The 109th anniversary of Carole Lombard's birth is three weeks from Friday, but Turner Classic Movies is getting the jump on the celebration this Friday by showing seven of her films. It isn't quite your usual list of Lombard's "greatest hits" -- only one of her so-called "big four" is on the schedule. Rather, it looks at her work in the mid-1930s, with movies from five different studios.
It begins at 8 p.m. (Eastern) with "Hands Across the Table" (1935, shown above with Fred MacMurray), arguably her best vehicle at Paramount, where she was under contract from 1930 to 1937 but often was lost in the studio shuffle. "Hands" may be a romantic comedy, but Mitchell Leisen's smart direction gives Carole some unexpected sexual tension with MacMurray more than a year after the Production Code began to be strictly enforced.
The rest of the schedule, all times Eastern:
* 9:30 p.m. -- "Love Before Breakfast" (1936). The other film Carole made for Universal, a few months before "My Man Godfrey," this adaptation of a Faith Baldwin story puts Lombard in a love triangle with Cesar Romero (above) and Preston Foster. No classic, but it has its moments. Directed by Walter Lang, who would marry Carole's pal and personal secretary Madalynne Field.
* 11 p.m. -- "The Princess Comes Across" (1936). Lombard's second teaming with MacMurray (which he got when George Raft pulled himself out of production), makes Brooklyn showgirl Carole a phony Swedish princess (and enables her to send up Greta Garbo) heading to America en route to Hollywood. But things go astray when a murder takes place on board the ship.
* 12:30 a.m. -- "Now And Forever" (1934). Our third film from Paramount teams Lombard with Gary Cooper and up-and-coming Shirley Temple. It's a story of how love for a child helps a conning couple in Europe go straight.
* 2 a.m. -- "The Gay Bride" (1934). Lombard's lone film at MGM isn't as bad as she made it out to be. It's sort of the "Married to the Mob" of its day, with Carole a showgirl who marries mobsters who die off and boost her bank account. It's also her only work with the great ZaSu Pitts.
* 3:30 a.m. -- "Brief Moment" (1933). A notable Broadway play converted into a Columbia programmer, nightclub singer Carole seeks to show wastrel playboy husband Gene Raymond the error of his ways.
* 4:45 a.m. -- "Nothing Sacred" (1937). Selznick-International gave Carole a big budget and three-strip Technicolor in this rollicking, sardonic newspaper comedy co-starring Fredric March, with support from superlative character actor Walter Connolly. The fight scene is a legitimate crowd-pleaser.