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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No More Orchids (1932) - Magical Lombard Treat

This is another lost Carole Lombard gem. The year 1932 was terrific for Lombard, between this, "No Man of Her Own, "Virtue" and other minor classics. This was before she hit it really big in "Twentieth Century," so the films were smaller than her later features. But it also came before the Hayes Code took effect and removed some of the best arrows from Lombard's quiver. She gets away with more here than in some of her better-known later films. Maybe this is not her best vehicle, but it is full of those lovely Lombard moments that her fans treasure. And she was only 24! Amazing talent.

So, we get the usual Lombard plot - she falls head over heels for some charming lug who, at least at first, is oblivious to her charms. She plays a spoiled rich girl with high class tastes, but possessing the usual earthy Lombard ways. She gets to prance around in her underwear, strut around in high couture and put the make on her fella. There is the inevitable soft-focus close-up of Lombard, and the usual problems that almost put her man out of reach. But, as she says early in the film, "I generally get what I want." Lyle Talbot plays her prey, and isn't called on to do much more than occasionally carry her around and mouth affected dialog, but he doesn't have to. Lombard carries the film.

A favorite scene is when Talbot and Lombard's father, upon first meeting and unseen, are discussing "a lovely girl" who is "expensive to maintain" - and then the camera pans up to show them examining a huge model of a yacht. This is an example of the film's smart 1930s snappy patter. Lombard's grandfather, played by C. Aubrey Smith, who controls the family fortune, turns out to be the heavy (brilliantly lit from behind in such a way as to make him look as evil as possible) with a nefarious plot to squelch and deny Lombard's passion. Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life" had nothing on this guy. But anyone familiar with Lombard films knows that getting in Ms. Lombard's way HAS to be a bad idea, and if not just for him, then also for somebody else....

Walter Connolly plays Lombard's father with panache. You don't watch a film like this for the plot, but for the flirting and the ultimate consummation of Lombard's desires. The ending is not a surprise and is a bit of a downer, in fact it is tragic for somebody, but you aren't supposed to think about that - you are just supposed to see the smile on Lombard's face when she gets her man. And that, my friend, goes down real easy.

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