Ambitious newsman Wally Cook (Fredric March), stuck at a sensation-seeking tabloid, gets into trouble when he tries to pass off a black New Yorker as the "Sultan of Marzipan," a potentate who is about to donate $500,000 to establish an art institute. The man is actually penniless, and Cook's editor, Oliver Stone (Walter Connolly), is lovid when he finds out about the impersonation, he becomes livid and demotes March to writing obituaries. Meanwhile, restless small-town Vermont girl Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard) goes to drink-addled Dr. Enoch Downer (Charles Winninger) for a routine check up and is told she's developed fatal radium poisoning from painting phosphorescent watch faces. Cook gets wind of her story and sees his ticket back to the big time and Hazel eagerly agrees to his proposition -- that she return with him to New York and enjoy the red-carpet treatment until she dies – even though Dr. Downer has by now told her that she's perfectly healthy. Cook plays up the story for all its worth and Hazel becomes a tabloid star, but her ongoing energy and good looks arouse Stone's suspicions… will he stumble on to the truth?
Hecht drew on his own newspaper experience while writing NOTHING SACRED: The fake sultan prank was on one Hecht himself concocted with his friend Maxwell Bodenheim, an eccentric poet, and during his days as a Chicago journalist Hecht enlivened slow-news days with reports of nonexistent earthquakes, fires and untraceable tragedies. Lombard is wonderfully funny in a role made for her madcap talent, and March, a fine serious actors, showed his considerable flair for comedy. Frank Capra borrowed some of this story line for MEET JOHN DOE, and NOTHING SACRED was subsequently recycled into both a Broadway musical called Hazel Flagg and the 1954 Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film LIVING IT UP. leave a comment
A marvelous black comedy full of wit and journalistic wisdom in the grand and capricious style of Hecht (he and Charles MacArthur co-wrote THE FRONT PAGE), this film is all the more stunning thanks to the outrageous and hilarious performance of super comedienne Lombard. This was one of the first of the screwball comedies, a classic of the genre which is just as funny today as when it was first filmed.