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.



KimWilson said...

Libeled Lady is so much fun to watch. I personally think Loy and Powell were a better screen pairing than Hepburn and Tracy. OMG! I'm so bad. Liked reading your Top 10 reasons the film is good.

Kevin Deany said...

What a fun post! Much better than "The Odd Couple" would have been (or as mom always called them "The Odd Fellows." She never did get it right).

I loved your top reasons and the accompanying illustrations. I'll need to pull this one out again to watch it soon.

And yes, you are absolutely correct, Myrna and Bill were married in real life. You know it and I know it, but don't let anyone else know.

Rick29 said...

Bette, I agree with Kim and Kevin: Your 10 Reasons format is quite fun! Yes, William Powell and Myrna Loy just oozed chemistry on screen, too. Jean Harlow, who stars in one of the other movies in the Comedy Classic Blogathon, had plenty of blonde bomshell charisma. The cast alone make LIBELED LADY a pleasure to watch!

FlickChick said...

Oh, this is just such a swell movie, isn't it? Your post is delightful! 4 mega stars who all seem to be having a grand time. Jean was just the dreamiest!

Grand Old Movies said...

This film is one of my favorites, and you've pointed out some of the really fun things about this movie, especially the Loy-Powell chemistry and the charming and lovely ways they communicate in their scenes (HOW many secret children did they have?). I also think the scene when Harlow marches into Tracy's office decked out in full wedding regalia is hysterically funny, and she carries it off perfectly. (There's also that amusing scene when she announces to her maid that she's getting married, and her maid replies, "a-GAIN?"). Enjoyed your post!

Caftan Woman said...

I wonder if Myrna was feeding Bill a brown sandwich or a green sandwich.

You could probably do 20 reasons for loving "Libeled Lady", with 11 to 20 being Walter Connelly. You can't talk about classic comedies without mentioning this cleverly adorable movie.

R. D. Finch said...

Bette, I too am glad you ended up doing "Libeled Lady." Loved your unusual approach, and if I hadn't already thought this was a wonderful movie, your ten reasons would have convinced me. I can't think of a single movie that has more star power than this one--not one but two delightful pairings, each a complete contrast with the other. I absolutely agree that Tracy-Hepburn and Powell-Loy are the two greatest classic screen teams, two cases of each actor bringing out something special in the other.

Dawn said...

I really enjoyed reading your review.. I always love to see a performance of Powell and Loy together, they really seem to enjoy each others company. Tracy, is wonderful as always. There are so many amusing character actors, in this film. Harlow, also gave a wonderful zany performance in this film.

Classicfilmboy said...

Fun, fun film. Glad you chose this for the blogathon!

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