Nothing Sacred (film)
|Directed by||William A. Wellman|
|Produced by||David O. Selznick|
|Written by||Ben Hecht (screenplay)
James H. Street (story)
with uncredited contributions from:
Ring Lardner Jr.
George S. Kaufman
|Music by||Oscar Levant|
|Cinematography||W. Howard Greene|
|Editing by||James E. Newcom|
|Distributed by||Selznick International
|Running time||77 minutes|
Nothing Sacred is a 1937 Technicolor screwball comedy film made by Selznick International Pictures and distributed by United Artists. It was directed by William A. Wellman and produced by David O. Selznick, from a screenplay credited to Ben Hecht, based on a story by James H. Street. Other writers, including Ring Lardner Jr., Budd Schulberg, Dorothy Parker, Sidney Howard, Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman and Robert Carson also made uncredited contributions to the screenplay.
The lush, Gershwinesque music score was by Oscar Levant, with additional music by Alfred Newman and Max Steiner and a swing number by Raymond Scott's Quintette. The film was shot in Technicolor by W. Howard Greene. In 1965, the film entered the public domain (in the USA) due to the claimants failure to renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.
New York newspaper reporter Wally Cook (Fredric March) tries to pass off an ordinary African-American (Troy Brown) as an African nobleman hosting a charity event. Cook is demoted to writing obituaries. He begs his boss Oliver Stone (Walter Connolly) for another chance. Wally is sent to the (fictional) town of Warsaw, Vermont, to interview Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard), a woman supposedly dying of radium poisoning. Cook finally locates Hazel, who is crying because her doctor has told her that she is not dying. Unaware of this, he invites her to New York as the guest of the Morning Star newspaper.
The newspaper uses her story to increase its circulation. She receives a ticker tape parade and the key to the city, and becomes an inspiration to many. In addition, she and Wally fall in love. When it is finally discovered that Hazel is not really dying, city officials decide that it would be better to avoid embarrassment by having it seem that she committed suicide. Hazel and Wally get married and quietly set sail for the tropics.
- Carole Lombard as Hazel Flagg. This was Lombard's only Technicolor film. She stated that this film was one of her personal favorites.
- Fredric March as Wally Cook
- Charles Winninger as Dr. Enoch Downer
- Walter Connolly as Oliver Stone
- Sig Ruman as Dr. Emil Eggelhoffer (as Sig Rumann)
- Frank Fay as Master of Ceremonies
- Troy Brown as Ernest Walker
- Maxie Rosenbloom as Max Levinsky. A boxing world champion, Rosenbloom gave Lombard boxing lessons to prepare her for her fight scene with Fredric March.
- Margaret Hamilton as Warsaw, Vermont Drugstore Lady
- Hattie McDaniel as Mrs. Walker
- Olin Howland as Will Bull
- Raymond Scott as Musical Leader
According to William Wellman Jr., Janet Gaynor had originally been cast as Hazel Flagg to follow up on the success of A Star is Born (1937). However, after William Wellman Sr. met Carole Lombard, he convinced Selznick to cast her.
The first screwball comedy filmed in color, Nothing Sacred also represents the first use in a color film of process effects, montage and rear screen projection. Backgrounds for the rear projection were filmed on the streets of New York. Paramount Pictures and other studios refined this technique in their subsequent color features.
Ben Hecht is credited with writing the screenplay in two weeks on a train. He adapted the story "Letter to the Editor" by James H. Street which had been first been published in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan. Hecht wrote a role for his friend John Barrymore in the film, but David Selznick refused to use him as Barrymore had become by then an incurable alcoholic. This caused a rift between Hecht and Selznick, and Hecht walked off the picture. Budd Schulberg and Dorothy Parker were called in to write the final scenes and several others also made contributions to the screenplay, including: David O. Selznick, William Wellman, Sidney Howard, Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman and Robert Carson.
One of the reasons why this is considered one of the most celebrated screwball comedies is that underneath the humor is some of the most cynical and serious themes of corruption and dishonesty. This film, as well as The Front Page and subsequent His Girl Friday shows the extent some newspapers went to get a story.
This film (along with Selznick's A Star Is Born), despite being in the public domain, was released on DVD in 2011 by Kino Classics in transfers made from 35mm nitrate Technicolor prints preserved by the George Eastman House Motion Picture Department and authorized by the estate of David O. Selznick. Prior to this, most home video releases of both films had rather poor quality color. The Museum of Modern Art has partially restored both films to their Technicolor splendor. In 1999, Walt Disney Pictures (on behalf of ABC, holder of most of the Selznick library) had fully restored the film, but this full restoration has yet to be released on DVD or Blu-ray. Since Disney/ABC performed a full restoration, it is far superior to what has been released on home video, including the release by Kino Classics. 
The film recorded a loss of $400,000 at the box office.
Ben Hecht's screenplay was also the basis of a Broadway musical, Hazel Flagg (1953) with Helen Gallagher, as well as Living It Up (1954), a comedy film starring Dean Martin in the Winninger role, Jerry Lewis in the Lombard role (as Homer Flagg), and Janet Leigh in the March role.
- David Thomson, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick, Abacus, 1993 p 262
- Fishman, Stephen (2010), The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More (5th ed.), Nolo (retrieved via Google Books), ISBN 1-4133-1205-5, retrieved 2010-10-31
- "First Person: Restoring Film with Digital Recombination". Retrieved 11 November 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nothing Sacred (film).|
- Nothing Sacred at the Internet Movie Database
- Watch Rare Films from Our Vaults - the restored Nothing Sacred, amongst others, at the Dryden Theatre
- Nothing Sacred at allmovie
- Nothing Sacred at the TCM Movie Database
- First Person: Restoring Film with Digital Recombination Digital Content Producer article on the 1999 restoration
- Nothing Sacred is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Nothing Sacred on Lux Radio Theater: November 11, 1940