Sunday, January 20, 2013

DVD Review: CAROLE LOMBARD IN THE THIRTIES

The latest home video release from the Turner Classic Movies Vault Collection is CAROLE LOMBARD IN THE THIRTIES, a set of three films that the actress starred in for Columbia Pictures. None of the films could be called a true classic--in fact, most people may not have even heard of them--but it's nice to get a set of previously unreleased material, especially when it features such a famous star. It's also nice that the set is not on DVD-R, and even better, each movie gets it's own disc, instead of all three being crammed on one.

These films were made between 1932 and 1934, a time when Lombard had not really yet become a huge superstar. Two of the titles were made before Lombard's breakout performance in TWENTIETH CENTURY, and the other was made soon after. None of the three are considered highlights in Lombard's career, but she's excellent in all of them, and far more natural and appealing than any of her co-stars. The big problem is that Lombard is saddled with some very unremarkable leading men in every story--not a good thing when all three pictures basically deal with romantic relationships. While watching the set one wonders why someone as attractive and smart as Lombard would want to be with any of these guys.

Even though all these films could be considered "pre-code", there really isn't a lot of moments in them that make you take notice of the era. They're all somewhat tame, compared to several other movies made at the same time.

Like other TCM Vault Collections, all the films have still & poster galleries as extras. The set was produced by Sony Home Video, and like all their product the sound and picture quality is at a very high standard.

Here's a rundown of the films:

NO MORE ORCHIDS (1932): In this story Carole is a spoiled heiress who is arranged to marry a European prince. She falls in love with a "regular guy" lawyer (played by Lyle Talbot), but circumstances involving her father's (Walter Connolly) finances make Lombard feel she must go ahead and marry the prince. For most of the running time the movie is pretty predictable--poor rich girl torn between real love and saving the family name--but a certain act at the climax takes the story in a totally different and unusual direction. It's an act that probably wouldn't have been allowed to happen by the censors a few years later. The ending is the one thing that most viewers will probably remember about NO MORE ORCHIDS.
Leading man Talbot doesn't make much of an impression, but Lombard gets good support from C. Aubrey Smith, Louise Closser Hale, and especially Walter Connolly, who winds up stealing the film.
Director: Walter Lang.

BRIEF MOMENT (1933): Out of the three titles in the set, this one is the least. Carole is a nightclub singer who marries a rich playboy (Gene Raymond). Lombard soon finds out that her new husband is a lazy, drunken gadabout, and she spends the rest of the film in a hopeless attempt to "reform" him. One gets the feeling that the real-life Lombard would have just socked him in the jaw. Raymond (and the script) really doesn't do anything to show that his character is worthy of Lombard's efforts. His eventual "reformation" just seems contrived. There isn't a lot to recommend here, except that Lombard looks fantastic and has a incredible wardrobe (check out some of the stuff she wares just while lounging around her apartment). We do get to see Lombard perform one song (she was actually dubbed....info courtesy of Vincent Paterno). Directed by David Burton.

LADY BY CHOICE (1934): This is by far the best film in the set. Despite the title and the presence of May Robson, this is not a sequel to Frank Capra's LADY FOR A DAY. It's more like Columbia's attempt to build on Robson's success from Capra's work. Robson plays a variation on her Apple Annie--in this story she's a down-and-out elderly woman who used to be a stage performer in her younger days. As part of a publicity stunt, she's "adopted" by fan dancer Lombard. Robson starts to take her "Mother" role seriously and tries to stop Lombard from making the same mistakes that she did. Robson and Lombard make a great team--one thing that never seems to get mentioned about Carole Lombard is how smoothly she worked with all her co-stars, male AND female. This is really Robson's movie, and Lombard was wise enough to let her take the show. There's a lot more comedy in LADY BY CHOICE then in the other movies in the set, and Lombard is a lot more like "the" Carole Lombard of the latter part of the 1930s. LADY BY CHOICE was released to theaters a few months after TWENTIETH CENTURY, and while it certainly isn't on the level of that film, it's a fine entry in Lombard's career path to superstardom. Leading man Roger Pryor doesn't stand a chance going up against May Robson and Carole Lombard. Directed by David Burton.

If you are a huge fan of Carole Lombard, this set is certainly a must-buy. But it must be said that she is the only reason to purchase this collection. The three films included are not horrible, but if you take away the beauty and style of Lombard, there isn't really much to them.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Dan for the info on this new DVD set. I'd definitely be interested in purchasing it.

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  2. Lombard was dubbed in "Brief Moment." The only film in which she did her own singing was "Swing High, Swing Low," at the behest of director Mitchell Leisen. She acquits herself well in that one.

    For more on Lombard, please check out my site dedicated to her:

    http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/

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