Monday, March 1, 2010

Screwball Carole

This week, we watched Nothing Sacred, a screwball comedy which stars Carole Lombard as Hazel Flagg, a young woman from Warsaw, a tiny New England town, who is diagnosed with radium poisoning.  When reporter Wally Cook (Frederic March) is looking for a story to get him back on top, he hits on Hazel's misfortune as a means to re-ingratiating himself with his boss.  Only problem is, Hazel has since found out that her doctor (Charles Winninger) was mistaken. She's fine.  Hazel however, wants her free trip to New York City (the gift promised by Wally), and to get out of Warsaw, so she conceals her health, and goes to town as the Martyr Who is About to Die. (My favorite line: "It's kind of startling to be brought to life twice - and each time in Warsaw!")

In some senses, it feels as though the writers wrote themselves into a corner, and couldn't get out.  They need a way to end it, so they do, but whether it exactly works, is a matter of opinion. However, this is screwball comedy, so on some levels it doesn't really matter.  Ms. Lombard is adorable as Hazel; loving the attention she is getting, but horrified because people seem to so genuinely care that she is dying. And, of course, falling in love with Wally who ALSO thinks she is about to die.  Here's a trailer:

There is also a great deal of wonderful character support here.  We were particularly tickled by a brief, uncredited appearance by Hattie McDaniel, as the wife of a man pretending to be a Middle Eastern potentate.  One word from her, and we were laughing. You can't miss that voice.  Even without the closeup that we never got, we knew it was her!  Another delightful surprise was Margaret Hamilton as a local neighbor of Hazel.  She doesn't have a huge part, doesn't even have a lot of dialog, but again, she is hysterically funny. We loved it. Interesting to note is that both actresses were 2 years from their breakthrough 1939 performances in Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

Next week, we'll be moving on.

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