Carole Lombard: A Screwball's Centennial
January 30 -- March 4
"With the possibility of a second Great Depression looming closer every day, it's a perfect time to re-visit Carole Lombard, the queen of the screwball comedies that Hollywood offered as a diversion from the economic meltdown of the 1930s." -- Lou Lumenick, New York Post
"Witness Tina Fey's foremother in making humor sexy and smart--Carole Lombard, one of the funniest geniuses in the history of cinema." -- Melissa Anderson, Time Out New York
Carole Lombard's career as one of the silver screen's great leading ladies was tragically short, both because she was something of a late bloomer--by the time of her first big hit, 1934's TWENTIETH CENTURY, she'd been working steadily as a bit player for 13 years--and because of her untimely death in a plane crash at age 33 (she was returning to Hollywood from a war bond rally in her native Indiana). Possessed of glamorous good looks and a lithe and graceful build (athletic, too--as a tomboy preteen, she regularly brawled with her older brothers), Lombard's great talent was for comedy, specifically the screwball variety that dominated the mid-1930s, with its wordplay and wit-matching, its glitzy surroundings and ditzy characters. Smart, funny and sexy--what more can one ask for? In her centennial year, join AFI for a look back at some of Lombard's comedy classics, including intriguing rarities from the uncensored "pre-Code" era.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all films in the Carole Lombard: A Screwball's Centennial series.
A classic with an all-star creative team: Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. John Barrymore is a successful, if conceited, Broadway director. But when one of his stars, Carole Lombard, leaves him for the bright lights of Hollywood, all of his success seems to go with her. Down and out, Barrymore boards the Twentieth
Century Limited and happens upon his former protege. His attempts to woo her back under his wing for a new show are rebuked as it turns out that Lombard has taken on not only Barrymore's talent, but his tempestuousness as well. It's a race to see what's faster: the spitfire dialogue or the streamlined locomotive. (Note courtesy Brattle
DIR/PROD Howard Hawks; SCR Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, and Gene Fowler based on the play by Charles Bruce Millholland. US, 1934, b&w, 91 min. NOT RATED
Friday, January 30, 5:00; Saturday, January 31, 1:00; Sunday, February 1, 3:00
HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE
Carole Lombard is the first of director Mitchell Leisen's dynamic women (he worked with them all: Colbert, Dietrich, Stanwyck, Russell...), and this witty Norman Krasna script was her first specially-designed vehicle. The Ernst Lubitsch touch is evident here (he had just begun as production chief at Paramount); The New York Times noted the "shrewd perfection of its timing and the whip-like crackle of its humor." The plot puts two depression hustlers to work in creating a comedy of misidentity: Lombard, an ambitious and cynical manicurist, leaves her wealthy boyfriend in the suds for an impoverished playboy (Fred MacMurray, in his first break). "The most amiable of '30s screwball comedies" -critic Richard Corliss. (Note courtesy Pacific Film Archive.)
DIR Mitchell Leisen; SCR Norman Krasna, Vincent Lawrence, and Herbert Fields; PROD E. Lloyd Sheldon. US, 1935, b&w, 80 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, January 31, 5:10; Thursday, February 5, 7:00
MY MAN GODFREY
#44 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs!
Dizzy socialite Lombard discovers Godfrey Parke--played with insouciant verve by William Powell--who stands for every "forgotten man" of the Great Depression who harbored dreams of bringing the rich to their knees before setting them on a path of moral righteousness. A cruel streak runs through the film's madcap zaniness; never before--or since--has America's privileged set been portrayed as such shrill, alcoholic nitwits. Six Oscar nominations; named in 1999 to the National Film Registry. (Note courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.)
DIR/PROD Gregory La Cava; SCR Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind based on the novel by Eric Hatch. US, 1936, b&w, 94 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, February 1, 1:00; Tuesday, February 3, 9:45
UNCENSORED "PRE-CODE" DOUBLE FEATURE:
New 35mm Restoration!
Lombard plays a prostitute who, having skipped bail on a 90-day sentence,
tries to go straight, inspired by the love of cabdriver Pat O'Brien. But grifter Jack LaRue tempts her back to the underworld with a con game too good to be true--leaving her holding the bag and with a murder charge to boot.
DIR Edward Buzzell; SCR Robert Riskin. US, 1932, b&w, 68 min. NOT RATED
New 35mm Print!
"A steamy melodrama." - critic David Shipman
"Must be seen to be believed." - Alternative Film Guide
"Alone among outcasts who hadn't seen a white woman in ten years!"...and she turns out to be Carole Lombard! But Charles Laughton steals scenes wholesale as the cockney "King of the River." With the legendary Samuel Hoffenstein among the screenwriters, and Lombard's onscreen singing debut! (Note courtesy Film Forum.)
DIR Stuart Walker; SCR Samuel Hoffenstein, Gladys Lehman and Jane Loring; PROD E. Lloyd Sheldon. US, 1933, b&w, 68 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, February 8, 3:15; Monday, February 9, 7:00
Great dialogue, great comic performances, great music (by Oscar Levant)--the kind of apparently casual movie art film comedies aspire to. "This is New York, Skyscraper
Champion of the World...where the Slickers and Know-It-Alls peddle gold bricks to each other...and where Truth, crushed to earth, rises again more phony than a glass eye!"--this terrific screwball comedy's opening title clues you in at once to the con artist's paradise (courtesy of scriptwriter Ben Hecht's sardonic wit) where hotshot reporter Fredric March thrives. Discovering a small-town girl (luminous, hilarious Lombard) on the verge of death by radiation poisoning, March offers an all-expenses-paid dream trip to the Big Apple in exchange for her exclusive sob story. Naturally, New York takes her to its heart, and March is a great success. Problem is, the hard-boiled reporter's fallen hard for the flagging Lombard, and just to muddy the waters, it turns out she isn't really a goner! (Note courtesy Film Society of Lincoln Center.)
DIR William A. Wellman; SCR Ben Hecht; PROD David O. Selznick. US, 1937, b&w, 77 min. NOT RATED
Friday, February 13, 5:30; Saturday, February 14, 1:15; Monday, February 16, 7:15; Wednesday, February 18, 6:30*
Compulsive liar/would-be writer Carole Lombard is married to compulsively honest
struggling lawyer Fred MacMurray. When circumstantial evidence leads to Lombard
being charged with murdering her boss, MacMurray takes her case and defends her
in court, strategizing that the lying Lombard should plead guilty and claim self-defense! John Barrymore hams it up as a courtroom heckler, with Wesley Ruggles assuredly directing this underrated gem of sparkling screwball comedy.
DIR Wesley Ruggles; SCR Claude Binyon; PROD Albert Lewin. US, 1937, b&w, 85 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, February 14, 5:00; Sunday, February 15, 2:50; Tuesday, February 17, 7:00
MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941)
An uncharacteristically romantic comedy from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Mr. Smith (Robert Montgomery) and Mrs. Smith (Carole Lombard) have rules in their marriage, including never to leave a room angry and once a month to ask a question that the other must answer completely honestly. Unfortunately for Montgomery, when his wife asks if he would marry her all over again, he answers with a completely honest "No." As luck would have it, later that day, a town official stops by to inform the couple that due to a boundary dispute they are not officially married. Lombard leaves, and Montgomery must attempt to win her back with a variety of hapless antics. Is honesty really the best policy? (Note courtesy Brattle Theatre.)
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Norman Krasna. US, 1941, b&w, 95 min. NOT RATED
Friday, February 20, 5:00; Sunday, February 22, 3:30; Monday, February 23, 9:00; Tuesday, February 24, 9:15
MADE FOR EACH OTHER
Young lawyer Jimmy Stewart marries Carole Lombard on a whim, despite the disapproval of his boss Charles Coburn and his mother Lucile Watson. Youthful passion gives way to mundane marital reality with the arrival of a baby, then to creeping resentment as Stewart fails to get promoted at work and his mom continues to meddle. But a health scare with the baby brings them closer together than ever before. Screenplay by GUYS AND DOLLS and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE writer Jo Swerling.
DIR John Cromwell; SCR Jo Swerling; PROD David O. Selznick. US, 1939, b&w, 92 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, February 21, 3:00; Wednesday, February 25, 7:00
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
#49 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs!
"So they call me Concentration Camp Erhardt!" Gestapo man Sig Rumann gloats to a masquerading Jack Benny--in reality Joseph Tura,"that great,great Polish actor"--then proceeds to criticize Benny's Hamlet:"What you did to Shakespeare, we're doing to Poland." Criticized in its time for abominable taste, but now considered one of director Lubitsch's supreme masterpieces With Carole Lombard in her final role, as Benny's almost-straying wife. (Note courtesy Film Forum.)
DIR/PROD Ernst Lubitsch; SCR Edwin Justus Mayer. US, 1942, b&w, 99 min. NOT RATED
Friday, February 27, 2:00; Monday, March 2, 7:00; Wednesday, March 4, 9:15