Friday, July 19, 2013
Memories of Fred MacMurray: article and video
There was one other key teaming during the 1930s that Fred enjoyed with an actress—the delectable and beautiful Carole Lombard. Fred made four films with Lombard between 1935 and 1937. While they cannot be considered the best of Lombard’s great comedy films of the 1930s, they are quite good and very funny. The best of the lot was the first, Hands Across the Table. Leisen originally wanted Gary Cooper for Hands Across the Table but, as was the case with Franchot Tone and The Gilded Lily, Cooper was unavailable. Leisen decided to go ahead with Fred, but still thought that he was rather raw. Leisen found that Fred still fought occasional nerves when facing the camera, and enlisted Lombard to help loosen him up. Fred had an immediate rapport with Lombard and was both fascinated and amused by her well-known penchant for profanity.
Lily, who came out to California once it became clear that Fred was no flash in the pan, and married him in 1936, asked him if he enjoyed working with Carole Lombard. Fred replied, “I’ve never heard anybody use such language—man or woman—she’s wonderful!” While Fred was becoming well known as a dependable light leading man in romantic comedies opposite such high-powered leading ladies as Lombard and Colbert, he also showed his versatility. There was the romantic drama The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), with Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda; and the adventure-comedy Thirteen Hours by Air (1936) with Joan Bennett.
After filming Double Indemnity Fred’s long-term contract with Paramount was almost over. Fred wanted more say in the roles he played. The final film of his Paramount contract is one of his best comedies, the daffy Murder, He Says, in which Fred plays a pollster who is looking for a missing colleague and runs afoul of Marjorie Main and her murderous hillbilly brood. Released only a year after Frank Capra’s similar black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, Murder, He Says stands on its own. In fact, critic Pauline Kael believed that Murder, He Says was superior to Arsenic and Old Lace. Certainly Fred’s performance is more modulated than Cary Grant’s constant mugging and actually funnier because of it. (Grant, perhaps the greatest comedy film actor of all-time, was never happy with his performance in Arsenic and Old Lace.)
Over the next few years Fred’s screen offerings as a freelancer were a decidedly mixed bag. He returned to Paramount for a final film for director Mitchell Leisen, and a good one it was, Suddenly, It’s Spring, opposite Paulette Goddard; and then to Universal, opposite Claudette Colbert, for one of his biggest box office hits. In The Egg and I the Colbert-MacMurray chemistry proved potent as ever and audiences were delighted. The film with its bizarre and colorful characters hatched a load of laughs, and launched a series of low-budget programmers starring two supporting players, Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride as Ma and Pa Kettle.
Fred MacMurray "My Memories of You" video, featuring pictures and stills of Fred MacMurray and his co-stars: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Madeleine Carroll, Irene Dunne, Paulette Goddard, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Alida Valli, Lauren Bacall, June Haver, Dorothy Malone, Claire Trevor, Ava Gardner, Kim Novak, Frances Farmer, Anne Baxter, Betty Hutton, Mary Martin, Maureen O'Hara, Arleen Whelan, Patricia Barry, Rosalind Russell, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard, Mary Carlisle, Arlene Dahl, Beverly Garland, Helen Walker, Lynn Bari, Nancy Olson, Lana Turner, Terry Moore, Edward G. Robinson, etc.