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The main reason to see this fun, if slowly paced, comedy-mystery is to see a glowing Carole Lombard do an hilarious impersonation of Greta Garbo. She plays an American actress pretending to be a Swedish princess - and Carole has a ball sending up Garbo in the process. Also great to get a glimpse of pre-WW2 politics, with the detectives on board coming from all over the globe - including Germany, Russia and Japan. Great fun. What a shame we don't all travel by boat still!
Somehow, when thinking of movie couples in the golden age of film,
Carole Lombard's partnership with Fred MacMurray gets overlooked. Not
as glamorous as Tracy and Hepburn, Hepburn and Grant, Grant and Dunne,
Eddy and MacDonald, MacDonald and Chevalier, Bogart and Bacall, it
still got tremendous mileage in comedies (HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, TRUE
CONFESSIONS), comic thrillers (THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS), and straight
drama (SWING HIGH, SWING LOW). Lombard had the ability to make the
film's activities soar by her zaniness. MacMurray managed to anchor the
film down by his normality (and in TRUE CONFESSIONS uses this normality
against itself - by taking himself too seriously).
THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS made fun of thrillers (although the dangers involved are not made funny), and of the culture of publicity that the public thrives on. Lombard has the looks and talents to make it in movies, but nobody cares. With the help of Alison Skipworth she pretends she is Princess Olga of Sweden and she wants to act in movies. Besides the spoofing of Garbo, Lombard is counting on the vast publicity from the media to get her the million dollar contract she wants. Oddly enough, the Swedish royal family does not seem to care that a fraud is being perpetrated by Lombard and Skipworth at their expense. But we have to make some concession to the plot.
MacMurray is a well known musician (a concertina player of all things) and orchestra leader. He and his manager pal, William Frawley, are on the boat as well, and MacMurray is very interested in the beautiful, but snobbish Princess. However, he has another problem. MacMurray is an honest fellow, but he did one bad thing, and he is being pursued by an obnoxious little weasel (played superbly by Porter Hall) who is waiting for a big payoff from the musician. He also seems to know the truth about the Princess. MacMurray refuses to pay, and Hall promises him some problems. The ship has several internationally known detectives on board (among them are Mischa Auer, Sig Ruman, and Douglas Dumbrille), and Hall sees one of the detectives and we see him approach to talk to him. Shortly afterward Hall is found murdered. On top of this, there is word (sent to the ship) that an escaped murderer is thought to be aboard (shades of Dr. Crippen), and we do see a strange little stowaway from time to time.
The film goes on to a second murder, a set of different rival detectives trying to solve the case, and MacMurray deciding to step in to clear himself and the Princess. The conclusion is quiet satisfactory.
With it's cast of expert character actors supporting MacMurray and Lombard's performances, and the clever script, THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS is a first rate comic thriller. I rate it 9 out of 10.
Carole Lombard and Alison Skipworth are masquerading as a Swedish
princess and her lady in waiting who are sailing to Hollywood to make a
film. This is a bit of self ballyhoo that chorus girl Lombard from
Brooklyn is giving for her film debut. Still band leader Fred MacMurray
is intrigued by her.
Of course slimy blackmailer Porter Hall tries a little touch on both MacMurray and Lombard, MacMurray having done a stretch in jail as a juvenile. Later when Hall winds up murdered in Lombard's cabin, MacMurray moves the body and searches for the real killer. His only clue is that Hall had told him he had a third blackmail prospect on board the ship.
Easier said than done because also sailing on the ship are five police detectives from different countries on the way to a convention in California. When Hall's body does turn up, they all want to have a little competition as to who can crack the case first.
Sounds like a serious plot, but in fact it's a pretty breezy comedy with MacMurray and Lombard at their sophisticated best. One thing that was fascinating in the plot was that Mischa Auer and Sig Ruman being from the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are playing detectives from the NKVD and the Gestapo respectively though that's hardly mentioned. Both are without their usual methods of investigation on the American cruise ship as is Tetsuro Komei for the Japanese. British Scotland Yard man Lumsden Hare and Surete detective Douglass Dumbrille round out our quintet of sleuths.
Best in the supporting cast is Hall as the blackmailer though. Also good is George Barbier as the ship's captain and William Frawley who a quarter of a century later would co-star with Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons is MacMurray's agent.
This was the second of four films MacMurray and Lombard did for Paramount in the Thirties. They were a good team together and don't get as much recognition as they should.
Despite the Thirties fashions and music, the film holds up very well today. It's Carole Lombard at her best.
Combining the elements of a great screwball comedy with a murder mystery,Paramount again cast the great team of Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray.Carole a down-on-her-luck publicity hungry actress enlists the aid of wise-cracking hefty Alison Skipworth and together they sail aboard a luxury liner en route to America.Lombard pretending to a Swedish princess befriends Fred MacMurray and pal William Frawley and all four form an uneasy alliance.Matters become complicated when Carole is suspected of murdering a blackmailer who knew her in Brooklyn.A pack of zany international detectives attempt to solve the crime in their bumbling fashion while MacMurray tries to find the murderer before he strikes again. This fine little comedy is ably directed William K. Howard with a wonderful supporting cast led by George Barbier(ship captain) suspects Porter Hall,Douglas Dumbrille,and egocentric detectives Sig Rumann,Mischa Auer,and Tetsu Komai.Surefire fun.
'The Princess Comes Across' was billed as 'a curious blend of comedy,
murder-mystery, romance and music'; the 'curious' is certainly without
question, but the degree to which the mix blends is, I feel, open to
On the whole this is mainly satisfactory from the comedy angle. The sole musical element consists of casting our hero, played by Fred McMurray, as a concertina-player, a choice of instrument guaranteed to provide humour by its plebeian contrast to royalty. McMurray also sings a spoof ode to his concertina at the obligatory onboard musical evening that gathers all the murder suspects together -- save one! -- to stage the climax to the mystery plot. Unfortunately the solution to the latter turns out to be extremely lame, the plot line having been again almost totally subjugated to the need for laughs, and chiefly providing an excuse for the introduction of four stereotyped comedy detectives -- the dapper Frenchman, the pompous Prussian, the pipe-smoking Englishman and the devious Russian -- and an opportunity to implicate Carole Lombard's Swedish princess.
Lombard's haughty impression of the princess who just wants to be left alone is the main selling-point of the film, and the difficulties this role places in the way of romance with her cocky concertina artiste, 'King' Mantell, provide most of the rest of the comedy. Filmed through a gauzy lens, she has perhaps never been more beautiful, and the script handles her predicament with sympathy, but this one gimmick isn't quite enough in the end to carry off the rest of this mish-mash of a film.
Ultimately I felt that it strains at too many different goals and falls short of most of them: its worst actual defect is the hand-waving denouement to the detective plot, which is of a nature to embarrass Agatha Christie at her most contrived, but the climax to the romance also somehow struck me as arbitrary and unsatisfactory, given how hard her character has defended her increasingly impossible situation throughout the rest of the film. Again, I get the feeling that the plot demands of the comic and romantic set-up respectively are pulling in conflicting directions rather than forming a happy blend.
Not a long-lost classic, but a curiosity, perhaps; worth seeing for Lombard's title performance, but ultimately less than a harmonious whole.
The plot of this movie seems rather crazy. After all, Carole Lombard
plays an American who can't get a job in Hollywood, so she pretends to
be a Swedish princess (sort of like a royal version of Garbo) and is
adored--and offered a film contract. Now you'd think this is a totally
ridiculous idea, but in real life just a year later, Samuel Goldwyn
introduced a Norwegian sensation--Sigrid Gurie. Unfortunately, when it
was found out that Gurie was born in Brooklyn (exactly like Lombard's
character), it didn't exactly help her film career! Now you'd think
that having Lombard playing a rather broad Garbo impersonation would be
silly, but because she was such a likable actress and it's such a cute
film, they manage to carry it off well.
The film begins with Lombard coming aboard an ocean liner with a lot of hubbub from the press--after all, they think a princess is on her way to America. Once aboard, band leader Fred MacMurray falls for her and pursues her. However, unexpectedly, the comedy becomes a murder mystery--and both MacMurray and Lombard are suspects. However, MacMurray also knows that she was the victim of a blackmailer who was just murdered--and he knows she has something to hide. There's much more to the film than this, but you can just see it yourself--it's worth it.
Overall, the film works well because the writing is very good and the actors have nice supporting character actors on hand--such as William Frawley, Douglas Dumbrille and Sig Ruman. Plus, the ever slimy Porter Hall made for a great blackmailer. Clever and most enjoyable from start to finish.
Oh, and I must point out that this film allows the viewer to hear MacMurray Crooning! His voice, though a tad weak, was actually far better than I expected and was rather reminiscent of the singing of Dick Powell.
THE PRINCESS COMES ALONG is a comedy/mystery that unfortunately splits
itself in the middle rather than being a mix of both genres throughout
the film. It stars Carole Lombard as a girl from Brooklyn who while in
England somehow manages to persuade film producers that she is a
Princess Olga of Sweden, is signed to a contract and on her way to
America to make movies. The movie opens with the excited passengers and
press eager to see the Princess board the ship (just how this ruse is
successfully pulled off strains credibility, Sweden, after all is a
major nation, and surely any allegations that a Princess was going to
enter pictures would have quickly been denied and disproved).
Fred MacMurray is a popular bandleader who is also on board and takes a shine to the Princess, attempting to romance her. She is indifferent but when a blackmailer is found dead in her room she becomes warmer to MacMurray's offer of friendship as he and buddy William Frawley remove the body. That still means a murder is loose on board and there's more mayhem in the works before the killer is revealed.
This movie starts out an engaging 1930's romantic comedy with Lombard deliciously parodying Garbo as the faux Royal Highness. Alas, the movie literally turns deadly after the murder and it's pretty much a straightforward murder mystery with a surprise that isn't much of a surprise if you've seen movies of this nature. Nevertheless, the cast does very well with the material, particularly the young Fred MacMurray, quite dashing in his late twenties, and the delicious character actress Alison Skipworth, here cast as the Princess' haughty traveling companion but in truth another unemployed actress and of course the always great Lombard. Months after their triumph in MY MAN GODFREY, Lombard is reunited with Mischa Auer with the latter in a small role as the Russian detective, one of several international detectives who just so happen to be all traveling on board. THE PRINCESS COMES ALONG is not one of the better Lombard films but it's a pleasant 90 minutes and worth at least one viewing.
This is a delightful blend of zany comedy and murder mystery, almost
completely set aboard ship and featuring a most excellent cast, though
perhaps not quite a classic mainly because the thriller element lacks
the touch of sophistication associated with THE THIN MAN (1934), which
was the prototype of this style at the time.
Carole Lombard and Alison Skipworth are unemployed New York actors posing as Swedish royalty to attract a film contract (hence the title with the star supplying a delicious parody of Greta Garbo); Fred MacMurray and William Frawley are a concertina player and his manager, respectively; George Barbier is the ship's captain; Porter Hall is a slimy blackmailer who preys on three of the ship's passengers (the fraudulent Lombard, MacMurray with a spell in jail behind him and another who's a murderer impersonating a missing passenger though the stranger seen prowling about intermittently is eventually revealed as a red herring); conveniently on board is an international convention of detectives comprising Douglass Dumbrille (French), Sig Rumann (German), Mischa Auer (Russian), Lumsden Hare (British) and Tetsu Komai (Japanese).
When Hall turns up dead (the shadowy lighting in this scene, courtesy of cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff, is actually rather striking) and a passenger list in his pocket bears a mark near Lombard and MacMurray's names, naturally they arouse the detectives' suspicion despite Barbier's attempts to keep the Princess out of such indiscretions. Typically, MacMurray and Frawley carry out their own sleuthing though Rumann is actually the first to get to the truth, but doesn't live long enough to reveal the identity of the killer to his associates! So, in an effort to distract the murderer's attention off Lombard, MacMurray who, naturally, has fallen for the leading lady (even after he becomes aware of her less-than-regal/foreign-origins) declares that he has solved the case, fully expecting a rendezvous with the guilty party but counting on pal Frawley to bail him out at the last minute.
There are plenty of amusing situations throughout (notably the scene in which Frawley is derided by fellow passengers for wearing a French painter's cap) and witty repartee (particularly as delivered by Skipworth and Auer), but also some genuine tension at the climax (even if the final unmasking of the villain hardly proves a surprise) not to mention a musical number from MacMurray!
This second pairing of Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray is the least
funny of their comedies. And that may be due in part to the mixed genre
of "The Princess Comes Across." It's as much a mystery-thriller, but
also not very strong in that category. Then it has some romance and
some music. It's a bit too much to pack into 76 minutes and expect a
film to be outstanding or exceptional.
This isn't to say that the film isn't worth watching. It is entertaining and fun to watch. Lombard and MacMurray are both good in their own right, most of the time. But, there's crime aboard their ship in this film. And the stars share screen time with a band of international detectives. Those sleuths and other lesser roles are played very well by some of the leading supporting actors of the era. But, this film just doesn't have the snappy dialog, witty script and clever zingers that other films have. Both stars are exceptionally adept at truly great comedy, and they show it in their other two comedies together, and in comedies with other co-stars.
Princess is a lighter comedy, slightly romantic movie with a little mystery. It makes for nice viewing on a lazy or relaxed evening.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What do you get when you mix together a phony princess, a professional concertina player, five illustrious detectives of five different nationalities, a slimy blackmailer, an escaped murderer, and other oddball characters, and you set them off on a transatlantic trip from France to the USA? You get the enjoyable, if slightly stagy, "The Princess Comes Across". Carole Lombard gives an accomplished comedic performance - in fact, the entire cast is terrific. But what I most appreciated about this film is that the mystery, and it's a solid one, is played straight and is not overwhelmed by the comedy; the director even makes the interesting choice of completely avoiding the use of any kind of music score during some of the tenser moments. A nice diversion. **1/2 out of 4.
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