Story: Wally (Fredric March) was once the star reporter for The Morning Star, but one story that turned out to be a hoax ended all that. These days, he has bumped down to the obituary department and he is quite dissatisfied, a fact he makes known to all who will listen. He tries to make a case to his publisher, Oliver (Walter Connolly) and promises one of his ace scoops could really benefit the paper, but doubts remain. In the end, Wally heads off to cover a story he feels is being overlooked and could bring in a lot of readers, a terminal illness and a life taken too soon. He heads to a small Vermont town to meet Hazel (Carole Lombard), a young woman with a fatal diagnosis of radiation poisoning. But is this the story to turn around his career or has he bitten off more than he can chew this time?
Entertainment Value: Nothing Sacred lives up to its title, as this is indeed rather a dark premise for a screwball comedy, especially one from 1937, but it is also quite hilarious and more than holds its own against its genre peers. I had a lot of fun here, as I loved seeing all the characters trying to work each other and all the various agendas playing out, as well as how the movie manages to juggle these and reach a satisfying conclusion. I think the writing deserves immense credit, as the dialogue is sharp and fast paced, dripping with sarcasm and barbed exchanges, with so many laughs derived from the back and forth salvos between the characters. Even brief conversations can yield fun moments, such as Wally’s interactions with the locals when he first arrives, not only are they fun to watch, but they build on the larger narrative as well. The movie runs only 74 minutes and has a very brisk pace, so the jokes come quick and fairly nonstop, though Nothing Sacred does pause to catch its breath a little more often than some of its more manic peers. I think this remains a very funny, very enjoyable comedy and it more than earns a recommendation.
The writing certainly deserves a lot of credit, but you also have to commend the cast for the movie’s success, as this is a talented ensemble. Fredric March is lit up in Nothing Sacred, as he nails every conversation he has here and really carries the picture. He works verbal magic with even the most brief of exchanges and since he is in most of the scenes here, that is great news. I love his reactions and facial expressions, which get so much character across, but it is his timing and snap to the delivery of lines that stands out the most here. He knows when to pause and when to jump right now, even when to let a slow burn verbal jab finish things off. Just as impressive is Carole Lombard, who seems to be having a lot of fun in this role, as she shows great enthusiasm in her performance. Her dialogue skills are also top tier here, so when she and March engage, it is quite fun to watch. The cast also includes Margaret Hamilton, Walter Connolly, and Charles Winninger.