on March 18, 2006
This dvd collection more than deserves five stars simply because it has THREE movies I have NEVER seen in my 25+ years as a Lombard fan!! It's hard enough to find Paramount or Universal CLASSICS from the early 30's, but ultra-rare programmers like MAN OF THE WORLD and LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST??? And how about TRUE CONFESSION, which has been locked away in the vaults for ages despite the awesome cast of Lombard, Fred MacMurray, John Barrymore, and Una Merkel!!
Even the three better known titles - HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS, WE'RE NOT DRESSING - are not that common, although they were all released on video in the 1990's. Carole Lombard was a major Paramount star but she made virtually all of her most famous films on loanout or after she left the studio.
All the crying about "multi movies" crammed on to discs seems a total waste of tears. I've watched LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST and MAN OF THE WORLD and the prints are excellent, not perfect perhaps but definitely superior to prints that Warner Bros. used for LIBELED LADY and several THIN MAN titles - movies that WERE released "one to a disc" and cost about as much as the collection of FIVE Lombard films.
Universal gets a bum rap for their various multi-movie sets from a lot of people who don't even bother viewing the movies first!! Maybe some people think it's worth $20 to have a case and paper sleeve for every movie, but not this kid. MAN OF THE WORLD is one of Carole's first leading lady parts - she is only 22 here - and she's very beautiful but her future husband William Powell dominates this story of a con man who unexpectedly finds love. This movie isn't very good but it is a thrill to see a Lombard and Powell rarity. LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST on the other hand is an absolute delight. Often referred to as a screwball comedy by historians who apparently have never seen it, it's actual more of a straight romance (from a book by romance novelist Faith Baldwin) with some comic scenes and touches. Lombard plays Cesar Romero's fiancee who is still agressively pursued by Preston Foster. Foster's arrogance at the beginning of the film is a turn off, one certainly sides with Lombard that he is a bit of a jerk but as you may guess Carole can give it back and then some whenever someone gets out of line. This movie boasts some of the most beautiful photography of Lombard ever, lovingly shot by her favorite cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff and some of Travis Banton's loveliest fashions for her. This film is an art deco treat and certainly one of the most elegant Universal productions from the thirties.
The release of this DVD is truly exciting news for movie buffs - even more so than the comparable releases on Mae West and Marlene Dietrich, since those ladies' Paramount/Universal titles have been far more accessible than Carole Lombard's although Carole is every bit as popular and remembered as those other two Paramount blondes.
I am hoping sales for this series goes through the roof and we get second volumes on all three stars - and FIRST volumes on those Paramount superstar brunettes : Claudette Colbert, Dorothy Lamour, and Clara Bow.
The early death of Carole Lombard at 33 from a January 1942 plane crash remains one of cinema's most tragic episodes. During the 1930's, she was the most luminous of screen beauties yet innately likeable. What made her unique was the scintillating, often ribald and genuine manner in her performances. Even though she delivered top-notch dramatic performances, especially toward the end of her career, it is her comedies that continue to reinforce her legacy. It's almost impossible not to adore Lombard for the way she downplayed her looks, coming across as a proto-feminist in many of her roles. In fact, of all her contemporaries, Lombard still comes across as the most modern and self-aware, which is proven by this splendid two-disc set of six of her lesser known films. Granted none of them are close to the quality of her acknowledged classics - "Twentieth Century", "My Man Godfrey", "Nothing Sacred", "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", "To Be or Not to Be" - but each provides ample evidence of her abundant comic talent during the middle of her career between 1931 and 1937.
The first disc contains the earliest three movies. A 23-year old Lombard is merely the innocent leading lady to William Powell (before they were briefly married in real life) in 1931's "Man of the World", directed by Richard Wallace and written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, a pre-code dramedy about a sophisticated con man, an American in Paris named Michael Trevor, who attempts to take advantage of Mary Kendall, the niece of a foolhardy millionaire he has befriended. As Trevor, Powell gets surprisingly dour in the heavier second half, and little of Lombard's natural élan is on display playing the love-blind Mary. It's hard to fathom that this classic pair would team again for one of the great screwball social comedies, Gregory La Cava's "My Man Godfrey", only five years later.
Three years and fifteen films after "Man of the World", a more confident Lombard shows up as part of a silly ensemble farce, 1934's "We're Not Dressing", directed by Norman Taurog, in which she plays Doris Worthington, an ice-cold, rich yacht owner who gets into a shipwreck and an untidy situation where she is beholden to her former crew, in particular, the first mate who has a tendency to break out in song quite often. That's because this movie is an early Bing Crosby musical where the crooner's main objective is to melt Doris' heart. Lombard is much more in her element here as she plays her cardboard character's unattractive aspects while still generating her natural warmth. The film's problem is that her screen time is limited since the movie not only stars Crosby but also features George Burns, Gracie Allen and Ethel Merman. It's a variety hodgepodge but still worth seeing.
My favorite film of the six is 1935's "Hands Across the Table", directed by Mitchell Leisen, Lombard's first real starring vehicle and a disarming romantic comedy about Depression-era class struggles. She plays Regi Allen, a hotel manicurist determined to marry for money and quite open about her intentions. She immediately befriends a new client, Allen Macklyn, an ideal target for Regi except that he is a former pilot who has become a paraplegic. Enter Theodore Drew III, a flaky but charming playboy already engaged to an heiress. The standard complications ensue but not before the stars bicker and banter with dexterity. Lombard is terrifically winning as a working girl who ends up falling for Drew and even cohabitates with him before getting married.
As Drew, Fred MacMurray makes a strapping leading man and displays sharp comic timing. This was the first of four fruitful teamings he had with Lombard. Cinema's perennial third wheel, Ralph Bellamy, plays the smitten Macklyn with surprising romantic fervor, enough sometimes to appear like a true contender for Regi's affections. There are some startlingly sexy, noirish close-ups between Lombard and MacMurray as the film moves toward its inevitable conclusion. Look for an uncredited William Demarest as Regi's hapless blind date caught in a frustrating dialogue with MacMurray three decades before they co-starred in TV's "My Three Sons".
The second disc opens with an overly contrived romantic comedy, 1936's "Love Before Breakfast", directed by Walter Lang, which suffers for its lackluster leading man, Preston Foster. He plays Scott Miller, a rich Wall Street tycoon madly infatuated with Kay Colby, a Park Avenue girl already engaged to hard-working Bill Wadsworth. Miller pulls strings to have Wadsworth transferred to Japan, so he can pursue Kay against her outward wishes. It all sputters by quickly at only seventy minutes, and it takes all of Lombard's natural wit and charm to levitate the absurd plot and humanize such a hysterical loon. Long before he became the Joker on the "Batman" TV series, Cesar Romero plays the hapless Wadsworth for what the one-dimensional role is worth. I also find it interesting how Lang cast an uncredited Japanese actress, Mia Ichioka, as Kay's tea-leaf-reading maid Yuki.
Lombard re-teams with MacMurray on 1936's "The Princess Comes Across", an oddly conceived romantic comedy that suddenly turns into a murder mystery after the first half-hour. Directed by William K. Howard, the movie has Lombard cast as Wanda Nash, a struggling Brooklyn chorine disguising herself as Swedish royalty to gain a film studio contract. It's obvious that she is doing a not-so-subtle impersonation of Garbo as Princess Olga, but it is a funny take-off. MacMurray plays a singing bandleader who, believe it or not, plays the concertina professionally. They banter until things get serious, as she gets implicated in the murder and remains fearful about being exposed. Famous for her roles in W.C. Fields comedies, Alison Skipworth is a scene-stealer as Olga's phony dowager guardian. It's interesting to see MacMurray show glimpses of his cynical "Double Indemnity" personality in mercurial fashion before the mystery is solved.
The last film is 1937's `True Confessions" directed by Wesley Ruggles and again co-starring MacMurray. It's a complete lark showcasing Lombard's farceur skills as Helen Bartlett, the wife of a struggling lawyer. A compulsive liar who literally plants her tongue in her cheek just before letting go with a whopper, Helen gets involved in the murder of her lecherous employer of less than an hour. Seeing this as an opportunity for her husband Kenneth to show off his litigation skills, she pleads guilty to the crime just so he can get her acquitted. Complicating matters is an odd eccentric who watches the case in the courtroom and gains evidence to the contrary. With the various deceptions getting bigger and bigger, the film plays out like an extended "I Love Lucy" episode well before the TV series was conceived, and indeed Lombard was Lucille Ball's mentor and role model. Una Merkel plays the Ethel part of best friend Daisy, while John Barrymore, long gone to seed, hammily plays the irritating eccentric. MacMurray is a bit of a bore in this one since he has to represent the pillar of honesty top his wife.
Be aware that the two discs use both sides to fit all the films. The print transfer on all six films is surprisingly clean considering their seventy-year old age. Unfortunately there are no extras, not even theatrical trailers, but seeing the unparalleled Lombard is treat enough. She made 78 movies in her brief career, so I hope more of her titles will come up in future DVD releases.
on July 12, 2006
This is a solid collection that contains six films from one of the most popular actresses of the 1930's - Carole Lombard. The titles here include classics like "True Confession", and "The Princess Comes Across", as well as fun vehicles like "Hands Across the Table", and "Love Before Breakfast". The only two disappointments are the early talkie "Man of the World", and the surprisingly awful "We're Not Dressing". Overall, this is a respectable set of Hollywood programmers that documents the rise of Carole Lombard's career.
I have to disagree with many of the classic film fans here who so passionately oppose multi-disc sets. Let's face it, when it comes to classic films we fans can not expect the royal treatment films like "My Man Godfrey", or "Gone With the Wind" receive to be given to programmers like "We're Not Dressing", and "Man of the World". If not for this set, these films would just be laying in a vault somewhere collecting dust. I would rather have these cheap flipper discs with quality video presentations than nothing. It's unreasonable to expect Universal to dote on every old film they release. Instead of directing anger at Universal, I'm going to give them praise for giving fans the chance to watch films that have been rarely seen since their original release.
on July 3, 2014
This Collection combines some of the best and some still good Carole Lombard pictures in a quite good quality. In my opinion, one should not argue why some classics are missing because it is simply too difficult to satisfy everyone by choosing only six films. I would rate HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, TRUE CONFESSIONS and MAN OF THE WORLD five stars each. MAN OF THE WORLD (1931) is superb and quite unusual by turning subtly from comedy into tragedy - an early work starring William Powell much less skin deep as in some of his later MGM pictures. Although this is clearly Powell's and not Lombard's picture, one can be glad that this extraordinary work is included in the collection. HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE (1935) and TRUE CONFESSIONS (1937) are Lombard Classics from her golden years, both screwball comedies, while HANDS ... is more romantic and TRUE CONFESSIONS absolutely wacky and extremely funny - both starring Lombards ideal partner Fred MacMurray. WE'RE NOT DRESSING (4*) is a bit silly and a Bing Crosby vehicle, but still good entertainment (if you don't dislike too much unmotivated singing). LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (3.5*) is also quite okay and sometimes funny, but suffers a little from Lombard's co-star Preston Foster and his impertinent machismo in an annoying would-be-Clark-Gable-style. THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS (4.5*) again teams Lombard and MacMurray and combines screwball comedy with a murder mystery, evoking comparison to films such as "The Thin Man", "The Ex-Mrs. Bradford" and "Penthouse". It's really good entertainment, but maybe a little less snappy than some of the above-mentioned films. One can be glad that these six pictures are combined in the box, especially the rarely-seen "Man of the World".