Monday, February 20, 2012

Nurse Carole

In 1940's Vigil in the Night, Carole Lombard stars as Anne Lee, a dedicated nurse in a small English town.  Anne loves her work, and has convinced her younger sister Lucy (Anne Shirley) to follow in her footsteps.  Though almost through with nursing school, Lucy doesn't have Anne's dedication; as a result of her neglect, she allows a young child to die.  Rather than let Lucy be ousted from nursing school, Anne assumes responsibility for the child's death; she is fired from her job, and forced to leave town.  She ventures to Hepperton, where she joins the staff of a local hospital, and gradually assumes positions of greater responsibility.  She also finds herself working with the similarly dedicated Dr. Prescott (Brian Aherne).  However, the appearance of a nurse from her old job, Lucy's involvement with a local man, and an epidemic in Hepperton all work to create problems for Anne.

Sure, this is melodrama, but it is melodrama at its best.  Ms. Lombard shines here as a woman whose career is the most important thing in her life.  In the hands of a lesser actress, Anne could have come across as preachy or shrill. But Lombard's Anne shines when she talks about nursing.  Her Anne is what a nurse SHOULD be - an idealized portrait of a woman who values human life and the ability to bring comfort to the sick.  She is ably assisted by Anne Shirley (who's Lucy is the poster child for the person who should NOT enter nursing school, and whose selfishness makes you want to smack her in the film's early scenes.), and Brian Aherne (an equally idealized doctor, Aherne also carefully avoids the maudlin).

Vigil in the Night really is a neglected Lombard masterpiece; a film that is rarely seen or discussed when talking about her (painfully short) career, but one that should be looked at more often.  We really enjoyed it, and suspect you will as well.  Take a look at this clip, to get an idea of what is in store:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Carole Becomes Virtuous

Today, we again visit the pre-code world for Carole Lombard's 1932 film Virtue.  In it, she plays Mae, a  young woman with a "career" on the streets, who is literally run out of New York City on a rail (on what is today Metro North, to be exact). She has no intention of leaving the City, so she bails off the train at 125th Street, where she meets Jimmy Doyle (Pat O' Brien), a smart-mouth cabbie who disdains marriage and women.  Mae runs away without paying her cab fair, much to Jimmy's disgust; however Mae decides to go straight.  Once she has the money, she seeks Jimmy out to return the fare.  After some difficulties, they fall in love, and decide to marry.  Of course, once they marry, Jimmy finds out about Mae's past.  He decides to forgive her, but of course, with forgiveness does not automatically come trust.

Ms. Lombard is just wonderful here as Mae.  She is sympathetic, but tough.  You never forget her past, but you (as the audience) are far more aware of how far she has come than the rather dense Jimmy.  Pat O'Brien is quite good as well playing a tough guy. You do want to smack him occasionally for his stupidity, but I think we ultimately want him with Mae.  Perhaps she deserves better than him, but she loves him, and he is really not a bad guy.  Here, our couple have a conversation:

It is also nice to see Ward Bond (as Jimmy's pal Fran), who is, as always, wonderful. He makes a small part something to look forward to.  Another treat is seeing Mayo Methot (the one time Mrs. Humphrey Bogart) as Mae's best friend Lil Blair.  Ms. Methot never actually looked young! And certainly her somewhat hard features complement the part of a hooker who has tied herself to a rather disagreeable - and dishonest - lover (said boyfriend is played with a good deal of slime by Jack LaRue).

Another Lombard movie that doesn't get enough play, we think.  Plus, as a precode film, you get the extra bonus of something a tiny bit (by later standards) racy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Carole Finds a Mother

Lady by Choice from 1934 is an absolute delight.  In it, Carole Lombard plays fan dancer Alabam (Georgia) Lee, who finds herself in court as the same time as Patsy Patterson (May Robson), a former entertainer turned homeless drunkard.  Patsy has friends, however - Judge Daly (Walter Connolly) and Johnny Mills (Roger Pryor), a wealthy young man whose father requested he always look after Patsy.  Patsy, Like Alabam, is a gutsy lady, who speaks her mind. As a result, when Alabam's agent convinces her to adopt a mother (for the publicity), it is Patsy she selects.  And Patsy, who immediately adores Alabam, tries to change her new daughter's life for the better, but not always with the best of results.
May Robson is just adorable.  She gets most of the good lines, and you want to take her home with you.  Lombard's role is also quite rich.  Alabam is really a kind, gentle soul. She loves deeply, and is a caring person. Badly used  by her agent, she finds herself almost penniless, but still tries to support Patsy's goals, to make her a legitimate performer, despite her lack of self-confidence. We have, of course, some romantic complications.  Alabam falls in love with Johnny Mills, but Patsy thinks that Alabam is after him for his money.  It causes some strife, but all comes right in the end!

This is one that I think most people have not seen. Give it a try. I think you will find it is worth your time. We'll leave you with a scene with Ms. Lombard and Ms. Robson.