Sunday, December 29, 2019
The 12 Days of Carole Lombard: The Princess Comes Across (1936)
Swedish princess Olga has embarked on a voyage across the sea to America, ready to begin a Hollywood film contract. Also onboard is musician King Mantell, who soon realises Olga is a fake-Really Wanda Nash, she's a small-town girl who's gone along with a con to realise her dreams. Her secret might become the next front page news, however, as a murderer is on the boat, and only three people are under suspicion of the crime-Mantell, a wanted third party, and 'Princess Olga' herself...
The Princess Comes Across is an entertaining sea voyage picture, with enough romance, deception, and crime to keep you [entertained]. The mystery is neat, and the two leads likeable enough.
One of the problems I did have though was the amount of characters. There's Wanda and her 'adviser', Mantell and his friend, and then you've got the five detectives! This isn't even getting into the murderer! The fact that there's such a big cast makes the mystery rather redundant. Either you have a character list as long as my arm, or the killer is the only one they can be. That's not to say that everything ends up that obvious, but it was touch and go for a while.
Despite the overload of characters, the detectives are pretty fun, with the Russian and Japanese ones getting the most to chew on. The sleuths are a good addition to the plot, and make for an interesting =, though it is incredibly frustrating how they never make an effort to find/locate their main suspect Petrov, nor even notice that he's constantly spying on them. Pretty overtly too!
Naturally I thought the suspicious man lurking about everywhere couldn't be the killer, so I suspected either the Russian detective (by virtue of getting the most screentime out of all of them), and the Japanese one (since things were starting to get pretty dicey at this point). Thankfully the movie does put work into the reveal. You don't realise until it actually happens, but they have, trust me.
The Princess Comes Across has a pretty good climax, with a shocking reveal, a tense struggle, and a complete and total lack of Carole Lombard! I was a little disappointed that she plays no part at all in the final fight, but thankfully the movie doesn't end there. We get another 5 minutes of film, and a resolution with Wanda's royal deception, getting a good (though the way she does it wasn't what I'd guessed).
The film gets plenty of opportunities for humour as well as intrigue, and is quite funny, with = dialogue like "I don't mind people stepping on my feet, but I do object to them lodging there".
Carole Lombard is great in The Princess Comes Across, chanelling Greta Garbo as she waltzes across the screen like an icy Swedish queen. She does a really good job alternating between her two roles, and her fake accent isn't even that bad (not that it needs to be realistic, since she's meant to be a fake).
Meanwhile, Fred MacMurray is a fun straight man. Also, I don't know if he could actually play the concertina or if this was just the magic of movies, but if he can, he does quite a good job! The lyrics to his important song near the end are a bit clumsy though.
The rest of the actors do well, with the standouts being Mischa Aur and Tetsu Komai as Inspectors Morevitch and Kawati.
Lastly, sea voyage movies live and die on whether their locations feel real or not. Luckily this always looks fine. While it was probably all filmed on a set, and the majority of scenes are conveniently indoors, we get enough outdoors scenes to be worth it.
The Princess Comes Across is a fun time all round, and makes one wish they could afford a sea voyage. Oh well, a man can dream. Or impersonate royalty. That works too...