Ranking the Films of Lombard and MacMurray

Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray: two of the most lovable stars of the golden age, Carole one of the queens of the screwball comedy and Fred the quintessential American every-man. With my recent viewing of Swing High, Swing Low I have seen all four collaborations between these two stars, so today I’ll be sharing my personal ranking of them, from best to worst.

(Image: movies.io)
(Image: movies.io)

BEST: True Confession
In this film, Carole stars as Helen Bartlett, a writer and habitual liar. MacMurray is her husband, Ken, an honest lawyer who only takes up the defense of those who he truly believes are innocent. When Helen, truly by accident, becomes involved in a murder case, Ken just might have to defend his own wife! True Confession has a fast pace, a great cast, and an even better script. It’s a delightful and truly hilarious comedy — the best of the collaborations between Lombard and MacMurray, in my opinion. This is one that I’ll continue watching over and over again!

(Image: walterfilm.com)
(Image: walterfilm.com)

AN ALMOST-FAVORITE: Hands Across the Table
Carole is Regi, hotel manicurist who strikes up a friendship with a client named Allen, portrayed by Ralph Bellamy. Regi dreams of marrying a rich man, but for some reason doesn’t see the wealthy Allen as a potential husband, so they remain close friends instead. Soon she meets MacMurray’s Theodore Drew III, a supposedly-wealthy (but actually bankrupt) man who is also looking to marry rich. They become friends over their shared aspirations of “marrying up,” but may fall for each other instead. Bellamy, Lombard, and MacMurray are all wonderful to watch here, and the dialogue is very witty. It’s a super cute film.

(Image via Fine Art America)
(Image via Fine Art America)
(Image: mightyape.co.nz)
(Image: mightyape.co.nz)

TIED FOR THIRD: Swing High, Swing Low/The Princess Comes Across
When Maggie King (Lombard) meets army soldier Skid (MacMurray) while she’s on a ship and he’s on the shore, she resists his flirting. When she leaves the ship, though, he weasels his way into spending some time with her. Long story short, a brawl ensues, and the resulting legal trouble causes Maggie to miss her next ship. She has no choice but to stay with Skid and his roommate. This works out for them, though, as the three begin performing at a local night club together. The most dramatic of the four Lombard-MacMurray films, Swing High, Swing Low starts out pretty light but takes a turn for the tragic. The Princess Comes Across, on the other hand, is an airy-mystery comedy which sees Lombard’s character of Wanda impersonating a Garbo-esque princess named Olga. MacMurray is a bandleader with an eye for Princess Olga. Both become suspects when it’s discovered that there’s a killer on the ship. These films couldn’t be more different, aside from the fact that MacMurray plays a musician in both. I scored them both at 3/5 when I reviewed them, as they’re not “bests” for either actor, but still decent flicks. Even the “worst” Lombard/MacMurray collab makes for a pretty good watch!

Which is your favorite of these four films? How do you rank ’em? Sound off in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Ranking the Films of Lombard and MacMurray

  1. Here’s mine!

    I’m a big fan of Hands Across the Table, so I’d place that first. Lombard brings a lot of welcome vulnerability to the gold digger role, even if MacMurray isn’t quite there as an actor yet. It’s a film that reminds me of one of my all-time favorites in the way the romance plays out: The More the Merrier.

    Next I might put Swing High, Swing Low, if only because it is undoubtedly the most unique of their collaborations! I like the night club environment—there’s a great sense of place. The melodramatics are silly but I don’t mind.

    I don’t dislike True Confession, but it didn’t resonate with me too much. I do think it’s probably MacMurray at his best in that he transitions from a misogynist to a sort of protofeminist.

    Frankly, I didn’t remember seeing The Princess Comes Across until I went back and looked at my review. I remember liking Lombard’s Garbo imitation and especially the cinematography, but it’s mostly unmemorable.

    Liked by 1 person

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