Blu-ray Review: Carole Lombard Collection (Fast and Loose/Man of the World/No Man of Her Own) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 26th, 2020  

Carole Lombard Collection (Fast and Loose/Man of the World/No Man of Her Own)

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Aug 11, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

One of the most popular and versatile actresses of the Golden Age, Carole Lombard is remembered for her success in both comedies and dramas, her high profile marriages to William Powell and Clark Gable, and for her tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 33. Kino Lorber’s new Carole Lombard Collection I collects three pre-Code films from earlier in her career, including films made with both of her husbands.

The first film in the collection - the 1930 screwball romp Fast and Loose - feels misplaced if only for the fact that Lombard is the secondary female lead, appearing in only one scene prior to the final act and playing a flat, humorless character that does little to presage her signature kooky vivaciousness. The main character, a wayward heiress who ditches her arranged marriage to a rich twerp and falls in love with a salt-of-the-earth mechanic, is played by Miriam Hopkins in her film debut. Sporting perpetually frizzy bed-head and a sultry befuddlement that’s both sexy and goofy, Hopkins’ dreamy-by-way-of-crazy performance keeps what’s otherwise a stagey, silly movie afloat. As her love interest, Charles Starrett is a virulent misogynist in a way that must have played as just over the top enough to be ridiculous in 1930, but now just comes off as punishing. Lombard herself doesn’t have much to do beyond yelling at Hopkins’ drunken wastrel of a brother to get his act together. The film is oddly moralizing for a pre-Code film, an era known for not kowtowing to social norms. Fun fact: this is the first film in which Lombard was credited as “Carole”; the extra ‘e’ was a typo made in the opening credits and she liked it so much, she kept it for the rest of her career.

The second film is the first of three that Lombard starred in with her then husband William Powell, culminating in 1936 with the screwball classic, My Man Godfrey, for which Lombard earned her only Academy Award nomination. In addition to featuring Lombard at her batty best, My Man Godfrey got a great deal of mileage out of poking fun at the dry, urbane wit Powell had honed in The Thin Man films. Alas, 1931’s Man of the World is no My Man Godfrey. A romantic drama about a ex-pat newspaperman who makes a living blackmailing rich American tourists in Paris until he falls in love with one of them, the film doesn’t make much of the chemistry between Powell and Lombard, who were already married when the film was shot. Plodding and unconvincingly melodramatic, it’s the least essential film in the set, although its template would bear more fruit the following year.

The third film in the set - 1932’s No Man of Her Own - takes the formula of Man of the World and manages to turn it into a genuinely sexy comedy. The male lead is another husband of Lombard’s playing a con artist - in this case Clark Gable as a wealthy card sharp - who falls in love with Lombard and wants to go straight. Gable and Lombard wouldn’t marry for another seven years but their chemistry is palpable in their early scenes where Gable’s rakish protagonist is aggressively wooing Lombard’s heroine. As Connie Randall, a small town librarian who dreams of bigger things, Lombard is simultaneously drawn too and wary of the wolfish leers and impulsive romance showered on her by Gable’s Jerry Stewart. As a character, Connie feels like the crystallization of her best instincts as a star. Loose-limbed and gawky, Lombard paved the way for every soulfully screwy romcom dame from Lucille Ball to Greta Gerwig. For all her gorgeous looks and flowing blonde hair, Lombard had a lack of pretension and an inescapable earnestness that all the pratfalls and zingers in the world couldn’t erase. There’s a scene when she’s showering and absolutely brays at one of Gable’s one-liners that’s shockingly natural and endearing to hear from an actress almost ninety years ago. Even as the plot descends in to wacky contrivance, the genuine attraction and burgeoning love between the two stars keeps the film engaging from start to finish. 



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