The Gilded Lily (1935)

Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, C. Aubrey Smith,
A stenographer becomes a famed entertainer, courted by an English nobleman and an informal American reporter.
  • 6.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Claude Binyon, Jack Kirkland, Melville Baker, Writer:
  • Wesley Ruggles, Director:
  • Albert Lewis, Producer:
9 / 10

What It Takes To Be A Celebrity

Claudette Colbert was given two of Paramount's up and coming leading men in The Gilded Lily which holds up very well today because it talks about the cult of celebrity. Ray Milland and Fred MacMurray co-starred with her and in MacMurray's fifth film he became a star.

Fred's a reporter and Claudette's a secretary and they have a regular Thursday date on a bench near the main public library in Bryant Park in New York. They talk about the state of the human condition while munching on popcorn. But one fine day Claudette runs into Ray Milland who is traveling incognito in the USA, he's a titled English Earl whose got a playboy reputation and a fiancé back across the pond.

MacMurray as it were happens to spot Milland and his father C. Aubrey Smith as they're boarding the boat back for the United Kingdom. His reporter instinct takes over and he breaks the story of Milland and Colbert and overnight he creates a celebrity, 'the No Girl.'

What to do, but try and exploit this all around and Claudette working class secretary one day becomes a celebrity like Zsa Zsa Gabor, Pia Zadora, or Jessica Hahn. The cult of celebrity was just beginning back in the day and The Gilded Lily is one of the first films to deal with that phenomenon.

Though MacMurray got his big break in this film after four other films which he didn't make much of an impact, the film really does belong to Claudette Colbert. She's got some great comic moments here, getting drunk and passing out under a nightclub table while MacMurray and owner Luis Alberni are discussing putting her in his club.

Of course Claudette doesn't sing or dance or do card tricks, so what will she do once she gets there. Another great moment is Claudette taking singing lessons from an exasperated Leonid Kinskey. This might have been the inspiration for the scene where Fortunio Bonanova tries to resign from giving singing lessons to Dorothy Comingore in Citizen Kane. Of course this one is played strictly for laughs as poor Colbert tries to croak out a song.

Claudette Colbert doesn't sing or dance or do card tricks, but give her her due as one of the best screen comediennes films had back in the Thirties. She's at her very best in The Gilded Lily and what the film says about celebrities and what it takes to be one is probably more true today than back in 1935. Don't miss this one if broadcast

8 / 10

A typical warm pearl of the 30's

In this very sweet and charming picture, Claudette Colbert is Marilyn David, a girl divided between two men. One is an English nobleman traveling unknown (Lord Granton/Charles Gray, played by Ray Milland) and the other a friend reporter (Peter Daws, played by Fred MacMurray, in his good old American style). Colbert has a strong friendship bond with MacMurray - they meet each other every Thursday to sit on a bench, take off the shoes and eat popcorn while the world is passing by - while Milland is just that kind of guy women fall for. It is a lovely picture, with a predictable ending, but representing very well a reasonable woman exercising her selection privileges during the good old times, when marriage was meaningful and fidelity and trust where more valuable then gold. There is no use in putting here a good word for Colbert. After all, as everybody knows, she is just fantastic.

7 / 10

plenty of fun, wit & beauty

THE GILDED LILY packs a lot of good-natured fun into a standard Paramount assembly line product. Claudette Colbert, perhaps never more perfectly photographed and framed, plays an office worker torn between two handsome young suitors: a brash newspaper reporter (Fred MacMurray) and a cultivated Englishman (Ray Milland, who, unbeknownst to Colbert, is actually a duke traveling in the States under an assumed name to avoid the press). The plot picks up when Colbert discovers Milland's true identity (via MacMurray who by chance is assigned to do a story on him), whereupon emotions take over, spin out of control and create a whole new world of developments, including Colbert's overnight rise to celebrity-by- association, which relocates her from workaday surroundings to nightclub dressing rooms and luxury hotels, from simple lace collars to glittery evening gowns. There is no logical explanation for how she could become so closely involved with Milland, yet know nothing about him other than the fact that he is English and has no job. But we must suspend disbelief so that the plot can develop.

The first half is the best, beginning charmingly as Colbert and MacMurray's friendly- flirtatious relationship is established on a bench outside the main branch of the New York Public Library where they meet each Thursday to eat popcorn, chat and watch the world go by. Their dialogue provides all the exposition we will need: he is in love with her, plain and simple; she isn't in love with him, because her vision of love is based on an ideal fantasy which no reality has ever matched. From this introduction we are taken on a lively ride as she is soon swept off her feet by Milland in the surging chaos of a packed subway station. Following is a series of beautifully written scenes, expertly played by Colbert, charting the giddiness of falling madly in love through the descent into despair when that love suddenly appears to be a cruel illusion. The peak occurs when Colbert exquisitely botches a nightclub song-and-dance act intended to launch her as a marketable celebrity.

Thereafter the story sags and gets mechanical, contracting into the old "which suitor shall I choose" routine, but momentum resumes toward the end. Even at its lowest points, however, just the beauty of the three main faces in close up is enough to hold interest. It is impossible to judge which of Colbert's many light comedy performances is the finest, but this one would have to be in the top five. MacMurray and Milland are perfectly cast as the opposite love interests. They resemble each other in build, height and hair color, so that even accounting for Milland's accent and slightly more reserved demeanor we can see why it's so difficult for Colbert to choose between them. The resemblance is most pronounced when the men appear together in formal attire.

7 / 10

30's Love Triangle

Entertaining romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray as a pair who have a "date" each Thursday meeting on a city bench to eat popcorn together, sans shoes. He seems to be in love with her, but she longs to meet her dream man for her idea of an ideal romance. And she does - in the form of handsome Ray Milland, who assists her in a crowd situation on the subway. They have a fun date together at Coney Island where the camera takes us on a wild ride on the roller coaster with them; they fall in love instantly. She thinks he's out of a job - he doesn't tell her he is a Lord (and has a fiancée back home in England!). But when she sees his picture in the paper (coincidentally attached to a story done by MacMurray, a reporter) she believes she's been duped. Follows a series of publicity newspaper stories, out of her control, which causes her to become famous as "The No Girl" for saying "no" to a lord. Then he thinks she was just in the whole relationship with him for the publicity. Well, based on her huge public fame, she is amazingly hired to sing and dance in her own solo nightclub act - even though, as seen in a quite amusing performance scene, she has zero talent!

This is a fun, enjoyable romp - a little frustrating in the way of many romantic comedies in which you feel like you know a couple should be together, but misunderstandings have caused them to remain apart. The ending of this was not particularly what I hoped to see either. But - Claudette Colbert sparkles as always, she's great. Fred MacMurray also does a fine job in his part, Ray Milland looks very young, handsome and, well, rather dashing! One thing I wondered about in this film - why are the Colbert and MacMurray characters so satisfied with just a date on a bench once a week, how come they never desire to get together for a dinner out, go to a movie, or any other normal type activity?! Seemed a bit odd to me. All in all, a quite enjoyable film.

8 / 10

Colbert AND MacMurray AND Milland...that's a pretty amazing cast.

Marilyn (Claudette Colbert) meets a nice guy, Charles Gray (Ray Milland) and they fall for each other. What she doesn't know is that this rich member of the British royalty already is engaged...and when he pops the question to her, she rejects him. Her friend, Peter (Fred MacMurray), is a newspaper man and helps her exploit the situation...creating a lounge act for her and billing her as 'The NO Girl'. While she has no singing ability, he insists that this won't be a problem! And, oddly, she becomes quite the sensation.

When she takes her show on the road to the UK, a potential problem arises....Charles. When they meet again, they pick up where they left off...and Pete feels left out...which would seem to indicate he wants her to be more than just his business partner. What's next? See the film...and see who she picks.

Considering the actors, it's not surprising that the movie works quite well. Charming and well worth seeing.