August 10th, 2014

carole lombard 07
  • vp19

Your guide to Carole Lombard 'SUTS' day

carole lombard william powell 24d front

Today, Turner Classic Movies' Summer Under The Stars torch is passed from William Powell to his one-time wife, Carole Lombard, the third time she's been a SUTS honoree. Here is the schedule, along with my comments on each film (since the card is nearly similar to what TCM ran in 2011, I'm largely repeating what I ran then, with some minor modifications, again using the one-to-five-star scale; all times Eastern):

carole lombard virtue 53b

* 6 a.m. -- "Virtue" (1932). This arguably is Lombard's best work before "Twentieth Century." Her first film at Columbia, this tale of a streetwalker who meets up with a cab driver (Pat O'Brien) unaware of her sordid past features a script punched up by Robert Riskin, a good supporting cast (notably Mayo Methot and Ward Bond) and a feel not unlike the pre-Codes being made at Warners. Truly a winner. * * * *

* 7:30 a.m. -- "No More Orchids" (1932). It's followed by her second film for Columbia, and first collaboration with character actor par excellence Walter Connolly, who portrays her wealthy father. Lyle Talbot is cast as the man Carole's character wants to marry -- but her grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith) insists she marry a foreign prince. For the most part, this is a drama, although Lombard gets some comedic moments early on, especially with Louise Closser Hale. Not quite a classic, but well worth seeing at least once. * * * 1/2

carole lombard in name only 28 large

* 9 a.m. -- "In Name Only" (1939). Four of the first five films today are from Columbia; this RKO release, co-starring Cary Grant, is the exception. This capable romantic drama co-stars Kay Francis, as widow Carole meets businessman Cary, and they fall for each other. But Kay's character, who only wants Grant for his money, won't let go. (Sounds a bit like real life with another "CG," doesn't it?) Enjoy Cary and Carole's chemistry, and be thankful they at least got to make this movie. * * * 1/2

* 11 a.m. -- "Lady By Choice" (1934). The title was Columbia's way of tying this into its massive hit of the year before, "Lady For A Day," though this doesn't feature any of that film's characters. Carole plays a fan dancer who takes in a troubled woman (May Robson) for publicity purposes and to placate a night-court judge (Connolly). * * *

carole lombard twentieth century 059a

* 12:30 p.m. -- "Twentieth Century" (1934). Now to the film that put Carole on the map, the film that defined Lombard's comedic personality, something heretofore only seen sporadically on screen and frequently off it. Credit John Barrymore, who's brilliant as a Broadway impresario trying to woo the star he shaped back to his production instead of hated Hollywood, and director Howard Hawks for eliciting her brilliant performance. Connolly, Roscoe Karns and Charles Lane head a superb supporting cast. A must-see. * * * * *

* 2:15 p.m. -- "The Gay Bride" (1934). Lombard referred to this as her worst film, and while it isn't one of her better ones, her lone movie at MGM does have some things going for it -- such as a solid supporting cast, good direction from Jack Conway and a funny storyline about a gold-digger who gets in with the underworld. Still, Carole's got a point; this film doesn't equal the sum of its parts. * * 1/2

* 4 p.m. -- "Made For Each Other" (1939). After "Fools For Scandal" turned out a flop (more on that later), Carole transitioned to drama (with some comedic overtones) in co-starring with a Princeton grad named James Stewart; they would collaborate several times on radio, but never team on film again. Directed by John Cromwell, this Selznick International production devolves into melodrama in its second half, but sparkles at times. * * * 1/2

carole lombard mr. & mrs. smith 86a

* 6 p.m. -- "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (1941). Here's a marital farce directed by, of all people, Alfred Hitchcock (a friend of Carole's who took the assignment as a favor to her). She and Robert Montgomery discover their marriage isn't legal, and he has to woo her all over again. A solid script by Norman Krasna makes this a winner, though some wish in retrospect supporting players Gene Raymond and Jack Carson had swapped parts. And Hitch photographs Lombard beautifully. * * * * 1/2

carole lombard to be or not to be 35 large

* 8 p.m. -- "To Be Or Not To Be" (1942). This is the weekly selection for "Essentials Jr.", and I'll be interested in host Bill Hader's comments about this dark comedy from Ernst Lubitsch. It's the definite high point of radio legend Jack Benny's checkered film career, as a troupe of Polish actors led by husband and wife Jack and Carole outwit the Nazis during their occupation. Lombard leaves us at the peak of her acting powers and ethereal beauty. * * * * *

carole lombard true confession 03a

* 10 p.m. -- "True Confession" (1937). Lombard's final film for Paramount has its supporters and detractors (Leonard Maltin notably is in the latter camp). Make up your mind while watching Carole -- portraying a congential liar -- cavort with Fred MacMurray, Una Merkel and John Barrymore. This is the day's lone TCM premiere; let us hope that within the next few years, several more of Lombard's films will premiere on the channel. * * * 1/2

carole lombard nothing sacred 65b

* 11:45 p.m. -- "Nothing Sacred" (1937). The vision of Technicolor Carole at giant size must have been something to behold in downtown movie palaces. And while she's the rock this cynical comedy is built upon, she has plenty of support -- from co-star Fredric March to old pros like Connolly, Charles Winninger and Margaret Hamilton (wonderful in a bit part) to a script by Ben Hecht that pulls no punches. A hilarious film, and only a rather abrupt ending keeps it from five-star range. * * * * 1/2

* 1:15 a.m. -- "Vigil In The Night" (1940). What a transition, from screwball comedy to heavy drama. This adaptation of A.J. Cronin's story about British nurses, directed by George Stevens, isn't the easiest of her movies to sit through. But Carole's sense of professionalism, both as an actress and as her character, makes this worth it, as do co-stars Brian Aherne, Anne Shirley and Peter Cushing. * * * 1/2

* 3 a.m. -- "Fools For Scandal" (1938). This may be Lombard's worst film of the '30s; certainly it promised more and delivered less than any other of her vehicles. Carole went to Warners with dreams of becoming their top comic actress. Instead, she wound up with a leading man (Fernand Gravet) she had no chemistry with and a muddled script revised a number of times to no end. Lombard later said she knew she had a dud when friends told her how beautiful she looked in it. And she does, the only reason this doesn't get the lowest rating. * 1/2

carole lombard run, girl, run 04b

* 4:30 a.m. -- "The Golden Age Of Comedy" (1957). I suppose this Robert Youngson compilation qualifies as a Lombard film, as a truncated version of her 1928 Mack Sennett short "Run, Girl, Run" is part of the lineup. While it's nice to see Carole's silent days noted, it might have been better to air several of her Sennett two-reelers in their entirety. Maybe next time. * * *

Enjoy today...ironically, the date when a "supermoon" will grace the heavens. Perhaps Lombard has something to do with it.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy