborhood outside Manhattan, since the borough's become so gentrified). One wonders if this was the film Teri was thinking of remaking. If I ever meet her, I'll have to ask.

Anyway, if you were remaking a Lombard movie today, which would it be...and whom would you cast as the character Carole played? (Keep in mind we're not casting a Lombard lookalike -- just someone who could best capture the spirit of the character.)

We'll leave you with this picture of Teri from a few years back, when she posed with a "Young Frankenstein" slot machine, evoking one of her movie triumphs:

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