It goes without saying that the best Myrna Loy movies have William Powell - but this movie has enough cast that it can virtually throw away Jimmy Stewart and still carry you along with the strength of the character performances. Clark "Big Ears" Gable is not my favorite star, but he plays the role of the loving but thoughtless husband perfectly. He believably pulls off being shrewd in business, but naive enough of his personal life to be almost innocent while looking completely guilty.
Actually, it is the pair of leading ladies that makes this movie so great - Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow. Myrna is great in everything she does - and so is Harlow. Harlow is proof that the original is nearly always the best. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a Marilyn Monroe movie is simply watching second best - Harlow was the original "blonde bombshell" - and is still the best. Her usual forte is comedy, but she nails this light dramatic role perfectly. There are times when you don't know who to cheer for - the Wife or the Secretary - and that's the movie. The whole tension rides on which of these two ladies Gable chooses - or, rather, which one the audience wants him to choose. Myrna may have been the only actress who could have given Harlow a run for her money - and Harlow may have been the only one who could challenge Myrna Loy.
Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow teamed up in another movie - "Libeled Lady" - another tour de force of casting with William Powell and Spencer Tracy along for the ride. "Lady" is a very good movie; a comedy with both drawing room and slapstick elements. This type of comedy is usually more my cup of tea, but as good as "Lady" is, "Wife vs. Secretary" is better - mainly because "Lady" doesn't let Harlow bust loose until the end of the movie.
The light touch that these two great actresses bring to "Wife vs. Secretary" offsets one of the fundamental conflicts and tragedies of life - that though we are often presented with two paths in life, we can only choose one - knowing that we will always wonder about the other....
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