Nothing Sacred (William A Wellman, 1937)

I’m returning to the director whose career I’ve been intermittently following on this blog, William A Wellman – and to another famous  movie, which has a lot in common with its predecessor, A Star Is Bornthough this time the emphasis is on satirical screwball comedy rather than tragedy.  Nothing Sacred stars Carole Lombard as  Hazel Flagg, a lively young woman fed up with her monotonous small-town existence. She  is wrongly diagnosed as dying from radium poisoning, and brought to the big city by New York newspaper reporter Wally Cook (Fredric March) for a final fling. But just how long can a final fling last?

To be honest, I don’t feel Nothing Sacred has worn quite as well as A Star Is Born, but the problem may simply be that I had already seen it a couple of times in the past and watched it again this time on the back of repeat viewings of Small Town Girl and A Star Is Born – plus other directors’ versions of the Star Is Born story. So it’s likely that I had slightly overdosed on portrayals of women desperate to escape from small towns by the time I got to this one. Also I think Wellman’s melodrama often grabs me more than his comedy. Anyway, this celebrated movie is definitely worth seeing and is a must for Carole Lombard fans, as she gives a sparkling performance.

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The Bad Sister (1931)

As my movie-watching is increasingly outstripping my limited blogging time, I’m going to do a few shorter reviews of films I’ve seen recently, before they completely fade in my memory! This is also an excuse to post the pictures I’ve gathered together.  This melodramatic pre-Code directed by the little-known Hobart Henley is no masterpiece, putting it mildly. Based on Booth Tarkington’s novel The Flirt,  it is very static and soapy, with awkward, stilted dialogue, and has dated far more than many other films from the same era – but it’s interesting mainly because of its cast. 

It was Bette Davis’ first film and also stars Humphrey Bogart – both are cast completely against what later became their types, with Davis as the “good” and dowdy sister, Laura, and Bogart as a smooth and charming young conman, Valentine. Looking at him in this you can glimpse why one early review of a stage performance said he was “as handsome as Valentino”. Zasu Pitts, star of silent classic Greed, also features as the family maid, Minnie, an added bonus – while Bert Roach, who plays a kindly, bumbling character in another silent classic, King Vidor’s The Crowd, is similarly kind and bumbling here.  

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