Saturday, January 26, 2013

Colbert Report

Here's a great deal from Netflix: A Claudette Colbert double bill: I Met Him in Paris / Bluebeard's 8th Wife. Two for the price of one, but also a nicely themed double bill.

IMHiP (1937) has Colbert going alone on a long-awaited trip to Paris, leaving behind her boring almost-fiance (Lee Bowman). When she gets there, she meets charming Robert Young and his somewhat depressed friend Melvyn Douglas - two of the funniest looking romantic leads I can think of - but I digress. Young wants to sweep Colbert off to Switzerland for a romantic tryst. Douglas figures he should go along to chaperone. Will Colbert succumb to Young's blandishments? Will Melvyn Douglas reveal the secrets he is keeping? Will someone get run over by a bobsled?

Lots of nice scenery, funny lines and romantic entanglement. At times, it seems like a sort of Design for Living in reverse, where Colbert agrees to share her love between the two men, but each man blocking the other. The ending is a bit icky, but also kind of cute.

B8W (1938, and excuse the goofy abbreviations) has a stronger pedigree. While IMHiP was directed by Wesley Ruggles, this is by Ernst Lubitsch. Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett write the script, which starts with a bang - Gary Cooper in a French department store, trying to buy a pair of pajama tops only. He refuses to pay for the pants, because he never wears them. Things are getting tense, when Claudette Colbert comes along looking to buy just the pants. A classic "Meet cute".

Colbert turns out to be the daughter of impoverished nobleman Edward Everett Horton, with a goofy mustache, and Cooper turns out to be a tycoon. After a whirlwind courtship, they get engaged, and then Colbert discovers that Cooper has been married seven times before, and gave each one a $50,000 divorce settlement. Colbert doesn't take this too well, but agrees to get married if he will guarantee a $100,000 settlement. In fact, she decides to make the marriage a strictly commercial affair.

In some ways, this is Taming of the Shrew, but who is taming who? Also, David Niven shows up, but never really  becomes Cooper's rival. I just thought he would be, because of I Met Him in Paris.

While Bluebeard was better made, with a better director and writers, I actually liked Paris better - I think Bluebeard got away from the makers somewhere, while Paris was a neatly contained comedy, even if it did spend more time in Switzerland than the promised Paris. Anyway, if you like either one, you're bound to like both.

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