Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, Design for Living, Elizabeth Taylor, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, Leslie Howard, Loretta Young, Marlene Dietrich, Miriam Hopkins, Monique classique, Norma Shearer, Roman Holiday, Romeo and Juliet, Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty
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A nice comedy directed by William Wellman and produced by Selznick International Pictures, “Nothing Sacred” tells the story of a young woman who is supposedly poisoned with radium at her workplace. The press creates an entire campaign on her behalf, only later to be discovered that everything was a charade that was orchestrated by an influent journalist. “Nothing Sacred” isn’t the only film that depicts the great power of control and manipulation of the media, other newspaper Hollywood productions, such as “The Front Page”, “His Girl Friday”, “It Started One Night”, “Platinum Blonde”, “Bombshell”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr Deeds Goes to Town”, “Meet John Doe” and the masterpiece “Citizen Kane” reflecting the same idea. You will enjoy “Nothing Sacred” because of the stellar performances of Carole Lombard (an excellent comedienne) and Fredric March (one of the most renowned actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood), but also because it is made in the typical style of David O. Selznick, a very accomplished producer. I highly recommend you to watch this delightful comedy, even more because it was made in Technicolor and you will get to see Carole Lombard in full splendor in color!
An interesting and rather unusual romantic film, “Death Takes a Holiday” is based on an Italian play written by Alberto Casella. It brings into our attention the story of Death who takes a holiday and becomes a prince for three days. The dual role is magnificently portrayed by the talented Fredric March, who is very handsome and distinguished wearing uniforms and tuxedos, and a monocle. The film was directed by Mitchell Leisen and the cast included several actors that are not so well-known to the public nowadays, among them being Evelyn Venable (the love interest of the protagonist), Sir Guy Standing, and Gail Patrick. I liked very much this production and I think I could put it on my list of top 20 favourite movies. The scenes which depict Death were very impressive and they showed what a fine actor Fredric March was, keeping everyone’s attention with his commanding voice – because Death appears like a big shadow, entirely black. The plot is fascinating and a little bit scary, knowing that the heroine, a lovely young girl, falls in love with the prince and accepts the fact that he is Death, and wishes to follow him in a different world, despite her age and beauty. It will certainly impress you, and I consider it one of the greatest romantic-fantasy films, along with “Blithe Spirit”, “Topper”, and “Ghost”.
A delightful and extremely fashionable comedy in the unforgettable style of Ernst Lubitsch, “Design for Living” is one of the most appreciated comedies in the pre-code Hollywood era. The story involves a romantic triangle between a woman and two men. In the leading roles you will find the beautiful Miriam Hopkins and the talented actors Fredric March and Gary Cooper. Owing to its controversial plot, with sexual discussions and innuendos, the film was almost banned by the Hays Office in 1934, but eventually it was successfully released. In the initial version, it was 105 minutes long, and 15 minutes were cut in the final version. The film is based on the homonymous play by Noel Coward, and Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay, kept only one line from the original play: “For the good of our immortal souls”. I had a wonderful time watching this comedy and it is so modern even for present-day.
One of the iconic pre-code films, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” made Fredric March an international star. He won an Oscar for his memorable performance and also an award at the Venice Film Festival. The famous story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been several times made for the big screen – there was an even earlier, German version, “Der Januskopf” (1920), with Conrad Veidt, but it’s sadly lost. Returning to Fredric March, I found his dual role here simply outstanding and very difficult to play. His transition from the handsome doctor to the monstruous Mr. Hyde within less than a minute was unbelievable. The heavy make-up he wore in this film reminded me of Conrad’s make-up in “The Man Who Laughs” (1928). Rouben Mamoulian, the director, did a magnificent job in the climax scenes. I liked particularly the ones that involved Miriam Hopkins as the beautiful girl who falls in love with Dr. Jekyll, only to become Mr. Hyde’s obsession and inocent victim. It was fascinating to see the scene where she comes to the doctor for help, as she was terrorized by Hyde, and he assures her that she will no longer be disturbed. To see March taking that doll-like face into his hands, almost kissing her, and only a few hours later becoming her criminal, it was somehow disturbing to me, but this is what really makes this film a masterpiece. The unique combination of contrastable faces, moods, feelings and attitudes of two different people in just a single body, and a damsel in distress – or, in fact, two damsels in distress, because even Dr. Jekyll’s girlfriend almost becomes Mr. Hyde’s victim. All in all, I highly recommend you to watch this gem of the pre-code productions. It will certainly be a memorable, thrilling experience. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Adaptation (based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), and Best Cinematography, and it is one of the greatest classical horror films of all time, along with “The Phantom at the Opera”, “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”.