Nothing Sacred (1937)

Nothing Sacred (1937), directed by William A. Wellman.

Small town girl Carole Lombard would like to get to New York City. She hits the news when diagnosed with a fatal case of radiation poisoning. Desperate reporter Fredric March arranges the trip to cash in on the publicity. Turns out she's not dying after all, but takes the trip anyway.

It's a pretty cynical entry from somewhere near screwball central. Yes, she's a fraud, but the big city hoopla over her is fake sentimentality as well. Cynical as it is, the scripts delivered by Ben Hecht were unrelievedly nasty until they fired him and brought in other writers.

In his book Screwball: Hollywood's Madcap Romantic Comedies, Ed Sikov raves about Lombard, doesn't think March can match her, and finds the plot awkward:


In the final analysis, it's the invigorating meanness of spirit in Nothing Sacred, not its artistic quality, that one remembers most fondly. Rarely does a Hollywood comedy attack American values in such a point-blank manner. It's racist and misogynistic. The color is off-putting and the cutting often splicy. Fredric March isn't the best screwball hero, and the ending doesn't entirely work. But it's vision is so consistently bitter, so relentlessly discontented, that its artistic sins can be forgiven.

Boxer Maxie Rosenbloom steals his scene as the calm competent tough guy on the phone ("I got this"). He had a long career as punchy mugs. I last saw him in I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958).

The little kid who runs out and bites March on the leg is actually Billy Barty, age 13.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The image is grainy and the Technicolor rather pastel, but I'm guessing that's how the surviving film looks. I didn't even remember this being in color. Bare bones disc, no subtitles.