THE GILDED LILY (Paramount, 1935), directed by Wesley Ruggles, suggested by the story by Melville Baker and Jack Kirkland, is a delightful comedy starring Claudette Colbert in her first pairing opposite two young actors on the rise: Fred MacMurray and Ray Milland. Though Colbert had already starred in earlier comedies as THREE-CORNERED MOON (Paramount, 1933) and her loan-out assignment of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (Columbia, 1934), for which she won the Academy Award as Best Actress, THE GILDED LILY would actually be the start in similar themes such as this, several more opposite MacMurray up to 1948. Asnmuch as THE GILDED LILY is only a title, for which there is no such character in the story named Lily, and this being no relation to a 1921 Paramount silent starring Mae Murray of the same name, this is actually an original story about a working girl named Marilyn.
With an opening view of New York's Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the story introduces best friends, Marilyn David (Claudette Colbert), a stenographer, and Pete Dawes (Fred MacMurray), a smooth talking newspaper reporter, sitting on a park bench where they meet every Thursday night at Bryant Park - he munching on a bag of popcorn with his shoes off, and she discussing about her future to one day meet the man of her dreams. Marilyn eventually does when she encounters Charles Gray (Ray Milland) at a crowded subway station involving a pushy subway guard (Edward Gargan). She rescues him from a fight leading to the street and her involvement with him - to a point of having him look for a job, an evening at Coney Island amusement park, a day at the beach and time together at the same park bench she and Pete meet once a week. Falling in love with her, Charles, actually Charles Granville, a British nobleman secretly visiting New York with his father (C. Aubrey Smith), the Lord of Donshore, resumes his incognito from Marilyn until he returns to England to break off his engagement with Helen Fergus. Assigned by his managing editor (Charles C. Wilson) to cover a story on the visiting Granvilles, Pete locates them boarding a ship bound for England to get the latest scoop. While reading Pete's article about them in the newspaper, Marilyn is both surprised and upset the nobleman to be her dream man. To capitalize on this romance, Pete builds up his story of desertion between Charles and Marilyn. After Marilyn quits her job and through Nate's (Luis Alberni) idea, Pete goes even further with his publicity stunt labeling Marilyn "The No Girl" singing and dancing at Nate's Gincham Cafe. Marilyn's celebrity status leads both her and Pete to perform in Southampton, England, where Marilyn and Charles meet once more. Others in the cast are: Eddie Craven (Eddie, Pete's photographer pal); Donald Meek (Mr. Hankerson, Marilyn's employer); Forrester Harvey (Hugo Martin, the innkeeper); Grace Bradley (Daisy); Tom Dugan (The Hobo); Ferdinand Munier (Otto Buische), and Warren Hymer (The Taxi Driver).
With some amusement bits involving Colbert's drunken scene and singing and dancing to the tune of "Something About Romance," the chemistry between her and MacMurray is evident from their very first scene together. Aside from this being MacMurray's first movie with Colbert, it was also his first important movie role that elevated him to leading man status, along with future films together with Colbert. Ray Milland, in a secondary role, would soon elevate to star stature himself, including his reunion pairing opposite Colbert in both ARISE, MY LOVE (1940) and SKYLARK (1941). While the pace for THE GILDED LILY slows up some near the end, the overall 80 minutes remains both likable and enjoyable production.
Quite popular in its day, followed by frequent television revivals from the 1960s to the 1980s, by today's standards, THE GILDED LILY is close to being forgotten and overlooked among classic film comedies. It did include cable televisions broadcasts on American Movie Classics (1990-91) and an unannounced presentation on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 5, 2010) to promote its DVD distribution together with other Colbert/MacMurray comedys (THE BRIDE COMES HOME and FAMILY HONEYMOON (1948)) in the box-set. THE GILDED LILY is no doubt the top of the list of its trio of comedies that should still be entertaining today as it was back in 1935. (***1/2 bags of popcorn)