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No More Orchids

No More Orchids(1932)

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teaser No More Orchids (1932)

Carole Lombard, one of the screen's most sublime comediennes, slogged through a lot of dreary dramas early in her career before finding her comic voice in Twentieth Century (1934). Because of her patrician good looks, she was often cast as a debutante, a glamour girl or an ingenue. That her typical role in No More Orchids (1932) rose above the mundane was due in large part to a director who recognized her comic gifts. Lombard plays heiress Anne Holt, who falls in love with a poor lawyer (Lyle Talbot), even though her rigid grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith, in an uncharacteristically villainous role) has arranged a marriage for her to a European prince. The Depression is very much present in the film, as Anne's beloved father (Walter Connolly) is the increasingly desperate head of a failing bank who refuses to appeal to his overbearing father-in-law for help. He ultimately finds a dramatic way to resolve his financial crisis, and to make sure his daughter marries the man she loves.

No More Orchids was made on loan from Lombard's home studio of Paramount to Columbia. Lombard had just made Virtue (1932) at Columbia, and was a favorite of studio head Harry Cohn, whose salty language matched her own. He was so fond of her, in fact, that he gave her solo star billing in No More Orchids for the first time in her career. According to Screwball: The Life of Carole Lombard, by Larry Swindell, Cohn had suggested that the film be called Roses for Annie, and Lombard replied, "Roses, snapdragons, lilies, call it any flower except orchids - I'm ready for some other angle. No more orchids for me." That was a reference to a Paramount publicity campaign promoting Lombard's alleged fondness for orchids. But Cohn liked the sound of it, and decided it was the perfect title. The phrase also found its way into the film's dialogue, expressing Anne Holt's willingness to give up her rich-girl lifestyle to marry her poor boyfriend.

No More Orchids was the first film Lombard made with director Walter Lang. The film was basically a drama, but Lang recognized that Lombard's witty personality and way with a quip made her a natural for comedy. Her character's entrance in the film takes place after partying in Paris, slightly tipsy, and her slurred "merci" and stumbling exit from the tugboat delivering her to a ship is pure screwball. The film was shot in sequence, and Lang increased the comedy in the film as they went along, so that Lombard's talent could shine. A scene in the ship's gym, with Lombard doing physical comedy, and another sharing witty, affectionate banter with Connolly, are particularly effective. Lombard always gave Lang credit for being the first director to encourage her comic skill, and the two became close friends. He later married Lombard's best friend and assistant Madalynne Fields, known as "Fieldsie." Lombard was their son's godmother. Lang and Lombard would make one more film together, Love Before Breakfast (1936).

Character actor Walter Connolly, a Broadway veteran, had made a couple of silent films, but his film career really began in 1932, when he was signed to a contract by Columbia, where No More Orchids was only his third film. It was also one of the few where he got to play a multifaceted character. He would go on to build a career playing blustery bosses in films such as It Happened One Night (1934) and Nothing Sacred (1937), which also starred Lombard. In addition, they appeared together in Twentieth Century and Lady by Choice (1934). Connolly's untimely death of a stroke came in 1940, at the age of 53, shortly after he played the title role in The Great Victor Herbert (1939).

Variety called No More Orchids "A smart, polished production replete with good acting, smooth direction and clever lines." Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times considered it "an unimportant but entertaining picture." However, it proved to be important in the development of the careers of Lombard, Connolly, and Lang.

Director: Walter Lang
Screenplay: Gertrude Purcell, Keene Thompson from a novel by GracePerkins
Cinematography: Joseph August
Editor: Jack Dennis
Costume Design: Robert Kalloch
Cast: Carole Lombard (Anne Holt), Walter Connolly (Bill Holt), Louise Closser Hale (Gran Holt), Lyle Talbot (Tony Gage), C. Aubrey Smith (Jerome Cedric), Allen Vincent (Dick), Ruthelma Stevens (Rita), Arthur Houseman (Burkhart), Jameson Thomas (Prince Carlos).

by Margarita Landazuri

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