March 6th, 2015

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Carole, Marlene on the 'Silver' screen in D.C.

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Good news for the many Carole Lombard fans in the Washington, D.C. area where I once resided: Two of her cinematic classics will be shown over the next few days at the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Md., just north of the District line. "Nothing Sacred" (1937), where she's shown above with Fredric March, will be screened at 5 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. Her breakthrough film from three years earlier, "Twentieth Century," is to be shown at 1 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Monday.

It's part of AFI's series "Leading Ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age," as from Saturday through next Thursday, Lombard and Paramount stablemate Marlene Dietrich will be featured.

Karina Longworth, whose fine podcast "You Must Remember This" recently focused on Lombard and second husband Clark Gable (, was interviewed by the Arts Desk of the Washington City Paper ( Here's what she had to say about Carole:

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AFI is also showing two films starring Carole Lombard this weekend: "Twentieth Century" and "Nothing Sacred." Your episode about her and Clark Gable is the most tragic one I’ve heard, which is ironic since she was a terrific comic actress.

"Twentieth Century" was really the film that made her. Before then, she was knocking around Hollywood a long time, starring in B-movies or playing the second lead. She hadn’t really found her identity. It was on "Twentieth Century"...that she was able to let loose and be the girl she was in real life: a wild party girl, but with a core of absolute sweetness. You see that codified, but "Nothing Sacred" is my favorite of her films because it’s really weird. It’s her first film in Technicolor, and it’s really beautiful, with this pastel painting look. The first set-piece has to do with a guy who’s presenting himself as an African dictator to New York society, and while its racial/ethnic stuff is dated, there’s a terrific screwball comedy there, too.

So the combination of dated racial material and screwball comedy is what makes the film so weird?

That’s what makes the first 10 minutes so weird, but then it continues. It’s directed in a strange way, in terms the way Lombard and her co-stars are framed in the film. They’re deliberately hidden by tree branches, or the camera will do elaborate movements in order to find the actors. The camera work is really advanced for its time.

Kudos to director William Wellman for such "strange" camera work.

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Oh, and as for the two Dietrich films, they're both from 1932 and directed by her enigmatic lover, Josef von Sternberg -- "Shanghai Express" at 11:10 a.m. Saturday and at 3 p.m. Monday, and...

"Blonde Venus" at 11:10 a.m. Sunday and at 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

Carole, apparently poolside with a robe on, has some fun with a dachshund in Paramount p1202-616, our latest Lombard LiveJournal header.
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