Carole Lombard and Fredric March are a capable screwball comedy duo in the 1937 Technicolor film “Nothing Sacred.” Despite requiring 11 writers to work on either the screenplay or the treatment, the film succeeds as a witty newspaper story involving a complete misunderstanding. In Nothing Sacred, Hazel Flagg (Lombard), a woman from Warsaw, Vermont, receives a misdiagnosis from her doctor that says she’s dying of radium poisoning. The story makes it all the way to New York City, where a shrewd news reporter named Wally Cook (March) sees it as a way to both redeem his tarnished reputation and drive up the circulation of his newspaper (The Morning Star).
Wally, already in trouble for staging a fake charity event, convinces his tough editor, Oliver Stone (played by Walter Connolly), to allow him to fetch Hazel. She’ll spend her last days in New York as a splendid example of courage in the face of death. Cook travels to Vermont and meets the citizenry of Warsaw, who are people prone to one-word answers, mistrust of newspapermen, and to always expect a tip for any information — no matter how useless.
Meanwhile, Hazel meets with Doctor Enoch Downer (Charles Winninger) and learns about her misdiagnosis. But the fit and healthy Hazel impulsively accepts Wally’s offer to fly with him to New York, and she brings along Enoch to help with the ruse. They fly to New York, providing us with a view of the Statue of Liberty and the rest of the city in 1937. Hazel lands and experiences New York’s publicity machine in full force. Everyone from the mayor, to society matrons to a crowd at the wrestling arena offer their tearful sympathy.
The Morning Star’s publicity campaign for Hazel has her accepting the key to the city, but most of the action involves Wally taking her out on dates with a cameraman in tow. Everywhere she goes, people break down in tears, which Hazel finds aggravating. At a nightclub, an over-the-top floor show features courageous woman of the past, including Lady Godiva, Catherine the Great, and Pocahontas, all on horseback. Finally, the MC calls Hazel to the stage, where she collapses from drinking too much champagne.
Carole Lombard possesses the ability to deliver fast-pace lines without any loss of understanding. I always hear her clearly no matter how fast she talks. Ben Hecht provides his usual lively dialogue, although others such as George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart lend a hand. The romance amounts to a few kisses here and there between Hazel and Wally, but it’s only played up in one rather quiet scene on a sailboat as the couple get more comfortable with each other. It takes a while for Wally to discover the ruse, so his motivations are not so keenly romantic.