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teaser Skylark (1941)

Skylark (1941) was one of several "husband and wife" comedies popular in the early 1940s. Directed by Mark Sandrich, it was based on Samson Raphaelson's Saturday Evening Post story, which became a novel and a 1939 Broadway play starring Gertrude Lawrence and a London hit with Constance Cummings, and was turned into a screenplay by Zion Myers and Allan Scott. Lydia (Claudette Colbert) and Tony Kenyon (Ray Milland) get into a marital tiff when he trades their cook to an advertising client in order to close a business deal. Lydia eventually divorces Tony and falls for lawyer Jim Blake (Brian Aherne), who takes her out on his boat during a storm.

Both Colbert and Milland had long been under contract to Paramount; by 1941 she had been a star for almost a decade and he was finally coming into his own. When Colbert was asked to star in Skylark, she demanded that the studio assign Milland to play her husband or she wouldn't do the film. Although Louella Parsons announced in her famous gossip column on December 7, 1940, that George Brent would be loaned by Warner Bros to Paramount to co-star with Colbert and Milland, it was Brian Aherne who would get the role of Jim Blake. Also in the cast were Binnie Barnes, Walter Abel and Grant Mitchell.

According to The Miami News Colbert was tossed around so badly during the filming of the sea storm sequence that she had twenty-seven bruises on her body. Edith Head, a favorite designer of Colbert's, created her wardrobe. Head made eighteen different changes of gowns, suits, lingerie and sports clothes, which was indicative of Colbert's star status. Colbert was so taken with the clothes that she purchased some of them for her personal use. Among the accessories that Colbert wore were diamond clips and bracelets by the DeBeers company, which had begun to incorporate product placement of their jewelry into Hollywood films in the 1930s.

Skylark was a certifiable hit when it debuted in New York the day before Thanksgiving on November 19, 1941. Bosley Crowther, the notoriously snarky New York Times critic, called it "a saucy and flavorsome little delicacy [...] Cut yourself a slice of it, if your taste is for frivolous fun. For this elegant bit of nonsense, which was dished up by the Paramount chefs, is just a few pounds of husband-wife comedy, seasoned with chucklesome wit, garnished with fine-feathered acting and done to a fly-away turn. In the line of fancy tit-bits, Skylark is a cinema caterer's dream."


"Claudette Takes It" The Miami News 13 Dec 41
"Colbert Stars in 'Skylark'" Eugene Register-Guard 4 Apr 42
Crowther, Bosley "Skylark,' Lively Comedy Which Takes Off From Triangle, at the Paramount" The New York Times 20 Nov 41
Goble, Alan The Complex Index to Literary Sources in Film
"In Demand - and How!" The Milwaukee Journal 25 Jul 43
The Internet Movie Database
"Mission Theater Shows Comedy Hit" San Jose News 30 Dec 41
Otnes, Cele, Pleck, Elizabeth Hafkin Cinderella Dreams; The Allure of the Lavish Wedding
Parsons, Louella "George Brent is Pages for Skylark Role" The Milwaukee Sentinel 7 Dec 40
Segrave, Kerry Product Placement in Hollywood Films: A History
"Skylark" The Glasgow Herald 23 Dec 41

By Lorraine LoBianco

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