Capital Celluloid 2020 – Day 4: Sat Jan 4

Swing High, Swing Low (Leiden, 1937): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 2.45pm

This 35mm presentation, which also screens on January 18this part of the Carole Lombard season at BFI Southbank. You can find the full details here.

Swing High, Swing Low is a bittersweet romance that was thought to be a little dated at the time of its making. But now it looks great. Fred MacMurray is an ex-soldier who can toot a mean horn, which carries him from a Panama honky-tonk to a class joint in New York. Feckless and unused to success, the trumpeter goes on the skids and a deserted Carole Lombard has to rescue him from himself. The story is nothing special. But the acting is. MacMurray and Lombard move from flirtation into real love and then something much darker when things go wrong, and the transitions are expertly done. MacMurray is even a convincing trumpeter. And a critic has called Swing High, Swing Low Lombard's "most flawlessly romantic picture", orchestrated by a gay director who, like Cukor, understood women. Mitchell Leisen was a director who could make things look good, kept plots rolling along pacily, cherished his casts and was never afraid of exploring the many aspects of romance. Only when he tackled big themes did his films become heavy-handed.
Derek Malcolm 

Here (and above) you can watch extracts from the film.

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