LIBELED LADY. MGM, 1936. Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Walter Connolly. Screenplay: Maurine Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers and George Oppenheimer. Director: Jack Conway.

Libeled Lady

   A movie with four lead stars in it was quite the thing in 1936, and it still is today, especially if the four stars are the first four listed just above. Jean Harlow, alas, was to make only two more movies after this one (or is it one and a half?). She died way too young – only 26 years old.

   She was engaged to William Powell at the time of her death, but in the movies that seemingly semi-sozzled but always debonair leading man will be forever linked with the supremely beautiful Myrna Loy. One arched glance my way, if it were ever to have happened, would have made me putty in her hands, as it did audiences from her time to now.

Libeled Lady

   Spencer Tracy, as Haggerty, the beleaguered editor of the newspaper that jet set debutante Connie Allenbury (Loy) is suing for libel, is teamed up with Jean Harlow in this one.

   Her role is that of Gladys, the girl he always keeps waiting at the altar, but in a magnificent but totally grandiose plan to even the odds, he marries her off instead to Bill Chandler (Powell) whose job is to woo Connie as a “married man” with a private eye with a handy camera in attendance.

   So that’s the story. The delight is in the telling, and I’ve given full credit to the screenwriters who came up with some of the wittiest dialogue I can recall listening to in recent weeks. Samples, courtesy of IMDB:

Libeled Lady

Bill Chandler (trying to get on Connie’s good side): I thought that was rather clever of me.
Connie Allenbury (who sees right through him): Yes, I thought you thought so.

Warren Haggerty: Would I ask you to do this thing for me if I didn’t consider you practically my wife?
Gladys: Would you ask your wife to hook up with that ape?
Bill Chandler: The ape objects.

Warren Haggerty (as the situation he has concocted begins to go awry): She may be his wife, but she’s engaged to me!

Libeled Lady

   As always, I suppose you have to be there, and I recommend most heartedly that you do. The only displeasure that I might pass along to you is the ending, which wraps itself up far more quickly than I would have liked, with one major scene taking place off-screen, plus a couple of other events that are brought up in fast-paced fashion with nary a hint to the audience ahead of time that small gimmicks like this are going to be sprung upon them.

   Otherwise, as I’ve previously suggested, a pure joy and delight.