Friday, 27 January 2012

CMBA Comedy Classics Blogathon: 10 Reasons To LOVE Libeled Lady (1936)

This is My Contribution to the CMBA's Comedy Classics Blogathon. The CMBA may think I'm going to be posting about The Odd Couple, but I couldn't write a review of that for a number of reasons, so this is my contribution... I hope that's ok! Click this link to read the other members posts.

I do these 10 reasons to love posts when I love a film so much that I honestly don't think that I could write a coherent review of the film, there is just so much amazing that there isn't anything that could be crammed into and revised and evaluated in a review, it just is how good it is. I feel this way about Libeled Lady (directed by Jack Conway). I can't think of a better thirties comedy. It's quite the flawless film.

Warren Haggerty is the chief editor of the New York Evening Star. He keeps on delaying his marriage with Gladys because of the endless crises at his newspaper. When Connie Allenbury files a 5 million dollars claim against the paper for having printed that she is a marriage-breaker, he organizes the sham marriage of Gladys and the Don Juan Bill Chandler. The goal is to catch Connie alone with a married man... 

Source: IMDB

Jean Harlow as Gladys Benton
William Powell as Bill Chandler
Myrna Loy as Connie Allenbury
Spencer Tracy as Warren Haggerty
Walter Connolly as J.P. Allenbury

The Powells {William Powell and Myrna Loy}

The chemistry on-screen between Myrna Loy and William Powell is something else. The three screen couples that I think are the most charismatic, equal and perfect together are Kate Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy and William Powell, and Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. I'm completely in love with these two. I've got the complete Thin Man box set and I've just ordered the TCM Powell and Loy box set (review of the set will pop up after it's come and I've watched the movies). They have a sort of invisible bond between them and their humour matches perfectly. Myrna Loy's dry and witty comebacks and half-serious put downs, coupled with William Powell's perfect screwball farce, work stupendously.


The Fishing Scene

Basically, at this point, William Powell has been trying to frame Myrna Loy so her libel case against the newspaper would be pointless, and he has got himself into going fishing with Myrna Loy and her Father. She still thinks he's a fake, but her father insists that anyone who knows "that much about angling must be good" (he has been quoting things about trout fishing from books to get close to Myrna's father.) Well, he goes up the stream so they can't fully see him and he manages to fall over,


 lose his "Angling For Beginners" book and try to catch it - and then when he just swings his rod over his shoulder he manages to catch the elusive giant trout that the Allenburys have been trying to catch for years. Then Myrna Loy jumps up and wades over to him and tries to catch the fish in a net but the fish accidentally hits her in the face she she screams. It's hilarious! Here it is, embedded for you.

Jean Harlow

This is the first Jean Harlow film I've ever seen and I think It's safe to say that I will be watching more of her in the future - it's so sad that she died so young! I can't believe she didn't make more films. When she storms into Warren Haggerty's office in her wedding gown looking like she's about to murder someone and the soundtrack plays the wedding march I just had hysterics. She is such a comic actress - and the clothes she wears! Dolly Tree was the costume designer for this film and I think that she should have won an award not only for the costumes, but for having such a fantastic name. Dolly Tree. Anyways, Jean Harlow is a wonderful actress and she certainly shows some real comic genius as Gladys Benton. Fact: She and William Powell were together during the filming of Libeled Lady.

We'll take the car, we'll drive... To the moon!


I adore the scene where Myrna Loy proposes to William Powell. My sister was like, "Isn't it bad luck to propose to a man when it's not a leap-year?". 1936 was a leap year. Hell yeah Myrna even got the date right (It wasn't really Myrna, but I'd like to think it was :-D). It's her way of trying to prove her father and friends wrong when they say that William Powell is married. She asks her if he's been proposed to much and then asks him to marry her. He accepts and the audience is left to wonder at whether he's a bigamist or he's just forgotten he's married - but then we find out that he thinks his marriage to Gladys was illegal because she was never divorced from her first husband - due to a technicality. But when Gladys confronts them, she tells Myrna and Bill (he explained everything to Myrna after they married) that she is actually divorced :-0. It's such a cute scene though.

Spencer Tracy

He's always so funny. The way he dashes out of the Allenbury's and how he always lets Gladys down for the newspaper. The way he says the line "She may be married to him but she's engaged to me!" with such seriousness it makes me laugh. HE's a very talented actor. Many make the mistake of only grouping him with Katharine Hepburn and I think that's wrong. I've only seen him outside Kate/Spence in this and Test Pilot and I've enjoyed him just as much as with K Hepburn and I'd like to see more of his movies. My little sister bought me the 1000 page biography by James Curtis for Christmas so I should be pretty clued up by the time I've read it!

The First Phone Call

I completely adore how you can see J.P. Allenbury's face but you can only see Myrna Loy's back. She uses her physicality to show the character of her role from the start. Already she is bouncing a tennis ball with her racket and annoying her father. When she is told off for bouncing the ball there is a momentary lull and then she reaches across and tweaks his ear and pulls it, leaving him rather perplexed. I've often wondered whether she ever told him that she was going to do that because he looks so confused!

Jack Conway's Direction.


I've recently realised that Jack Conway directed both this and Julia Misbehaves, another total favourite comedy of mine. He must have been such a clever and funny man. I can't say anything against his direction of this wonderful film. It's just fabulous. Plus, he worked with my two of my favourite actresses, Myrna Loy and Greer Garson. Oh, and he also has a bit of a thing for marriage problems. In Libeled Lady, Spencer Tracy declares "She may be married to him but she's engaged to me!" and Ceasar Romero yells in Julia Misbehaves, "She may be your wife but she's my fiancee!"

Myrna Loy

{Source. Sometimes I cry because Myrna perfection.}

On her own she is just as talented as when she is with Bill Powell. I've recently found out a lot more about her and have gone on a total spree watching her movies. I think she's a wonderful actress and at the moment I have three favourite actresses: Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy and Greer Garson. I haven't stopped loving Bette Davis, but I like these actresses more right now. I think I've watched a great deal more and have been introduced to actresses I've never heard of before and I just realised that there were more amazing actresses than just Bette Davis. Myrna Loy is beyond words of perfection in all of her films. Anyone who has been reading my posts directly from the blog may have noticed that my blog design has become somewhat Myrna heavy... I hope you don't mind!

Those cute little things that only Myrna Loy and Bill Powell could get away with.


And before you scream "OMG, she's just so samey in this post." This and "Myrna Loy and William Powell" are two totally sparate reasons. I'm talking about moments when Bill Powell just leans across to Myrna Loy and wipes some mustard off her mouth, or their talk on the jetty on the lake near her house. These kind of things only people as amazing as Bill and Mynra could get away with.


I loved the ending to this. I was honestly wondering how on earth they would get out of the bind they were in. I was much relieved when Bill and Myrna can finally be together because Gladys and Warren finally realise how much they love each other. Aww. They end by having to try and explain the extraordinary situation to J.P. Allenbury. Which results in a typically screwball scream for, "EVERYONE TO BE QUIET! PLEASE BE QUIET!"

I hoped you enjoyed reading this crazy review as much as I loved writing it and watching the film :-D.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Love Is Not About What You Are Expecting To Get...

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only what you are expecting to give - which is everything.

~ Katharine Hepburn


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Lion In Winter (1968)

I watched The Lion In Winter for the second time the other day and was completely blown away. Words can't express how amazing this film is. I am proud to say that I have just taken a massive acting lesson from Kate Hepburn, Peter O'Toole and the rest of the whole cast. You will be seriously hard-pressed to find a film with better script, direction and acting all at once. Before you read all of this review, if you haven't already, GO WATCH THIS! You will most certainly not be disappointed.

The Lion In Winter (1968) Dir. Anthony Harvey


The Plot:
Set in 1183 at Christmas time, King Henry II of England is having to face the facts about his life, and what will happen when he's gone. He has three living sons: Richard, John and Geoffrey. He wants John to be king and particularly doesn't want Richard to be king. Geoffrey is left somewhere out on the sidelines and no-one wants him (That makes it sound heartbreaking, LOL! It isn't. He's a conniving creep). Every Christmas and Easter, King Henry sends for his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine to be let out of her prison back in England (he's in France at the moment) and she is rowed across the channel to meet him.

As soon as she gets back all hell breaks loose. He only releases her to keep the people happy and stop her getting so angered that she will do something drastic. She knows that their marriage has finished. Henry has been with his mistress Alais for many years now, yet it still pains Eleanor to see them together, as she raised Alais like her own child.

With all the family "home for Christmas" questions about the aftermath of Henry's death are bound to come up. When they all get there they play a game of who is going to get Aquitaine and who is going to get to marry Alais (who is being passed about like a political chess-piece). Eleanor wants the eldest son Richard to get the throne. Since his birth she raised him almost entirely on her own, and they have always had a  love-hate mother-son relationship. However Henry favours the younger, more stupid and awkward John as his heir.

Thus starts the painful game of "who can hurt the other more" between Henry and Eleanor. Eleanor retires to her room convinced that she is "done for this time"

But then she and the three boys have the idea of making an alliance with King Phillip of France who is there making sure that Henry keeps to his promise of one of his sons marrying Alais, as he has already given him her dowry. They all go in turn to try and talk to him about it, and each time another brother or family member comes in, he hides the previous one in a different tapestry in his room, and by the end they are all popping in and out of them like jack-in-the-boxes (it's actually hilarious. Just a little :-D).

Well, Henry decides he wants an annulment so he can marry Alais and have more sons that are conspirators/idiots/pains in the neck and Eleanor is very upset. She really does still love Henry and now she's going to lose him and the only power she has left. How will they get out of this mess?

The Verdict:

This film is quite the masterpiece of Historical drama. I wouldn't say this if the cast had been different. I don't think it could have been cast any better. Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn manage to even out their age-gap well. Even though she obviously looks older than she used to (she was 61, after all) Kate Hepburn's energy and complete and utter commitment to her character subtracted quite a few years from her age, and the beard they gave Peter O'Toole and his older-looking face (apparently from excessive alcohol consumption...) just about evened their age out. All of the brothers are also cast very well. In all honesty there is no one part out of the three that is better or more juicy than the others. Anthony Hopkins is great as Richard. He has one particularly difficult scene to play, the one where he plays out his negotiation scene with King Phillip and there is some subtext which you are left to guess at, and then when Henry comes in, Phillip says right out that basically Richard tried to make a relationship between the two of them. He does all of this very well and when he finally comes out from the tapestry to confront Phillip, I found it very moving.

The way they set up the triangle of Henry/Eleanor/Alais was very clever. They knew that Henry and Eleanor obviously had much more chemistry (however unpleasant at times) and Alais does seem quite dull. It has to be said. This obviously makes the viewer even more eager for something to happen to slightly patch up Henry and Eleanor's relationship. The actress playing Alais (Jane Merrow) was a lot less than fantastic. Sure she was OK, but she did stick out a little among the stupendous other actors. Ah well, I almost think that was the desired effect.

Peter O'Toole's performance was great. This is a great example of start as you mean to go on. He knew that he had to make Henry big, just as big as Katharine's Eleanor. So he started out with his "big" characterization and he kept it up. I'd like to think that then watching the two greats Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn and their great performances had a domino effect among the cast and everyone upped their game. That's what it seems like. In all of their scenes together, Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn are totally equal in their performances. It's like with her and Spencer Tracy. You don't feel that one performance takes away a great deal from the other. Obviously there are the inequalities in the actual story which they play brilliantly, but they are equal actors. I find that this always makes for a more exiting watch.

I can't say anything about Katharine Hepburn's performance that hasn't already been said. Whatever I said before about the two actors being equal blah blah blah I take back when I think about Eleanor's monologues. I think I only find the film this way because she has so many great chances for amazing solo sections. Her Eleanor is fiery, interesting - yet still with a vulnerable side. I was very near bursting out into tears at the last scene when she confesses to Henry that now she's lost him she's lost the only thing worth living for and keeps crying, "I want to die. I want to die." And he just gives her a hug *starts weeping all over again*. As I was saying, the monologues are great and all the scenes when she's tormenting Henry really are horrible. Particularly the one where she is torturing him the the "fact" that she slept with his father and he runs out being sick which leads to the line I think best describes the film "Well, what family doesn't have it's ups and downs." LOL! It's the entire best line in the film, but I also like:
Henry: The day those stout hearts band together is the day that pigs get wings.
Eleanor: There'll be pork in the treetops come morning.
Eleanor: Henry's bed is Henry's province. He can people it with sheep for all I care, which on occasion he has done.
Henry: Rosamund's been dead for two seven years...
Eleanor:...Two months and eighteen days. I never liked her much.
Henry: You counted the days.
Eleanor: I made the numbers up.
I think that along with a few other favourites (The Philadelphia Story, Little Women, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner...) this is one of my favourite Katharine Hepburn performances. Usually I would have found a tie for best actress Oscar odd, but since it was between K. Hepburn for this and Barbra Striesand for Funny Girl I wouldn't be able to choose between them. Plus, it's hilarious to see Ingrid Bergman's reaction when she reads out the result :-)

Katharine Hepburn's four record-setting Oscars: (Right to left) Morning Glory (1934), Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1968), The Lion In Winter (1969) and On Golden Pond (1982). All for best actress. She was nominated for best actress a total of 12 times.

The costumes are all pretty amazing. Henry's doesn't change, neither do many of the men's but they are really stunning and so are the women's. By the way, can anyone tell me what that white thing Kate Hepburn wears is? I don't know, but it looks intriguing. Plus, can I just say that underneath that red dress she wears for all that time, I think she is wearing either trousers or a jumpsuit. It's totally Katharine Hepburn to do that but it still made me chuckle when I saw her feet poking out of a pair of trousers under that humongous robe :-D

Anthony Harvey directs the picture fantastically. I don't quite know how you could go wrong with this script and this cast, but he enhanced them beautifully.

To finish off, here are some quotes I found about the film from Katharine Hepburn's autobiography, "Me: Stories Of My Life":

We had great fun, as usual. Peter and I had the same makeup man. One day I was waiting and waiting for him. Finally I went down the hill to find him. He was doing Peter, who was not working until later.
"What the hell goes on?" I said. "He's supposed to be doing me. I'm in the next shot." I grabbed the makeup man and his box. I gave Peter a good swat on the head and we climbed back up the hill into my dressing room. When we were ready, we started the scene in the cellar and who should come in but Peter. His head was completely wrapped up in bandages and he was walking with crutches and moaning. You can see we had fun."
There was a great shot of our boat coming down the Rhone River to land. The tide in the river was very high. We rehearsed the shot one afternoon, and by the next morning the pier was completely submerged. We shot down the river in a wild wind. I was in all my gorgeous robes.
I looked at one of my retinue who was dressed in full armour, and said, "I hope you have all that stuff unhooked. Otherwise when we turn over you will plummet to the bottom. I am myself totally able to step out of all this finery. I shall simply dive away and swim to shore naked." He was shocked. I don't blame him. It was exciting and the shot in the movie was great.

And here's one from Peter O'Toole about Katharine Hepburn:
'We were filming one day and I kept her waiting on set because I was still in my caravan, playing cards. 'She stormed in and shouted: "You are a real nut and I've met some nuts in my day." And then she hit me.' A couple of hours later, I went to see her and gave her a present to say I was sorry for keeping her waiting. 'She said: "Don't worry, pig. I only hit the people I love."'
It sounds like it was great fun to work on and it's certainly a really great movie. GO WATCH IT!