CLAUDETTE COLBERT AND THE MAGIC OF CINEMA – BY GEORGE KAPLAN
There are some actresses whose names you don’t hear much anymore. It’s something to do with the passing of time; some stars are well-remembered, others, though they may have been as good if not better, are relatively little remarked-upon.
So, let’s talk about one of them, the glorious Claudette Colbert. For over a decade in the thirties and forties Claudette was a great star, often good in dramatic roles but luminously wonderful in comedy. She was able to be sophisticated, lively, seductive, playful, intelligent, and altogether delicious. Quite apart from anything else she was radiantly sexy, she just had *it*! Her beautiful kittenlike face with its mischievous eyes and adorable cheeks simply glowed in black and white. She may have said “By five in the afternoon I am tired and my face shows it”, which got her fired from 1948’s “State of the Union”, but who, really, could argue with that?! I was enchanted by her face as a boy and remain so now; the magic of cinema!
Claudette brought true zest to comedic roles and was at perhaps her best in two masterpieces for legendary directors, Preston Sturges’ “The Palm Beach Story”, and – the movie that made her a star – “It Happened One Night”, directed by Frank Capra and co-starring manly Clark Gable. Fans of classic comedy won’t need reminding of Claudette’s travails with the Ale and Quail Club (truly, absurdly hilarious!) or the romantic vicissitudes in “Story”, while “Night” is justly famous for the “Walls of Jericho” bed scene (not to forget Gable’s vestless chest!) and Claudette scandalously baring her thigh to attract a motorist’s attention when hitch-hiking! Certainly, Claudette could be hard to work with and said of Night after filming “I’ve just finished the worst picture in the world”, but, hey, nobody’s perfect! To see her at her best is still sheer delight.