The Princess Comes Across (1936)
The 1936 comedy-mystery The Princess Comes Across might well have been inspired by a real-life incident during the silent-movie era, in which a crafty San Francisco stenographer hoodwinked the Hollywood elite into believing that she was a Spanish princess. Carole Lombard stars as an alluring Swedish beauty who travels under the name of Princess Olga. Everyone whom she meets en route to America on the steamship Mammoth bows and scrapes to the Princess, while Hollywood anxiously awaits her arrival to star her in a big-budget film. Only the ship's bandleader, King Mantell (Fred MacMurray), refuses to defer to Olga, sensing that she may not be all she claims. Mantell's instincts are right on target: the "Princess" is a brass-nickel phony, a Brooklyn girl named Wanda Nash who has cooked up her royal guise with drama coach Gertrude (Alison Skipworth) as a publicity stunt to crash into movies. Unfortunately, a weaselly blackmailer Darcy (Porter Hall) gloms onto Wanda's true identity and offers to keep quiet in exchange for a huge cash settlment. At the same time, Darcy is attempting to shake down several other passengers on the Mammoth, including King Mantell. Inevitably, Darcy is found murdered in the "Princess"'s stateroom, and Wanda finds herself one of several likely suspects, among them Mantell. A quintet of international detectives, travelling to a convention in America, sets out to solve the mystery, which becomes even more mysterious when one of the detectives also turns up dead. Taking matters in his own hands, Mantell vows to clear Wanda's name, and in the course of things he realizes that he's madly in love with her--but will Wanda give up her hoax, and her future showbiz career, for Mantell's sake? Among the many highlights in this engagingly daffy film is Fred MacMurray's rendition of the enchantingly forgettable song "My Concertina."