I’m always happy to do blogathons especially for friends and when Phyllis Loves Classic movies announced she was doing a Blogathon for the one and only Mr. Fred MacMurray I had to say yes because Fred is super awesome and vastly underrated.
I chose to write up on the 1936 flick Princess Comes Across, which showcases Fred at the start of his career and one that, according to his daughter in her 2014 TCM tribute video, pairs him with one of his favorite leading ladies, Carole Lombard.
Princess is one of the many 1930s films that combine genres. It combines comedy and mystery and Carole, as always, brings her special zaniness to the comedy element of the picture. She proves she can give as good as Greta Garbo, as she puts on a wonderful Swedish accent. Fred on the other hand may have been a “new” leading man, as he was billed under Lombard, but he just proves that he has the star quality that we all love him for and this picture paved the way for the comedic leading man he became.
The plot is kind of predictable but because Fred and Carole are the leads its worth watching. Carole is Wanda Nash, an actress pretending to be Swedish Princess Olga to land a movie contract and Fred plays King Mantell, a concertina player. They meet on the ship and begin falling for each other but when Robert Darcy finds out Princes Olga is not who she says she is, things get messy. The comedy then turns to mystery when Darcy dies and the death is pinned on Wanda and King Mantell- and it’s a race against the police to find the real killer.
Personally, when watching this movie, the one thing that could have made it a well-remembered great classic is that it was too much mystery not enough comedy. It has the perfect setup for a screwball plot, as both Wanda Nash and King Mantell do a great job at fooling each other and falling in love. Carole and Fred have great chemistry, so everything was perfect for a screwball success. It also has another great element of screwball, as Fred does an amazing job of providing authentic music segments on the concertina, as he played and sang in real life as well (Don’t all great screwball films have great little musical segments?)
Furthermore, I also find the behind the scenes story to be much more interesting than the actual plot. Fred was not the first choice to be in the movie- as the studio wanted George Raft, who, (shocker), didn’t want the role after starring with Carole in Rumba (he felt the movie was made to favor her). Fred was then brought in after the success of their pairing in 1935’s Hands Across the Table.
All in all, I do say the film was good- but it could have been great. Still- its 100% worth watching to see Carole and Fred together and watch Carole be a fabulous as “Princess Olga”. And let’s not forget- it’s got our Blogathon Star Fred MacMurray!!!