Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

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Mr Sausage
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Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:32 am

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Rayon Vert
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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#2 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Sep 03, 2018 11:47 am

Powell and Loy are front and center (but rounded out by Harlow and Tracy no less) in a film that’s much better than The Thin Man, but still very uneven. Witty, and occasionally cute and touching, sequences, trade with wildly unfunny ones (that over-the-top fishing sequence). It has its moments but it’s nowhere as luminous as films like My Man Godfrey and The Awful Truth.

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domino harvey
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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#3 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 03, 2018 11:54 am

I want to revisit it before deciding where it falls on my overall tally, but on first viewing I loved this movie so much, especially Loy and Powell, that I ended up ordering every movie the duo starred in right after (this was my first). None even remotely lived up to this

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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#4 Post by knives » Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:10 pm

When I finally saw this years ago I had close to a zero percent success rate with screwballs, but this was practically a rosetta stone for me and I think that is because of, in addition to just being masterfully made, how the film by having two romances gets to present and work with all of the hands of screwball. If ultimately screwball is a battle of the sexes so that we get an equal status. With Tracy and Harlow we have a classical power dynamic that asks for its heroine to act on her emotions and not just depend on the man.

Loy and Powell alternatively start with the woman having a clear advantage thanks to economic status which of course is another big theme of screwballs. Women really only have the power to start in the driver's seat if they can afford the car. She is also, of course, an intellectual match. With all of this equality the question is just one of mutual acceptance where unlike the other romance Powell is now the one asked to do the biggest change. This is fascinatingly in contra to My Man Godfrey where the same power contrast seems to exist, but due to infantilization of Lombard and the last act twist the onus of change remains on her. The Loy and Powell dynamic may be more closely associated with the genre, but in this raw a form I think it is actually exceedingly rare with elements of the Traxy and Harlow dynamic being much more prominent perhaps because it was at the time women who were undergoing the greatest change. All the same it is deeply satisfying for a film to place so much of the responsibility of maintaining the relationship on the man.

This shows the film and more broadly the genre to have a very progressive heart, but as always the sign of success in the film is a happy marriage. I can see twitter liberals throwing out the baby with the bathwater over that, but I'd argue that the way marriage is used here and in a few other places is as a change in the course of marriage that must come with the change in the nature of dating. That end is not an ossification here, but rather a sign of maturity and a willingness to be equal. For Tracy it's a come down from a certain point of view, though just barely, while it is a genuine elevation for Powell so that he can see Loy.

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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#5 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 03, 2018 10:15 pm

I see Powell and Harlow as the leads here (not that Loy and Tracy are very far behind). Sad to think that Harlow would be dead in a year or so after this film.

Not certain I find anything of much thematic importance in this film, for me the pleasure comes almost entirely from the utterly delightful performances.....

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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#6 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:18 pm

On further reflection, I'd say Harlow's character is -- by a long shot -- the most complicated and interesting.

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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#7 Post by knives » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:30 pm

I don't disagree, but how so?

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#8 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:51 pm

The other main characters, while engaging enough (due to their excellent performers) seem pretty stereotypical. We find out only tidbits about Harlow's character's past, but she doesn't seem to fit into any predefined mold. Definitely not even remotely a "dumb blond" in this. (I find the perfunctory ending, with her gushing over Tracy all of a sudden, rather out of character, however). It really seems like the creative team didn't have much of a clue on how to credibly end the film. (Of course, one can argue that the ending of Da Ponte and Mozart's sublime Cosi fan tutte is also arbitrary, but in that case, the arbitrariness is (partly) the point).

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knives
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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#9 Post by knives » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:43 pm

I actually nearly compared this to Palm Beach Story due to that arbitrary nature as well. I think it's a case of convention and the crew willing to use short hands.

What you say of Harlow is interesting. While she has an archetype as much as anyone else since her happy ending isn't dependent on Tracy it really could have been anything.

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Re: Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)

#10 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:33 pm

Apparently Harlow was buried in one of the gowns she wore in this film. ;-(

Harlow's character is neither a schemer nor an innocent -- she is an interesting blend ...

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