Carole Lombard's work on screen and personality off it has inspired ensuing generations of actresses, particularly those whose forte is comedy. Now, one of them is remaking a signature film from another...but with a twist.
In 1987, Goldie Hawn (top) starred in "Overboard," playing a wealthy heiress who develops amnesia when she falls from her luxurious boat, is rescued by a handyman who doesn't inform her of her old identity, and falls in love with him. Next month, Anna Faris (bottom) stars in a remake of "Overboard"...but is she going to reprise Goldie's role? Nope -- she'll instead play a handyman (similar to Kurt Russell, Hawn's real-life squeeze, in the original). The heiress now is a playboy, portrayed by Eugenio Derbez, a huge star in Latin America whom U.S. audiences may recall from last year's "How To Be A Latin Lover."
I'm not certain whose idea it was to flip the lead characters' genders, but it's probably a wise move by Faris, whose comedic talent rarely has been fully utilized on screen. In fact, her last hit vehicle, "The House Bunny," came out in 2009; she's far better known today as the star of the hit sitcom "Mom." Trying to fill Goldie's shoes in one of her best-loved movies would be self-defeating, especially if Faris wants to go the Melissa McCarthy route and go from small-screen success to big-screen stardom.
We should also note that another beloved '80s comedy, "Splash," will soon get similar gender-bending treatment, as Daryl Hannah's mermaid in the original will become Channing Tatum's merman this time around.
With all this in mind, I thought I'd explore this topic: Which Lombard films could you see remade with the leads swapping sexes -- in other words, with Carole's character in the male lead and the leading man as the female?
Some additional ground rules: These stories would be adapted to current times, so no new "To Be Or Not To Be" (heck, Mel Brooks already remade it) or "Bolero" (set in the 1910s). Some elements would also be updated to reflect modern-day conditions.
Relatively few are aware that one Lombard film has already received the cross-gender treatment -- the 1954 comedy "Living It Up," a remake of "Nothing Sacred" and directed by Norman Taurog (two decades after he helmed Carole's "We're Not Dressing"). Here, Jerry Lewis is the person whom everyone thinks is dying -- he's named Homer Flagg, not Hazel Flagg, lives in New Mexico, not Vermont, and is believed to have radioactive poisoning, not radium poisoning. Janet Leigh is the reporter who tracks him down. So cross that off our list, and isn't the newspaper business dying? (As a former reporter and copy editor, I hate writing that.)
But there are several Lombard movies where a gender switch could work. (We'll limit these to comedies.) Here are a few possibilities:
"Hands Across the Table": Since this has not been remade in any form 83 years after its release, it probably could work as a simple modernization, as a manicurist looking for love and money winds up with a man who gives her lots of the former but has little of the latter. But if we did flip genders here, the new Regina Allen could be a department-store queen whose fortune has gone bust -- unbeknownst to the struggling hotel barber she bumps into.
"The Princess Comes Across": Right off the bat, the title of this second Lombard-Fred MacMurray collaboration would have to be changed, as the male lead would be the one passing himself as "royalty" (whether actual or figurative). Here, the female would be a musician-turned-amateur sleuth in this romantic comedy. This probably would require plenty of input from a story surgeon in order to succeed.
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith": You'd probably have to give this a new title, lest people mistake it for the 2005 Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie film (based on a novel by that name and completely unrelated to Alfred Hitchcock's 1941 comedy), but could the Norman Krasna script -- he also wrote "Hands Across the Table" -- succeed with the female in the household controlling all the figurative cards? And unlike the early '40s, both members of a married couple now are legally allowed to work, the most dated aspect of the story.
Give your imagination a whirl by thrusting a Lombard film into 2018, with she-as-he and he-as-she. But please, don't go overboard.