DINNER AT EIGHT (1933) You’re invited to a sparkling all-star peek into the lives of the troubled and troublemaking Who’s Who coming to a posh Manhattan party, led by Jean Harlow, Marie Dressler, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and more. George Cukor directs. LIBELED LADY (1936) When society diva Myrna Loy sues newsman Spencer Tracy for libel, he enlists fiancée Harlow and buddy William Powell in a scheme involving a rigged marriage, a phony seduction, a funny fishing scene, fisticuffs and, eventually, true love for all. CHINA SEAS (1935) A rugged captain (Clark Gable) sails perilous waters with a fortune in British gold. That’s not the only risky cargo he carries. Both his fiery mistress (Harlow) and refined fiancée (Rosalind Russell) are aboard! Wallace Beery also stars. WIFE VS. SECRETARY (1936) Businessman Clark Gable relies on secretary Harlow – too much. according to wily wife Myrna Loy. James Stewart adds to the star-bright comedy/drama as Harlow’s beau.
Sea captain Clark Gable has his hands full on the Hong Kong-Singapore route: secret gold hidden below decks, pirates, a typhoon. None of which truly matters, since the real action here is animal attraction: Gable can't believe the one classy lady (Rosalind Russell) he ever loved has come on board the same time as his bawdy mistress (Jean Harlow). Director Tay Garnett does well by the storm at sea and the marauding pirates, but he knows the real fun is when Gable and Harlow trade smoldering glances and caustic one-liners. And if more deliciously vulgar dialogue is needed, Wallace Beery is there to spray it around. However preposterous all this may seem, it's so spicily written (script by James Kevin McGuinness and the gifted Jules Furthman) and perfectly cast that it satisfies on pretty much every level. Gable was at his prime here, a bullheadedly confident example of machismos americanus in his natural habitat, and in Harlow he found his perfect unpretentious sparring partner. China Seas
is essentially a rehash of their teaming in Red Dust
, but absolutely nobody minded. --Robert Horton China Seas
For such an unheralded movie, Wife vs. Secretary
provides a surprisingly satisfying time, aided immensely by the old MGM gloss and a trio of big stars. Clark Gable, so secure in his manly-man pictures, reminds us that he could be a dab hand at lightweight romance; his role is a typical Gable world-beater, a publishing tycoon with a lavish Manhattan lifestyle. But here he's happily, blissfully married, and his scenes with wife Myrna Loy are playful and cute. The only glitch is, his secretary is Jean Harlow, and despite Gable's fidelity, tongues will inevitably wag. Harlow here has none of the boisterous sass of her earlier pairings with Gable--she really is just an efficient and plucky secretary, even if boss and assistant trade charged glances during a business trip to Havana--and so the movie's tone is pretty genteel. The greenhorn James Stewart, still a couple of years from stardom, plays Harlow's mild but suspicious suitor, and he gets stuck with obligatory dialogue urging Harlow to give up her job and settle down with him. (The movie is interesting in showing how productive and fulfilled Harlow is by work rather than marriage.) MGM mainstay Clarence Brown directed, with an approach so dignified that nothing, alas, ever gets too giddy. Still, Gable and Loy are so fun together the movie succeeds. For Thin Man
fans who can't get enough of Loy and the idea of marriage-as-playtime, this is a good fix. --Robert Horton