Marilyn David (Claudette Colbert) and Peter Dawes (Fred MacMurray) are dear friends who get together every Thursday to sit together on a park bench and eat popcorn. Although Peter is very much in love with her, she only sees him as a friend and is convinced that someday she will fall madly in love with a person who is flat broke and doesn’t care about that. And as luck would have it, she happens to run into Charles (Ray Milland), who happens to fit that description — or so she thinks. As Marilyn and David spend time together and fall in love, Marilyn doesn’t realize that he is really the aristocratic Lord Charles Gray Granton from England, who is already engaged.
When Charles’ father finds out about Marilyn, he insists that Charles go back to England and break it off properly. Instead of telling the truth, he tells Marilyn that he’s leaving for two weeks for a job. Meanwhile, Peter, who works as a newspaper reporter, gets an assignment to go get a picture of Lord Charles Gray Granton before he leaves town. Marilyn doesn’t learn the truth until she sees his picture in the newspaper. When Peter sees how upset Marilyn is, he writes a phony article about how she turned down Charles. Once the article runs, Marilyn finds herself famous overnight and leaves Charles scandalized.
Things continue to spiral out of control when Peter gets the idea to extend Marilyn’s 15 minutes of fame by turning her into a nightclub star. She can’t sing, she can’t dance, but she manages to charm crowds enough to become a complete sensation. Her popularity grows enough for her to take her act over to England, where Charles is eager to see her again. But can they pick up where they left off with their relationship?
I recently got this movie on DVD as part of the Fred MacMurray and Claudette C0lbert Romantic Comedy DVD collection released by TCM. The DVD includes an introduction by Robert Osborne and he talked about how even though Colbert and MacMurray made several movies together, each of them is best remembered for their work with other co-stars. It’s really too bad they aren’t better remembered for their work together, because they are an absolutely delightful duo. I was surprised to learn this was only Fred MacMurray’s second major film role; he did a fantastic job of keeping up with Claudette Colbert, who was the more established movie star at the time. They were a very natural fit for each other. The Gilded Lily is a movie very ripe for rediscovery. It’s a pleasant little comedy with a lot of charm to it. The plot is silly, but could almost be seen as a satire of celebrity and stardom in the 21st century.