Monday, December 19, 2011

Carole Gets Married, Sorta

This week, we look at a very pre-code (though it was released in December of 1934, after the code was being enforced) Lombard film The Gay Bride.  Released in 1934, Lombard plays Mary, a woman determined to land herself a wealthy husband, even if his "job" is not exactly legal.  Her "mark" is Shoots Magiz (played by Nat Pendleton), a rather dopey, but deadly bootlegger, who is feeling the results of the repeal of Prohibition.  Shoots' assistant, Office Boy (also known as Jimmy, and played by Chester Morris), takes an immediate dislike to the gold-digging Mary, but still tries to warn her that a marriage to Shoots has no prospects, either financially or health-wise.  Mary, however, is convinced that she can amass enough money in the marriage to set herself up for life (and if Shoots' life span is shortened, all the better). 

Let's just start by saying that, wonderful as Lombard always is, her Mary is hard to like.  She is involved with the mob for the money, and does not care how Shoots, or his inevitable successor GETS that money.  She is constantly warned of the dangers, by Office Boy and by her best friend Mirabelle (ZaSu Pitts), but ignores them until she is in so deep that it seems there is no way out.  And while Shoots is a blithering idiot who is easily manipulated by the much smarter Mary, her relations with Dan Dingle (Sam Hardy) and Mickey the Greek (Leo Carillo) demonstrate that she is going from bad to worse to HORRIBLE.

Much of the comedy comes from ZaSu Pitts rather mournful countenance, as she watches Mary get deeper into trouble.  But, Lombard holds her own comedy-wise, as she flits from man to man, in search of her fortune.  Of particular note is a scene in which Mary decides to get rid of her ill-gotten gains.

Clearly, this is a film that must have squeaked by the censors, for certainly Mary is a prostitute, living with criminals, yet is not punished for it.   Take a look at the costuming in the movie - it has some marvelous dresses designed for Lombard by Dolly Tree.  Of particular note was a "mourning dress" that she wears in the middle of the film.  Take a look at this clip for a glimpse into the film:




Next week, a film from the 1940s.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Carole Gets Foolish

After a bit of a pause, thanks to the holiday season, we return to our blog posts.  We are revisiting Carole Lombard, beginning with her 1938's Fools for Scandal.  In it, Ms. Lombard is Kay Winters, a movie star trying to tour Paris incognito.  She runs into Rene (Fernand Gravet), a man so broke he has to keep pawning his only two suits of clothing.  He is fascinated with her, and begins to pursue her romantically.  She finds him attractive, but is in France with her boyfriend Phillip Chester (Ralph Bellamy), and has all but promised to marry him.  Of course, hijinks ensue.

This is a VERY odd movie. For one thing, it cannot decide if it is a comedy, romance or musical.  We have Ms. Lombard and Mr. Gravet speaking the lyrics (a la Rex Harrison) of a Rogers and Hart song Fool for Scandal.  According to The Richard Rogers Reader (available on GoogleBooks) and Lorenz Hart.org, several other songs were dropped from the film.  And while the film has this song and two others, it isn't REALLY a musical (and it probably doesn't help that the leads can't sing!!)
That being said, this film is goofy and fun.  We particularly enjoyed a scene in which a newly awakened Kay is visited by all the women she knows, eager to discover if she spent the night with Rene. Lombard's sarcastic digs at the women (in particular her "friend" Lady Paula Malverton, played with some degree of bitchiness by Isabel Jeans)  Also hysterical was a scene in Ralph Bellamy does a little dance of joy.  

Lombard is, as always a joy.  Gravet, who did not have a huge career, is fine as Rene.  Ralph Bellamy is his usual (in this era) nebishy self, but still funny.  While not one of her best, this is a film that is worth a viewing, if only to see Carole attempt a song.