Monday, September 26, 2011

Libeled Lady (1936)

William Powell rocks.

He was a treat to watch in The Thin Man, reviewed earlier this year on this site.

Powell's a treat again in the comedy, Libeled Lady. This 1936 release from MGM earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture.


A New York newspaper is in serious trouble. The daily has gone front page, above the fold, big type with news of millionaire socialitie Connie Allenburg's dalliances in England.

It's a juicy piece on the rich single woman (Myrna Loy), but there's not an ounce of truth to the sordid tale.

Editor Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) ends up delaying his marriage, again, to Gladys (Jean Harlow) to deal with the crisis. He's not as broken up about it as Gladys. Haggerty has some commitment issues.


His paper has repeatedly locked horns with Allenburg's father. This is the perfect chance for the vengeful pops to torpedo his print adversary with a $5-million lawsuit. Haggerty knows if he doesn't come up with a good plan an obituary will soon be penned for his publication.

Enter his old adversary Bill Chandler (Powell), a troubleshooter with plenty of past experience with the paper. He needs some serious scratch to make good on a rather large tab at the Grand Plaza where he's staying.

Haggerty and Chandler agree on a plan. They'll snag Allenburg in a fabricated sticky situation with a married man. To move things along, Chandler marries Gladys. The justice of the peace is a little confused when the bride kisses Haggerty longer than her new husband.


Connie, well familiar with gold diggers, is initially very much suspicious with Chandler rubbing shoulders with her and her father. But as her apprehensions ease, Chandler finds himself falling in love with the woman who gets some less than great press.

Gladys, sick of Haggerty continually pushing back their nuptials, falls for Chandler's attentiveness and kind ways. When she learns he's putting the moves on Connie, she's determined to get her husband back.

Libeled Lady is great fun. There's some time between the really loud guffaws, but that's OK. Adding to this film's enjoyment is the twists and turns as characters learn about each other's actions and adjust their own behaviour.


A fishing scene with Chandler and father and daughter Allenburg is a hoot.
Chandler, who has billed himself as a fishing authority, has never held a reel in his life. There's some great slapstick comedy and a great story about the fish he tangles with.


This blogger, a full-time reporter with a daily paper, usually shakes his head in frustration when seeing how reporters are depicted in the movies. Here, most of the action at the paper rings true. Always fear trying to track down all the copies of an edition when a story makes print that shouldn't.

RATING: 8.5/10


Gladys: "Today's my wedding day."
Maid: "Again, Miss Gladys?"

Connie on Chandler: "If he's first class, I'll travel steerage."

Haggerty on Gladys being married to Chandler: "She may be his wife, but she's engaged to me."

Gladys, when frustrated with Haggerty: "Well, marry the newspaper and be the proud father of a lot of headlines."

FUN FACTS: Harlow and Powell were dating when Libeled Lady was filmed. Their relationship is described in Charles Francisco's Gentleman: The William Powell Story. She wanted to get married. He, after two failed marriages, was hesitant. Harlow died in 1937 at age 26. Francisco describes Powell giving the funeral director a single gardenia to put in Harlow's casket. "Good night, my dearest darling," his note read.

See if you can find Harlow as an extra in Libeled Lady. Director Jack Conway was short a woman in the background of a scene. Harlow donned a wig and went to work.

E.E. Clive, who appears as a fishing instructor, had roles in The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein.

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