Jun 24, 2011

Had another one of those

I guess fur rugs were de rigueur in 1930s Hollywood, even outdoors.
"I know I know" movie moments last week:  TCM had a fab Carole Lombard double feature last week; Twentieth Century and Nothing Sacred.  I had not seen either of these films (I know I know.  See how that works?)

Twentieth Century is a rollicking, rolling screwball comedy set on (train) wheels, directed by American master Howard Hawks, starring Ms Lombard and John Barrymore with fantastic supporting work from Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, and Etienne Giradot (what a fantastic name!) who reprised his role from the Broadway play this film was based on.  The absolute cracking script was written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, based on their Broadway play of the same name.  And like a lot of great plays (and unlike most films) the script is not afraid to give a lot of the best gags to supporting players.  (Apparently Preston Sturges was first to work on the film script but was not getting it done and was sacked.  Still, it resembles a Sturges script in places, so, I am assuming some of his stuff was left in, and, anyhoo, the experience stayed with Sturges because Twentieth Century is an obvious influence for The Palm Beach Story.)

Barrymore, who I have never really liked in the past, is delicious here.  Finally Barrymore is allowed to put his over-the-top, stagey acting style to excellent use; the Ham is splendid and spot-on.  And Hawks fought hard for a reluctant studio to hire Lombard but still had to get Lombard mad to get the performance from her that the picture required.

The second film, Nothing Sacred, has an incredibly dopey premise that no one seems to sell very hard and, I am sorry, but Fredric March just does not do much for me in anything I have seen him in.  I think the ending of the film is brilliant on paper but William Wellman, the director, and his players just do not seem to make it work.  Nothing Sacred was the first comedy to use Technicolor's new Tri-Strip process but even that seems washed out, artificial, and lacking verve.  It was only a year later that Technicolor really came in to its own with The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and, of course, Gone with the Wind in 1939.  Oscar Levant did the score for the film, basically as a tribute to his recently deceased friend, George Gershwin.

(And, by the way, ... Erm, how should I put this? Twentieth Century was a pre-Code film, shot and released in 1934.  In Ms Lombard's first scene on the train she is wearing a white sheer cashmere turtle-neck sweater and no brassiere.  What is it they say on Seinfeld? They're real and they're spectacular.)

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