Carole Lombard

Made For Each Other (1939)

Made For Each Other 1939

When up-and-coming attorney John Mason (James Stewart) impulsively marries Jane (Carole Lombard), most of his friends and co-workers are happy for him. However, two very important people in his life aren’t so happy — his boss Joseph Doolitle (Charles Coburn) and his mother Harriet (Lucile Watson). Joseph had been hoping John would marry his daughter Eunice and Harriet would have much rather had Eunice for a daughter-in-law. Joseph and Harriet make their displeasure known from day one and do everything in their power to make things difficult for the newlyweds. First Joseph and Jane have to cancel their honeymoon because of an important case John has to work on. Then Jane has to tolerate Harriet living with them in their very small apartment. But through it all, Jane and John do their best to keep their heads up.

One night, Jane hosts an important dinner for Joseph and some of the other lawyers at John’s firm. John is expecting to be made partner that night, so Jane wants everything to be perfect. But Harriet does everything she can to sabotage Jane’s efforts and to make things worse, Joseph brings Eunice along to the dinner. Everything that can go wrong does and worst of all, John doesn’t even make partner that night. John isn’t making much money at the law firm and times are tough for him and Jane. Things get even tougher when they have a baby. Just as John gets the courage to demand a promotion and raise, Joseph announces that everyone at the firm will have to take a pay cut. The bills keep piling up and Jane is forced to look for work.

Tensions continue to rise until they reach a breaking point on New Year’s Eve when John and Jane decide to separate while at a party. But before they even have a chance to leave the party, Jane finds out their baby is seriously ill. If the baby doesn’t get a special medicine, he will not survive, and the medicine would have to be flown in from Salt Lake City, which is snowed in. The only pilot willing to make the trip would need to be paid $5,000. With no one else to turn to, John turns to Joseph for the money

Made For Each Other starts out as a run-of-the-mill drama about a young couple trying their best, then it turns the melodrama up to 11 for the ending. The standard drama parts probably would have been pretty forgettable if it weren’t for the first-rate cast. As wonderful as Carole Lombard, Jimmy Stewart, and Charles Coburn are, Lucile Watson did a fantastic job of stealing her scenes. Watson did a phenomenal job of playing one of those completely insufferable bitter old hags you’d just love to give a good smack across the face. Made for Each Other also does a great job of creating a sense of tension and frustration. I liked the movie, but I found myself getting so frustrated for Jane and John that I don’t think I’ll be watching it again anytime soon just because it made me so tense. The movie just lost me when it it suddenly switched from being about fairly believable situations to being a total melodrama at the very end.

Twentieth Century (1934)

Twentieth CenturyTheater producer Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) is one of the most renowned producers in the business.  His name being attached to a show is essentially a guarantee that the show will be of the highest quality.  So when he casts lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Carole Lombard) as the lead in his new show, even his closest associates start to question his judgment.  Mildred shows little acting ability during rehearsals, but with Oscar’s forceful directing technique and a new stage name — Lily Garland — she is a sensation when the show opens.

Lily and Oscar continue to collaborate on stage and carry on a romantic relationship behind the scenes as well.  But when Lily finally decides she’s had enough of Oscar’s controlling tendencies, she heads off to Hollywood to try her luck in films.  Oscar is completely lost without Lily and even though he tries to replace her, nobody can really fill her shoes.  After a string of his shows fail, Oscar has to get out of Chicago before the sheriff can get him first so he gets on the train to New York.  As luck would have it, Lily, now a successful movie star, and her new boyfriend George (Ralph Forbes) are taking a trip on the same train.

When some of Oscar’s associates realize she’s on board, they try to convince her to do another show with Oscar just to get him out of trouble.  She still wants nothing to do with Oscar, but Oscar just takes her refusal as a challenge and will stop at nothing until she agrees to star in his next show.

If you ever want to see two actors clearly having the time of their lives, look no further than Twentieth Century.  John Barrymore and Carole Lombard really sink their teeth into their roles and it’s hard not to be drawn in by their sheer enthusiasm.  Reportedly when director Howard Hawks offered John Barrymore the part of Oscar, Barrymore asked him why he wanted him to play this part. Hawks explained that Twentieth Century is the story of the biggest ham on Earth and Barrymore was the biggest ham he knew.  That was all Barrymore needed to hear and accepted the part on the spot.  And boy did Barrymore ever revel in being a ham here!  If he were any more of a ham, he’d need a honey glaze.  But that is exactly what the part called for and I can’t imagine who else could have played it better.

At the time he made Twentieth Century, Barrymore’s career had peaked, but Carole Lombard’s was about to take off.  Lombard had been making movies for a few years already but hadn’t quite had that definitive movie role to launch her career to the next level. Twentieth Century turned out to be that movie.  Even though Barrymore was the more experienced actor, Lombard had absolutely no problem keeping up with him.  Barrymore even later referred to Lombard as the greatest actress he had ever worked with.  And considering some of the names Barrymore had worked with, that is a compliment of the highest order.

Fashion in Film: Berets

If you’re like me, you often find yourself watching films and seeing tons of fashion styles you would love to wear in real life.  I watch movies from so many decades and from so many different genres, if I actually did copy all the styles I like, I’d have one diverse wardrobe.  But if there’s one accessory you could easily get a lot of mileage out of, it’s a beret.  Berets have been a popular hat style for decades, so if you want to go for a Norma Shearer inspired look one day and a Faye Dunaway inspired look the next, a beret could easily work for both styles.

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What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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In Name Only (1939)

Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) and Alec Walker (Cary Grant) are both lonely for two different reasons.  Alec is married to Maida (Kay Francis), but neither of them actually loves the other.  Maida only married him because of his money.  Julie is a widowed illustrator who lives with her young daughter and divorced sister.  The two meet when Julie rents a house in the town where Alec lives and naturally, they end up falling in love.  When they first meet, they hit it off right away and it starts off innocently enough.  Julie doesn’t know he’s married and Alec sees that Julie is everything Maida isn’t.  But complications arise one night when Alec and Maida’s friend Suzanne get into a car accident near Julie’s house.  Suzanne asks Julie to call Alec’s wife and a doctor for him and before Julie knows it, she’s face to face with Maida.  But Maida immediately knows there’s something between Alec and Julie when she notices Julie’s sketchbook sitting in Alec’s wrecked car.

When Julie finds out about Maida, she’s heartbroken.  After her sister’s marriage ended because of another woman, she absolutely does not want to be the other woman.  But Alec is more determined than ever to get out of his loveless marriage and demands that Maida give him a divorce.  The only way he can get her to give him a divorce is if he lets her take a trip to Paris with his parents to get it.  Desperate to be rid of her, he gladly agrees to this plan and as soon as Maida and his parents are on the boat, Alec and Julie’s relationship moves very quickly.  When Julie goes to New York for work, Alec goes with her and proposes.

The only thing standing in their way of happiness is Maida.  Their marriage plans keep being pushed back because Maida keeps running into delays with the divorce.  Or so they think.  The truth is that Maida never had any intention of giving him a divorce and she makes that point quite clear to them when she and Alec’s parents return to New York on Christmas Eve.  When Alec threatens to go to Reno himself, Maida vows to make the whole legal affair as ugly as possible.  Tired of all the frustrations, Julie breaks it off with Alec, who then heads out to a bar to drown his sorrows.  Alec stumbles into a cheap motel for the night and passes out in front of an open window.  The motel staff finds him the next morning seriously ill and Julie is called to take care of him.  At first they only think he has the flu, but it turns out to be a much more serious bout of pneumonia and he is rushed to the hospital.  The hospital won’t let Julie in to see Alec since they’re not married, but when the doctor tells Alec’s father (Charles Coburn) that Alec needs a reason to want to get well again, he lets Julie see him so he’d have that reason.  But the movie wouldn’t be complete without one last showdown between Julie and Maida.  Not only does Maida get told off by Julie, Maida accidentally reveals her true motives to Alec’s parents.  Now that Alec’s parents have finally seen the real Maida, they fully support the idea of Alec getting that divorce.

I must say, it was a pretty bold move to take Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, and Charles Coburn, what would have been one of the most brilliant comedic casts ever assembled, and put them in a drama.  But the good news is that none of their talents are wasted here.  Actually, I think this is a completely underrated movie for both Cary Grant and Carole Lombard.  Even though this gets a 7.0 on IMDB, for some reason, I didn’t go into it expecting anything special.  But I was very pleasantly surprised.  It may be pretty melodramatic, but at least it’s well acted melodrama.  Kay Francis was definitely somebody I loved to hate and I liked the chemistry between Carole and Cary.  I really wish Carole and Cary had made another movie together, perhaps they would have if Carole hadn’t died so young.  They were wonderful in a drama together, but in a comedy, they would have been absolutely unstoppable.

Be sure to visit Carole & Co. for more of her 103rd birthday celebration!

What’s on TCM: October 2011

This month’s schedule is one that I’m definitely a big fan of.  Being the big silent film fan that I am, obviously I am very excited for Buster Keaton being the star of the month!  Every Sunday night will be all Buster Keaton, all night long.  Not only that, since it’s October, it goes without saying that there will be plenty of classic horror movies to get you into the Halloween spirit. Monday nights are classic horror nights starting at 8:00 PM, with plenty more to come on October 29th , 30th, and 31st.  TCM will also be commemorating the 100th birthday of director Nicholas Ray by playing a night of his movies every Tuesday night this month.

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Virtue (1932)

When Mae (Carole Lombard) gets arrested for prostitution, she’s lucky to get a judge who believes that streetwalkers have a good chance to turn their lives around if they are sent back home.  So instead of being sent to jail, she is put on a train to her hometown of Danbury.  But she has no intention of actually going to Danbury so she gets off the train before it even leaves New York City and gets into a cab being driven by Jimmy Doyle (Pat O’Brien).  When she asks him to stop at a store for her, she sneaks off without paying and goes to see her friend and fellow streetwalker Lil (Mayo Methot) for advice on what to do next.  Lil suggests that she get her life on the right path and find a legitimate job.

The next day, Mae decides the first step to getting on the right track is to find Jimmy and pay him the fare she stiffed him.  She finds him, but he doesn’t want to take her money.  The two of them get into a big argument, but a mutual attraction between them wins out and their conversation quickly turns civil.  Jimmy thinks that Mae is an out-of-work stenographer and Mae doesn’t correct him, so he helps her get a job as a cashier in a restaurant.  As it turns out, Gert (Shirley Grey), an ex-streetwalker friend of Mae’s, also works at the restaurant.  Things are really starting to turn around for Mae.  She’s got a real job that she enjoys, she’s got a good friend in Gert, and her relationship with Jimmy has been going so well that they get married after only three weeks.

But her happiness comes crashing down when she and Jimmy get back from their honeymoon and find a police officer waiting to arrest her for coming back to New York.  Since Mae is a married woman now, she’s allowed to stay free, and even though Jimmy is a bit shocked to find out about his new wife’s past, he still wants to give their marriage a chance.  The two of them make a good team and work together to save enough money to make Jimmy’s dream of owning his own gas station a reality.  Just when they get very close to their goal, Gert gets sick and asks Mae to lend her $200 for an operation.  Mae reluctantly agrees and is horrified to find out that it was all a scam and Gert has skipped out with their money.  And to top it all off, Jimmy needs the money immediately because the asking price of the gas station he wants to buy has suddenly come down.  Not about to take this sitting down, she hunts Gert down and smacks her around until she agrees to repay the money the next day.

Only getting the money back isn’t exactly easy since Gert gave the money to Toots (Jack La Rue), her new boyfriend and pimp, and he doesn’t want to give it back.  She takes it from him when he isn’t looking, but he notices and kills her in the ensuing fight.  When Mae comes to collect the money, Toots and Gert’s body are still in the apartment, but hidden in another room.  Mae doesn’t see Gert so she just takes the money and leaves, totally unaware of anything being wrong.  She’s also unaware that Jimmy had followed her because he was afraid that she was turning tricks again.  He saw a silhouette of what appeared to be Mae embracing another man in front of a window, but it was really Toots holding Gert’s corpse.  When she comes home, Jimmy confronts her and later she is arrested as a suspect in Gert’s death.  Jimmy had been so heartbroken that he went on a bender for several days and was totally oblivious to the news that Mae was arrested.  When he sobers up, he knows that Mae couldn’t have killed Gert and sets out to prove it.

Virtue is one wonderfully sordid movie, a pre-code through and through!  I loved everything about it!  It’s an excellent story and Carole Lombard and Pat O’Brien were both terrific in it, they had great chemistry together.  The rest of the cast was all pretty great as well and there isn’t a single dull moment in the movie.  It instantly became one of my favorite Carole Lombard movies.  Although, I must say, Toots has got to be the worst name for a pimp I have ever heard.