Monday, February 22, 2010

Ms. Lombard and Miss Temple

The poster that we have attached to the posting is misleading, as is much about this movie. First of all, Now and Forever is not REALLY a Shirley Temple movie. Miss Temple gets third billing behind her co-stars, Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard, and doesn't appear in the movie until about 15 minutes into the action.  And while she sings one little song (to entertain her little friends at a party), there is no dancing to speak of. This movie is really about Gary Cooper, who plays Jerry Day, a ne'er-do-well who supports his fancy lifestyle by running small-time cons.  Carole Lombard is his wife, Toni, who has willingly taken the ride with Jerry, but is beginning to find it wearing.  When she discovers that Jerry has a small daughter, Penelope, and that he is willing to "sell" her to support their lifestyle, she is horrified. One look at little Penny, though, and Jerry is smitten. He takes his daughter back from his in-laws, heads to Paris to reunite with Toni, and begins to attempt an honest life. But temptation comes in the form of Felix Evans (Sir Guy Standing), a jewel thief who wants Jerry to work for him.

We said before that much about the movie was misleading. As it opens, we get happy, bouncy music, some of it from other Shirley Temple movies.  Would an audience, already familiar with Temple's films from earlier that same year Stand up and Cheer and Baby, Take a Bow be stunned by this very serious movie, which is really about Jerry, NOT Penny.  Would they expect our little heroine to dance (not just tap her feet)? Would they expect to get a few songs?  As we mentioned, they don't get that at all, for Penny is merely the catalyst to complicate Jerry's life and force him to re-evaluate his choices. 
Lombard, too, has a minor part to Cooper. Her one lovely scene is when she is alone in Paris, trying to decide on her life with Jerry.  The emotions that play across her face tell you everything in just a few moments, and point out her power as a dramatic actress.  We have some interplay between her and Temple, as they struggle to become mother and daughter, but otherwise, Carole is just there to look attractive.  Here's a scene with the three of them; if you can take your eyes off little Shirley, you are a stronger person than we are:

The ending says it all. It is, again, about Jerry - he will have to pay for what he has done (after all, this is code movie). Little Penny will be happy (he has made sure she will be cared for); even Toni (it seems) will have a place in life.  But Jerry, who just cannot find a way to be honest, must make recompense for what he has done.

One more Carole Lombard movie to go. See you next week.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Carole the Compulsive Liar

This week, we watched True Confession, with Ms. Lombard, Fred MacMurray, and John Barrymore. It is surely interesting to see her reunited with not one, but two of her prior co-stars, and, at least for MacMurray, in such different parts.  Lombard's Helen is nothing short of a compulsive liar. There isn't a problem she won't try to fix with a lie. Her husband, Ken, is the total reverse - a lawyer who despises liars, and won't take on a guilty client (which makes him a very underemployed lawyer indeed).  When Helen is accused of murder, Ken's insistence that she own up to her guilt ends in another lie, and in creating a celebrity couple.  And, when John Barrymore enters the picture, hijinks ensue. 

Watch Carole lie her way out of a creditor repossessing a typewriter:

Certainly this movie easily fits into the screwball mode, and while it is no Love Before Breakfast, it isn't My Man Godfrey either.  Our group had rather mixed reactions to Ms. Lombard - one person describing her performance as "shrill". But all were agreed that it was at times quite amusing.  Though, we did want to take Ken and launch him into outer space. He is rather a self-absorbed piece of work. Insisting his wife not work, because it will look like he can't support her. And of course, he can't. His ethics won't allow him to represent a guilty client. One can feel for Helen's predicament being married to such a prig. As for Barrymore, his Charley is just weird. Not as manic as the character he played in Twentieth Century, but certainly cut from the same eccentric cloth.

Next week, we visit Carol in the land of another star. Much smaller,and with curlier hair.  Tune in then.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Princess Carole

This week's movie was The Princess Comes Across. After last week's odd outing, this was a welcome relief.  Our Carol is the Princess Olga, on her way from Sweden to become an actress in Hollywood. Except, we quickly find out she is actually Wanda Nash from Brooklyn, a wannabe actress who will do anything to get her Hollywood break - even pretending to be a bargain-basement Greta Garbo.  On the cruise ship, our little princess meets King Mantell, a successful concertina player, who is eager to get better acquainted.  It doesn't take too much convincing for the Princess to decide that she really rather likes concertinas (despite the disgust of her traveling companion, Lady Gertrude, aka Gertie, played with great verve by Alison Skipworth).   Let's look at a scene from the start of the film:

It appears we are in line for a boy-meets-girl, boy-almost loses girl story, but no.  Wanda and Gertie are being blackmailed by Robert Darcy (Porter Hall, at his unctuous best). He'd already tried to pry some money out of King (who has served time in prison), but King isn't interested in paying for his silence, so Darcy goes after Wanda. And then ends up dead. In Wanda's room. And, so King decides to join the search to find the murderer.

We loved Carole Lombard's phony Swedish accent ("ney, ney") - an obvious nod to MGM's most famous Swede, the ever wonderful Ms. Garbo. And it was a pleasure to see Fred MacMurray paired with William Demarest (many, MANY years before they became a tv "couple"). MacMurray seems to be having a lot of fun with the part, as is Ms. Lombard.  The murder plot is rather convoluted, but who really cares.  I don't think you will even remember who committed the murder (or why), but you'll have a good time regardless.

A big thumbs up for this one. Join us next time for True Confessions.

Monday, February 1, 2010

WHY is Love Before Breakfast?

Our Carole Lombard focus this time is 1936's Love Before Breakfast.  In the spirit of honesty, let's just start by getting it out in the open - we just DIDN'T like this movie!  Try as they might, this trio of excellent actors (Carole Lombard, Preston Foster, Cesar Romero), could not make this mess of a script into a cohesive whole. First off, the title - just WHERE did they pick this title from? It made no sense, bore no relation to the movie at all. Next, there is the relationship between Kay Colby (Carole Lombard) and Scott Miller (Preston Foster). All they do is fight. And fight to the point where it is ridiculous.  I won't go into the ending here, but just watch it. It makes no sense, and is just plain stupid. Compare it to a similar ending in My Man Godfrey, where the ending is handled brilliantly.  Though it has been a long time since I've seen it (and one of my viewing companions has not see it at all), we wondered if the screenwriters were trying to recapture the screwball silliness of Twentiety Century.  Regardless, it doesn't succeed.

Another problem with the film is that it brings in elements, and then doesn't use them.  For example, very early in the film, Scott discovers that Bill Wadsworth (Cesar Romero - here, for a change, not playing a Latin lover or Indian houseman) is seeing another woman, though he is engaged to Kay.  So, to get rid of Bill, Scott ships Bill abroad (Bill works for him), and tells Kay that he did it purposely, but NEVER tells her that Bill is not faithful to her. WHY? Scott blabs everything else. Why not that? And if he is not going to use the information, why do we need to know it? It's dropped out there like some kind of time bomb, then turns out to be a dud that never goes off.

And then there is Kay. Stubborn beyond belief! Trapped in a small boat that is about to be swamped by a storm, she refuses to come aboard Scott's large, warm, DRY yacht. Bill (who has returned from his work abroad) is so drunk he can't stand up. The pair can't hide below decks because it is already full of water. So, all they can do is sit on the main deck, getting drenched and wait to be swept overboard. Could anyone be that antagonistic towards someone that they would die for it?  

We'll leave you with a clip from the film, featuring the results of one of their battles:


So, not exactly one we can recommend.  I'm sure we will findThe Princess Comes Across much more enjoyable!