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.

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