Libeled Lady

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"I Swim Almost as Well As I Dance." "Then You'll Drown."

Jun 10, 2009 (Updated Jun 11, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fun movie with some very funny scenes

Cons:The ending short changes the characters and the plot

The Bottom Line: The movie is worth watching even if the ending could have been better.

I am slowly beginning to revise my opinion of classic movies.  True, their pacing and acting are often different than what we expect these days.  But if I sit down with that in mind, I often find an enjoyable film.  Such is the case with 1936's Libeled Lady, a movie highly recommended by my boss.  I'm glad I listened to him because I enjoyed it.

Today is the day that Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracey) is finally supposed to marry long time fiance Gladys (Jean Harlow).  But he escapes this horrible fate when a crisis erupts as the New York Star where he is the managing editor.  Seems his paper has run an item about flamboyant heiress Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) claiming she is a husband stealer.  Connie is planning to sue the paper for five million dollars.

Haggerty comes up with a brilliant plan to stop the suit.  He hires ladies man Bill Chandler (William Powell) to marry Gladys then turn around and sweep Connie off her feet.  That way, the story in the paper will be true and Connie will have to drop her suit.  Will it work?  Or will complications overwhelm everyone involved?

I must admit, the set up is a bit complicated and I didn't really follow it before I sat down to watch.  But the movie itself is easy to follow.  And once everything is set in place, the story kicks into high gear and really grabbed my attention.  While the funny lines weren't quite as plentiful as I had hoped, the situations were amusing and made me laugh.  In fact, this movie contains the funniest fishing scene I've ever watched.

The plot gets more complicated then I expected going in.  Unfortunately, that leads to a climax that is rushed.  I didn't find aspects of it that believable, either.  It was almost like they decided they were out of time and wrap everything up.  It would have been stronger if they had started the final complications sooner or made the movie longer.

I can't fault the characters in the movie.  Both women are easy to like.  In fact, I felt sorry for Gladys right from the start.  Connie turns out to be much smarter than I gave her credit for in the beginning.  I think this is one reason why the ending didn't quite jive with me.  It robs both of the characters of what I've come to love about them.  Honestly, I never did find something to like about Haggerty.  Chandler really grew on me as the movie went on as well.  I was definitely rooting for him to have a happy ending.

I know I mentioned acting sometimes being a distraction in early movies.  That's not the case here.  In fact, the performances from everyone drew me in from the start and made me want to keep watching.  I've seen William Powell and Myrna Loy play off each other in The Thin Man films.  While their material here wasn't the same, they elevated every one of their scenes.  They play off each other perfectly.

I must admit I was disappointed with the quality of the DVD.  The black and white picture was full of dust, dirt, and grain.  Quite obviously, they didn't even try to clean it up before it was released.  The sound, while mono (in keeping with the original release specs) was clear, however.

With as enjoyable as this movie was, I'm surprised I hadn't heard of Libeled Lady sooner.  I may have some quibbles with the climax, but it won't be enough to keep me from watching the film again.

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD

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