Fools for Scandal

Fools for Scandal (1938)

Gasser

I have to wonder what attracts actors to playing the role of a fictional movie star. Do they say, “Hey, that will be easy. I’m fully qualified for that part.” Whatever the case may be, you can nearly forget that Carole Lombard‘s character in Fools for Scandal is an actress because besides the attention the press gives her, she has no other characteristics of a screen star, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Movie star Kay Winters is visiting France while on break from shooting her latest picture in London. When she pauses to watch the joyous outflow of people from a wedding reception, she is kissed by a member of the crowd whom she thinks mistook her for a member of the wedding party. That man, however, also had just sauntered up to the crowd and spying Kay, thought he could make a seemingly innocent move on her. Rene (Fernand Gravet) is an out-of-work cook who hasn’t a dime to his name and has only just exchanged his day suit for his tuxedo at a pawn shop. He finagles his way into sharing a cab ride with Kay and shows her his native city, slowly winning the brunette over.

The two take dinner together and plan a next-day rendezvous, but when Rene over-sleeps, he is stuck with only a tuxedo for clothing. After sending his friend out to retrieve his regular suit proves too time-consuming, he dons a couple oriental rugs and rushes down to Kay, whom he informs he will be with shortly. In his haste to leave, now in his underwear, Rene grabs Kay’s jacket and with it two diamond clips. Kay bails on their date but Rene goes after her all the way to London on the pretense of returning the clips, which his pal has incidentally pawned to bankroll their travel. Once there, he shows off his culinary bravado while at a party and decides to take over as chef once the cook quits.

Kay is unaware this man she sort of loves is hiding out in her house the night following the party and will serve her breakfast in the morning. The party-goers are far more savvy, however, and have noticed Rene did not leave the party. The next morning as the gossip mill has churned, hordes of female friends come pouring into Kay’s bedroom wanting to know about the new cook. Kay is continually furious with Rene, but a horde of reporters on her porch blocks his exit. Complicating matters is Kay’s real boyfriend Phillip (Ralph Bellamy), who is hanging on hoping for an engagement agreement from the star.

When I first saw Lombard on the screen in Fools for Scandal, I gasped at her brown hair. I couldn’t believe such a sight, but as it turned out, the hairdo was a wig meant to disguise her identity as a famous actress. Lombard is beautiful in her expensive gowns and lavish lifestyle and lends the film plenty of humor. The story does contain an arbitrary song, “Fools for Scandal” written by Rogers and Hart. The sing-talk performance mostly by Gravet is uncomfortable in the story to say the least.

Poor Ralph Bellamy once again plays the second-fiddle boyfriend as the leading man swoops in for the kill. He is particularly pathetic in Fools for Scandal, however, as every demand he makes is conceded. He tells Kay she must make up her mind on whether to marry him tonight “or else!” What’s the “or else”, she asks. “Or else tomorrow.” When Philip declares Kay’s behavior is the last straw, he mumbles a “probably” as he storms out the door. This is not a unique role for Bellamy as he often played the less desirable lover, but he was armed with plenty of humorous dialogue that made him fun to watch, if not a bit likeable.

Finally, Gravet is entertaining as our French love interest. He is plenty amiable and can drive a laugh with the help of the ever-comedic Allen Jenkins as his roommate. In one scene he dons an antique uniform and white wig to serve a special dinner for Kay and Phillip. His obnoxious behavior makes the scene wonderfully funny while also frustrating as we empathize with Phillip.

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