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Archive for February, 2012

Hey folks!  I just now realized that it’s been over a week since my last entry and–confession–I haven’t even thought about my next one.  The reason for this negligence is simple.  I’ve been sucked in.

That’s right.

Downton Abbey.

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1936’s Libeled Lady is a far cry from 1934’s Evelyn Prentice.  In Lady, Powell and Loy return to the genre for which they are most known, comedy, and are joined by Spencer Tracy and Powell’s real-life girlfriend, Jean Harlow.  Though the four stars are given equal billing and both the trailer and the film’s opening emphasize the real-life camaraderie between the four, the viewer is drawn more to Powell and Loy’s characters than to Tracy and Harlow’s.  This is because Powell and Loy’s characters, Bill Chandler and Connie Allenbury, are the most dynamic, while Harlow and Tracy’s characters, Gladys and Warren Haggerty, are much less so.

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Well, thanks to Quoth the Girl the vote is in, and so next in the series is another non-Thin Man film.  This one is a screwball comedy from 1936, two years after both Evelyn Prentice and The Thin Man.

Libeled Lady stars not only Powell and Loy but also Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow.  In the film, Tracy and Harlow are engaged, but on their wedding day Tracy’s newspaper is slapped with a libel suit for printing an erroneous story about heiress Loy and the wedding is put off, much to Harlow’s chagrin.  In order to avoid the suit, Tracy hires reporter Powell to cozy up to Loy, only to have Powell’s wife catch them.  The problem is that Powell doesn’t have a wife.  But remember which lady is trying to hook a husband?

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If you’re a character in 1934’s Evelyn Prentice, everything depends on what you’ve been doing.  The problem is that it’s 1934, so everything you’ve been doing–the misdeeds, anyway–is implied and not directly shown to the audience.  This may be good for your reputation, but when your misdeeds are crucial to the plot, it’s bad for the story.

That’s not to say that the story itself, or the overall film, is bad; indeed, Evelyn Prentice is one of my favorite non-Thin Man films that the pair made.  If you haven’t seen the original trailer, check it out here.  (Apologies for the bad quality; it hasn’t been restored.  Also, apologies for the trailer in general–it’s terribly misleading.)  The basic premise is that John and Evelyn Prentice (Powell and Loy) are married, but their marriage is a troubled one.  John is a lawyer who spends more time at the office than he does at home, and Evelyn feels neglected.  (This leads to what is possibly one of the most controversial lines I’ve ever heard in a film from this era: Evelyn’s friend Amy Blake (Una Merkel) asks, “Does your husband beat you?”  and Evelyn responds, “No, I wish he would.  He’d have to come home to do it.”)  When he is at home, he usually brings his work home with him–either meeting people about cases at the apartment or at least discussing the cases–which leads Evelyn to ask, “Do you realize that all we have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are thieves, embezzlers, and murderers?”  She’s tired of it, and this is the situation upon which the film opens.

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