[box cover]

Libeled Lady

When a disingenuous story gets published before the editors catch their error, Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) is able to sue the New York Evening Star for libel. It's on editor Warren Hagerty (Spencer Tracy) to find a way to keep his paper from paying the $5 million Connie is asking, but Warren's already in hot water because this mistake interrupted his wedding to Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow). His only solution is to hire back the best man on libel, a man he fired — William Chandler (William Powell). Chandler then comes up with a plan: Since the story suggested Connie was romancing a married man, Chandler will get married and then romance Connie to make the story true, and to do so he uses Gladys as his fake wife. At first Connie and her father James (William Connolly) have no interest in the man, but Chandler has done his homework and hooks James's interest by talking a lot about fishing. And when he begins getting sassy with Connie, she starts coming around. But the further he takes on his work, the more it's apparent that the two have a real attraction, and Chandler begins to rethink his job while Gladys — feeling neglected by Warren — forms an attraction for her new husband. Directed by Jack Conroy, 1936's Libeled Lady is a minor screwball of modest pleasures. Though the sex comedy is sharp, the plotting isn't sure-footed (thought there's a good set-piece when Powell learns to fish and accidentally hooks Harlow's posterior), and the resolution lacks the precision one hopes for from a genre entry. What the film doesn't lack is talent, and the four leads are used superbly. Powell delivers his perfect smarmy-but-charming wiseass and makes Chandler his own — but it's more fun to see Tracy in this atmosphere; he plays the willingly cuckolded editor with great gusto and a perfectly clipped bark. Nonetheless, screwballs are always made by the female performers, and Loy is her fine sharp self, while Harlow is superb as the lonely bride. One wishes she had more to do — but perhaps that's posthumous longing (she passed away a year later). Warner presents Libeled Lady in a good full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR)and in monaural DD 1.0 audio. Unfortunately, little restoration went into the film's print; there are speckles, lines, and wear intermittently, and though the title needs it, it probably will not enjoy a restoration in the foreseeable future. In contrast, the soundtrack is in great shape. Supplements consist of "Leo is on the Air" (13 min.) — a radio promo featuring Powell, Loy, Tracy, Harlow, and Connolly — and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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