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Carole Lombard - The Glamour Collection (Hands Across the Table/ Love Before Breakfast/ Man of the World/ The Princess Comes Across/ True Confession/ We're Not Dressing)
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A loose adaptation of The Admirable Crichton, We're Not Dressing (1934) is Depression-era entertainment at its most diverting, employing a full stable of Paramount players (including George Burns and Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, and a young "Raymond" Milland) in a shipwreck romance between socialite Lombard and singing sailor Bing Crosby, who croons songs aplenty (including "Stormy Weather") and shares equal screen-time with an affectionate bear! Directed by Norman Taurog (best known for his later work with Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Elvis Presley), it's every bit as fun as the Marx Brothers hits from the same period. Arguably the best film in this set, Hands Across the Table is noteworthy for the typically stylish direction of Mitchell Leisen, who brings his reliable sophistication to the tale of a New York manicurist (Lombard) who must choose between potential suitors Fred McMurray (as a would-be heir to a fortune) and disabled ex-pilot Ralph Bellamy. (This being 1934, Norman Krasna's otherwise excellent script restricts Bellamy to the romantic sidelines with outdated feel-good sentiment.) Love Before Breakfast (1936) is a similarly enjoyable but typically chauvinistic dose of '30s high-society love-play, in which Lombard bounces between boyfriend Cesar Romero and a Wall Street tycoon (Preston Foster) who knows what's best for her and bosses her around accordingly. In the mystery/comedy The Princess Comes Across (1936), McMurray returns as a lovestruck bandleader, falling for Lombard's radiant Swedish princess (played as a playful nod to Greta Garbo) on a cruiser bound for Hollywood.
After completing the classic Nothing Sacred, Lombard (who married Clark Gable in 1939) teamed with McMurray yet again in True Confession (1937), a black screwball thriller/comedy elevated by the presence of comedy stalwarts John Barrymore, Edgar Kennedy and Una Merkel. It rounds out The Glamour Collection in fine form (Lucille Ball is said to have modeled her TV persona after Lombard's character), and leads the way to such later classics as Made for Each Other (1939) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). Tragically, Lombard's outstanding career was cut short when she perished (along with her mother and 20 other passengers) in a 1942 plane crash. Fortunately for DVD collectors, these six films (all remarkably well-preserved with clear image and sound) serve as a fitting tribute to Lombard's unique talent, allowing movie lovers of all ages to rediscover one of the most alluring queens of the silver screen. --Jeff Shannon
Top Customer Reviews
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 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.
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.
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