Comedy Time: Libeled Lady (1936)

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14 years before he became the Father of the Bride, Spencer Tracy was the groom himself or, should I say, the “future” groom and the particular movie I’m thinking about is Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936). This gifted actor hadn’t made any movies with Katharine Hepburn, yet, but that was about to come soon in 1942 with Woman of the Year which is, to this day, my favourite movie starring this legendary couple. No, in 1936, both Spencer and Katharine (we can call them by their first name only, can’t we? After all, I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that they are like old friends) were both leading a respectable career on their respective side. Respectable from the beginning until the end.

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I’m telling you all this because my friend Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood had the bright idea to host a Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. It’s Halloween soon. So if you need to find an idea for an iconic couple costume, maybe a Tracy-Hepburn match could be an idea? 😉 Anyway, with her blogathon, Crystal doesn’t only celebrate the films they made together, but also the ones they made separately. After all, they all deserve to be reviewed. And that’s why I introduced this article with a few words on Libeled Lady. In this situation, it is the blond Jean Harlow who is Spencer Tracy’s screen partner and they are joined by Myrna Loy and William Powell, whom, we know, always had an amazing on-screen chemistry. Even if Katharine wasn’t in the portrait in this 1936’s film, we can try to understand why she was interested in working with “the best movie actor there was” as she called him. After all, the man had many admirers in the movie business and Katharine Hepburn wasn’t the only one. Among them, we can also include Marlon Brando, Michael Caine, Joan Crawford and more.

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If you like to laugh and love comedies like me, then 1936 is a year for you. In the silent department, we had the delightful Chaplin’s Modern Timesbut some talking pictures such as My Man Godfrey, Wife vs. Secretary, Cain & Mabel, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and, of course, Libeled Lady made us laugh too. After all, the 30s are the Golden Age of the screwball comedy (which happens to be my favourite movie genre).   Jack Conway’s film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (but lost to The Great Ziegfield) which is a proof that, sometimes, the Academy can be interested in comedies and not only in heavy dramas or epic historical pictures.

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Libeled Lady is an opposition between high society and the world of journalism; those journalists who love gossip, but, sometimes, write stuff before thinking and then, have to face the consequences. Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) is the managing editor of the New-York Evening Star newspaper. His wedding day has finally arrived, but he soon has to call his fiancee Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow) and postpone it because his business is in trouble: his journalists have falsely accused the rich Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) of being a homewrecker. She and her father are suing the newspaper for the modest sum of 5 million dollars… Ouch! Warren decides to hire writer Bill Chandler (William Powell), who used to work for the Star before being fired by Warren himself, to take care of the problem. They develop one of those plans: Bill will get married and then manage to go to London and come back on the same boat as the Allenbury (who happen to be in the British city). His plan is to have a moment alone with Connie so she can be accused “for real” of being a homewrecker and, therefore, drop the case. Warren volunteers his own fiancee to become Bill’s wife, to what she objects firmly, but finally accepts in order to help. Bill does meet Connie on the boat and they do make acquaintance. However, things don’t go as expected.

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During the shooting of Libeled Lady, the four actors became friends. Jean Harlow and William Powell were even engaged. Unfortunately, Jean died prematurely at the age of 26, in 1937, before they had time to get married. Libeled Lady was one of her last films. It is rumoured that Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy developed an affair during the shooting, but, of course, it is not a couple that would become as memorable as the Tracy-Hepburn one. 😉

If I’m not mistaken, Libeled Lady is the “oldest” Spencer Tracy’s film I saw. I immediately loved it the first time I saw it. I think it’s a movie that I should watch with my mother one of these days because I suspect it is the kind of film she would like. Plus, she’s already a bit familiar with Spencer Tracy, Woman of the Year being one of our typical mother-daughter films. So, while analysing his acting in this film, I realized that what makes Spencer Tracy a great actor is the fact that he makes acting look like something very easy to do. Nothing seems to be forced. He is a natural. We have the tendency to say that actors and actresses in old films were a bit theatrical (especially in silent films as they had to use their whole body to express an idea), but I wouldn’t include Tracy in this category. His acting was simple but effective. There was something very modern about it and I feel he could have defied time and be comfortable making modern 21st-century movies. We can easily call him a timeless actor.

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If Spencer Tracy had a twin, an easy way to recognize him would be with that typical felt hat he often wears on the side of his head. Like this:

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That is sooo him. And in, Libeled Lady, he doesn’t make an exception to this style. That’s how we like him. It is almost like Chaplin and his bowler hat or Buster Keaton and his boater.

If Katharine Hepburn wasn’t Spencer’s love interest in this film, he still forms an interesting couple with Jean Harlow. Of course, the chemistry isn’t as strong as the one he had with Kate, but it remains an interesting pair. I’ve noticed that Spencer Tracy often plays the role of a guy who gets opposed to his lady (Woman of the Year and Adam’s Rib would be good examples), but whom, in the end, truly loves her. Oh yes, we can say that Warren Haggerty doesn’t treat his wife super properly, sort spoiling what is supposed to be the happiest day of her life (her wedding) and involving her in his business problems. We, the public, can simply have compassion for Glady and admire her “patience”. Well, she doesn’t really “behave” patiently, but, in the end, she always accepts to make compromises.

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The only problem with this Tracy-Harlow couple is the fact that they could be a bit overshadowed by Myrna Loy and William Powell. After all, those two formed one of the most appreciated on-screen couples of the 30s especially thanks to The Thin Man. Before I saw this film, I had heard that their chemistry in it was incredible, but I couldn’t believe it could be THAT incredible, but it was. And it still is in Libeled Lady. So, of course, they steal a bit the show… as a couple. If we look at them as separate individuals, they each mark their place brilliantly.

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I love Libeled Lady, not only for its incomparable casting, but also for its comedic side. This one is, of course, embodied by the actors (William Powell is the funniest one in my opinion), but also by a screenplay truffled with hilarious quotes. William Powell saying “C’est un cheval!” (“It is a horse” in French) is perhaps my favourite thing about this film. It’s nothing very extraordinary to say, but I just love his voice tone when he says it. And of course, we have to be put in context:

Connie [worried because Bill doesn’t want to go to her bazar]: Bill, what is it?

Bill [looking at the horse]: What is it? It is a horse. C’est un cheval!

And here are a few of my other favourite quotes:

1- 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.

 

2- Warren Haggerty [about Gladys]: She may be his wife, but she’s engaged to me

3- Gladys: The things I do for that newspaper!

4- Gladys [to the maid] : Today is my wedding day!

Maid: What, again Mrs. Gladys?

5- Warren Haggerty: [introducing Gladys] Mr. Bane, my future wife.

Mr. Bane: Nonsense! I’ll be in my office. Get rid of this woman!

Poor Gladys!

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Libeled Lady can also be praised for its beautiful on-location shooting in the californian wilderness where Bill goes fishing with Connie and her father. This is also where you’ll see one of the most hilarious scenes of the film. They invited Bill to go fishing because he pretends he knows everything about this sport, but really, he doesn’t.

And how dreamy is that little cabin in the middle of the lake where we witness a short, but beautiful scene between Myrna Loy and William Powell.

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If you’re in for a fun time and you haven’t seen Libeled Lady yet, you should definitely put it on your to-see list. After all, Katharine Hepburn did say of it that it was the funniest thing she ever saw. 😉 (Wikipedia)

I want to thank Crystal for hosting this blogathon! Please click on the following link to read the other entries:

The Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon

You might have noticed that I hadn’t published any review for a long time. It was good to be back!

See you!

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I Fall for Fred Derry

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The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946) is, without a doubt, one of the best post-war movies that has been made in Hollywood. It’s touching, sad, beautiful, etc. This 9 Oscars winning picture has all the ingredients to be a favorite among classic film lovers. On my side, if Fredric March delivers my favorite Oscar-Winning performance by an actor in a leading role, it’s for Dana Andrew as Fred Derry that I’ve developed a real crush through the years. Today, forget about the cinematography, forget about the editing, forget about the music. We are here to focus on our imaginary love for Derry! Meow!

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This article is part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017 hosted by Ruth from Silver Screenings and Font & Frock. A way to finally cry over our impossible love for movie stars and movie characters. I had A LOT of options, but Fred Derry/Dana Andrews it is!

Reel Infatuation 2017

Before continuing, if you haven’t seen the movie and wish to know more what it’s all about, please click here. But, basically, it’s the story of three American soldiers going back home after the war and struggling with the challenges of a new life and a country that has changed a lot during their absence.

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So, Fred Derry is the first character to be introduced to us, in an airport (that’s an important precision to make since I’ve always enjoyed taking the plane. One point for Fred!). He wears his very chic army uniform that perfectly draws the line of his amazing body. He imposes himself in an impressive elegance.

When he later is on the plane to go home with his new friends, Al Stephenson (Fredric March) and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), and making jokes with them, we can notice his absolutely cutie-pie smile that will make our heart melt. *Sigh. Plus, he seems to be one with a great sense of humour, which is a quality I always priories. I mean, what would be life without some laughs?!

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Later, when the three friends are reunited at Butch’s (Homer’s uncle’s bar), Fred makes the acquaintance of Al’s wife Milly (Myrna Loy) and his daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright). We immediately know that this one won’t leave him indifferent. Oh! How we’d like to be in her place, drinking a glass with him, very close from one to each other. Hey, they say their love is impossible since Fred is already married, but imagine how impossible it is for me! Ok, I have to give one point to Marie Derry, since she is played by Virginia Mayo. Virginia. Awesome name, isn’t it? 😉 But with my dark brown hair, I’m personally much more the Teresa Wright type. But I like doing the party like Marie. I guess I’m somehow a mix of both!

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At the end of their most entertaining evening/night at Butch’s, Fred once again does everything for me to want to go in the television screen and be on his side. First, when he gets out of the Stephenson’s car to go to Marie’s apartment, he always hurt his head on the car’s door frame. He’s like so cute and so clumsy! ❤ And he apologizes. Poor Fred! ❤ He shows a beautiful vulnerability that we love. Of course, just like Milly and Peggy, I too would have gotten out of the car and bring him home for the night (because it seems that Marie isn’t in here  to welcome him). But, I personally would be less resistant than Peggy on a certain point. When she puts him to bed and he takes her in his arms exclaiming “Peggy!” in an amusing way and she managed to liberate oneself quite rapidly saying “I’m not THAT Peggy”, that makes me think “Well, girl, if you’re not ‘THAT Peggy’, I would like to be her without problem.” Anyway, we later learn that his wife is a real b****, so I personally wouldn’t have felt sorry.

During the night, Fred once again breaks our heart when he has a nightmare. His tears simply make us want to take him in our arms and comfort him. Luckily, Peggy is once again here to take care of him. Because, yes, men can cry too!

Unlike Al who works at the bank, Fred doesn’t make a fortune. He works in the new department store, part time in the perfume section and part time in the ice cream bar. Ok, I have a confession to make: I LOVE ice cream. It’s like my favourite food ever. So, I certainly would have liked to have one prepared by Fred! I love this scene where he explains to Peggy how he used to be such a good soda jerk before the war. He seems very passionate by the thing!

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Finally, we have to give more points to Fred on 3 main occasions: 1- When he cooks dinner for him and Marie. Marie wants to go out, but they can’t as he is too poor. But hey, a man cooking dinner! That’s certainly not something we see often in classic films. Good initiative Fred! I tell you, he is a man to marry. 😉 [SPOILERS] 2- When he FINALLY kisses Peggy. Ok, they kind of regret it as he is married, but how I wish to be at Peggy’s place. He seems to be a very good kisser. Anybody can confirm? 😛 And 3- When he kisses Peggy again at Homer’s wedding, but this time there is no regrets since he and Marie are divorced. (YES!) [END OF SPOILERS]

So yeah, we have all the reasons to fall for Fred Derry, he is at the same time so handsome (that smile! that body!), but also so cute in his mannerisms. He’s also funny, but serious when it’s time to be. Dana Andrews certainly chose a great role for his career. Ok, he was around 37 when he starred in The Best Years of Our Lives, which is like 15 years older than me… Hey, it’s not THAT bad! A girl can dream anyway! Of course, I have a lot of competition against Peggy. Àlala…

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Before living you, I want to thank Silver Screenings and Font & Frock for hosting this most original blogathon! We never take enough times to talk about our movie crushes!

To read the other entries, click on the following links

Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017- Day 1

Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017- Day 2

Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017- Day 3

See you!

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Myrna Loy is still in the competition!

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Yes, I’m happy to tell you that Myrna Loy, star of the 30’s is still in the competition. I’m happy because I’m the one who “represents” her. She defeated Audrey Hepburn 305-234. Ok, you know me, Audrey Hepburn is my favourite actress so I must admit I’m a little sad, but Myrna Loy is also an excellent actress. 🙂 On her side, Natalie Wood defeated Greer Garson 534-318.

So, as you can see, we still have only ONE match to play to know who will be the BIG winner of The 2015 Favourite Classic Movie Actress Tournament! 🙂 You can click on the following link to vote:

All Good Things: Championship Match 

You have until Saturday to vote for your favourite actress between Myrna Loy and Natalie Wood. Can’t wait to see the winner!

Myrna Loy: Winner of The 2015 Favourite Classic Movie Actress Tournament : 30’s

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Congrats to Myrna Loy, winner of the 2015 Favourite Classic Movie Actress Tournament for the 30’s and also one of the four finalist for the last step of this tournament: select THE big winner of this tournament.

Our three other finalists are Greer Garson for the 40’s, Audrey Hepburn for the 50’s and Natalie Wood for the 60’s. Congrats to them for having won in their own category!

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Click on the following link to vote: Final Four Matches

The matches for the BIG FINAL, all categories mixed up is hosted by All Good Thing.

2015 Favourite Classic Movie Actress Tournament: THE Final Match!

It’s finally the BIG FINAL for the 2015 Favourite Classic Movie Actress Tournament! There is only 8 actresses left (2 for each decades)! Here, at The Wonderful World of Cinema, Myrna Loy and Jean Arthur are our two finalists for the 30’s era. They are both marvellous actress, but only one of them can win. Vote now for your favourite one! You have until Saturday afternoon (April 4th 2015) at 1h00 pm to vote.

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Thanks for voting! Can wait to see who will be the big winner!

Don’t forget to vote for the other decades

40’s Era

50’s Era

60’s Era