Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2023) on… To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Welcome back everybody, and Happy New Year! As we start into the new year, I will be doing even fewer posts than I have been in the past (as I hinted at in yesterday’s 2022: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched post), but I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll still be able to stick around! And with that, let’s dig into our first film for the year, the 1942 comedy To Be Or Not To Be, starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Two Too Young (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 10 seconds)

Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) and Porky (Eugene Lee) brought some fireworks with them to school. Believing them to be too young (and wanting to play with the fireworks as well), Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) try to get ahold of them. Once again, Spanky and Alfalfa manage to bring the humor. Their attempt at portraying a “G-man” to get the fireworks was quite funny, as was Alfalfa’s recitation of “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” (with the fireworks going off in his back pocket). This one was very, very enjoyable, and worth seeing again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1939, and, although the threat of war with Germany looms over the horizon, all is well yet in the Polish town of Warsaw, especially for a troupe of performers led by Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) and his wife Maria (Carole Lombard). They are rehearsing a new play called Gestapo while performing in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Maria has found herself with an ardent admirer in the form of aviator Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), and she encourages him to come backstage to see her while her husband performs the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. She becomes interested in Stanislav, and sees him the next day. The troupe had been planning to premiere Gestapo that night, but their government orders them to cancel the play (since they fear the possibility of offending Adolf Hitler). So, they perform Hamlet again, and Stanislav once again walks out on the soliloquy to see Maria. He misinterprets her interest, and threatens to tell her husband (who is mainly angry that a member of the audience walked out on his soliloquy twice, but doesn’t know the reason why). However, before anything can be done, they all learn that Hitler has invaded the country. With the country quickly falling to Hitler, Stanislav ends up joining other Polish pilots in the British Royal Air Force. While on a break from their missions, the lieutenant and some of the other pilots meet Professor Alexander Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), who has been giving speeches on the radio in favor of the Polish resistance. When the professor accidentally lets it slip that he’s about to go on a mission that will take him to Warsaw, all the pilots (including Stanislav) ask him to take messages to their loved ones still in Warsaw. However, Stanislav becomes suspicious when he tries to send a message to Maria Tura, and the professor doesn’t recognize her name. When Stanislav tells his superiors about his suspicions later, they send him by plane to Warsaw to prevent the Gestapo from going after the families of the Polish resistance and pilots. However, the professor has also gotten there (but not in time to do any damage yet), and has Maria summoned to pass along the lieutenant’s message. She had already seen the lieutenant when he arrived, so she is careful of the professor (but doesn’t let on that she knows). The professor, now interested in her himself, invites her to dinner later that night in the hopes of seducing her to become a spy for the Nazis. She returns to her apartment to change, arriving in time to prevent a fight between the lieutenant and Joseph (who had just come home to find the lieutenant sleeping, but still only knows him as the man who walked out on his soliloquoy). They make a plan for later, hoping to fool the professor into giving them the information. They are successfully able to get the professor to the theatre (now disguised as Gestapo headquarters), and get him to give them everything by having Joseph pretend to be Colonel Ehrhardt of the Gestapo. However, Joseph slips up when the professor tells him about the message from the lieutenant (for Maria), and so the professor attempts to get away from them. However, in trying to sneak out of the theatre, he is fatally shot by Stanislav. Afterwards, Joseph disguises himself as the professor to get the rest of the information and get his wife out of the German-occupied hotel, but is immediately summoned by the REAL Colonel Ehrhardt (Sig Ruman). Joseph is able to keep up the ruse, and even manages to deflect the Colonel away from some of the resistance leaders. He makes arrangements with the Colonel for himself and Maria to get a plane out of Poland. The ruse starts to fall apart later when some of the Colonel’s men discover the body of the real professor when they are trying to get the theatre ready for the arrival of the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph unknowingly makes the mistake of calling the Colonel in order to meet with him again. Joseph is briefly able to evade capture by making it look like the real professor is an impostor (by removing his beard and putting on a fake one), but some of his troupe arrive in German uniforms and take him away after revealing him as a fake. They get out safely, but their interference has ruined Joseph’s plan to get out of Poland. Their producer, Dobosh (Charles Halton) borrows an idea from an old play they had done (which had flopped) to help get them all out of the country. Will his plan work? Will Joseph be able to perform Hamlet again (without interruption), or will they all be captured by the Nazis?

Director Ernst Lubtisch had previously started his own production company to produce his comedy That Uncertain Feeling (1941), with plans to follow that up with an original idea for another comedy (an idea that would become To Be Or Not To Be). However, That Uncertain Feeling did poorly in theatres, resulting in the production company being dissolved. The result was that Alexander Korda, a co-owner of United Artists, financed the film over at United Artists while agreeing to let the director have control over casting, writers and the final cut of the movie. At first, the director thought about casting Maurice Chevalier in the lead, but instead decided to go with comedian Jack Benny, whom he built the film around. Miriam Hopkins was considered for the female lead, but she turned it down, complaining about Jack Benny getting all the funny stuff. Carole Lombard saw the role as being more than just Jack Benny’s “straight man,” and got the part. There were some minor troubles on the film (mostly to do with the film’s satire of the Nazis), but for the most part, the cast had a lot of fun doing the film. As much fun as Carole Lombard had doing the film, it ended up being her last, as she died in a plane crash upon returning from a war bond drive. Her death, combined with the film’s comedic treatment of the Nazi menace, left the film getting heavily criticized by both critics and audiences. However, time has been favorable to the movie, as it has become not only one of the director’s best known films, but also a well-regarded film for both of its major stars.

I first saw To Be Or Not To Be (1942) a number of years ago, and didn’t immediately take to it. Part of that was the fact that I had also seen and liked the later 1983 version with Mel Brooks beforehand (since I more or less grew up with Mel Brooks’ style of humor via the likes of Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men In Tights, not to mention the classic TV show Get Smart). However, I’ve had the desire to revisit the 1942 film for a number of years now, and I finally got the opportunity to see it again in preparation for this review. All I can say is, “Wow! Time has certainly changed my opinion of this movie!” The film’s more dramatic moments really pull you in, helping you to feel for the characters and worry about their safety. Of course, this film knows the value of a laugh, and it does indeed provide many! The main moments that stick out were Jack Benny’s Joseph Tura masquerading first as Colonel Ehrhardt (“So they call me ‘Concentration Camp’ Ehrhardt?”) when meeting with Stanley Ridges’ Professor Siletsky (the only character who is played completely straight/dramatically), and then when he disguises himself as the late professor when meeting with the real Colonel Ehrhardt, as played by Sig Ruman. Speaking of Sig Ruman, his role as the Colonel is one of the funniest in the whole film, especially when (after initial prompting by the fake professor) he continually tries to place the blame for all of his mistakes on his own lieutenant, Captain Schultz (as played by Henry Victor), even at the end of the film. How I went so long without watching this movie (or enjoying it), I’ll never know. But I will readily admit to this film’s greatness now, and I highly recommend it for a good laugh (from start to finish)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Nothing Sacred (1937) – Carole Lombard

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Jack Benny

Nice Girl? (1941) – Robert Stack – Great Day In The Morning (1956)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… No Man Of Her Own (1932)

With it being February 1, I just have to have a review of one of Clark Gable’s films to celebrate his birthday (ESPECIALLY since he is the Star Of The Month)! So, we’ve got his 1932 film No Man Of Her Own, which co-stars Carole Lombard! But, let’s get through our theatrical short, first!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Science Friction (1970)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 16 seconds)

The ant has been captured by a scientist, and the aardvark tries to get him away for a snack. It’s another cartoon where the ant has a bodyguard to help protect him against the aardvark. In that regard, it’s nothing new. Still, the humor works as all the aardvark’s attempts to get the ant backfire on him. I had a few good laughs with this one, and it’s one I find worth revisiting occasionally!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Babe Stewart (Clark Gable) is a card sharp in New York City, working with his lover Kay Everly (Dorothy Mackaill) and his buddies Charlie Vane (Grant Mitchell) and Vargas (Paul Ellis) to cheat people out of their money at poker. Things are going well, except Kay is getting too serious with Babe, and he wants out of the relationship. However, she won’t let him go, and threatens to turn him in to the police. Babe doesn’t think she will, but when he finds out that policeman “Dickie” Collins (J. Farrell MacDonald) has been following him and is close to nailing him, he decides to leave town. Leaving it up to chance, Babe decides to go to the town of Glendale. There, he meets librarian Connie Randall (Carole Lombard). Connie is quite bored with her small town, and is looking for a way out of there. Babe flirts with her every chance he gets, and, in spite of the fact that she is attracted to him, Connie plays hard-to-get. They continue this flirting for a while, until Babe is ready to go back to New York. Then, on the flip of a coin, Connie tries to convince him to marry her. So, with the coin saying “yes,” they end up getting married, and he brings her along with him to New York City. On their way to his apartment, he is met by Collins, who warns him that he is still after him. Charlie Vane soon shows up, and he and Babe plot to get a game going that night. Meanwhile, Connie has no idea what they are doing, and believes that Babe has an actual job to go to. So, early in the morning, she wakes Babe up, and sends him off to “work.” Stuck with nothing to do for a few hours (and unwilling to tell his wife the truth), he finds a friend at a stock brokers, and gets himself a job there. Eventually, Connie catches on to what Babe, Charlie and Vargas are doing, and reshuffles a stacked deck of cards, causing them to lose a lot of money. As a result, Babe decides to take a trip to South America with Charlie and Vargas, but is shocked to hear that Connie still wants to stay with him. With this development, will the two stay together, or will they separate, allowing Babe to continue his crooked ways?

The casting of No Man Of Her Own came about mostly because of actress Marion Davies. At the time, she was still more or less working with MGM, and she made a push (through her lover William Randolph Hearst) to have the MGM exectuives make a trade for then-rising star at Paramount Studios Bing Crosby for her next film (Going Hollywood). In return, the MGM executives lent Paramount Clark Gable, figuring that his project would not be a hit. Clark Gable had his choice of projects, and chose No Man Of Her Own. At first, actress Miriam Hopkins was to be his co-star, but she refused to be second-billed to Clark. So, Carole Lombard was given the part. Even though they were to become an item later on, there were no sparks between them while working on this movie. No Man Of Her Own did prove to be a hit, but it was the only time Clark and Carole worked together onscreen, mainly due to the fact that they were under contract to different studios, who refused to loan them out for any joint projects.

For me, this romantic comedy turned out to be a lot of fun! I enjoyed watching Clark Gable as a card sharp, who was able to keep ahead of the law. Of course, he has a slight weakness for women, and, in proving that this is a pre-Code movie (and therefore not for little kids), he seems to have one thing on his mind (but at least, he’s not so full of himself that he doesn’t make sure the lady is a willing participant). And Carole Lombard is fun, too, as we see her with her own yearnings, which her mother (played by Elizabeth Patterson) tries to put down. And yet, even with that, she still pushes Clark’s character to be a better person. Like I said, the more sexual aspects make this less family-friendly, but it’s mostly implied (although we see Carole in her underwear for a moment or two). I wasn’t sure what to expect of the movie going into it, but I do know that I enjoyed it quite a bit, which made the Carole Lombard set it is included in well worth it for this movie alone! So, I would definitely recommend this fun film!

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 from Kino Lorber. The film mainly seems to be sporting an HD scan, which still has some dirt and specks and tears. None of them are that major, so it doesn’t really take away much from the presentation.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1

Rather than writing a separate post on this set, I’ll just add my comments here. The three film set Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 includes Fast And Loose, Man Of The World and No Man Of Her Own. As I’ve said in each of the reviews, none of the transfers appear to be new scans (which, to a degree, makes sense, as they would have to be given individual releases with higher price tags and greater sales to even be worth restoring/remastering). I think the set is worth it for No Man Of Her Own alone, and maybe Man Of The World as well. But, if you mainly associate actress Carole Lombard with screwball comedy (and that’s what you’re looking for), then this set would probably not be a good choice (but you may want the upcoming Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 2 set, to be released April 6, 2021 on Blu-ray, which will include the 1935 film Hands Across The Table and the 1936 movies Love Before Breakfast and The Princess Comes Across).

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Clark GableDancing Lady (1933)

Man Of The World (1931) – Carole Lombard – The Eagle And The Hawk (1933)

Man Of The World (1931) – Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Man Of The World (1931)

Today’s review is on the 1931 film Man Of The World, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard! So, let’s get through our theatrical short first, then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ants In The Pantry (1970)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The aardvark tries to act as pest control to get rid of the ant in a house. The exact setting may be different here, but it’s still business as usual, with the aardvark trying to eat the ant. Despite its formulaic aspects, this one was still a lot of fun. The only part that doesn’t really work well here is the ant’s rather high-pitched laugh, which just seems so out of place compared to his usual voice. Other than that, it’s worth a few laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Former American newspaperman Jimmie Powers (William Powell) has for the last four years been living in Paris, France under the name Michael Trevor, due to a scandal that essentially saw him chased away from home. Now, he preys on rich American men who have come to the city for some “extramarital” fun. He has been posing as a novelist for his current victim, Harold Taylor (Guy Kibbee), and was paid to help keep the editor of a scandal sheet (in other words, himself, but Harold doesn’t know that) from printing an article about Harold’s recent affair. While Michael is there, he meets Harold’s niece, Mary Kendall (Carole Lombard), who is in Paris with her boyfriend, Frank Reynolds (Lawrence Gray). With Frank about to leave for a business trip, Mary convinces Michael to show them a few of the sights in Paris. Later, Michael meets up with the two people helping him run the scandal sheet, his ex-lover Irene Harper (Wynne Gibson) and Fred (George Chandler). Irene is thrilled with how much money they were able to get out of Harold, but, when she hears about his niece, she thinks they should create a scandal for her, hoping that Harold will be willing to pay even more. Michael is unwilling, as it is against his principles to blackmail women. In spite of that, Irene pushes him to do so anyways, since she needs the money to keep her brother out of prison. So, Michael spends some time with Mary and her uncle, and ends up falling in love with her. When Irene gets jealous and threatens to tell Mary about Michael’s past, he decides to tell her himself. Mary is very understanding, and tells him that that is all in the past, and they can still be together. However, Irene still won’t let him go, and reminds him that, whether he likes it or not, his past could eventually catch up to him, which would hurt Mary. Will Irene’s words ring true, or can Michael and Mary be together?

Man Of The World is the first of three films that William Powell and Carole Lombard made together. Besides this, they also made Ladies’ Man (also 1931) and My Man Godfrey (1936). Their chemistry is certainly evident onscreen (and apparently off, too, as they got married after finishing the movie). I had never previously seen this film, but I will admit I enjoyed it. After seeing the less-than-stellar acting (probably a result of sound tech still being so new) in Fast And Loose, the first film in the Carole Lombard set, this movie was a relief to see that the acting was overall far better. I liked the two leads, and found myself cheering for them to be together. I will readily admit that I did not see the ending coming, and I don’t know whether that was because it was a pre-Code or what, but it works. The biggest problem I have with this movie (through no fault of its own) is comparing it to the later William Powell/Carole Lombard pairing My Man Godfrey, which is such a well-known screwball classic. I will admit, I went into this movie with lowered expectations, since this movie isn’t as well known, but it was still hard not to compare the two movies. This one isn’t a big classic, and I can see why. Still, as a romantic drama, it works well enough that I would recommend it, at least if you can rent it/ stream it/ catch it on TV first.

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 from Kino Lorber. The movie appears to have an HD scan, which for the most part looks pretty good. There are a few minor instances of dirt and other debris, but, again, very minor. The movie looks good enough for me, and this is the way I would recommend seeing it.

Film Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

William Powell – The Thin Man (1934)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Carole Lombard – No Man Of Her Own (1932)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 – No Man Of Her Own (1932)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Fast And Loose (1930)

For today’s review, we’ve got that 1930 film Fast And Loose, which stars Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard and Frank Morgan!  Of course, we’ve got a theatrical short to get through first, and then it’s on to our movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Odd Ant Out (1970)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The blue aardvark competes with a green aardvark for a can of chocolate ants. This cartoon really focuses in on the aardvark rivalry, and the ant himself really only gets a cameo appearance. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun! I grant you, the humor is somewhat predictable, but the characters are fun enough to watch that they overcome that particular problem. I know that I enjoy watching it periodically!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Socialite Marion Lenox (Miriam Hopkins) finds herself engaged to Lord Rockingham (David Hutcheson).  She doesn’t feel that he’s the right man, but she mostly goes along with it because it’s what her parents want.  Or, rather, I should say, it’s a marriage that her mother, Carrie (Winifred Harris) and Carrie’s brother George Crafton (Herbert Yost) want for her.  Marion’s father, Bronson (Frank Morgan), doesn’t think it’s quite so good for her (but he’s going along with it for his wife’s sake).  And Marion’s not the only one who doesn’t want to marry someone of her “station,”  as her brother, Bertie (Henry Wadsworth), is interested in chorus girl Alice O’Neil (Carole Lombard).  Depressed about her situation, Marion goes out for a drive, and stops by a beach.  There, she meets auto mechanic Henry Morgan (Charles R. Starrett), who is out there just swimming.  The two start slinging insults at each other, but the seeds of attraction are there, and Marion decides to come back to meet him again.  Neither of them knows who the other really is, so they are both slightly shocked when they accidentally come across each other as he is working on her car.  She’s still interested in him, but, now that he knows who she is (particularly from her reputation), he’s a little more reluctant to continue their relationship. Meanwhile, when George learns about Bertie’s chorus girl girlfriend, he pushes Bronson to meet her.  Posing as a pair of theatrical agents, they meet Alice and her roommate Millie Montgomery (Ilka Chase) for dinner to find out what they can about her and buy them off.  Alice realizes that the two aren’t agents like they claimed, but doesn’t really know who they are.  Bronson is slightly more impressed with Alice, particularly when she points out his own mistakes as a parent.  Of course, everything is revealed when a drunken Bertie crashes the party, with Marion and Henry in tow, and all hope for both couples looks doomed.   Will they be able to work things out, or will they all go their separate ways?

Fast And Loose is based on the 1924 play The Best People by David Gray and Avery Hopwood.  I don’t know how fresh the story was at that time, but now it’s the type that’s been done any number of times with rich parents wanting their kids to marry into their “station.”  Still, there are only so many stories to be told in the world, and it all boils down to how well they are told.  Coming off my first time seeing this movie, I would argue this is not one of the better ones.  The biggest problem I have with this movie is that almost all the actors and actresses are a little too stiff in their performances.  Granted, I suspect that this is due to this movie being from 1930 (like the movie Holiday that I reviewed last year), with sound technology still being new and everybody trying to adjust how to act for the talkies.  But, unlike the previously reviewed Holiday, I’m not sure that there were any performances that were good enough to save this one.  My only previous experience with Miriam Hopkins is with Design For Living, and she was far better in that than she was here.  Carole Lombard, in spite of being billed second, is really not in this movie that much, and her performance might be a little bit better, but not much.  And it’s equally disappointing to see Frank Morgan a bit more stiff.  I’ve generally enjoyed him in most everything of his that I’ve seen, but here his screen persona isn’t really fully developed (but it is at least partially there, and it’s during those brief moments that things improve a little).  And it’s really hard to cheer for Charles Starrett’s Henry Morgan, as sexist as some of his comments can be.  Now, does the movie have its moments?  Certainly, as I do enjoy Ilka Chase as Millie, particularly as she tries to go after Herbert Yost’s uptight George Crafton.  But, she’s not there a lot, and the rest of the movie just drags a little too much because of all the weak performances.  So, I would not recommend this one.

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 from Kino Lorber.  The movie has had an HD scan, which generally looks pretty good.  It does have its scratches and tears, but they don’t really take away from the movie.

Film Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Miriam Hopkins – Design For Living (1933)

Carole Lombard – Man Of The World (1931)

Frank Morgan – The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 – Man Of The World (1931)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Eagle And The Hawk (1933)

Well, it’s almost the end of 2020, and I’ve got one last review to get through. This time, we’re here for the 1933 movie The Eagle And The Hawk, starring Fredric March, Cary Grant, Carole Lombard and Jack Oakie! Of course, we’ve got our theatrical short to get through first, and then it’s on to the movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Isle Of Caprice (1969)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 14 seconds)

A marooned aardvark tries to get to another island where the ants are, but is stopped by a hungry shark. This one is actually quite a bit of fun. The basic story is certainly nothing new, but it allows for a bit of variety, with the aardvark being both predator and prey. Admittedly, with the ants barely shown, it doesn’t really feel as much like an “Ant And The Aardvark” cartoon so much as an “aardvark and the shark” (or something like that). Still, it’s fun (even with the shark constantly chasing the aardvark up the tree with the same reused animation every time), and I enjoy seeing it every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

During World War I, a group of American pilots, which includes Jerry Young (Fredric March) and his buddy Mike Richards (Jack Oakie) are sent overseas. However, another member of the group, Henry Crocker (Cary Grant), is left behind at Jerry’s recommendation since Henry is not a good pilot. Upon their arrival in France, Jerry and Mike are almost immediately sent up to fly some reconnaissance missions. Enthusiastic at the prospect, they both go with their observers (tailgunners who also take photographs of the territory). Jerry makes it back alright, but his observer doesn’t survive, which really sobers him up. Over the next two months, Jerry loses four more observers, which really bothers him. In spite of that, he is considered a hero, and somebody his leaders encourage the new recruits to look up to. His new observer turns out to be Henry, who is still somewhat bitter towards Jerry. Despite their personal issues, they still manage to be successful together (although Henry earns the ire of the other pilots when he shoots down some men in parachutes, which is against their code). Jerry starts to show signs of cracking up, so Henry (his roommate) goes to Major Dunham (Sir Guy Standing) with this information, and Jerry is given a ten day leave. In London, he finds himself still struggling with his hero status, especially when a little kid enthusiastically asks him what it’s like. However, he is comforted by a Beautiful Lady (Carole Lombard), who listens and sympathizes with him. Upon his return, he finds his buddy Mike and Henry returning from a mission, but Mike expires shortly after landing. Furious with Henry because he had pushed to try and shoot down a German pilot, Jerry requests another observer. The question remains, though, whether Jerry can still get past his own demons to be the hero he is needed to be, or will he crack up again?

As you can tell from my plot description, this really is Fredric March’s movie. And that’s not a bad thing! He gives a great performance here as a man who comes into the war almost thinking of it as a game. He goes into his first mission with great enthusiasm, and is still feeling that way when he gets back. Then reality sets in when he realizes his observer is dead. From then on, we watch as his conscience slowly but surely eats away at him, while his kill count rises (and with it, his status as a “hero” to everyone around him). He makes it easy to sympathize with his disillusionment.

And that brings us around to Carole Lombard. One would think, with her billing, that she is in this movie a lot. She really isn’t, only appearing for about ten minutes or so. One would think that almost makes her role unimportant, but I think her character (nameless though they may be) means a lot more. Apart from her, nobody else really stops to notice how Fredric March’s Jerry is feeling. Throughout the movie, everyone else just shrugs off Jerry’s worries and feelings, but not her. At the party where she meets him, she sees how everyone else is making him feel, and, when he leaves (and she comes with him), she actively listens to him, and tries to help him. And it works, if only temporarily, as he seems to be happy again when he returns from leave (although that happiness is short-lived when he loses his friend Mike and everyone else continues to ignore his growing doubts). This role was still early in Carole Lombard’s career, before she established herself as a great comedienne in screwball comedies, but she still makes her presence known in just the few minutes she is there.

And speaking of actors doing roles that seem out-of-line with what they did later, we also have Cary Grant here. We have him in a role that is quite different and against type, as he is not his usual, suave self. His character has a bit of an edge to him, and a sense of “kill or be killed” in terms of how he treats the enemy. Unlike Jerry, he wants to kill (which is what ends up getting Jack Oakie’s Mike shot). And one wonders how much he cares for Jerry, especially with the efforts he goes to in the end to still make Jerry look like a hero (even though he knew Jerry didn’t like the idea). It’s a rude awakening compared to what we know Cary Grant did later. It’s more of a supporting role than we’re used to with him, but he still gives a good performance.

If you can’t tell already, I did enjoy this movie. That being said, I do feel that one of the few weak spots in the movie (for me) is Jack Oakie. So far, with the handful of films that I’ve seen him in, I just don’t seem to care for him or his style of comedy. At least here, he is more of a supporting character as opposed to the lead, but I just still don’t care for him. But the rest of the movie is still quite good. The flying sequences are well done (even with some rear-screen projection here and there), and the movie certainly shows that not everyone is cut out for war. All in all, this was a well-done drama, and I would definitely recommend it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie seems to mainly have an HD scan, but not a full-fledged restoration or remaster. The transfer does look pretty solid, with a few scratches and other minor issues, but none that should ruin the film. It certainly worked quite well for me, and is the best way to see this movie.

With this being my last review of the year, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year (although I hope, of course, that you’ll check on my blog tomorrow for my 2020: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched)!

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Sign Of The Cross (1932) – Fredric March – Design For Living (1933)

Blonde Venus (1932)Cary GrantAlice In Wonderland (1933)

No Man Of Her Own (1932) – Carole Lombard – We’re Not Dressing (1934)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Nothing Sacred (1937)

And here we are for the classic 1937 screwball comedy that proves indeed that there is Nothing Sacred, starring Carole Lombard and Fredric March.

Fredric March plays Wallace Cook, a reporter for the Morning Sun newspaper, who is trying a make a comeback after mistakenly reporting a shoe shiner as an African Sultan. He convinces his boss to let him report on Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard), who is dying of radium poisoning. When he arrives in her hometown of Warsaw, Vermont, she has just found out from her doctor that she is NOT dying from radium poisoning, and that the doctor had made a mistake. This makes her sad, as she had hoped to travel out of Warsaw. She meets Wally as she leaves her doctor’s office, and before she can say anything, he offers to bring her and her doctor to New York, which she can’t bring herself to refuse. So, they make the trip, and she enjoys herself, all the while falling for Wally and trying to figure out how to break it to him that she isn’t dying (never mind get away from the public, now that she is a “dying celebrity”).

To get into my own opinion of this movie, it was one I thoroughly enjoyed! After watching both this movie and My Man Godfrey (1936), I certainly think that Carole Lombard was well-suited to screwball comedies! There are so many wonderful moments in this movie, it’s hard to choose which ones to mention! I know I enjoyed watching Hazel’s attempted fake suicide, where she planned to jump in the river, and have the doctor pull her out. Wally found out that she planned to commit suicide and got there before she could jump in, but he had to jump in and try to save her after he accidentally pushed her in (although she ended up saving him because he couldn’t swim)! And I certainly can’t help but wonder about the doctor, considering how much drinking he does while in New York! No wonder he originally made that mistake! Of course, I can’t avoid mentioning when Hazel tried to fight Wally (although I really can’t get into too many more details with spoiling the story more than what I have mentioned)! So this is a wonderful movie, and one I would recommend!

Now, my comments are coming off my first viewing of the movie from the recent 2018 Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber. Apparently, this movie has had a rough life. The movie was originally produced by David O. Selznick (the producer of Gone With The Wind), in Technicolor. It was re-released in the mid-40s, but printed in Cinecolor, which was cheaper to produce, but not quite as colorful, with some colors more muted. It was only seen this way until the Technicolor version was restored in the 1980s. In the meantime, the movie itself had fallen into the public domain. When Disney acquired a number of Selznick’s movies, they received the film elements and restored this movie in 1999. Apparently, this restoration hadn’t made it to home video until this recent release, which was part of a package of movies that Kino licensed from Disney for Blu-ray and DVD. The age of the transfer does show, but it does have its moments where it looks wonderful. I’m not an expert on how exactly it should look, especially since this was my first viewing, but I think it looks good enough to recommend trying the Blu-ray!

Film Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

My Man Godfrey (1936) – Carole Lombard – To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Design For Living (1933) – Fredric March – I Married A Witch (1942)

Libeled Lady (1936) – Walter Connolly – Fifth Avenue Girl (1939)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Original Vs. Remake: My Man Godfrey (1936) vs. Merrily We Live (1938)

Ok, so this isn’t really a case of “Original Vs. Remake,” but since the movies My Man Godfrey (1936) (MMG) and Merrily We Live (1938) (MWL) seemed fairly similar to me, I felt the need to compare the two, and let you know what I think about them. Of course, to simplify things, I’ll just borrow the plot descriptions from both of my reviews.

In My Man Godfrey, we find Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) and her sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick) competing against each other in a scavenger hunt for the social elite. They both come to the city dump, looking for a “forgotten man.” Cornelia, who is a spoiled brat, finds Godfrey (William Powell), and offers him five dollars to come with her, but he turns her down. Irene, who is a little more scatterbrained, but not quite so spoiled, realizes the idea is wrong, and Godfrey agrees to come with her to help her beat Cornelia. Afterwards, she hires Godfrey to be the family butler. The rest of the movie is about Godfrey as he works for the family, who are all a little screwy, except for the father, all the while Godfrey tries to keep his own background hidden while avoiding the affections of Irene, who falls for him.

In Merrily We Live, our story starts in the Kilbourne household, where their chauffeur has disappeared with the family silver. Emily Kilbourne (Billie Burke), the family matriarch, has had a history of hiring tramps, but after this betrayal, she decides to stop, to the happiness of the rest of the family. However, Wade Rawlins (Brian Aherne) comes to the door after the car he was driving goes off a cliff while he is trying to get some water. The butler tries to make him leave, but Emily sees him, and decides to hire him. His reception from the other members of the family is a little cool at first, but slowly, everyone warms up to him, with all the female members of the house (except for Emily) developing a crush on him, as he falls for eldest daughter Geraldine (Constance Bennett).

Both movies definitely seem to go off on similar trajectories. Both feature tramps being hired by rich families as servants. Both have several female members of the household that seem to fall for the “tramps.” The fathers are the ones who appear to be the most normal members of the household (although Mr. Kilbourne in MWL seems to have a slight lapse when he gets drunk). One shared actor is Alan Mowbray (Godfrey’s friend Tommy Gray in MMG and the butler Grosvenor in MWL). Also, from what I have heard, actress Constance Bennett was actually considered for the role of Irene in MMG, losing out to William Powell’s choice of Carole Lombard. Of course, one shared coincidence between the two movies is that the actresses portraying the family matriarchs (Alice Brady in MMG and Billie Burke in MWL) were both nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscars for their respective years (although neither won).

The differences in these movies are what everybody would most want to know about. When we first meet Godfrey, we can plainly see that he is a tramp, and we have little reason to doubt it. On the other hand, with Wade Rawlins (MWL) we really can’t say for certain that he is, just that he is wearing some old clothes and hasn’t shaved recently. Godfrey appears to be sane, and questions what is going on in the household, whereas Wade Rawlins appears to almost fit right in with the family. There is some element of timing at play as well, as the Bullocks (MMG), rich though they are, still can feel the effects of the Depression, as Mr. Bullock is constantly trying to remind everybody, while the Kilbournes (MWL) don’t seem to have any troubles with it.

The ultimate question here, which is the better movie? I myself believe them both to be wonderful movies. The main difference seems to be in the tone of the movies, as My Man Godfrey seems to be a mixture of comedy thrown in with some serious moments, as we all stop to think about the effect of the Depression, while Merrily We Live seems to keep seriousness at bay, with comedy constantly at the forefront. Due to this, most people would say that My Man Godfrey is the better movie. I myself would have to give a slight edge to Merrily We Live. I prefer the constant comedy, but it also may depend on mood. Either way, I highly recommend both movies if you get the chance to see them, they are both just that good!

My Man Godfrey

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Merrily We Live

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Merrily We Live (By a VERY slim margin)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… My Man Godfrey (1936)

And now it’s time to dig into another recent release on disc, the 1936 movie My Man Godfrey, which stars William Powell as Godfrey and Carole Lombard as Irene Bullock.

To start, we find Irene Bullock and her sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick) competing against each other in a scavenger hunt for the social elite. They both come to the city dump, looking for a “forgotten man.” Cornelia, who is a spoiled brat, finds Godfrey, and offers him five dollars to come with her, but he turns her down. Irene, who is a little more scatterbrained, but not quite so spoiled, realizes the idea is wrong, and Godfrey agrees to come with her to help her beat Cornelia. Afterwards, she hires Godfrey to be the family butler. The rest of the movie is about Godfrey as he works for the family, who are all a little screwy, except for the father, all the while Godfrey tries to keep his own background hidden while avoiding the affections of Irene, who falls for him.

With this movie, we have a highly regarded screwball comedy. We have four Oscar-nominated performances, with William Powell (Best Actor), Carole Lombard (Best Actress), Mischa Auer (Best Supporting Actor) and Alice Brady (Best Supporting Actress), in the first movie to be nominated in all four acting categories. Carole Lombard’s Irene is particularly screwy (and I get the impression the screwball genre was coined by a reviewer talking about her character). To a degree, we find ourselves siding with Godfrey early on, when he first comes to work for the family. Their maid, who has already been working for them a while, warns him to keep his things near the door so he can make a quick getaway. As he meets the family, we certainly can see him considering leaving (and I think most of us would be considering it, too), but he ends up staying, feeling it would be better than to go back to the dump. He even ends up helping them before all is said and done.

I enjoyed this movie very much, and it is one I would definitely recommend to anybody that might be interested in it. The movie is in the public domain, so it is available on DVD from many labels, but for the best quality, with the most recent restoration, it is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection (it’s a bit more expensive, but I think it is worth it).

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 on Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Star Of Midnight (1935) – William Powell – Libeled Lady (1936)

We’re Not Dressing (1934) – Carole Lombard – Nothing Sacred (1937)

Shanghai Express (1932) – Eugene Pallette – One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)

Rose-Marie (1936) – Alan Mowbray – Stand-In (1937)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… We’re Not Dressing (1934)

Time to get into the 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing, starring Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, George Burns, Gracie Allen and Ethel Merman!

At first, we find everybody on the yacht of Doris Worthington (Carole Lombard), as she is giving entertaining other society friends.  The ship runs into a reef, and so she, her society friends, and one of the sailors, Stephen Jones (Bing Crosby) are shipwrecked on an island.  Stephen soon proves more adept at surviving, and all the others are forced to listen to him, including a very reluctant Doris, who ends up falling in love with him.

The movie is based on the novel “The Admirable Crichton” by Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie.  I don’t know how accurate the movie is for the story, but they do reference it at one point.

Admittedly, the plot of the movie isn’t the main concern.  It’s seeing the various actors and actresses do their specialties.  Bing Crosby has a few fun songs, in what I personally consider to be one of his better early films.  He mainly has three songs that I enjoy: “May I” which is sung near the beginning of the movie; the song “Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady” where the fun is Doris’s pet bear, which Stephen has to take care, and the bear enjoys Bing’s singing (enough to pounce him until he sings this song to get the bear off); and “Love Thy Neighbor,” sung on the island while Doris and her friends are ignoring him as he builds shelter.

Of course, George and Gracie are already on the island before everybody is shipwrecked.  They are on a hunting/ nature expedition, and they get a chance to engage in some of their trademark humor.  Especially some of Gracie’s traps (or should I say her “moose traps”).

This is a movie I enjoy, and I would definitely recommend it if you get a chance to see it!  The movie is available on DVD from Universal, either alone or as part of at least 3 multi-film sets.

Film Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Going Hollywood (1933)Bing CrosbyMississippi (1935)

The Eagle And The Hawk (1933) – Carole Lombard – My Man Godfrey (1936)

College Humor (1933) – George Burns/Gracie Allen (screen team) – A Damsel In Distress (1937)

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