Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: “Libeled Lady” (1936)

For my first installment to the Summer Under the Stars blogathon, I have the pleasure of reviewing a truly delightful comedy by the name of Libeled Lady. The 5th of the 14 movies movies that teamed William Powell and Myrna Loy, the two possessed all the wit and charm in this movie that they are so widely known for. Add to that the talents of Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow, and you have yourself a real peach of a movie.

The story deals with a wealthy woman, Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) suing for libel after a newspaper article accuses her of breaking up a marriage. In order to counter the suit, the newspaper company hatches an elaborate scheme to make the story true–hiring a notorious ladies’ man by the name of Bill Chandler (William Powell) to woo her and eventually be caught alone with her when his wife walks in. The plan is complicated when the two actually fall in love.

The situation with the wife is a prominent and amusing supporting story. Played by the lovely Jean Harlow, the character of Gladys is the long-suffering fiancé of Warren Haggerty, the managing editor of the newspaper being sued for libel. When the idea is developed and it comes to light that Bill Chandler is not actually married, Warren volunteers Gladys to be the pretend wife for the scheme. Some of the funniest scenes are those in which William Powell and Jean Harlow pretend to be a devoted married couple when there are people around, and as soon as they leave, they are at each other’s throats. William Powell and Jean Harlow were very well matched onscreen, and their good friendship turned to romance in real life. The two became engaged in 1935, and dated for 2 years, despite Powell’s doubts about marrying another blonde movie star after his divorce from Carole Lombard a few years earlier. When Jean Harlow fell ill on the set of Saratoga, it was William Powell who left the set of his own movie in order to take her home. I think had Jean Harlow lived longer, she and William Powell would have become as beloved a screen pairing as Powell and Myrna Loy. However, it is hard to speculate about this, as Jean Harlow died during the filming of Saratoga at the peak of her career in 1937. She was only 26.

One of my favorite scenes is one in which Bill Chandler, pretending to be an expert fisherman in order to get on the good side of Connie’s fisherman father, actually finds himself having to go fishing. Watch what happens:

This is a truly hilarious movie, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll be in for a treat.

Stay tuned for more posts during the month of August dedicated to TCM’s Summer Under the Stars programming!


8 responses to “Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: “Libeled Lady” (1936)

  1. This IS a peach of a movie! I love the casting – and the fishing scene you’ve described. It makes me laugh every time.

  2. It really is, isn’t it? I laugh every time at the fishing scene, too. Especially at the beginning of that clip I posted, where he’s walking and then all of a sudden he just falls face first into the water. I love William Powell’s comedy, so much of it is based in his physical body and it’s hilarious.

  3. Great post. I have always been a huge William Powell fan, even though the first time recall seeing him was in Mr. Roberts, so I worked backward through his films. And Myrna Loy is sublime, of course. But for me, the revelation is always Harlow. She did so few films and they really don’t get much airtime. But she (like Marilyn) could be sooo funny.

  4. I also enjoy Jean Harlow. She had so much potential, it’s absolutely tragic that she was cut down in the prime of her life. Imagine what kind of career we could have seen from her…

  5. Adore this movie! I reviewed it awhile back during my Jean Harlow retrospective. Her scenes with Powell are darling, you can see the love they have for each other. Great review!

  6. Thank you! William Powell seems like such a nice guy, everybody in Hollywood seemed to love him!

  7. This is such a great funny movie! I love Loy and Powell, of course, but I thought the pairing of Tracy and Harlow was a bit odd. know Harlow would have preferred to get matched up with Powell, but audiences just wouldn’t have it. I love the fishing clip you include here – such cunning (and luck)!

  8. I think Libeled Lady is one of the funniest films ever. Thanks for a great piece!

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