| Run Time: 76 min. | b/w
Director: William K. Howard
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Alison Skipworth, William Frawley
Genres: Mystery | Romance
The lovely Lombard has a great time swanning about as a bogus princess aboard a luxury liner, becoming involved with a few zany characters. And Fred sings her a love song!
The main reason to see this fun, if slowly paced, comedy-mystery is to see a glowing Carole Lombard do an hilarious impersonation of Greta Garbo. She plays an American actress pretending to be a Swedish princess – and Carole has a ball sending up Garbo in the process. Also great to get a glimpse of pre-WW2 politics, with the detectives on board coming from all over the globe – including Germany, Russia and Japan. Great fun. What a shame we don’t all travel by boat still!
Somehow, when thinking of movie couples in the golden age of film, Carole Lombard’s partnership with Fred MacMurray gets overlooked. Not as glamorous as Tracy and Hepburn, Hepburn and Grant, Grant and Dunne, Eddy and MacDonald, MacDonald and Chevalier, Bogart and Bacall, it still got tremendous mileage in comedies (HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, TRUE CONFESSIONS), comic thrillers (THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS), and straight drama (SWING HIGH, SWING LOW). Lombard had the ability to make the film’s activities soar by her zaniness. MacMurray managed to anchor the film down by his normality (and in TRUE CONFESSIONS uses this normality against itself – by taking himself too seriously).
THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS made fun of thrillers (although the dangers involved are not made funny), and of the culture of publicity that the public thrives on. Lombard has the looks and talents to make it in movies, but nobody cares. With the help of Alison Skipworth she pretends she is Princess Olga of Sweden and she wants to act in movies. Besides the spoofing of Garbo, Lombard is counting on the vast publicity from the media to get her the million dollar contract she wants. Oddly enough, the Swedish royal family does not seem to care that a fraud is being perpetrated by Lombard and Skipworth at their expense. But we have to make some concession to the plot.
MacMurray is a well known musician (a concertina player of all things) and orchestra leader. He and his manager pal, William Frawley, are on the boat as well, and MacMurray is very interested in the beautiful, but snobbish Princess. However, he has another problem. MacMurray is an honest fellow, but he did one bad thing, and he is being pursued by an obnoxious little weasel (played superbly by Porter Hall) who is waiting for a big payoff from the musician. He also seems to know the truth about the Princess. MacMurray refuses to pay, and Hall promises him some problems. The ship has several internationally known detectives on board (among them are Mischa Auer, Sig Ruman, and Douglas Dumbrille), and Hall sees one of the detectives and we see him approach to talk to him. Shortly afterward Hall is found murdered. On top of this, there is word (sent to the ship) that an escaped murderer is thought to be aboard (shades of Dr. Crippen), and we do see a strange little stowaway from time to time.
The film goes on to a second murder, a set of different rival detectives trying to solve the case, and MacMurray deciding to step in to clear himself and the Princess. The conclusion is quiet satisfactory.
With it’s cast of expert character actors supporting MacMurray and Lombard’s performances, and the clever script, THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS is a first rate comic thriller. I rate it 9 out of 10.
Carole Lombard and Alison Skipworth are masquerading as a Swedish princess and her lady in waiting who are sailing to Hollywood to make a film. This is a bit of self ballyhoo that chorus girl Lombard from Brooklyn is giving for her film debut. Still band leader Fred MacMurray is intrigued by her.
Of course slimy blackmailer Porter Hall tries a little touch on both MacMurray and Lombard, MacMurray having done a stretch in jail as a juvenile. Later when Hall winds up murdered in Lombard's cabin, MacMurray moves the body and searches for the real killer. His only clue is that Hall had told him he had a third blackmail prospect on board the ship.
Easier said than done because also sailing on the ship are five police detectives from different countries on the way to a convention in California. When Hall's body does turn up, they all want to have a little competition as to who can crack the case first.
Sounds like a serious plot, but in fact it's a pretty breezy comedy with MacMurray and Lombard at their sophisticated best. One thing that was fascinating in the plot was that Mischa Auer and Sig Ruman being from the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are playing detectives from the NKVD and the Gestapo respectively though that's hardly mentioned. Both are without their usual methods of investigation on the American cruise ship as is Tetsuro Komei for the Japanese. British Scotland Yard man Lumsden Hare and Surete detective Douglass Dumbrille round out our quintet of sleuths.
Best in the supporting cast is Hall as the blackmailer though. Also good is George Barbier as the ship's captain and William Frawley who a quarter of a century later would co-star with Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons is MacMurray's agent.
This was the second of four films MacMurray and Lombard did for Paramount in the Thirties. They were a good team together and don't get as much recognition as they should.
Despite the Thirties fashions and music, the film holds up very well today. It's Carole Lombard at her best.
Combining the elements of a great screwball comedy with a murder mystery,Paramount again cast the great team of Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray.Carole a down-on-her-luck publicity hungry actress enlists the aid of wise-cracking hefty Alison Skipworth and together they sail aboard a luxury liner en route to America.Lombard pretending to a Swedish princess befriends Fred MacMurray and pal William Frawley and all four form an uneasy alliance.Matters become complicated when Carole is suspected of murdering a blackmailer who knew her in Brooklyn.A pack of zany international detectives attempt to solve the crime in their bumbling fashion while MacMurray tries to find the murderer before he strikes again. This fine little comedy is ably directed William K. Howard with a wonderful supporting cast led by George Barbier(ship captain) suspects Porter Hall,Douglas Dumbrille,and egocentric detectives Sig Rumann,Mischa Auer,and Tetsu Komai.Surefire fun.