Coming off the huge success of It Happened One Night (1934), Paramount quickly began looking for another romantic comedy for which Claudette Colbert could star. They landed on The Gilded Lily (1935), an enjoyable if not all that memorable (you can read my full review here) film that nevertheless was a big hit and helped propel costar Fred MacMurray into stardom. No matter what my thoughts are on the overall film, The Gilded Lily proved Colbert and MacMurray had great chemistry together. They went on to make six more films over the next decade and a half. Their fourth film together, No Time For Love (1943) has just been given the Blu-ray treatment from Kino Lorber.
Katherine Grant (Claudette Colbert) is a smart, classy photographer who takes no guff from anyone, including her editors. When she gets into an argument with one of those editors over how she took artsy-fartsy photographs of a dancehall (that didn’t include any photos of the actual dancers) but is bailed out by her friend, the publisher, she agrees to take some photos of an underground tunnel being built. She thinks the assignment is beneath her, but to prove she accepts no favors from friends in high places she’ll do it.
The sets of that tunnel are spectacular. Director Mitchell Leisen was originally an art director and it shows. It is a massive set filled with a large compression chamber, working machinery, flowing water, mud, and lots of shirtless, sweaty sandhogs. One such sandhog is Jim Ryan (Fred MacMurray) who has no time for things like photographers or snooty women. Trying to get the men to pose and the men trying to win her affections causes an accident whereupon Katherine pushes Jim out of the way of a giant piece of machinery saving his life. As a way of saying thank you, he gets into a brawl with some of the other men who tease him about being saved by a woman.
Katherine’s photo of the fight gets into the magazine and Jim is put on unpaid probation for fighting on the job. Feeling sorry for the trouble she’s caused, she hires Jim as an assistant. She’s got an ulterior motive about that, too. Despite proclaiming that she finds him brutish and uneducated, she’s really quite attracted to him. She’s been dreaming about him every night.
In one of the film’s most interesting scenes, we see one of those dreams. She’s dressed in a sheer, flowing gown; he’s in a Superman-esque costume. He saves her when she’s pushed off a cloud. It is delightfully surreal and weird, and I wish there were more scenes just like it.
Her idea is that if she can spend some time with him, one on one, she’ll see what a true dullard he is and any romantic feelings she has will fly out the window. They go to a dancehall and he flirts with one of the girls, lying to her about being the boss and promising to get her picture on the cover of the magazine. She has a photo shoot with a muscle man, he conks him on the head with a light, and throws the barbell at him. She tries to take him to a fancy restaurant but he talks her into slumming with him at a local pub. He gets into a fight with the boys and she talks them into a game of musical chairs. It’s a delightful sequence in which these rough and tumble men dance in circles while the piano plays then they smash each other silly when it’s time to try and sit down.
None of this works. She’s still attracted to him. He likes her too, but they are both too proud to admit it. It’s all boilerplate romantic comedy stuff. They are complete opposites, but fall for each other anyway. Eventually, they admit it, but various obstacles get in the way until they get together for a big kiss in the end. I’d call that a spoiler but you’d have to be dead not to know they are going to wind up together by the time the credits roll. It is well handled and Colbert and MacMurray are a delight. Their chemistry is easy and the plot moves like a breeze. It is a bit odd seeing Fred McMurray as a dim-witted muscle man. I’m used to him in a suit and tie, forever playing a businessman. He works well as a big galoot and shirtless, he has the physique for it. It was just funny seeing him play this type of character.
There’s a really fascinating screwball comedy playing out at the edges of this film. The sandhogs are hoot. These are men working in incredibly dangerous situations (and the film does a great job at showing just how dangerous it is) but they are constantly laughing and giving each other crap. Katherine’s got a sister who always seems to be around and there is a revolving door at her house in which a variety of foppish men travel back and forth. These are all characters who help fill out the film, but I’d loved to have seen more of them. A sequel in which the romantic plot is done away with and those folks have adventures could have been amazing.
As it is, this is a fine, funny film. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the other Colbert/MacMurray team-ups.
Extras for this Blu-ray include a very informative if a little bit dull commentary from critic Nick Pinkerton and a bunch of trailers for other Kino Lorber releases.