Friday, February 01, 2019

Love Among The Smart Set-William Powell and Myna Loy’s “The Libeled” (1936) –A Film Review

Love Among The Smart Set-William Powell and Myna Loy’s “The Libeled” (1936) –A Film Review  

DVD Review

By Writer Greg Green

The Libeled Lady, starring Myra Loy, William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, 1936

[Those readers who have been following the latest developments about the direction of this American Left History blog site over the past period and have become aware of the conclusions that returning to the old idea of covering all of the American experience and not just hone in on the 1960s experiences of most of the older writers and changing personal know that I have been assigned the job of site administrator which means I will be handing out the assignments and other projects in cooperation with the writers, young and old. I come here from the on-line American Film Gazette where I held basically the same position although there it was called moderator. (Apparently in the “new age” of media, particularly social media, the tradition terms “editor” or “gatekeeper” have fallen out of favor, have fallen in bad odor.)

To get a feel for the job  I have taken up this assignment which Sandy Salmon the film critic thought I might be interested in doing to “test the waters” since I have very little experience with the older films that have been the staple of this site. In the future nevertheless the tilt for films will be much more contemporary which everybody, or almost everybody, has agreed is necessary to lure a younger crowd not formed by the rush of the 1960s when black and white films were like catnip to student audiences. P.S. I will weigh in on whether my predecessor Pete Markin, whom I have known for years by reputation and early on from the time he worked at the American Film Gazette when this site needed a cash infusion, was purged or gently put out to pasture some other time. Greg Green]  

Sam Lowell who was I have heard the main culprit (not my term but Sandy Salmon’s) during his tenure as film critic before he retired to write on occasion, very occasionally who drove the overwhelming preponderance of old-time black and white films. In those days before Alden Riley and a few stringers came on board with Sandy he did all the reviews himself or were done under his guidance. So he was able to feast on the films that he would watch as a young man in high school (that is where it started) on Saturday afternoons at his local movie theater.

I would assume that the film under review, The Libeled Lady, would be one that he watched on those Saturday afternoons but for the life of me I can’t understand why. Certainly it is not the collective talents of the cast Jean Harlow, Myra Loy, William Powell and Spencer Tracy the last one the only one whose work I am familiar with. So it must be the plot, the story line, the screenplay writers because from what I have read this is supposed to be a screw-ball comedy in an age and time when such fare was grist to the mill. Maybe that bill of fare is what got my grandparents and maybe my parents although they were probably too young to appreciate this through the Great Depression that those same grandparents endlessly carped on whenever anybody complained about anything, about not getting this or that unnecessary to them object like that was a talisman to ward off all discussion.     

 Let’s see what you think of this, think of a film that was on the short list for the Oscars in 1936. Mayfair swell (not my term of choice but from Sam since I couldn’t think of a better one when we talked about the upper class which dominates this film), Connie played by Ms. Loy (I got used to following New York Times honorifics at American Film Gazette and will continue to do so here for now) sued some low-rent New York City newspaper for libel over a false allegation that she broke up some happy household. She decided to go big or don’t go at all and claimed five million dollars would make her “whole” to use a legal expression. The newspaper in the person of its managing editor, Warren, played by redoubtable Mr. Tracy panicked and tried to lure ladies’ man and ace reporter Bill,  played by the inestimable Mr. Powell better known according to Sam as the male duo in the Nick and Nora Charles The Thin Man series with Ms. Loy to run a scam on Connie. The idea, pretty lame its seems even for a low-rent up against it urban newspaper was to get Bill alone with Connie and have his “wife” find them together. To blackmail Connie out of the law suit and out of having to hand over those five very big ones.         

I said lame and I meant because there was one little problem with the weasely scheme. Bill was a happily unmarried man with no wife and if anybody was asking, asking at least for public consumption no mistress either. No nonsense the company comes first, freedom of the press even when it lies Warren volunteers his girlfriend something of a goofball flossy if you asked me Gladys, played by the ill-fated Ms. Harlow. Here is where everything gets balled-up not funny. Bill and Gladys marry, a marriage of convenience easily divorced once that onerous court case is over. Problem though those is that while cruising back to America on a luxury liner Bill and Connie fall in love and get married. No problem right since Bill and the hapless Gladys are divorced. Problem Gladys has lost her yen for Warren and wants Bill back. Then through some sleigh-of-hand divorce foul-ups courtesy of the apparently frazzled screenwriters Bill and Gladys are still married. Not to worry though once Bill and Connie put the squeeze play on Gladys runs, no, walks back to her Warren. I hope to high heaven that Sam didn’t spent his hard-earned dollar on this cuckoo of a film. Short-listed for Mr. Oscar or not.       

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