Nothing Sacred: When Carole Lombard Was Pretending That She Was Pretending

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I haven’t written anything about Carole Lombard yet. The thing is, I haven’t seen many of her films. However, I’m discovering this actress with a great pleasure and enjoyed her acting in To Be or Not to Be (my favourite one), My Man Godfrey (“Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!” is one of my absolute favourite movie lines), and Nothing Sacred. I watched this last one yesterday and I’m so glad I did. First, because it has Carole Lombard, second because I wanted to see this film since a long time, and third, because it also stars Fredric March, another actor that I’m glad to discover. Nothing Sacred is known in French as “La joyeuse suicidée”. That means “The Merry Suicided”. “What sort of a title is that?”, I hear you saying. “Mixing joy and suicide? What’s the idea?” Well, Nothing Sacred is the pure essence of Screwball Comedy. It’s a comedy but the subject is dramatic or, well, not really…

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Wallace ‘Wally’ Cook (Fredric March) is a journalist who works for the Morning Star in New-York city. After a mistake he has made, Wally is sanctioned by the newspaper manager, Oliver Stone (yes, like the movie director). To prove him that he is, after all, his best journalist, he promises him a sensational report. Wally has the idea to write about  Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard), a young lady who has been poisoned by radium and who is about to die very soon. So, Wally goes to her hometown to meet her and bring her to New-York. In  Warsaw, the little town where she lives, people are not very welcoming and neither really talkative, answering to Wally’s question only by a short “Yep!” or “Nope!” Then, he goes to the doctor’s place, the one who diagnosed Hazel’s case. Like all the other citizens of Warsaw, the doctor doesn’t really like the fact that he is a journalist and refuses to let him meet Hazel Flagg. When he goes out Dr. Enoch Downer’s house, he meets Hazel who seems very sad. Not a long time after, she the doctor reveals her that she’s not going to die and that all this was a mistake. The poor girl doesn’t know what to think anymore. When Wally sees her again in the street, crying, he tells her how much he admires her courage and asks her to come in New-York where her last days will be honoured. Of course, she’s not really sick, but going to New-York has always been one of Hazel’s dreams, so she accepts. She agrees to play the dying one and doesn’t tell the truth to Wally. So, Hazel, Wally, and the doctor fly to New-York where the citizens are about to welcome a new heroine. And that’s just the beginning of the story, but I’ll let you watch the movie to discover how the story is developed.

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Nothing Sacred was directed by William A. Wellman, released in 1937, and produced by Selznick International Pictures, two years before Gone With the Wind. This was also a color movie. I think it’s important to mention it as many people think movies of the 30’s are all in black and white. This is the chance for us to really see Carole Lombard’s beautiful blue eyes. It was also her only Technicolor’s film (IMDB).

When I watch a movie like this one, My Man Godfrey or To Be or Not To Be, I agree so much with people who say that Carole Lombard was or is the Queen of Comedy. Yes, I believe she really was. In Nothing Sacred, she plays the girl who tries to be dramatic, but because we are in a comedy, this turns out to be funny. She’s kind of crazy, but that’s part of her charm. There is a moment at the casino where she cries because everyone who sees her is crying. Laughs are contagious but maybe tears too. Of course, that’s absurd and the result is one of the funniest moments of the film. Anyway, Carole Lombard was a truly gifted actress. She had a unique way of acting. Unfortunately, she left us too soon in 1942, at the age of 33, when she died in a plane accident.

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Watching a young Fredric March in a comedy was also something new to me. Well, he was 40 when the film was made, not 23 of course, but he looked so young (and so handsome too)! And yes, I never saw him in a comedy before. I saw him in The Best Years of Our Lives before. This is a drama, but some of his scenes are really funny, so we can see he was also made to play comedy. I also saw him in The Bridges at Toko-Ri, but this one was far from being a comedy. Of course, in Nothing Sacred, he plays someone serious (or at least who tries to be) and someone who is deeply in love (you can guess with whom). The chemistry between him and Carole Lombard is really good. The way they are filmed together is also pretty interesting. I can think of their first kiss scene where we don’t see them but just “hear” them. It remains very romantic, even if we see nothing. It is brilliantly made. I must admit, however,  I didn’t really like the moment where he punches Carole Lombard’s face. Well, I guess that just kind of surprised me because it’s not something I see very often in a movie of the 30’s. Luckily, Carole (Hazel) takes her revenge.

1937:  American actor Fredric March (1897 - 1975) smiles while wearing a suit with a carnation in its lapel in a promotional portrait for director William A. Wellman's film, 'Nothing Sacred'.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Yesterday, when I watched this film, I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course, I knew it was a typical screwball comedy film and this is one of my absolute favourite movie genres but I hadn’t heard a lot about this film before, not as much as The Philadelphia Story or The Awful Truth for example.  I felt like watching an Ingrid Bergman’s film or a Carole Lombard’s film. I chose the Carole Lombard’s film because I had promised to a friend blogger that I would watch more Carole Lombard’s films and I wanted myself to see more of her work. I chose Nothing Sacred, not only because it was the next Carole Lombard’s film I wanted to see but also because it was not a really long film. Just to mention that I started watching it at 11h30 pm after a long day. But when we really love classic films, time doesn’t matter. So, that seemed like a perfect choice. And it was! A short and sweet comedy, nothing too psychological and too dramatic to spoil my sleep.

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Of course, this is another movie that made me want to see more Carole Lombard’s and more Fredric March’s films. It’s what I call a little gem, the kind of film people enjoy discovering. The story was original, the script was well written (by no one else than Ben Hecht!) and it has great actors. What can I ask more? However, I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with the ending. I’ll let you enjoy the movie trailer now.

Yes, you must see Nothing Sacred! See you soon!

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6 thoughts on “Nothing Sacred: When Carole Lombard Was Pretending That She Was Pretending

  1. So appreciated your thoughts. I watched In Name Only with Carole and Cary the other night. Both are superb in comedy and drama. You may want to see another side to her. I love coming upon a classic I haven’t seen before…I recommend films to friends and as I do I sometimes wish I hadn’t seen it so I could see it all over again for the first time. We don’t have t.v. and missed TCM, however, I peeked into their website and found I could sign up monthly with them and NOW I can see all the black and white films whenever I choose. I am happy. Will look for you and look forward to your writings about one of my favorite passions…the classic films. Thank you.

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  2. Glad you are discovering more work from my all-time favorite actress (not to mention my favorite classic Hollywood personality). It’s a fun film, if a bit caustic for some, and the black character who portrays the phony sultan is sort of a stereotype. If you can get past that, it’s a delight. (Just to clarify things — it’s Carole’s only three-strip Technicolor feature. When she worked for Mack Sennett in the 1920s, several of her two-reel silents featured segments in two-strip Technicolor.) Your next Lombard assignment should be “Twentieth Century,” an early screwball comedy which proved pivotal in her career, as she stood toe-to–toe with the great John Barrymore and drew attention to her comedic skills after several years in the Hollywood wilderness. After that, check out “Hands Across the Table” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the latter directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Oh, and visit my site Carole & Co. http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/

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