"It matters more what's in a woman's face than what's on it."
Now here is a woman of distinction. Claudette Colbert was beautiful, funny and an extremely talented actress who everyone remembers for "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1934 and garnered the Best Actress award for Claudette. This is a wonderful screwball comedy, however, her true genius can only be fully recognized by viewing her other films. She was brilliant at comedy but the film we watched, "Torch Singer" from 1933, (again a pre-code film) shows her depth as a dramatic actress. The story is a scandalous one of unwed motherhood wherein Claudette plays a woman who has a child outside of marriage, tries her hardest to support the child but fails. She is forced to give the child up for adoption and ends up supporting herself the only way she knows how - as a torch singer. Her career blossoms so she seeks out the child but cannot find her. Eventually the father of her child reappears, finds the child and everyone is reunited. The range of emotions that cross Claudette's face as she faces motherhood and finds that she loves her child more than she could have ever imagined and will do anything to ensure that her child has everything, even if that means giving her up, are heartbreaking. She has an earthy and an almost every day type of woman look to her that, I feel, makes her easy to identify with. What I truly love about these pre-code films is that the emphasis is almost always on the woman and the actress who plays her. The actresses of this time period were not only talented and beautiful but they had the ability to really dig deep and show true emotions in their films because they were allowed to.
We also viewed clips from "Cleopatra" "Four Frightened People" "The Palm Beach Story" and "The Smiling Lieutenant." "Cleopatra" was another pre-code film that featured a lovely bath scene that showed a nearly naked Claudette. Her career spanned seven decades and she is one of the few pre-code actresses who survived the Code (probably due to her earthiness and her dramatic abilities.) She also worked on stage and in many television productions. Claudette Colbert will always be remembered for "It Happened One Night" but, for me, I will always remember her as a classic actress who could do everything. She made me laugh, made me cry and made me really feel something.