15 January 2004 | Poseidon-3
Unsung, starry gem of a comedy
A film with four stars of this magnitude was an event in 1936 and, indeed, it still is in 2004. Though the subject matter is slight and the acting is not too terribly taxing on the affable quartet, it was well-thought-of-enough to rate a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Tracy plays a newspaperman whose own wedding plans are interrupted by the fact that his paper has mistakingly run a libelous story about the daughter of one of his competitors. Loy, as the daughter, slaps a $5 million libel suit against Tracy's newspaper which, if won, will sink it. Since he knows he will lose, he rehires former employee Powell, who he feels will be able to charm Loy into an indelicate situation, thus rendering her reputation spoiled enough to cost her her libel suit. Part of the scheme, however, to make it seem legitimate is to marry off Powell to his own fiance (Harlow.) It is here that the film gets a lot of its laughs as desperate-to-wed Harlow finds herself getting married......but to the wrong man! Powell and Loy get most of the sparkling dialogue and sophisticated repartee, but contemporary audiences are likelier to get a kick out of mouthy, hilarious Harlow. Her comedic gifts (and her ample physical assets) are on prime display, notably when the judge says it's safe to kiss the bride and in a later scene where Powell is learning to fly-fish. All of the stars do very well and each gets a chance to rub up against the others. Powell and Loy are a legendary pairing with 14 films to show them off. Tracy does a slick job and shows his versatility. They are aided by a stable of amusing character actors, the type of people Hollywood was famous for and can no longer provide with regularity. (Today, almost any character actor that scores a hit is thrust into his/her own TV show, TV talk show or lead role in a film!) The film offers both wit and slapstick, wrapped up in some gorgeous sets and costumes. (The MGM gloss is fully in place.) Sadly, the light that was Harlow would be dimmed in just a year after this, but audiences are still able to enjoy her fine work in films like this.