|As “doomed” media sensation Hazel Flagg in 1937’s screwball comedy classic,
“Nothing Sacred,”Carole Lombard isn’t playing a death scene, just a passed out one!
Sacred is not only a nifty snapshot of the ’30s era through the screwball
comedy lens, but a smart look at human foibles that’s timeless as ever.
This rocket speed romp
is just 77 minutes, as muckraker reporter Wally Cook meets a young woman, Hazel
Flagg, who’s been mistakenly diagnosed with a fatal ailment, and aims to launch
her as a media star.
|Carole Lombard & Frederic March are in top form as the “dying” woman
& muckraking reporter in 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”
The take on tale this
is modern, where everyone is very likeable even though their behavior is deplorable.
Nothing Sacred is much like comedies
of the current era. Like Seinfeld, it
works because while the characters are very human since their actions are
recognizably our own at our worst impulses.
|The opening scene of “Nothing Sacred”…|
|…sets the tone…|
In our modern tabloid
era, what’s now the Internet and social media used to be yellow journalism and
daily rags. At one point, “heroine” Hazel Flagg’s front page story is later
shown used for wrapping fish. The tabloid reporter and his paper turn the
“doomed” girl into a nationally famous celebrity. Instead of
“Free Britney,” it’s “Brave Hazel Flagg!”
|Frederic March reacts hilariously as the wily reporter in 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”|
Frederic March is very
funny as sardonic Wally, the reporter who is already the butt of one media
scandal that gets him demoted to the obituaries, which is hilariously depicted.
He then comes upon a newspaper blurb about Hazel (Carole Lombard), a small town
Vermont woman who’s diagnosed with radium poisoning from the local
boss reluctantly lets him go to the small burg to seek out Hazel. What is
typical of the irreverent tone of this movie is how even the small townspeople
are depicted—they are outright nasty to the snooping outsider. A small child
even comes out of nowhere to bite March’s reporter on the leg!
|Love the physical comedy in the scene where Frederic March’s reporter gets demoted
to Obituaries. March is a great straight man in 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”
Frederic March plays
against his aristocratic bearing quite amusingly as the shameless,
self-aggrandizing reporter. But underneath his smarmy attitude, Wally does indeed
fall for Hazel. March, like Lombard, is great from his big scenes right down to
the smallest. I love when his Wally describes his editor boss to Hazel,
grimacing in mock pain. Also noteworthy is that March gave this terrific
comedic performance the same year he starred with Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born. Having watched Frederic March
mostly in latter day movies, I forgot what a charming, good looking guy Freddie
|Frederic March is funny, handsome, and holds his own against comedic dynamo
Carole Lombard in 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”
Carole Lombard has one
of her best roles as Hazel Flagg. Lombard is natural, warm, empathetic, and
funny. The queen of screwball comedy was totally at ease with verbal and
especially physical comedy. There are scenes of Carole getting drunk, dunked in
water, tossed on a bed, knocked out, and throwing a punch or two. Lombard’s
Hazel is not dying, but just wants to have fun, and get the hell out of that
small Vermont town. I love how in the middle of a hissy fit with March, Lombard
sticks out her tongue, like a little girl.
|As Hazel Flagg, Carole Lombard gives as good as she gets in 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”|
Carole Lombard was gorgeous
and this beautifully shot Technicolor film makes her look like a dream. For her
big night in the city, Carole wears a simple but sparkling periwinkle blue gown
by Travis Banton that any star today would kill to wear. What I love about
Lombard is that she was such a natural in looks and style. Early in her leading
lady career, Carole was slathered in an exotic look, to resemble an American
Dietrich, her fellow Paramount star. This was not uncommon. Myrna Loy of
Montana was often made to look like an Asian vamp early in her career. Alice
Faye was first tarted up to look like Fox’s version of Jean Harlow.
Even Bette Davis was given the ultra-glam treatment early on at WB, with bleached
hair and tons of makeup. But when Carole Lombard could take hold of her image,
Carole’s hair and makeup is so simple compared to the stars of the day that she
looks quite modern.
|Carole Lombard does everything with comedic aplomb in 1937’s “Nothing Sacred,”
even wearing a fireman’s hat!
At the time, Nothing Sacred did well enough but
wasn’t a smash, probably because the satire was too stinging… and
all-encompassing. The media gets a kick in the pants, but so do the so-called
media stars, and the public who eats up sob stories or scandals du jour of
disposable media stars. I immediately thought of Britney Spears, the endless
Kardashian scandals, or folks famous as Internet “influencers.” The
more things change…
|1937’s “Nothing Sacred” shows that some things never change when it comes to the media giving the public what they want.|
This vehicle is
perfect for director “Wild Bill” William Wellman, and his breakneck,
no BS style. I can only imagine how Carole Lombard, famed for her practical
jokes, salty style, and irreverence meshed with Bill’s like-minded attitude.
There is a number of striking aerial shots in the movie, no surprise since
Wellman was a pilot!
|One of the friendly small-town faces that Frederic March’s reporter finds in
1937’s comedy classic, “Nothing Sacred.”
Nothing Sacred has a number of familiar faces, some for just
single scenes. Hattie McDaniel, whose mama with gaggle of kids busts March’s
reporter and his story at a public banquet. Later, when Wally goes to the
Vermont burg, the brusquest local he meets is Margaret Hamilton. Both are inimitable,
even for a moment. Maxie Rosenbloom is a sly hoot as yes, Max, brought in as
muscle to restrain Wally. Ironically, when Wally and Hazel run off at the
finale, who should spot them aboard a ship but future gossip columnist/then
actress, Hedda Hopper!
|Hollywood’s other wicked witch, Hedda Hopper, when she was still an actress,
in the final scene of 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”
Walter Connolly is a
comedic bulldog as Wally’s perpetually irritated editor, named… Oliver Stone!
Charles Winninger is a scene-stealer as Hazel’s drunken doctor, Enoch Downer.
There are is a
non-stop flurry of satiric jabs in Nothing
Sacred, plus the movie has a great visual style. A number of satirists from
the era contributed to this film, but the main credit goes to Ben Hecht. Oscar
Levant created the rather Gershwin-esque score. This film was produced by David
O. Selznick, a raucous departure from his usual literary epics. Nothing Sacred is everything you could
want in a screwball comedy.
One odd note, those
caricature statues of the stars in the opening credits look like creepy yard
gnomes. Especially that of Frederic March, which makes him look like Raymond
|Opening title for Lombard in “Nothing Sacred.”|
|March’s caricature looks like Raymond Massey!|
Check out Carole
Lombard’s naturalistic dramatic turn with Jimmy Stewart, as newlyweds, in the
sweet Made For Each Other:
|There’s non-stop verbal and sight gags throughout 1937’s “Nothing Sacred.”|