“The things I do for that newspaper…”
A dedicated newspaper editor (Spencer Tracy) puts his wedding on hold when he learns about a potential libel suit involving an heiress (Myrna Loy) falsely accused of being a “husband stealer”. Tracy hires his former colleague (William Powell) to temporarily wed his own fiancee (Jean Harlow), then romantically pursue Loy in an attempt to prove she really is guilty of husband-stealing — but naturally, romantic entanglements prove this process much more difficult than originally conceived.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Jean Harlow Films
- Myrna Loy Films
- Spencer Tracy Films
- William Powell Films
Peary argues that the “fast pacing, funny wisecracks by the dozens, and the sexual chemistry between the characters… make you overlook the confusing plot” of this “classic screwball comedy with a powerhouse cast” — but I disagree that the film is confusing in any way. While there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot (and in motivations of the characters), each one is simply a delicious new development in what amounts to an immensely clever script (by Maurine Dallas Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, and George Oppenheimer, based on a story by Wallace Sullivan). Peary points out that “highlights include the wedding scene, in which Harlow weakly kisses husband Powell and gives a heartfelt smooch to best man Tracy” and “charlatan Powell [proving] he wasn’t lying when he told Loy and her father (Walter Connolly) that he is a fisherman”.
Peary accurately notes that the film “is a particularly strong showcase for Harlow, whose character is sometimes tough, sometimes sentimental, sometimes infuriated, sometimes a good sport, always sexy, always funny”. He writes that he loves “her angry pout and how she huffs and puffs through a room with shoulders and legs working in unison”. In his Alternate Oscars, Peary votes Harlow Best Actress of the Year for her role here as Gladys, noting that Harlow “has never gotten enough praise” as “one of the great movie discoveries of the thirties”, and further pointing out how ably she “exchang[es] wisecracks with Powell and Tracy”. I agree, but also find the lead performances by Powell and Loy to be spot-on, with Loy a particular treat to watch as she demonstrates unexpected layers of complexity to her seemingly ice-cold heiress; her initial rebuffs towards overly-confident “ladies man” Powell are especially humorous.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jean Harlow as Gladys
- William Powell as Bill Chandler
- Myrna Loy as Connie Allenbury
Yes, as a delightful screwball comedy. Voted one of the Best Pictures of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars.
- Genuine Classic
- Oscar Winner or Nominee