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carole lombard 06

Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon: Carole's in the news ('Nothing Sacred,' and more)

Posted by vp19 on 2013.09.21 at 15:28
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished
carole lombard nothing sacred 18c

Chances are that when you juxtapose the name "Carole Lombard" with the phrase "newspaper film," this is what comes to mind -- "Nothing Sacred," the classic 1937 Technicolor comedy about a journalistic scoop that turns out to be a hoax, and how all parties concerned try to cover up the matter.

There, Lombard was the subject of said hoax, but in this entry, part of the "Breaking News: Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon" sponsored by Comet Over Hollywood (http://cometoverhollywood.com/) and Lindsay's Movie Musings (http://angelnumber25.wordpress.com/)...

...we'll also examine a little-known film where Carole portrayed a reporter. More on that later. (May I also say that as a longtime journalist -- having covered everything from sports and business to local news, working as a reporter, and editor and also on the copy desk -- I'm delighted to be part of this blogathon.)

New York Morning Star reporter Wally Cook (Fredric March) is the victim of a fake story that leads to his demotion to the obituary section...

...when he gets word of a woman dying of radium poisoning in a small Vermont town. He goes up to investigate, though he gets little help from tactiurn townsfolk such as this spinster (played by the great character actress Margaret Hamilton, two years before she gained cinematic immortality for a very different type of film):

Cook finally meets Hazel Flagg (Lombard), who really isn't suffering from radium poisoning but is persuaded by her family doctor (Charles Winninger) to pretend that she is so that Hazel and the doctor can go on a New York trip sponsored by the Star. Hazel's story draws sympathy from New Yorkers and she becomes the toast of the town...but when she is discovered to be in ideal health, what do Hazel and Wally (who happen to be falling in love), not to mention the Star, do next? You'll have to watch the film -- which is in public domain, although a first-class Blu-ray version was issued last year -- to find out.

carole lombard nothing sacred herald 04

"Nothing Sacred" is perhaps most famous for its fight scene, where Wally tries to wear Hazel out to make her look ill before a panel of renowned doctors arrive to examine her. Lombard, a real-life boxing fan who in her youth received lessons from champion Benny Leonard, got some more training on set from another champ, Maxie Rosenbloom, who had a small part in the film as a comic thug.

Acerbic newspaperman-turned-screenwriter Ben Hecht (who wrote the screenplay for Lombard's pivotal film, "Twentieth Century") worked on the script; it's very good, and quite funny, but the semi-racist vitriol (the story that demoted Wally concerns a charitable potentate who's discovered to merely be a Harlem bootblack) slightly lessens its appeal to modern audiences.

Over the years, quite a few classic-era actresses played newspaperwomen, from Loretta Young ("Platinum Blonde") to Jean Arthur ("Mr. Deeds Goes To Town"; her role nearly went to Lombard) to Rosalind Russell ("His Girl Friday," another film Carole missed on). But before any of these were made, Lombard portrayed a reporter in the relatively obscure 1929 Pathe movie "Big News":

carole lombard big news 07b front
carole lombard big news 14c

As the photos imply, Lombard -- playing the journalist wife of newspaperman Robert Armstrong -- has relatively little to do in the movie aside from being attractive. It's Armstrong's vehicle, and he's quite good at it as a reporter who falls prey to alcoholism and is accused of a murder he didn't commit.

carole lombard big news motion picture news 090729a
carole lombard big news motion picture news 090729b

"Big News" was directed by Gregory La Cava, who seven years later would direct one of Lombard's signature films, "My Man Godfrey." This is nowhere as good a movie, but by 1929's static standards, it's more than adequate, and is probably the best of her three Pathe features.

But wait -- there's also one more instance of Lombard playing a reporter, and on this occasion she genuinely treads into Torchy Blane territory. However, you can't see her in action (unless you have a fertile imagination) because in this case, she's on radio!

While Lombard is probably best known broadcast-wise for her several appearances on "Lux Radio Theater," she also made the rounds of several other programs, including a half-hour series called "Silver Theater." This episode, "Murder Unlimited," aired on March 9, 1941, as Carole plays a newspaperwoman who uncovers a ring of killers and finds a way to save the day. You can hear it at http://radioarcana.net/stations/xexs/1941/03/09/murder-unlimited-41/.

The latest Lombard LiveJournal header is p1202-202, but is Carole trying to make us focus on her eyes, or her hands? Let's call it a draw.


R.A. Kerr
925screenings at 2013-09-21 20:41 (UTC) (Link)

Great Review!

Your enthusiasm for this movie is contagious. Also, I love love LOVE the photos, etc. you included in your post.
(Anonymous) at 2013-09-21 21:40 (UTC) (Link)


Of course the mind goes to "Nothing Sacred" and, of course, the mind is always ready to learn new things about Carole Lombard. Thanks! - Caftan Woman
PreCodeDotCom at 2013-09-21 23:48 (UTC) (Link)


Definitely checking out that radio play later. Do you have the Nothing Sacred blu-ray? I've been tempted to get it before...
(Anonymous) at 2013-09-22 11:56 (UTC) (Link)

Nothing Sacred

Fun post on a delightful movie. Love the pics you've included.
(Anonymous) at 2013-09-23 20:26 (UTC) (Link)

Fun review!

Love stopping in here for the energy I get for all things Carole and classic! Never take the time to mention it though so here I am. I love this film and was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at this year's Capitolfest. Wonderful choice for the blogathon.

(Anonymous) at 2013-09-24 20:09 (UTC) (Link)
I love this post and all the great images you sourced. I'm ashamed to say I've seen neither, I will certainly add them to my must-watch list.
Thanks for sharing!
MovieClassicsWP at 2013-09-27 06:48 (UTC) (Link)
I haven't seen 'Big News' but definitely want to, especially as it was directed by La Cava! Great choice of illustrations - I love that ad for 'Nothing Sacred'.
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