For Reel

Swing High, Swing Low (1937)
June 8, 2015, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mitchell Leisen
3.5 Stars
Swing High, Swing LowWhen Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray were paired for the first of their four collaborations in Hands Across the Table in 1935, both Lombard and director Mitchell Leisen gave MacMurray a hard time for being a shy, green performer, and the two worked diligently to get a good performance out of him. Only two years later does he seem completely at ease with both collaborators in Swing High, Swing Low, a dual genre picture that begins as a screwball comedy and evolves into a romantic melodrama. His part as a musician was not a stretch being an experienced saxophone player (here he plays a trumpeter), and his fall from grace is handled with great commitment, even if it’s of the familiar, five-o’clock shadow variety. The picture’s greatest achievement is the liveliness of the Panamanian night club–for a romance, there are few moments of actual physical intimacy, rather scenes in which the lovers get lost in each other amidst a large, raucous crowd. Cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff contributes his usual excellent work, including the meet cute in which the players are talking as Lombard’s boat is lowered. Their shifting planes predicts the distance that will grow between them due to MacMurray’s alcoholism. It’s an effective clue to the melodrama to come, even as the tone at the time is decidedly screwball.