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Love Before Breakfast

Love Before Breakfast(1936)

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teaser Love Before Breakfast (1936)

Kay Colby (Carole Lombard) is a society girl separated from her fianc Bill Wadsworth (Cesar Romero) by his sudden decision to take a job with Amalgamated Oil in Japan. Before Bill's ship has even left the harbor, Kay is being relentlessly pursued by a new admirer. While Bill is away, wealthy businessman Scott Miller (Preston Foster), favored by Kay's mother (Janet Beecher), sees his chance to seduce the newly unescorted woman.

A series of comic vignettes follow in the 1936 screwball comedy, Love Before Breakfast. Scott somehow manages to accompany Kay in the paddy wagon after a bar brawl (in which Kay suffers a black eye), pops up to administer a hot towel at Kay's beauty parlor and gets Kay's costume party date stinking drunk in a ploy to fill in as her escort. And when Scott's ardor appears to cool, Kay suddenly becomes interested enough to play the pursuer.

Love Before Breakfast was adapted from the novel Spinster Dinner by the prolific and well-known 20th century romance novelist Faith Baldwin; it was one of the 85 novels Baldwin wrote during her lifetime. The movie version featured, alongside screenwriters Herbert Fields and Gertrude Purcell, an uncredited writer, Preston Sturges. He would eventually tire of lending his urbane, sophisticated touch to other people's films and ultimately pressured Paramount to let him direct. His first venture directing his own screenplay, The Great McGinty (1940), turned out to be a successful one and Sturges would go on to become a talented practitioner of the screwball ethos in films such as Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942).

But the indisputable star and main comic attraction of Love Before Breakfast was Carole Lombard, one of the leading ladies of the sophisticated, zany screwball genre of the Thirties.

Born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, tomboy Lombard was discovered at age 12 playing baseball in Los Angeles, where her mother relocated after divorcing Lombard's father. Lombard's first film was Allan Dwan's A Perfect Crime (1921) though it would be years later -- after completing junior high school -- before Lombard would make a real name for herself in the business, moving back and forth between unremarkable roles in programmers to a comical supporting actress of note. After her 1921 screen debut, Lombard returned to the screen in 1925 under contract to Fox where she tended to play conventional blonde heroines.

In 1926 Lombard's film career seemed doomed when she was injured in an automobile accident that scarred the left side of her face. But the damage was later repaired with plastic surgery, with only a small scar detectable in close-ups.

From 1927-28 Lombard appeared in a series of Mack Sennett slapstick comedies, and successfully made the transition to sound with the 1929 film High Voltage. It wasn't until she returned to features with the 1934 Howard Hawks comedy Twentieth Century as Carole Lombard (after adding the "e" to the end of her name in 1930) opposite John Barrymore, that the actress's distinctive and celebrated comedic talents found full expression.

Noted for her comedic abilities, Lombard's star rose in the '30s and '40s in the heyday of screwball comedies which took great advantage of an actress whose off screen persona, earthy sense of humor and love of practical jokes translated to an equally happy go lucky onscreen persona. Her finesse with the genre was rewarded in 1936 when she received her only Academy Award nomination for Gregory La Cava's classic farce, My Man Godfrey, in which she starred opposite William Powell.

Lombard's first, short-lived marriage was to Powell, whom she wed in 1931 and divorced in 1933, though the couple remained friends even after the split. Lombard was first paired with Powell in Man of the World (1931), but some thought that in real life Lombard's extroverted, expressive personality was ill-suited to Powell's more reserved and urbane temperament.

She starred for the first (and only) time with future husband Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own (1932). The couple eventually married in 1939, becoming one of the most glamorous pairs in Hollywood history. They would indulge their highly complementary low-key, unpretentious lifestyle by buying a ranch far from the Hollywood limelight in the San Fernando Valley that had previously been owned by director Raoul Walsh.

Lombard's brilliant career ended tragically at age 33 when she was at the peak of her popularity as one of the best paid and best loved actresses in the business. After making Ernst Lubitsch's screwball To Be or Not to Be (1942), Lombard died in 1942 in a plane crash outside Las Vegas while returning from a war bond rally in Indiana along with her mother and a plane full of passengers. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Franklin Delano Roosevelt for her service to the war effort.

Roosevelt noted, "She brought great joy to all who knew her and to millions who knew her only as a great artist." A ship, the SS Lombard, was eventually named for the star. She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, and Clark Gable was buried next to her after he died in 1960. The relationship between the two mega-stars, commemorated in that side-by-side burial, would later be celebrated in a 1976 film starring James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh, Gable and Lombard.

Director: Walter Lang
Producer: Edmund Grainger
Screenplay: Herbert Fields and additional dialogue by Gertrude Purcell from a novel by Faith Baldwin
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Production Design: Albert S. D'Agostino
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Carole Lombard (Kay Colby), Preston Foster (Scott Miller), Cesar Romero (Bill Wadsworth), Janet Beecher (Mrs. Colby) Betty Lawford (Countess Campanella).
BW-70m.

by Felicia Feaster

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