Last night I found myself at my old stomping ground – the public library. Back in the day, I introduced films at the library’s weekly classic film night. (I still do it sometimes but that’s a different story.) When I saw that Nothing Sacred, a 1937 screwball comedy starring Carole Lombard was the classic film night’s selection, I had to check it out. I had never seen this movie before and curiosity got the best of me. Nothing Sacred is not only the first screwball comedy filmed in color, but also Lombard’s only Technicolor film.
Lombard plays Hazel Flagg, a woman who is misdiagnosed with radium poisoning and has never left her small hometown. Fredric March is Wally Cook, a New York City journalist for the Morning Star. When his credibility is jeopardized (you should always “fact check that shit” people), Wally is demoted to the obituary editor. Wally comes across a story about Hazel’s illness and convinces her to come spend her last weeks in New York on the newspaper’s dime. Little does he know that Hazel doesn’t have radium poisoning at all and she fakes her illness for the free trip to NYC. Hazel quickly becomes the subject of endless media coverage. Hilarity and romance ensues. (Hey, it’s a 30s screwball comedy after all!)[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThXLqeUW3YM]
Like so many other movies before and after it, Nothing Sacred shows the lengths journalists will go to get a story. Hazel’s seemingly fast-approaching demise makes her a beloved public figure and tabloid sensation. Reporters and photographers follow her every move. She is seduced by the attention but also knows that she can’t live with her lie forever.
This is why I found watching Nothing Sacred this week in particular to be especially striking. The movie offers a commentary on over the top media frenzy that can be translated to today’s celebrity obsessed culture. Even though Nothing Sacred has no real connection to Friday’s royal wedding, the movie tapped into my many misgivings about the days media hoopla and my relationship to it all.
The royal wedding is going to be the biggest media-palooza I have ever seen but I don’t really get the hype. I’m only half-interested in the day’s ceremonies. (Maybe this would be different if I was British or lived in England.)
I’m generally turned off by extravagant weddings and ridiculous displays of grandeur. I could care less about what dress Middleton will wear and what commentary some so-called royal wedding expert will be telling Giulit na Rancic. (Unless the commentator is my friend from college, then I can harbor some interest.)
My biggest problem with the royal wedding is this. I wasn’t alive to witness Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana’s 1981 nuptials that so many people reminisce about. My mother, for instance, thinks it is exciting to watch their son get married 30 years later. No, I don’t really associate the words “fairy tale” with what is taking place this Friday because I clearly remember when Princess Diana died. That is my main childhood memory of the royal family and not an extravagant wedding celebration. Realizing this makes it hard for me to fully embrace the royal wedding fever. Yet I’m still going to watch because at the end of the day I’m just as engrossed in celebrity culture as much as the next person.
This is sort of the moral of Nothing Sacred. (Like how I brought this musing full circle?) No matter what Hazel did and how far out of control her story was spun, people still watched and cared about her every move.