Blond, beautiful, and often nutty as a fruitcake, Carole Lombard in her all too brief career was utterly distinctive and hard to pin down. She’s a glamorpuss who can play a small-town librarian (just barely) or a manicurist; a diva who can hammer away at a typewriter as a romance novelist; a tomboy who shimmers in low-cut Irene gowns. It’s partly because of these seeming contradictions that she found her home in screwball comedies, particularly those that simply gave up and surrendered to her head-spinning momentum, her rapid-fire swerves into the histrionic absurd.
We movie lovers often play the what-if game. Take any favorite film and wonder what if X had played the lead instead of Y. Such an occasion arose in the Q and A following a screening of His Girl Friday in Sag Harbor a couple of years ago. I mentioned that Hawks had initially wanted Jean Arthur for the Hildy part, whereupon members of the audience raised their own ideas about hypothetical Hildys, one being Carole Lombard. Oh, no, I quickly said. It had to be Rosalind Russell. No one else has the combination of smarts, ambition, swagger, and nerdiness, along with looks that are extremely attractive without being drop-dead dazzling.
Keaton at the Crossroads: Buster’s Last Silent Comedy, Spite Marriage
Despite the studio system’s stifling conditions, Buster Keaton’s follow-up to The Cameraman remains a testament to the funnyman’s singular style.
The Same Old Song: A Guide to Neonoir
Since its classic-Hollywood heyday, noir has remained a vibrant mode in both studio and independent filmmaking, taking on nostalgic resonances in the highly referential work of Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Brian De Palma, and the Coen brothers.
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