Wife Vs. Secretary (DVD, 2006) Reviews
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Wife Vs. Secretary (DVD, 2006)

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A 1936 situation comedy with considerable starpower (L&M3)

Dec 13, 2004
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow

Cons:slight and silly story with one-dimensional male roles

The Bottom Line: Notable mostly for Harlow playing a mature part (before dying, at age 26, two years later)

As skilled as the "king" and "queen" of 1930s MGM (Clark Gable and Myrna Loy) were in the confection "Wife vs. Secretary" directed by Garbo's recurrent director, Clarence Brown, the primary interest is the other pair: Jean Harlow as an all-business executive secretary and her often vexed fianc√ƒ¬© played by a then-little-known actor named James Stewart, who received sixth billing as Dave, the trusting if befuddled long-time fiance of the beautiful Helen "Whitey" Wilson, who is focused on business rather than romance or domesticity.

Gable plays Jake Stanhope a business (advertising/publishing) buccaneer who depends on his assistant Whitey's acumen and organizational skills. He seems not to have looked closely at her figure (or, for that matter, the figures that she keeps track of for him). As assured as Loy was, the suppositions of others and her husband's prevarications covering up a business venture convince her that he is covering up an affair with his "Whitey." In that the movie was made after the imposition of the production code which precluded showing adultery (among other things), I don't think that it is giving away anything to note that she is mistaken. Watching Loy's confidence erode is, nonetheless, painful to watch, which is a tribute to her acting. Harlow also shows considerable savvy beyond the blond bombshell expectations. (Her hair is not platinum here and there is more than the animal cunning of some of her portrayals of social climbers and ganster molls going on under it.)

Gable only had to be bullishly impatient, so I guess it's a "woman's picture." Well, I guess that he also has to be oblivious of the fact that there is an attractive woman very close to him most of the time, and considering that Harlow was the epitome of the 1930s' notion of sexiness, that probably required some acting. Loy's usual partner, William Powell, would surely have noticed and acknowledged Harlow's pulchritude and been careful not to undercut Loy's self-assurance. . . But then there would have been no plot at all.

I thought that the title opposition must be between Loy and Harlow, but it is also, more interestingly, a conflict of roles for Harlow (though a conflict she sees no necessity for). The domesticity forced on women after World War II was not compulsory before it (there was the Great Depression still on, though one would never guess from this or many other Hollywood movies about the upper crust and Harlow's supposedly working-class family seems pretty well off) .

Stewart as well as Loy has to learn to trust his life-partner, the lesson of many, many Hollywood movies of the late-1930s and 40s in which adultery never occurs but is often mistakenly assumed of relationships and occurrences that were not the way they looked to suspicious observers.


This is one of a series of reviews of Jean Harlow movies for Lean 'n Mean 3. In chronological order of the movies:
Platinum Blonde
Red-Headed Woman
Hold Your Man (also with Gable)

For other Lean & Mean III entries, see http://www.epinions.com/content_4149256324.

Recommend this product? Yes

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