Carole Lombard, Queen of Screwball Comedy, is at her screwiest as a pathological liar who talks her way into a murder rap hoping to jumpstart husband Fred MacMurray’s legal career. A struggling lawyer, all he needs to succeed is get her off on a big juicy case . . . if he gets her off. Yikes! (If it sounds a bit like CHICAGO, scripter Claude Binyon started out as a Chicago newspaperman and knows the territory.) While she’s glamorously shot by regular cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff (watch them send-up Garbo as Queen Christina while in a jail cell), the character is Lombard’s most extreme. Demented, often unlikable, near psychotic. Were the filmmakers aware of just how far they were pushing things? And while not involved with the murder, she’s guilty of just about everything else in here, and gets away with it all, gets rewarded for it. (Not that anything’s been planned or thought thru.) Perhaps the lack of consequences, or rather the success of consequences, is why the film plays better on second viewing. But even on first viewing, a crazed spark of magic appears when John Barrymore shows up to start the second act as a retired criminologist/barfly and deftly shuffles off with the rest of the film as a would be blackmailer.
DOUBLE-BILL: Strictly speaking, with no rich upperclass twits in sight, this is more ‘Crazy Comedy’ than canonical ‘Screwball.’ For a prime example of that form, go back half a year to another Paramount Pic, EASY LIVING/’37.