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Hazel Flagg of Warsaw, Vermont receives the news that her terminal case of radium poisoning from a workplace incident was a complete misdiagnosis with mixed emotions. She is happy not to be dying, but she, who has never traveled the world, was going to use the money paid to her by her factory to go to New York in style. She believes her dreams can still be realized when Wally Cook arrives in town. He is a New York reporter with the Morning Star newspaper. He believes that Hazel's valiant struggle concerning her impending death is just the type of story he needs to resurrect his name within reporting circles after a recent story he wrote led to scandal and a major demotion at the newspaper. He proposes to take Hazel to New York both to report on her story but also to provide her with a grand farewell to life. She accepts. Wally's story results in Hazel becoming the toast of New York. In spending time together, Wally and Hazel fall in love. Hazel not only has to figure out what to do ... Written by
Luminous Lombard Glides Over Screwball Classic on Tabloid Journalism
The incandescent Carole Lombard was simply the most beautiful comedienne during Hollywood's golden era of the 1930's. In fact, the one conceit of the film is how her stunning glamour, especially in the newspaper photos, seems at odds with the innocent small-town girl she portrays in this 1937 screwball comedy classic directed in lickety-split fashion by the two-fisted William "Wild Bill" Wellman. Lombard never let her beauty get in the way of being funny, and her effervescent manner makes her seem dotty enough to make the crazy situations she gets into believable. Moreover, the film's constant tweaking at the public obsession over a young woman's impending death predates the concept of reality programming by nearly 70 years.
For a movie that clocks in at just 75 minutes, the far-fetched story is fairly dense but clips by without a wasted moment. In brief, Wally Cook is a New York tabloid reporter relegated to the obituaries after his most recent story is exposed as fake. Seeking to rehabilitate his career, he uncovers a story on Hazel Flagg, a woman in rural Vermont dying of radium poisoning. When he arrives in her town, she suddenly learns that her diagnosis was a mistake and that she is not dying at all. However, feeling constrained by her small town existence, Hazel pretends to be terminally ill in order to accept Wally's offer to take her to New York City. In true 1930's fashion, New York pours its heart out to her making her an instant media celebrity. Hazel starts to feel guilty over the misdirected attention, and of course, Wally and Hazel find themselves falling in love amid all the deception and inevitable chaos.
Just coming off his classic dramatic turn in the most cohesive version of "A Star Is Born", stalwart leading actor Fredric March gamely plays the initially cynical Wally with the right everyman demeanor, though I kept thinking how much more at home William Powell or Cary Grant would have been in the role. The lovable Lombard makes Hazel a sublime comic creation even though the character is basically a selfish charlatan. They have a classic sparring scene near the end where each lands a punch on the jaw of the other. Familiar character actors complete the cast with Walter Connolly in constipated frustration as Wally's constantly boiling editor-in-chief (aptly named Oliver Stone), Charles Winninger properly pixilated as Hazel's fraud of a doctor, and familiar faces like Sig Ruman, Margaret Hamilton, Hattie McDaniel and Hedda Hopper in little more than walk-on parts.
Wellman displays an idiosyncratic way with the camera, for instance, focusing on Lombard's ankles as she flirts with March in an open crate or having a tree branch cover their faces during a key dialogue scene. Unsurprisingly, the director of "Wings" and "Lafayette Escadrille" inserted a scene aboard a plane to show off the Manhattan skyline. One of the first movies filmed in Technicolor, it still looks pretty good though there is subtle graininess and typical for a film of this age, a constant popping noise exists in the background. Not as good as "My Man Godfrey" nor as funny as "Bringing Up Baby", "Nothing Sacred" is still great entertainment and a rare opportunity to see the luminous Lombard at full star wattage.
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