Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nothing Sacred

It looks as though I have never blogged about the screwball comedy Nothing Sacred before. It's airing tonight at 8:00 PM, and is one of the funnier movies you'll see.

Carole Lombard stars alongside Fredric March, but more on her in a bit. March plays Wally, a bombastic newspaper reporter somewhat reminiscent of Clark Gable's character in It Happened One Night. He gets taken in by a story about some foreign potentate who is in fact a hoaxster, and gets in trouble with his editor (Walter Connolly, who happened to play Claudette Colbert's father in It Happened One Night) for it. To get out of the doghouse, Wally figures he needs the next big story, which he finds when he hears about Hazel (Lombard). Hazel is a small-town girl from Vermont who gets diagnosed with a rare case of radium poisoning and doesn't have long to live. She's never been to the big city, so she'd like to see it before she dies. This is perfect for Wally, who can get the story.

So Wally brings Hazel and her doctor (Charles Winninger) to New York, at which point a media frenzy erupts. Just like the circus surrounding somebody sympathetic (at least in the eyes of the media) like Amanda Knox, everybody begins to fall over themselves to show how much sympathey they have for her. You've got the high society of New York all the way down to the Girl Scouts, all impressed with Hazel's bravery in the face of death. And then Wally and Hazel learn the stunning news: she's really not sick with radium poisoning, and is not going to die. This presents a rather big problem, since everybody in the country has been following her story waiting for her to die. What to do? The other problem is that along the way, Wally and Hazel have begun to fall in love.

Nothing Sacred is a tremendously funny comedy which lives up to its title: the movie holds nothing in reverence. The small-town Vermonters are lampooned. But so are the allegedly sophisticated big-city people, who are shown to be just as gullible as they would argue the small-town folk are. The media's role in fomenting all of this frenzy -- something which clearly still goes on to this day -- is also lambasted. Viewers of today watching Nothing Sacred might find that some of the material veers into politically incorrect stereotyping. After all, back in the 1930s they didn't have quite the sensitivity towards black people that Hollywood would show today. But the movie is still amazingly funny.

Nothing Sacred is also in very good Technicolor, as you might have guessed from the photo above. (Indeed, it's nice to have the establishing shot of Rockefeller Center as it was back in 1937 in such nice color.) Tonight's TCM showing may or may not be that brilliant. In the past, all the prints have been fairly low-quality, as the movie fell into the public domain somewhere along the way. However, the movie has apparently been restored, and we may be getting the restoration print tonight.

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