Cast & Crew
William K. Howard
The steamship S.S. Mammoth leaves from Havre, France for New York. On board is Princess Olga of Sweden and Gertie, her lady in waiting. Olga, who is really actress Wanda Nash of Brooklyn, has pretended to be a princess to win a movie contract. Due to a mix-up of rooms, Olga meets Joe King Mantell, a famous concertina player, who falls immediately in love with her. Meanwhile, Captain Nicholls receives word that escaped murderer Paul Musko is on board and gathers together five international detectives who are on their way to a convention to help locate him. Musko speaks seven languages and is known to be an actor. As the detectives meet, a mysterious man searches suite B50, belonging to blackmailer Robert M. Darcy, and eavesdrops on the detectives' meeting. Darcy then threatens to expose King's prison record and Wanda's impersonation to Detective Lorel. Although King resists Darcy's threat, Wanda gives him her last £50 and her emerald ring. After Olga dines with King, she discovers Darcy dead in her room. King and his friend, Benton, move Darcy's body to his room and discover that Olga's fifty pounds are missing. When the detectives later search Darcy's room and examine the body, they discover that it was moved from the scene of the crime. They also find Darcy's list of three on-board blackmail targets. The detectives, meanwhile, have deduced that Musko is disguised as passenger Nicholai Petroff, whom no one can locate. Although the detectives believe Musko killed Darcy, when they find a blonde hair on the corpse and King's accordion in Olga's room, they suspect that Olga and King are connected with the murder. King then discovers Benton with Olga's ring, which is engraved "Wanda Nash." After Detective Steindorf finds a stash of passports in room B50, he is murdered. Captain Nicholls then tells Olga she is under suspicion for murder and advises her that he must contact her government. After King promises to announce the killer that night, Wanda confesses her real identity to him. King then receives a murder threat and asks Lorel to protect him. Expecting Benton to cover for him, King waits for the murderer, but Petroff knocks Benton out. Meanwhile, Olga discovers that Lorel has the money she paid Darcy. As King reveals that Musko is actually disguised as Lorel, Petroff arrives and is wounded by Musko. King and Musko then fight until one of the detectives shoots Musko. Petroff reveals himself as a newspaperman who needed a good story and so knocked Benton out so he would not get in the way. In the New York harbor, crowds wait to greet Princess Olga, but Wanda publicly reveals her true identity. Back on board, she swears her love to King, and they kiss.
William K. Howard
Jean De Briac
James T. Mack
A. E. Freudeman
Arthur Hornblow Jr.
The Princess Comes Across
With Raft gone, Paramount decided to reunite Lombard with her co-star in the hit screwball comedy Hands Across the Table (1935). She and MacMurray proved a likable pair and would work together two more times, in Swing High, Swing Low (1937) and True Confession (1937).
Raft's rift with Tetzlaff wasn't the only thing that held up production on The Princess Comes Across. A January 1936 item in the Hollywood Reporter noted the start date of the picture was pushed back to later in the month to allow for additional dialogue to be written. (The screenplay had four credited and two uncredited writers, as well as a story adapter.) During that time, the project changed directors from Harold Young to William K. Howard. Once the problem with Raft was settled, it was mid-February before work began. A little over a month later, Howard refused to continue shooting unless Dick Blumenthal, assistant to producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr., left the set. An angry Hornblow summoned Howard to his office; when the director failed to appear, Hornblow issued official notice that production would cease until Howard obeyed. Executive producer William LeBaron rescinded Hornblow's order and shooting resumed, but a meeting of Paramount executives was reportedly called to discuss efforts by the Screen Directors' Guild to secure the right of its members to film their pictures without front office interference.
Frank S. Nugent pretty much trashed The Princess Comes Across in his New York Times review of June 4, 1936, calling it a "mild-to-boresome comedy," but audiences disagreed, and the picture holds up rather well today. Lombard plays a Brooklyn girl who poses as a Swedish princess on board a transatlantic liner in order to win a Hollywood contract. MacMurray is musician King Mantell, whom she meets, falls for, and joins forces with in order to untangle a shipboard murder mystery. MacMurray would play another musician opposite Lombard in Swing High, Swing Low, although in the later film his instrument is the far sexier saxophone. Here, he plays concertina (akin to the accordion), and he even gets to sing a song, "My Concertina." The working title of the film, by the way, was simply "Concertina."
Lombard had a field day playing a woman pretending to be somebody she's not, an angle used frequently in screwball comedies, most notably in her superb hit Nothing Sacred (1937). She occasionally lapses into her character's real identity, Brooklyn-born wannabe Wanda Nash, but spends most of the picture masquerading as Princess Olga, giving her the chance to do a delicious take-off on Hollywood's most famous Swedish import, Greta Garbo. Lombard enjoyed making the picture, not least because it allowed her to mimic a famous star, something she began doing as a stage-struck child back in her native Fort Wayne, Indiana.
MacMurray later reprised his role in a December 1938 one-hour version of The Princess Comes Across on the Lux Radio Theater. Lombard's role was played by Madeleine Carroll.
Producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Director: William K. Howard
Screenplay: Frank Butler, Walter DeLeon, Don Hartman, Francis Martin, Philip MacDonald (story), based on the novel by Louis Lucien Rogger
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegte
Music: Phil Boutelje, Jack Scholl
Film Editing: Paul Weatherwax
Cast: Carole Lombard (Wanda Nash), Fred MacMurray (Joe Mantell), Douglass Dumbrille (Inspector Lorel), Alison Skipworth (Lady Gertrude Allwyn), William Frawley (Benton), George Barbier (Captain Nicholls), Porter Hall (Robert M. Darcy).
by Rob Nixon
The Princess Comes Across
This film's working title was Concertina. A news item in Hollywood Reporter on January 20, 1936 stated that the starting date for the film was postponed for the writing of additional dialogue; the delay caused a change in directors from Harold Young to William K. Howard. At that point, filming was slated to start on 27 Jan, but was delayed until mid-February because George Raft, set to star with Lombard, walked off the set at the start of production because he objected to the assignment of Ted Tetzlaff as cameraman. As reported in Motion Picture Herald on March 14, 1936, Raft was temporarily suspended from Paramount for his behavior, and was replaced by Fred MacMurray. Raft returned to the studio for Yours for the Asking (see below). As reported in Hollywood Reporter on March 27, 1936, Howard, claiming interference on the set by producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr.'s assistant, Dick Blumenthal, refused to continue shooting unless Blumenthal left the set, which he then did. Later, Howard refused to answer a summons by Hornblow, who reacted by giving official notice that production would cease until Howard reported to him. Later, executive producer William LeBaron rescinded Hornblow's order, and Howard resumed shooting. Reportedly, a meeting of Paramount executives was called to discuss the recent campaigning of the Screen Directors' Guild for the right of a director to film his picture without front-office interference.