Libeled Lady (1936)

Film Review

LIBELED LADY

Release Date: 9 October, 1936

Studio: MGM

Director: Jack Conway

Starring: Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2013

This film was shown in the Discoveries category at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival.

Synopsis

The managing editor of the New York Evening Star (Tracy) is about to marry his longtime fiancee (Harlow) when the wedding is disrupted by a message from one of his staff. The newspaper is printing a false story that accuses an heiress (Loy) of breaking up a marriage. The story is not stopped before some copies are printed, and the heiress sues for libel. Tracy hires a former reporter (Powell) to put an end to the suit. Powell devises a complex scheme involving marrying Harlow and trapping Loy into breaking up his marriage. Complications, including Powell demonstrating his fishing ability, Loy and Powell falling in love, and Harlow falling for Powell, ensue. Eventually, Loy drops the suit, the couples are properly matched, and everybody is happy.

Discussion

MGM's motto during the 1930s and 1940s was "more stars than there are in heaven". Libeled Lady showcases four of them. Primary elements of this film include the high energy of a screwball comedy, sophistication, wit, and typical MGM polish. The story is outlandish, but the polished group of actors carries it off delightfully. Although Harlow is top billed, she has less screen time than either Loy or Powell. This is the fifth Loy and Powell pairing (including 1935's The Thin Man). Loy, beautifully dressed and made up, makes the most of her scenes. Powell, sophisticated and charming, shows his ability at physical comedy. His fly-fishing scene, during which he is dunked in the river, is hilarious. His interactions with Loy are warm and subtle. MGM touted the film as its first all-star production since Dinner At Eight (1933).