While Carole Lombard's first film for Columbia, the adult-themed "Virtue," drew uncertain audience and critical reaction at the time, her follow-up for Harry Cohn's upstart studio in late 1932, "No More Orchids," was a more traditional romance. It's this week's topic at "Cinematic Sundays."
Louella Parsons began publicizing this production through her syndicated column. Here's how the Camden (N.J.) Evening Courier played it on Sept. 6:
Parsons says Cohn raves about Lombard, calling her the closest thing to Constance Bennett on the screen -- heady praise for an actress in 1932. (And since Connie was rumored to have played a role in Lombard's late 1929 exit from Pathe Pictures, I'm sure Carole enjoyed the comment; she was among the few stars who got along well with the mogul.)
The New York Daily News gave its spin on Sept. 14, and added a photo of Carole as well (one that conjures up visions of Facebook friend and Lombard fan Mamie Van Doren):
The next day, the News added that Broadway emigre Walter Connolly was now part of the cast:
Lombard and Connolly -- who'd become among Hollywood's top character actors for the rest of the 1930s -- would team on screen several more times. And on the 23rd, the tabloid filled us in on another cast member:
Like Lombard, Louise Closser Hale was a loanout. Cohn had relatively few actors under contract at Columbia.
We learned a little more the next day in the Newark (Ohio) Advocate:
But who'd be Carole's leading man? We found out through syndicated columnist Harrison Carroll in the Sept. 26 Billings (Mont.) Gazette -- it'd be Lyle Talbot:
Carroll's comments give the impression Talbot was the lead, when it was Lombard who was top-billed.
We learn a bit more about Connolly in the Oct. 30 Los Angeles Times:
In the Nov. 16 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, actress-turned-Hollywood columnist Eileen Percy predicts "No More Orchids" will be a hit:
One of the film's promotion angles was on the fashions Carole's character wore (she plays someone born into wealth). They were modeled and displayed at the Cocoanut Grove, a favorite Lombard haunt in her teen years, and received notice in the L.A. Times on Nov. 25...
...and Nov. 27:
Wonder if any of those Lombard dolls still exist (and how closely they resembled her likeness)?
It premiered in Boston in early December; here's an ad from the Globe on Dec. 1:
This blurb and photo ran in the Dec. 4 Baltimore Sun:
On the 6th, the Sun said Connolly was largely responsible for its success (Lombard is said to have a "dehumanized doll's face"):
The Dec. 9 Los Angeles Times ran a two-column photo of Carole (its brief for the film called it a "society comedy"...
...and a racy illustration for the movie at the bottom of the page:
On Dec. 17, the Pittsburgh Press ran its first detailed review of a Lombard film in some time. Jack Hollister gives it reserved approval, though most of that is credited to Hale; he's among those critics who deemed Carole more of a clotheshorse than an actress.
Finally, "No More Orchids" hit New York City...and unlike "Virtue," it played a big house, the biggest in Manhattan, the Roxy, as this ad in the Dec. 28 Daily News attests:
Three days later, it received a three-star rating from the popular tabloid:
Reviewer Kate Cameron says Lombard acts with "poise and skill," adding both she and Talbot perform with assurance.
How'd they react on the other side of the East River? The Brooklyn Eagle tells us, but not until Jan. 3, 1933:
The Eagle's not as impressed with the leads, nor with the you've-seen-it-all-before tone of the story -- but Connolly and Hale draw kudos, as does C. Aubrey Smith as the crotchety curmudgeon.
On Sunday, Jan. 8, Lombard was all over Chicago, as the Tribune makes clear. Carole could be found in not one, not two, but three movies -- "No More Orchids," "Virtue" and a film we'll examine next week:
Here's the "Mae Tinee" review, which ran in two parts:
Despite its ending, which we won't divulge, the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison also labeled it a comedy. Here's its review from Jan. 18:
Next week, we'll examine that third film the Chicago Tribune pictured on Jan. 8.