October 28th, 2008

carole lombard 02
  • vp19

Know what you want? You can get it in Spain

On Monday, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. concluded its presentation of Carole Lombard as its "Star Of The Month" for October by showing four of her final five films. This entry is about the film that wasn't shown, a surprisingly difficult Lombard film to find.

It's "They Knew What They Wanted," a 1940 RKO adaptation of a popular Sidney Howard play from the 1920s, starring Lombard and Charles Laughton, shown above. (In the 1950s, the story was adapted into a successful Frank Loesser musical, "The Most Happy Fella.") One of the first films directed by Garson Kanin, "They Knew What They Wanted" turned out to be Carole's final foray into drama. RKO tried to promote the film as its "prestige" entry for the year:

While it received mostly favorable reviews when it was released in October, it again showed a side of Lombard the public had little interest in seeing, and box-office response was tepid.

It wasn't shown on TCM during its month of Lombard films -- and in November, when Laughton is "Star Of The Month," it won't be shown, either.

In the late 1980s, it was issued in VHS form by RKO Home Video:

Finding it now could be difficult, though -- it's long been out of print. Even amazon.com doesn't have any copies available. And if you live in North America, you can't go to the video store and get it on DVD; it's never been given a Region 1 release. One wonders whether there are rights issues with the Sidney Howard estate.

But there's good news...an official DVD release of "They Knew What They Wanted" is now available. It was released last year in Spain, as a Region 2, which means it may not play on most North American DVD systems -- but it should work on home computers. It's in English, with optional Spanish subtitles.

Here's a link to the Spanish site: http://www.fnac.es/dsp/?servlet=extended.HomeExtendedServlet&Code1=1053077774&Code2=114&prodID=687611

Many thanks to Gloria at her splendid site, http://rootingforlaughton.blogspot.com/, for letting me know about this.

P.S. I love Turner Classic Movies, but I must issue them a demerit, however minor, for not showing, or even acknowledging, the "alternate" international ending to "Vigil In The Night" -- especially after the channel had shown it in August 2006.
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