Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Libeled Lady

(1936, USA, 98m, b/w)
d Jack Conway p Lawrence Weingarten sc Maurine Dallas Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, George Openheimer ph Norbert Brodine ed Frederick Y. Smith ad Cedric Gibbons m William Axt cast William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Walter Connelly, Charley Grapewin, Cora Witherspoon, E.E. Clive

Bullish newspaperman Tracy is compelled to hire back his slippery libel man (Powell) to bust a case brought by haughty “international playgirl” Loy (eyebrows on good form) and the reverse honeytrap he hatches, including a fake marriage using his own fiancée (Harlow), goes inevitably awry. Powell is in his smooth-talking element and Loy is luminous, even if restrained by her (underdeveloped) socio-economic distance; Tracy is best when reduced to s(t)olid second string and the raw deal handed Harlow’s character finally justifies her incessantly piggish indignation, even if it is gratingly one-note (not so her succession of ever-more fantastical outfits). The script is witty if not quite a firecracker and the ambiguous/antagonistic relationships aren’t sufficiently skewered, but a healthy irreverence towards marriage, a crazy set-up (and ending) and sheer star-power are quite enough for a basic good time.

© Time Out Film Guide

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