Nothing Sacred (1937)

Nothing Sacred (1937)


A NY reporter, Wally Cook (Fredric March, Design for Living), falls from grace after one of his stories proves to be fake. He’s demoted to obituary editor, but Wally discovers an underreported case of a Vermont woman (Carole Lombard, Twentieth Century), who is dying of radium poison. This seems to be the story that will redeem Wally, but unbeknownst to him Hazel was misdiagnosed and she is in perfect health.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Nothing Sacred is an endangered species — a hilariously zany farce with an edge. The film’s critiques remain incisive and relevant in ways that will surprise you. It’s subversive, but not overtly so, which may account for the censors’ failure to see that the movie is presenting a really ugly picture of the American culture.

Among other things, this classic screwball comedy is a bold slap to the newspaper industry at time when most people believed in the integrity of journalism. It’s also a surprisingly no-holds-barred indictment of the public’s willingness to accept the most outrageous forms of pandering. And the movie doesn’t stop there and continues to demolish a few other American scared crows along the way. None of the characters pay for their sins, and that’s a strange thing to see in an old Hollywood movie.

Sharply written by Ben Hecht (The Front Page and His Girl Friday), a reporter-turned-filmmaker who knew a thing or two about journalism. Hecht’s main target is hypocrisy. It’s a theme that arises time and time again throughout his work — a spoonful of laughs helps Hecht’s bitter medicine go down.

Director William A. Wellman (So Big!) didn’t have a signature style, but he knew how to milk a joke for all that’s worth. Carole Lombard provides the film with its best and funniest moments — she’s absolutely sensational! Fredric March manages to keep up with Lombard’s energy and genius.

Walter Connolly (It Happened One Night) steals many scenes as the long-suffering editor of March’s newspaper. The delicious cast includes Charles Winninger (The Sun Shines Bright), Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz), Hattie McDaniel (Gone with the Wind), and columnist Hedda Hopper (Sunset Boulevard) as a ship passenger. Beautifully shot in early three-strip Technicolor (by W. Howard Greene, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Nothing Sacred is short, funny and intelligent — a great way to spent a little over an hour in front of the TV. Color, 71 minutes, Not Rated.

3 responses to “Nothing Sacred (1937)

  1. Good examination of the theme. The one thing I’d take issue with is the claim that Wellman didn’t have a signature style. One of his techniques was to obscure faces at the most emotional moments–see the conversation in this movie that takes place with the characters blocked by a tree branch. He also used more 1/2 and 3/4s profiles than most directors so that, when he did use a full-face shot, it had an impact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm … that’s interesting. I like “Wild Bill” a lot, but didn’t realize he had a “style.” I’m going to pay more attention next time I watch one of his films. Thanks!


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