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Case Number 17630

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The Claudette Colbert Collection

Three-Cornered Moon
1933 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
I Met Him In Paris
1937 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Maid Of Salem
1937 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
1938 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
No Time For Love
1943 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
The Egg And I
1947 // 108 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Universal
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // November 4th, 2009

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All Rise...

It's that cheese Appellate Judge James A. Stewart ate last night.

The Charge

A much-needed spotlight on one of Hollywood's true cinematic greats.

Opening Statement

My last encounter with Claudette Colbert was in the steamy 1930s version of Cleopatra, which was closely followed by the Hays Code when it hit movie screens. While moviegoers never got to see that much of the beautiful Colbert again, the French-born actress started a successful screwball comedy career with Three-Cornered Moon. Colbert also proved that she could stand out while hiding behind a Puritan bonnet in Maid of Salem. Those are just two of the six Colbert classics in Universal's The Claudette Colbert Collection:

Facts of the Case

The six black-and-white movies, made from 1933 to 1947, are on three discs:

Disc One
Three-Cornered Moon (1933)
"What's it all about? Going to bed at night, getting up in the morning. What for?"
"It's that cheese you ate last night."
Moody rich girl Liz (Colbert) has a lot of angst and a writer boyfriend, much to the dismay of a hardworking doctor who fancies her. When the margins are called on her mother's stock, Liz and her family are going to get some lessons about what's important.

Maid of Salem (1937)
"You're a bold piece, Barbara, with your frippery. What you have need of is a man of character to restrain you."
Barbara (Colbert), a Puritan woman in Salem, isn't interested in a wealthy elder's attention, but instead favors a Virginia fugitive (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity) with a definitely impure lust for life. When the witch trials hit town, she could get burned—or at least hanged—because of her secret romance.

Disc Two
I Met Him in Paris (1937)
"I'm going to Paris as a one-woman rebellion against everything sweet and conventional."
Kay's (Colbert) once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris takes a detour to a Swiss resort when she meets two men, young writer Gene (Robert Young, Father Knows Best) and older playwright George (Melvyn Douglas, Theodora Goes Wild), both of whom have fallen for her. There's a complication: Gene is married.

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)
"A man with your manners can't possibly afford to have less than fifty million dollars."
Down-on-her-luck aristocrat Nicole (Colbert) has already fallen for the wealthy Michael Brandon (Gary Cooper, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) and married him. She still needs to teach the oft-married tycoon that a marriage contract is more than a business deal.

Disc Three
No Time For Love (1943)
"He's simply a muddy man who works in a tunnel."
Still, photographer Katherine Grant (Colbert) can't get brawling Jim Ryan (Fred MacMurray) out of her mind. When he gets suspended, thanks to her photos of him brawling, Katherine decides that hiring him as her assistant might diminish the attraction.

The Egg and I (1947)
"Can't you just picture it, Betty? Just you and me, all by ourselves—with thousands and thousands of chickens, every one of them laying eggs all day long."
Newlywed Betty (Colbert) is horrified when her husband Bob (Fred MacMurray) buys a chicken farm. She could get used to it, though, if she weren't afraid of losing her husband to too-friendly neighbor Harriet Putnam. The movie based on Betty MacDonald's book, introduced Ma and Pa Kettle to the moviegoing world.

The Evidence

Three-Cornered Moon may be "the first genuine 'screwball' comedy," according to a trivia page on the box. While romance, silly characters, and overlapping conversations are included, I'd describe it as a Depression-era morality tale rather than the fluff you'd think of today. At the outset, Liz and her siblings are vapid: one's a would-be actor with a pretentious accent; another, a law clerk, wants to pack up and just flee; and a third is a partying college student. Their mother spends money, but doesn't know what a margin is, and doesn't notice that her bank balance is down to $1.65. Having to go out and work—Liz finds herself fending off the advances of a married boss while learning how to operate a shoe-making machine—teaches them what's really important. Heck, Liz seems almost liberated by the lack of money, gradually turning a moody pout into a warm smile. Throughout, she laughs—or at least cracks wise—during all of her family's travails.

Maid of Salem is the only movie here that isn't a comedy. Colbert plays an unlikely Puritan, looking as radiant as Cleopatra in a lace bonnet and becoming a Sunday sermon subject for it. Thus, even before she stands up against the witch hunters, you just know she's going to be on trial herself. Colbert sounds like a twentieth century woman as she meets with Fred MacMurray and defends herself against witchcraft charges. MacMurray's fugitive is one-dimensional and broadly played, but that makes him a sharp contrast to the strict, even scary, elders of Salem. An optimistic ending seems out of place.

Robert Young, a television father figure, plays a charming cad in I Met Him In Paris. Here, Colbert's a more naïve character who could get swept away by Young's cad, drawing the protective attention of Melyvn Douglas' older, wiser bachelor. Colbert's likable and fairly straightlaced here, a stand-in for female moviegoers.

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife is an outrageous retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, with Gary Cooper's tycoon reading the play as he tries to deal with his new bride, unaware that she has the same intentions. It takes a lot to make a woman who would drive her husband to a nervous breakdown likable, but Colbert pulls it off. Side gags about pomposity in a French department store and a cure for insomnia are also good.

Colbert again finds a strong comic sparring partner in No Time For Love. Since he's a near-compulsive brawler who can throw a fancy dinner party into chaos, one wouldn't expect Fred MacMurray's Jim Ryan to catch the fancy of a magazine photographer who lives in a movie-perfect New York apartment. Still, MacMurray and Colbert are fun to watch as they bicker.

The Egg and I, with the episodic feel of an anecdotal book turned into a movie, feels like sitcom fodder. MacMurray and Colbert show off gifts for slapstick while playing more realistic characters. Colbert's Betty shows a sweetness not emphasized elsewhere in the set as she tames a "vicious" hunting dog and makes fast friends with her neighbors. While the story may make you think of Green Acres, Colbert avoids glamour here.

Whether glamorous or down-to-earth, Colbert comes across as a friendly, intelligent wisecracker who doesn't take things too seriously. The movies here are mostly star vehicles for Colbert; I'd call Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, No Time For Love, and The Egg and I the best in the set, mainly because of the strong chemistry she shares with Cooper and MacMurray.

A brief bonus, "Claudette Colbert: Queen of the Silver Screen," provides an admiring look at her career. There's also a trailer for the re-release of The Egg and I. The box features trivia for each movie.

Picture quality is decent for the movies' vintage. You'll find flecks and grain, though, particularly in the first three.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The movies here are good showcases for Claudette Colbert, but the silliness of Three-Cornered Moon and I Met Him in Paris won't stick in your mind much after you've seen them, and Maid of Salem could prove to be an unintentional comedy, since Colbert hardly seems Puritan.

Closing Statement

Fans of Claudette Colbert will enjoy this collection, and, even if you aren't, the mix of romance and comedy is fun.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Genres

• Classic
• Comedy
• Drama

Scales of Justice, Three-Cornered Moon

Video: 82
Audio: 84
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Three-Cornered Moon

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 1933
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Three-Cornered Moon

• None

Scales of Justice, I Met Him In Paris

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, I Met Him In Paris

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1937
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, I Met Him In Paris

• None

Scales of Justice, Maid Of Salem

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Maid Of Salem

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1937
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Maid Of Salem

• None

Scales of Justice, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

Video: 88
Audio: 86
Extras: 0
Acting: 95
Story: 87
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
•  1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1938
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

• None

Scales of Justice, No Time For Love

Video: 88
Audio: 88
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile, No Time For Love

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, No Time For Love

• None

Scales of Justice, The Egg And I

Video: 88
Audio: 88
Extras: 75
Acting: 95
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Egg And I

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1947
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Egg And I

• Featurette
• Trivia
• Trailer








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