Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert weren’t featured in TCM’s book, Leading Couples, but I think they should have been. They complimented each other so well and had a great onscreen rapport.
The pair co-starred in seven movies over the course of fourteen years: The Gilded Lily (1935), The Bride Came Home (1935), Maid of Salem (1937), No Time for Love (1943), Practically Yours (1944), The Egg and I (1947) and Family Honeymoon (1949). I’ve seen all of these except Maid of Salem and Practically Yours, but today I’ll just talk about my two favorites.
The Gilded Lily (1935)
Fred and Claudette are adorable in The Gilded Lily. Their chemistry is apparent from the moment we seen them together for the first time. In a scene reminiscent of Peter Warne teaching Ellie Andrews to dunk donuts and hitchhike in 1934’s It Happened One Night, MacMurray’s Peter Daws tells Colbert’s Marilyn David why popcorn is the best snack.
Are they cute or are they cute? I love the way he runs back to the bench in his socks.
He’s a newspaperman, she’s a secretary, and they’re best friends. Of course they’re made for each other too, but they don’t know it yet. Their friendship is put to the test when Marilyn falls for an English nobleman, played by Ray Milland, and their lives are turned upside down in a crazy, unexpected way.
Which man will she choose, the reporter and best friend or the wealthy Englishman? If you don’t know, you haven’t seen many romantic comedies! It’s no wonder Paramount decided to keep pairing Colbert and MacMurray after The Gilded Lily. They’re wonderful together in this very amusing, sweet movie.
No Time for Love (1943)
MacMurray and Colbert went from sweet to sexy for 1943’s No Time for Love. Colbert plays Katherine Grant, an artsy magazine photographer assigned to cover the digging and construction of a tunnel.
When she meets MacMurray’s strapping, brawling “sandhog” construction worker, Jim Ryan, she thinks he’s a brute. She is also extremely turned on by him and can’t get him out of her mind. Fred is surprisingly hunky in this movie. Not quite as hunky as depicted in the movie poster, however!
Katherine dreams of Jim in a superhero suit, sweeping her up in his manly arms. He is insulting and he drives her nuts, but she’s still hot and bothered about him all the time. At one point Jim looks at Katherine and bluntly asks “Do you want me?” The Code may not have allowed her to scream a lusty “Yes!” and jump on him, but you could tell she wanted to.
When Katherine inadvertently gets Jim suspended from his job, she takes him on as her assistant in order to make it up to him. Of course they clash constantly and sparks fly between them. But you know what they say, the love impulse in men (and women!) often reveals itself in terms of conflict.
There’s a lot of enjoyably silly slapstick in the movie too, like a scene in which Jim scuffles territorially with a bodybuilder Katherine is photographing, and another in which Katherine teaches a bunch of macho sandhogs how to play musical chairs. It’s classic battle of the sexes stuff and it’s fun to watch two masters of romantic comedy at work.
Next week on Fred MacMurray Friday I hope to talk about a movie I haven’t watched yet, but am very excited to see – 1945’s slapstick dark comedy, Murder, He Says. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this new review of MacMurray’s most famous movie, Double Indemnity, from Steve Hayes – better known as Tired Old Queen at the Movies.
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Hayes’ reviews, I highly recommend checking them out. He discusses lots of great old films in a loving yet irreverent way, and he’s hilarious, too.