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  • Ann Harding and William Powell are terrific in this strange little gem of a movie which runs the gamut from Pre-Code Drama to Screwball Comedy! (the closing dinner party scene is worth the price of admission). John Cromwell directs with a sure hand, especially in a great tracking shot involving the two sisters.

    It's incredible how modern films seem to lack any sense of sophistication and style in comparison with even lesser known films from the 30's like this one.

    A pure joy to watch.
  • "Double Harness" is a wonderful but obscure little RKO treasure from 1933, directed by John Cromwell, a capable craftsman who throughout his career specialized in prestige studio pictures. This is the earliest Cromwell picture I have seen, an adaptation of a rather loquacious play by Edward Poor Montgomery. I wanted to see it because I love Ann Harding and she is always a beautiful sight in almost everything she is in. I was pleased how radiant and divine Ms. Harding turned out to be in "Double Harness" - definitely one of her top five best films.

    It's a small picture, with short (67 min) duration. Yes it's gabby, but intelligent & rapturous all the same, and I urge to seek out if you get the chance. William Powell - restrained, suave, and charismatic - is also wonderful as her romantic interest. Their precise charm and camaraderie and some of the ways she snares him into marriage are quite witty and delightful.
  • This delightful and oh-so-sophisticated combination comedy/drama was my personal favorite at Cinefest. With clever dialogue, fetching lead actors and delicious directing, I was hooked at the onset. Beautiful Ann Harding is seen cooking and explaining to her engaged sister (Lucile Brown) that to men, business is business but that marriage is the business of women. Harding sets her sights on William Powell, a super smooth playboy who inherited a struggling shipping line. She sets a trap arranging for her sister to send their father (stern Henry Stephenson) to Powell's apartment for the purpose of catching Harding and Powell alone. To save face, Powell agrees to marry Harding, at least for a while. On the honeymoon, Powell suggests a divorce, while Harding coolly recommends they wait six months so as not to seem too obvious. She then starts steering him to leading his company back to profitability by looking at it as a challenge. With his talents now attending to business and not bedroom conquests, Powell starts to enjoy his newfound success and begins to fall in love with his bride. In the meantime Harding's jealous sister, now unhappily married, has been living beyond her means and needs money fast. She blurts out the truth of the marriage trap when Harding refuses to again pay off her debts. Powell leaves, disillusioned. Harding's father has arranged for a huge business deal to be offered to Powell at a formal dinner party at their home that very night. As Powell is boarding a ship to Europe, his frazzled wife is at home greeting guests and trying to maintain composure. One by one, each guest is involved in a personal crisis and is pulled away from the dinner party from hell, presided over by blustery Reginald Owen as the butler. I can't go on with out spoiling the best joke. This forgotten film is four stars all the way. I saw this film in March of 2004 at the CINEFEST film festival in Syracuse, NY. Thank god for film festivals like this one that make rare films like this available and the folks who provide comments to IMDB for others to share. Please support the IMDB and early film festivals!
  • Really well done adaptation of the play to the screen. Rather wordy as was most early 1930's films, but quite charming nevertheless. And, indeed, rather risque for its day since there is a supposition at one point that Ann Harding's character, Joan, in trying to trap William Powell into marriage, is giving pre-marital favors and is actually caught in the process. The chemistry between Harding and Powell is quite good and it is unfortunate that the two were never paired again in another film.
  • I just caught this sixty-nine minute comedy/romance from RKO (released to American theaters in 1933) on TCM as part of their lost-and-found spot tonight. Very fun picture directed by John Cromwell and starring Ann Harding, William Powell, and Lucille Browne. I am not very familiar with Ms. Harding's career, but I must say that I was very much impressed with her performance here. Actresses today should watch her in this film and take lessons. Her facial expressions had so much depth and realism, something that we, with few exceptions, do not see in modern actors. Powell holds his own as a playboy wanting to do little with his life besides play Polo and women. This was a nice warm-up spot for Powell until he would make his most legendary 'The Thin Man' ('34) the following year. DOUBLE HARNESS has a heck of a lot to offer in its 69 minute runtime. Let's hope we see this one appear on DVD soon.
  • Once again, the big thinkers at Turner Classic Movies have provided film buffs with a tremendous cinematic coup, this being the re-release of six films crafted by Merian C. Cooper as executive producer, and tied up in litigation over the screening rights for decades. Among these films is the social satirical gem, "Double Harness," which is available from TCM via those cable TV providers who have TCM On Demand.

    The film is, therefore, free for viewing at the convenience of the customer and this one comes highly recommended.

    In all honesty, it was not until the very final scenes of this film, that I realized it was set in San Francisco ( and not New York ), and that the entire production was a satire. The beginning and middle sections of this movie -- from a play by Edward Poor Montgomery -- seem to fit nicely in the oh-so-predictable slot of "melodrama." Just about every player in this film is a character carved strictly out of "upper crust" marble, with all the trappings of the idle rich in the '30s.

    Not that the idle rich in the Depression years had it so good, of course, as they apparently had to cut back on the caviar before dinner at least once in a while. The alert film buff will realize that this story is strictly from "la la land" in the first scenes, where the two sisters Colby are viewing bridal dresses for the younger one, Valerie, who is about to be married. The bill for her trousseau comes to well over $ 3000 at a time when $ 100 per week was a lot of money for a family of four. And by the way, everybody smokes ... a lot.

    Everyone in this movie is fabulously wealthy by the standards of the day, even though their interests are under pressure from the economic turbulence of 1931-1932. Losses from a bank failure are mentioned in passing in one scene, but the audience cannot help but be captivated by the opulence of the lives of these characters. This film also serves to further establish the absolute brilliance of William Powell, who is the lazy playboy named John Fletcher, heir to a shipping line.

    Powell seems to play his character with an almost sublime restraint, and a barely concealed exuberance: it is as if he knew in his subconscious mind that this was an "Ann Harding" picture and it was his duty to bolster her performance and her presence. He does so, in the most magnificent fashion, and it adds power to the social satire which is the weave of this cinematic fabric. It all comes together at the end, where a most elaborate private dinner party collapses into a drunken disaster for the younger sister, and a fist-fight for the butler and the cook !! And there's a happy ending, too, of course.

    The only thing this film lacked was more ... more of the luminous Ann Harding, more of how she was slowly capturing the real man inside the phony, shallow playboy Fletcher, and more of how William Powell brought that character into reality from a stiff and rather formal screenplay, the kind of "very talkative" cinematic fiction so common in that era.

    Nine of ten, and since it can be viewed for free, On Demand, it is highly recommended to any and all film buffs.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this on TCM a couple of nights ago, and stayed up late to see it a second time when it was screened again later in the evening. I had never heard of this movie before, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Based on a stage play, it has sophisticated and witty dialog, and is very nicely acted and directed. William Powell is his usual charming self, and Ann Harding is terrific--exuding intelligence, strength, and femininity in a very difficult role. I can remember seeing Ann Harding in only one other film, Peter Ibbetson, and she made an equally strong impression on me in that film as well.

    Powell and Harding work well together, with a seduction scene creating a great sense of intimacy. He's a playboy, and she lays a trap to snare him, which eventually leads to a lot of emotional pain and heartache. Despite all their troubles, there is a certain civility and grace in the way that they deal with each other--and I think it is this quality, more than any other, that makes the film so appealing.

    For people who like films of the pre-code era, Double Harness is highly recommended.
  • subbies-14 April 2007
    The wonderful William Powell one year before playing Nick Charles! Just found out via Robert Osborn on TCM why this film hasn't been seen in 50 years. This picture was not available when Ted Turner bought the RKO Pictures catalog. It was tied up in litigation which was finally resolved. At that point it became available to TCM for showing. Also, TCM found a print in France that had 2 1/2 minutes which had been cut from the version available here. So TCM restored the missing footage to the film.

    My mother was growing up when this film came out. She tells me that Ann Harding was a big star at the time. William Powell, according to Osborn was having difficulties in his personal life. His marriage to Carol Lombard was on the rocks.
  • marknyc4 April 2007
    Just saw this on TCM and I have to say I was floored by Harding's performance, who I saw here for the first time. It takes real talent to act in melodramatic scenes and deliver them so naturally that the viewer never questions your authenticity. Harding adds hundreds of little touches - a gesture here, an eye movement there, that make her performance show you what natural acting is all about. In fact, she makes everyone else pale by comparison - Powell is his usual charming self, but next to Harding he comes off as a typical Hollywood performer. And talk about sophistication! Harding has to be the ultimate in "cool". I can only guess the reason she didn't become as big as Hepburn or Davis is that she didn't fight for better films. I'll be sure to look for more of her work soon.
  • This is one of the "lost but found" films shown on TCM on 4/4/07. Apparently this and two other films shown that night were held out of public release due to litigation concerning royalties and now the powers that be at Turner Classic Movies have taken care of the licensing issues. Of the three films shown that night, none of them were great treasures but all three were excellent--very solid examples of the type of films RKO made during the era. Normally, when you think of RKO in 1933, you think KING KONG or Astaire and Rogers as a team, but there were other good films that might rank just below them in quality and entertainment.

    One of the big reasons I saw this film (aside from the fact that I am a major old movie junkie) is that it featured William Powell--one of my favorite old movie stars. While this WAS one of his movies, he was not exactly the same type of funny and sophisticated guy he later played in the Thin Man films or in LIBELED LADY. Instead, he was a rich playboy who was a little less likable, though he was honest enough to tell his girlfriend (plaed by Ann Harding) that he wanted to be a playboy and didn't want deep commitment. Ms. Harding, though a nice person, was determined to marry him so she concocts a plan to trick him into feeling he must marry her. She is successful, though afterwards her victory seems very hollow. How all this is deftly resolved is pretty clever and interesting and makes this film well worth seeing.

    The acting and writing are excellent despite this being a less than big budget sort of production. It's a good example of a "Pre-Code" film as topics such as adultery and premarital sex are actually discussed--something that would probably NOT been allowed after the new and strict Production Code was enacted in 1934-35. While the topics were NOT dealt with in a salacious manner, the adult aspects of this film make it pretty timeless and topical today.
  • rob-231313 November 2008
    This movie is an example of the kind of film that just can't be made anymore. At least not from a major studio. A compact, fast paced script that is based totally on character interaction. Ann Harding is cool as ice. Beautiful and smart, her character Joan Colby carry the film. William Powell doesn't have much to do except react to her, but he does it splendidly. He plays love interest John Fletcher with a world weary yet charming air, as only he could do.

    The relationship between the two is introduced to the audience as a thinly veiled roll in the hay, interrupted by a father figure. Pretty racy for 1933 standards. From there, marital relations under the strain of a worsening economy drive the story. All very relevant today 70 plus years later. Even the quaint idea of "tricking" someone into getting married seems to fly here.

    Well cast from top to bottom, each player does well to move the story along. The production value is somewhat above normal "B-movie" standards, with a few minor outdoor shots.

    Watching this movie was almost like watching a ballet dance, with Ann Harding moving between each scene with so much grace she fairly shimmers. The other characters swirl around her, each flying by barely grazing her, in a well choreographed, almost clock like, movement. William Powell stays out of her way, literally and figuratively, till the end of the film.

    If you love old movies this one is worth your 67 minutes.
  • Melodramatic romance about Joan (played by Ann Harding), a woman who strongly believes that marriage is "a business" and decides that a playboy of her acquaintance, John Fletcher (William Powell), a man with a "future" (not to mention a well-trained manservant) is the one for her. She actually falls in love with him, in spite of herself, but he's all playboy and doesn't seem to want to give up the bachelor life. She decides to trick him into marriage by going to his apartment, then changing into "something cooler", after which her father shows up, and for some reason Fletcher agrees to marriage. Well, they're already discussing divorce on the honeymoon and decide to wait six months before they get it. Joan is meanwhile busy pressing her husband to work on making his business a success and give up the polo (even though he's not very ambitious and has stated he prefers the life of leisure).

    Well, this is an interesting, fairly serious film that stands out based on very well done performances by Ann Harding and William Powell. The flaw for me in the film is that I find the male character to be kind of a jerk and can't really see why she's so gung-ho to want this man - personally, I would take a decent, nice guy any day over a wealthy playboy who's always chasing after other women. In general, I would say this woman has been making some pretty poor choices in her life. But one bonus - the film is loaded with gorgeous dresses on all the women, a nice look at some fashions of the day. A decent film, worth seeing.
  • "He always has a drink," said my wife. She was speaking, of course, of William Powell's various characters, and I observed that he was always wealthy. Was he typecast? That is a question for seventy-years-ago; today, we just enjoy his work.

    And it starred William Powell. (Isn't that enough?) In DOUBLE HARNESS, Powell plays John Fletcher, a playboy millionaire who is targeted for marriage by Joan Colby (Ann Harding). She gets her man, and this turns out to be to his immediate benefit. She gets him interested in running the company he inherited, and with her help, he's quite successful at it. He's a savvy guy, but she's clearly the woman behind the successful man. (Yes, such a thing still exists, some seventy years after.) Joan's sister Valerie (Lucille Browne) is something of a ditz with spending proclivities beyond her means. This leads to a disaster of a sort, but it's nothing Joan cannot handle.

    The ending, which I shan't divulge, left me with a few questions, but the answers were not necessary and I was pleased with the film. William Powell fans, you don't want to miss the master at work.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Much has been said, quite justifiably, about the brilliance of Ann Harding and William Powell's acting in this film, but what blew me away was the amazing contemporaneity of the script with its mature, open-eyed depiction of human relationships. The emotional frankness of earlier social dramatists such as Shaw and Strindberg are clearly woven into the fabric and dialog of this minor masterpiece. For 1933 Hollywood,the script by Jane Murfin from a play by Edwin Poor Montgomery was decades before its time. There is no pretense or hypocrisy but a good deal of intelligent calculation in Joan Colby's strategy to corral John Fletcher. She is adroitly using the only weapons women had in an era when women were seen as decorative accessories to men...her wits. Her plans attain complete fruition when Powell's playboy persona realizes that he loves her and owes much of his recent business success to her. When her connivance is revealed, she is abjectly ashamed, agrees to a divorce and refuses any alimony. But the denouement is quite satisfying.
  • I saw "Double Harness" for the first time yesterday. At first, I was expecting what I call the usual 30's drama, with lots of tuxedos and evening dresses and maybe some weak humor. But what I found was Ann Harding, a beautiful and very talented actress. Her understated delivery and honest portrayal made me want to see more films with her in a starring role. As one reviewer has pointed out, William Powell was on his way to "Thin Man" fame, but what became of Ann? She easily could've gone toe to toe with the other great ladies of film from that time, but we see little of her today. She is a delight to watch. Thanks to TCM for showing "Double Harness" to keep Ann's memory alive and well.
  • This is a great pre-code, unseen for decades and tied up in rights problems until TCM rode to the rescue and cleared matters up in 2007. Now TCM owns the rights to this and five other films that were in the same boat. There is just something about it that I never tire of, although there is nothing particularly unique about the plot.

    Ann Harding plays Joan, the oldest of two sisters and the daughter of a man who is still wealthy but has been hit hard by the depression. The film opens on the family shopping for younger daughter Valerie's wedding trousseau. Valerie's champagne tastes are having difficulties adjusting to a cheaper brand, and one gets the feeling that she's used to being pampered by both Joan and her father. This fact figures in prominently later on in the plot. Afterward, Joan runs into John Fletcher (William Powell), heir to the Fletcher shipping line. After a couple of casual dates, Joan decides that John would make a good husband. The bottom line looks good - there's only one problem. John is a confirmed bachelor. Joan decides to take the intensity of her quest up a notch. She begins sleeping with John and, with the help of her sister, arranges to have her father call on John and find her in his apartment dressed only in lounging pajamas. Chivalry will demand that John marry her and so will her father.

    Things work out as Joan planned up to a point. John agrees to marry Joan, but wants it understood that there will be a divorce after a respectable amount of time has passed - six months. In the meantime, Joan's business-like attitude towards the marriage has been ruined by the fact that she now loves John and only has six months to get him to feel the same way without trying so hard that John can see that she is trying to get him to love her.

    This movie has some great precode moments as well as the always dapper William Powell and the regal bearing of Ann Harding at her very best. In spite of the rather dramatic and heavy sounding plot I've described, it also has some great comic moments. The best of these is near the end of the film when Joan has to pull off a dinner party for some of John's potential clients without having them know about the mayhem going on behind the scenes, yet she is thwarted quite hilariously at every turn.

    Highly recommended for fans of precode cinema.
  • Another of the lost RKO films shown on TCM this month.

    William Powell plays a playboy vaguely interested in Ann Harding, whose family crashed in the Depression. Harding is a woman who believes in marrying for love but gets pushed into trapping Powell into marriage (for his money).

    Nice little story with two top stars who have great chemistry together. And the story isn't as dour as it sounds.

    Lucille Browne is the odious sister. Henry Stephenson is the father. Lillian Bond is the gold digger. Kay Hammond is the friend. Reginald Owen is the butler.

    Nice little film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was the second of the series of re-released, long missing films shown on Wednesday, April 2, 2007 on Turner Classic films.

    RAFTER ROMANCE had a good deal of pleasant humor still going for it, and A MAN'S JOURNEY has some wonderful performances and a good story. But DOUBLE HARNESS, although it has two good performances (especially Ann Harding's) from it's leads has a script that most people would not accept. Family and filial devotion are still big matters to people today, but this film stretches these points way out of proportion.

    Harding is the older of the two daughters of Henry Stephenson. The younger one is Lucille Brown. As the film begins we see Harding with Stephenson and Brown buying Brown's wedding trousseau. Stephenson is a decent sort (when was he not in most of his films?) but he has never been really astute about money matters, and so he is only able to afford $5,000.00 (1933 dollars, of course) for the weddings of both daughters together. But dear little Brown is spending more than her $2,500.00 share. Harding realizes this, and is a good sport - she let's this shopping spree eat up more than 2/3 of the total. After all, little sister is getting married.

    Harding is asked by Stephenson and by Brown about her own marriage plans. She has been dating William Powell, a well-known playboy type, but one who actually has a business - a potentially important shipping line that Powell has allowed to be run by others, and is now somewhat shabby. It turns out that Harding actually has her own agenda. She sees that marriage by itself (supposedly based on love) is insufficient, unless the wife can be of use to bring out the best in the husband not only at home but in his career (this film is very much a 1930s film - the idea of the woman building her career is not part of the picture).

    Powell is enjoying dating Harding, and it goes beyond a casual, more typical affair of a few days or weeks. But she sets him up (with the aid of her sister and Stephenson). Powell has brought her to his apartment on several occasions (and we imagine it is for more than the cocktails served to them by his butler, Reginald Owen), but one night Stephenson shows up as the angry, red-faced father (signalled to come by Brown after Harding calls Brown up). Stephenson acts as though he is furious, and wants to know the intentions of both Powell and Harding: how do they feel about each other, and will they marry or not? Harding admits she loves Powell, and would marry him, but it is up to him to decide. Flummoxed by the suddenness of the situation, Powell says he wants to marry too. So now the marriage can go through.

    Now the title of the film is understandable, as the marriage is the "double harness" of the couple. But the problems are these. No matter how fond he is of Harding, and willing to go through the forms, Powell intends it to be a short duration marriage. Harding is discovering that she is slowly falling in love with Powell, and is also aware that he expects her to divorce him within a six months of their return from their honeymoon (on one of his cruise lines ships).

    She gets to work to remake him racing against time - if she can domesticate him (and make him see he likes it) she can save the marriage. She also starts pushing him to get re-involved with the shipping line, and he starts taking charge of it (and it starts improving). Only two things may derail Harding's plans. One is the reappearance of one of the wealthy women (Lillian Bond) who thrived with Powell (or seemed to do so) when he was a playboy. She starts being seen around town with Powell, although he is simply being polite in taking her to lunch at such.

    The other thing is Lucille Brown. Her marriage to George Meeker is in jeopardy (again we see no scenes about this) because she can't curb her spendthrift ways. Apparently they had a heavy duty argument at one point, when he agreed to pay off a big clothing bill, a few months after the marriage - he telling her that she better change as he was not rich enough to stand this kind of extravagance. Brown manages to sponge off Harding (using up all of Harding's private money) but still coming back for more. It seems there is a $1,000.00 debt that is owed, and Brown can't face Meeker about it. Harding pawns a ring for $500.00 (Brown is upset that the pawnbroker did not pay her the full value of the ring - as though a pawnbroker would!). But Brown is spoiled and rotten enough to consider either borrowing the money from Powell (without telling Harding) or going to a male admirer (Hugh Huntley) and "making an arrangement" with him for the money.

    Harding's and Stephenson's affection for Brown as a member of their family is understandable, but both know she's a selfish, spoiled brat. She does considerable damage in the film - and it is a weakness (I'd call it a serious weakness) that she never really suffers the consequences about it while others do suffer. Somehow that would not pass these days. Otherwise the performances of the two leads (especially the under-appreciated Harding) makes the film quite watchable. Also good is Owen, as the perfect butler/valet, who has a funny sequence at one of the most disastrous dinner parties in movie history.
  • I, too, wish to beg forgiveness... for I have never seen Ms. Harding before tonight.Now, I HAVE to see everything she has done;and TCM is showing another 1933 film of hers-"The Right To Romance"-1933 with Robert Young at 5:00AM---she plays a plastic surgeon with marital woes with an ex-boyfriend involved. So,I am compelled to stay up, and watch Ms. Harding again.

    Just like everyone else who has commented, she gives such a natural, under-played "non-scheming scheming woman"!I have never seen better.Mr. Cromwell did wonders with Betty Davis the next year when they did,"Of Human Bondage"... I'm wondering how much it was his direction that coaxed such great simplicity from Ms.Harding-or, is it her own 'pony'?!

    Mr. Powell was exactly the same as he was the next year in, "The Thin Man"--- so, it would be my suspicion that Ms. Harding rose to the 'occasion' on her own 'horse'. We shall see later, but for now, Ms. Harding just scored a 'bull's eye"!!!! Well, i stayed up, and saw, "A Right to Romance" It was NO, "Double Harness"!!!!!!!!!!! At first i thought she was 'reserved' because sh was supposed to be a prim,proper doctor, who had no time, even for having a manicure, for any social life. She NEVER 'warmed up', IMHO, for the whole movie!She is supposed to fall in love with gregarious, Robert Young.When the picture opened, Ms. Harding had her hair in a TIGHT bun--her hair was FAMOUS for being so long it went down to her waist!!!!!!!!!! Wouldn't you think the director would employ the 'letting down' of her hair, when she is 'liberated' by Mr. Young?

    Then I thought when the young crippled boy appeared, she would have warm scenes with him.... there were barely any emotion shown towards him, even when she saves his life. Have any of you rascals seen this film..... maybe I am wrong. Luckily, "Double Harness" will be shown again on TCM on the 26th. at 5:15PM.... Director of "Double...",John Cromwell,who also directed the CLASSIC, "Of Human Bondage"-1934-which will be shown at 6:30PM- so you can see his skill...

    After that- a very 'touchy' subject-abortion-will be confronted with the PRE-code film,"Men in White"-1934-just before the 'code' was enforced. The word "abortion" is never said, but it is plain as day what i going on! great performances by Clark Gable-the doctor, and Myrna Loy, the 'high-maintenance socialite', who 'tosses' him because he stays to save a patient's life, rather than attend her party. I just finished researching Ms. Harding,I'll post her on the "Ann Harding" site.I've finished bio. for Ann Harding... go to her site in IMDb. I left out: She has 2 stars on the Hollywodd walk of fame: 6201 Hollywood Blvd. for motion pictures, and 6850 Hollywood Blvd. for TV work.
  • As I mention in my book Ann Harding-Cinema's Gallant Lady, DOUBLE HARNESS was one of the many wonderful pre-Code films to "bite the dust" after the enforcement of the Production Code. The film was a critical and financial success, but never re-released. The problem was a seduction scene which established that Ann Harding was offering William Powell premarital favors. In the 1950's ... a truncated DOUBLE HARNESS showed up on New York TV where portions of this "offensive" scene were deleted. This DVD contains the restored version.

    DOUBLE HARNESS -used here as an idiom for "Marriage" had been a London stage success in 1933 written by an American, Edward Poor Montgomery, who adapted it from a 1904 novel by English author Anthony Hope. Hope had also penned THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Oddly enough, the director for DOUBLE HARNESS, John Cromwell, would direct Ronald Colman 1937's THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Cromwell also directed OF HUMAN BONDAGE, with Bette Davis, after Ann Harding turned down the role. Cromwell had actually directed Ann Harding ten years earlier, in 1923, in her first big hit on Broadway, TARNISH.

    By the time they teamed for DOUBLE HARNESS in May 1933, both Ann Harding and William Powell were well-established screen stars. Harding had been nominated for Best Actress for HOLIDAY (1930) and Powell was just a year away from THIN MAN triumph at MGM. Powell liked the script for DOUBLE HARNESS and was delighted to be working with Ann, an actress whom he truly admired. On screen their chemistry and rapport is the film's chief asset.

    In his 2007 review of Double Harness SF critic/author Mick LaSalle stated, "Double Harness is especially precious because it is one more of a handful of first-rate vehicles for Ann Harding, who was perhaps the best actress of the early 1930s. Don't believe it? See her. Her technique is psychological, extremely modern." As with most Ann Harding films, the ensemble spirit prevails. Cromwell's direction is sleek. Ann's saucy, yet level-headed character targets wealthy San Francisco playboy Powell as if it were her "business" to do so. Powell finds her "coolly virginal, yet exquisitely inviting." He asks if she can be trusted. "Can you?" she replies. "In drinking, yes," he answers. Harding and Powell pull off the superb dialogue with seasoned charm and flair. Watch for the scene where Harding first goes up to Powell's apartment. She's wearing a gardenia corsage that Powell gave her- as they embrace, she exclaims "My Flowers!" She's about to be deflowered, as it were--a great double-entendre.

    About the only thing that misses the mark is a slap-stick scene toward the end. A confrontation between Reginald Owen (the butler) and Wong Chung (the cook)comes off as a bit awkward. The finis itself, however, is quite touching. Highly Recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ann Harding, in her attempts to ward off being an old maid, has now vowed to snare a man in her web, though she doesn't like being that way. Enter rich and eligible bachelor William Powell, whose family owns cruise ships, boats, etc. He enjoys his life and all that comes with it and all that doesn't. But he's always admired socialite Ann. She does come from money herself, her father played by Henry Stephenson. The amount while irrelevant does seem to make her situation even more exasperating. Her plan begins. While there is some success in putting William in a spot, there is little satisfaction in her new position. "Double Harness" is a very adult and well-written film, with Ann Harding giving a very natural and down-to-earth performance. I never knew much about the actress, but having seen this, I want to see more of her movies. This film has all the things found lacking in "For the Defense." While they may be different and shouldn't be compared, this film doesn't feel dated or creaky and has witty dialogue, three-dimensional characters you care about and almost a warmth to it, due to Ann's likable disposition. "Double Harness" is one of those films that you think later, "How come no one ever talks about this little gem?" Don't just discover it today. Share it with others.
  • blanche-223 June 2008
    1933's "Double Harness" is a precoder based on a play of the same name. Before playwrights like Clifford Odets championed the working man, plays dealt with the upper class, as does "Double Harness." William Powell is John Fletcher, a committed playboy, and Ann Harding is Joan Colby, who believes marriage is a business. She isn't in love with John, but she believes she can be of use to him in his family enterprise, which he neglects. They become lovers; she arranges for her father (Henry Stephenson) to find her in John's apartment. He strongly suggests to John that he do the right thing, and John leaves it up to Joan - does she want to marry him? He's surprised when she says yes. On their honeymoon, they agree to stay married for six months and then divorce. Then a funny thing happens: love.

    Ann Harding came from the Broadway stage; she was a sophisticated, mature, dramatic looking actress with a rich speaking voice. Actually by 1933, her career had begun its decline (though she worked on and off until 1965). Like Kay Francis, she is an elegant, independent heroine, a type which had faded out by the 1940s. Here, her Joan is strong, droll and earthy. Powell was an actor whose appearance didn't change from role to role, but he was able to internalize a character so that he always seemed different. He became associated later on with Nick Charles and some wonderful comedies, but in this era, he's quite serious and as always, wonderful.

    Dated due to the different mores of today but no less entertaining.
  • Henry Stephenson's younger daughter Lucile Brown is getting married to George Meeker. Her older sister Ann Harding is happy for her, but she's got her own ideas about marriage. Remember this is the Thirties before the days of woman's liberation and most women only thought in certain parameters.

    She sets a trap for William Powell, a debonair playboy she's been crushing out on for a long time. Being the gentlemen he is Powell marries her, but inevitable problems do ensue.

    Double Harness as a film was one I had a lot of difficulty with. The story is an indifferent one, you don't get to really care about these people. Powell, poor man, has to go to work, big deal. Ann Harding's ideas are so much cat litter and Lucile Brown is one spoiled brat who just needs a good spanking, one Henry Stephenson should have given ages ago.

    There are some moments with humor, but they're few and far between even in this short film. It's not that dramatic and definitely not that funny.

    But this is one of those films in the Thirties when the rich actually put on tuxedos to dress for dinner. People looked elegant, no one was ever better at looking elegant on the screen than William Powell. But he's done so much better work than this. And back in the Depression this was escapist stuff.

    Still I've seen better from both Powell and Harding.
  • This is a clever and interesting early talkie, derived from a play, presenting a woman who tricks a man into marriage in order to make a better man of him, then regrets the subterfuge. Marriage as business contract vs. marriage for love.

    Both Ann Harding and William Powell deliver superb performances. This is one of Ann's very very best. Such a superb and subtle actress, who deserved far more fame than she received. Powell is unusually sensitive and nuanced as the playboy she sets her cap for. Reginald Denny provides subtle humor as Powell's valet.

    The print I viewed on dvd is pristine. Unfortunately now out of production and rather dear on the marketplace, but well worth pursuing as it is one of RKO's very best dramas.
  • Some movies are bound to be watched once. When the story is all too familiar or the heroes are one-dimensional or there are too many characters that you can't even tell one from the other by the end of the movie let alone name them - that's when you realize you have just watched a motion picture you never want to get back to. Sadly this is one of them. "Double Harness" is a fine movie, no more and no less to say about it. The whole plot revolves around the couple of Ann Harding and William Powell who both played beautifully but couldn't come out of the shelves of thin characters they portrayed. An inveterate bachelor who's being tricked into marrying a nice girl who loves him so much in hope that he will too someday - doesn't it sound too good to be true? Along with feeble plot there are a lot of supporting characters who do absolutely nothing to the story to develop it into something bigger and in the end we are left feeling disenchanted. Just what we thought was going to happen at the end happens and in between there are talks about marriage being a business and you can only be successful at it if you're in it without feelings. Not a very bright idea, isn't it?
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