Nothing Sacred

Nothing Sacred, from 1937, is a screwball comedy film with super quick, sarcastic humor and somevery sharp lines, especially from Fredric March.

Directed by William Wellman and produced by David O.Selznick, it’s one of the funniest films from the 30's that you've never heardof.

Four different writers worked on the screenplay but creditgoes to Ben Hecht, who is said to have written the final script in two weeks.

The film stars Carole Lombard and Fredric March, with asupporting cast including Walter Connolly, Margaret Hamilton and HattieMcDaniel.

Behind the comedy is an really cynical view of fame,American society, newspapers, reporters and the stories they cover.The same themes show up in Hecht’s later play The Front Pageand the films The Front Page and His Girl Friday.

Nothing is sacred and no aspect of human society is immunefrom the satire.

So try to put Political Correctness aside. The comedy is fast-paced and often very sharp-edged, andalmost everyone will wince at one time or another, so try not to take it toopersonally, especially if you’re from Vermont or in the news business.

And a lot of the great lines are said in anunder-your-breath manner, so listen closely.

William Wellman, the director, was a great-great-greatgrandson of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.He was kicked out of high school in Massachusetts fordropping a stink bomb on the principal's head.

Ironically, his mother was a probation officer who was askedto address Congress on the subject of juvenile delinquency.

He worked as a salesman and then at a lumber yard, beforeending up playing professional ice hockey, where he was first seen by DouglasFairbanks, who suggested that, with Wellman's good looks, he could become afilm actor.

In WW I, he joined the French Foreign Legion and became apilot, with 3 kills and 5 probables before he was shot down.He survived but walked with a pronounced limp for the restof his life.After the war, he met up again with Fairbanks and got backinto the movie business.

In 1927, he directed the silent film Wings, starring thefamous silent star Clara Bow who, incidentally, was a lifelong insomniac afterher mother tried to slit her throat in her sleep because she was going toHollywood. 

Wings went on to become what is now recognized asthe first Academy Award-winning best picture.

Wellman was nominated for 4 Oscars and won for Best Writing,Original Story for A Star is Born, which also starred one of tonight’s actors,Fredric March.

March began his career as a banker, but changed careersafter an emergency appendectomy and in 1920 began working as an extra inmovies.He was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won twice, for Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Best Years of our Lives.

March had an estate in New Milford, Connecticut, and theproperty was later home to American playwright Lillian Hellman and then formerSecretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Starring as Hazel Flagg, Carole Lombard appears inher only film made in TechniColor and one that she said was her personalfavorite.

Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters in Ft. Wayne, IN, andmade her first movie at the age of 12. A gifted comedic and dramatic actress, in 1936 she receivedher only Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1936 for My Man Godfrey, withformer husband William Powell.

She became one of Hollywood's highest paid stars of the 30s,making as much as $35,000/week during the Depression.She was known for her earthy sense of humor and practicaljokes and she was famous for throwing some of Hollywood's most outlandishparties.

She gave one party for friends where she redecorated herhome as a hospital operating room and had everyone come dressed as nurses anddoctors.The food was delivered on makeshift operating tables, theguests ate with operating utensils and bedpans were used as dishes.

And she once rented an entire amusement park for the day fora party.

Boxer 'Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom, who also appears in thefilm, gave Lombardboxing lessons to prepare her for the big fight scene.

One of the stories about the film is that to discourageMarch's constant romantic attentions, Lombard invited him to her dressing roomone night.And after some preliminary fumbling, March discovered, tohis disgust, that she was wearing a rubber strap-on dildo.

He never bothered her again.

She married William Powell in 1931 and, although theydivorced   a few years later, they stayedfriends and film partners.In 1939 she married Clark Gable, who proposed to her in aphone booth at the famous Brown Derby restaurant.

Gable & Lombard bought and lived on a 20-acre ranch inthe San Fernando Valley, where they tried to live a simple life away fromHollywood's bright lights, even nicknaming each other Ma and Pa.

Just after the outbreak of WW II, in January, 1942, she flewto her home state of Indiana for a War Bond drive.On the return trip to LA, her commercial airliner crashedoutside of Las Vegas, killing Lombard, her mother and 20 others.

She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom byPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt, asthe first woman killed in the line of duty during WW II.

Early in the film watch for Margaret Hamilton as a Vermontshopkeeper. We all know her better as the Wicked Witch Of The West fromThe Wizard of Oz.

It is ironic that her performance as the Wicked Witch was so scary to children, because her firstjob was as a kindergarten teacher and she loved children.

And one of her five-year-old kindergarten students was JimBackus, better known as Thurston Howell III, from Gilligan’s Island. Interestingly, she wore the same costume for two differentproductions, 26 years apart.

The dress she wore as Miss Gulch in The Wizard of Oz in 1939was worn again when she played Grandma Frump in the TV series The Addams Familyin 1965.

She made appearances at schools for years and would give herfamous laugh and the line “I’ll get you….and your little dog too!”

Many times that was enough to start smaller children cryingand she became very concerned about the role's effect on children.

She finally made a guest appearance on "Mister Rogers'Neighborhood" in 1968 to explain that she was only playing a role andshowed how make-up transformed her into the witch.

Until the day she died, children would recognize her and askher why she was so mean to Dorothy.Her iconic role as the Wicked Witch ranks #4 in the AmericanFilm Institute's all-time list of villains.

The baggage man at the train station in Vermont is OlinHowland, who 20 years later would play the old man who discovers the meteoriteand become the first victim of The Blob.

Hattie McDaniel, playing Mrs. Walker, is recognizable asMammy from Gone With the Winda rolethat   won her the Oscar for BestSupporting Actress, the first black to win an Academy Award.

And she was actually the first African-American to attendthe Academy Awards as a guest, not as a servant, which is fitting…...becauseher father was a freed slave.

She willed her Oscar to Howard University, but the statuewas lost during the race riots of the ‘60s and has never been found.

In the group of consulting doctors, watch for Dr. Oswald Vunch,played by an uncredited Monty Wooley, in only his third movie.

And the little boy who runs out and bites March on the legis Billy Barty, a little person who had a career all the way from the 1920s to2001, with over 170 film & TV appearances. He also founded the Little People of America Inc., acharitable organization that people taller than 4’ 6” cannot join.

Nothing Sacred was later a stage musical and was remade inthe ‘50s as Living it Up, with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

And more recently, the general plot was reworked for themovie Last Holiday, with Queen Latifah.

But this is the original and, unlike many of the screwballcomedies of the 1930s, this one is funny, satirical and insightful.