WHO WEARS THE PANTS…


I’m going to steal, plagarize, imitate ( yeh, that’s the ticket… ) ~ …no, better yet: PAY HOMAGE to a feature from one of my favorite bloggers’ set-pieces: FRIDAY FOTO FOLLIES. And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I hope my friend approves.

What Aurora over at ONCE UPON A SCREEN does, is post a lot of photos that illustrate a theme. She does all manner of these. Click on Audrey and see what I mean.

We have seen some of the most beautiful women in classic Hollywood wearing designs fit for a Queen…gowned by Edith Head, Irene, Givenchy, Orry-Kelly, Yves St. Laurent et al. But I’m a jeans and boots girl. Casual is my speed. I think slacks are the most comfortable, freeing thing to wear. Taking a page from Once Upon A Screen, my post is self~explanatory: WHO WEARS THE PANTS. Here are some of my favorite actresses in outfits either from a movie, photo~shoot or just lounging around. Some of you might think this look is very unfeminine. But you’d be wrong.

I’ll start with the Patron Mistresses of Pants…Dietrich and Hepburn. And Garbo. Can’t forget Garbo. Comfort Queens.

  
Dietrich                                                     Hepburn


Hepburn wears this beautiful smoking jacket lounging outfit in “Woman of the Year
( 1942 ) and it’s one of my absolute favorites.

  

Androgyny, much?

   
Top hat, white tail and tails. No one wears this better. Alright…if you must count Fred Astaire.

The Great Garbo

Ninotchka” “Anna Karenina” “Queen Christina” and for me, her greatest performance… “Camille” ~ Garbo reigned supreme in classic films of the silent and talkie era. Her mystique is unique. She wore a lot of exotic styles in her films and could carry them off. Not glamorous here, but I love her casual look:


Comfort over style

* * * * * * * * * *

Here are some other actresses wearing the pants off…pants.


When I was a kid and watched her in tv’s “Bewitched” I probably had little idea of the fabulous career she had as a leading character actress. My favorite performances of AGNES MOOREHEAD are “Dark Passage” “Caged” and “Magnificent Obsession.” She can cut you to the bone ( “Citizen Kane” ) ~ She wasn’t afraid to be what her character needed her to be. But she also could be a friend. Doesn’t Aggie look marvelously relaxed and youthful here?

* * * * * * * * * *

She didn’t care for the name, but ANN SHERIDAN was the Oomph Girl and with good reason; she had it in spades. She was Warner Bros’ glamor girl, but if they gave her half a chance, she showed ’em she could act. Whether comedy or drama, Sheridan could handle both with equal aplomb. She’s pictured here with her director Vincent Sherman, who did two pictures with her: “The Unfaithful” and “Nora Prentiss.” Look at those shades and the hair…do a pair of slacks look like it deters Vinnie? He’s at her feet. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Here’s my petite Force of Nature…the Queen, BETTE DAVIS. She built many a soundstage at Warner Bros. from the box office success of her films. Seeing her in pants was such an unusual thing because it’s all about dresses for women back then. I like her riding outfit in “Dark Victory.” For me, that look is prognosis positive. Oooh look, Cora Witherspoon who could play to the manor born or W.C. Fields’ wife. I also like Davis’ outfit in “The Great Lie” when she was keeping Mary Astor company while waiting for “their” baby to be born.

* * * * * * * * * *

CAROLE LOMBARD ~ 1930’s icon. She was much more than a screwball comedienne. See her in “Vigil in the Night” “In Name Only” or “Made for Each Other.” But gosh darn it, it’s “My Man Godfrey” and “Twentieth Century” that cements her in our memory almost ninety years later. Looks like she’s talking to the great Lubitsch and comfortable doing it. Could it be… or not to be?

  * * * * * * * * * *

  

CLAUDETTE COLBERT could wear the hell out of clothes with that petite little figure of hers. ( Her wedding gown in “It Happened One Night” is to die for! ) She had a great career in film ( “The Palm Beach Story” “Midnight” and “Since You Went Away“…to name a few ) but look at her here at home, chilling out…just as you’d expect from Cleopatra.

* * * * * * * * * *

One of my all~time favorite movie stars is DORIS DAY. I am just over the silvery moon about her. Pretty nautical here in her decidedly 1940’s stylized look. What a career she’s had ( comedy/drama/sing/dance ) working with some of the great leading men in Hollywood like Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, David Niven, Jack LemmonKirk Douglas…and three guys name Jim: Garner ~ Cagney ~ Stewart. She could also wear her clothes, without them wearing her, whether she’s Calamity Jane or a suburban housewife.  She could do anything. Really. 

* * * * * * * * * * 

There she is, A girl’s best friend. The great EVE ARDEN who comes in a movie with five minutes of screen time and out she memorably exits, screen left. Here she is in her “Stagedoor” chill. The woman can wear anything. She’s as statuesque as a super model and as sharp as a laser beam. See “Mildred Pierce” if you need proof.

* * * * * * * * * *

GINGER ROGERS ~ She could do comedy, drama and dance her *** off. She can put on the glam with the best of ’em ( have you seen her outfits w/dance partner Fred Astaire? ) Doesn’t she look great in these wide legged pants? I always found her to be a natural onscreen.

* * * * * * * * * *

HARLOW in satin…is a dream. In slacks…sort of like you and me. I mean, if you and me were glamorous movie star bombshells being relaxed. My favorite films of hers are “Bombshell” and “Libeled Lady” and of course, “Dinner At Eight.” Harlow…you were gone too soon.

* * * * * * * * * *

 

This is my favorite look of IRENE DUNNE’s. She’s on set of “A Guy Named Joe.” She had a nice slacks outfit in “The Awful Truth” too. Never over the top, her talent is always under the radar.

      * * * * * * * * * *

JENNIFER JONES looks rather pensive. A far cry from her “Portrait of Jennie” “Duel in the Sun” “Madame Bovary” looks. People blow hot or cold over Jones, but I think she’s a fine underrated actress able to exhibit wells of emotion. Her trying to retrieve her love letters from a burning fire brings me to tears. xoxoxo these pants and boots!

  * * * * * * * * * *

KEEPING UP WITH THE JOANS ~

   

Blonde in the 30’s, brunette in the 40’s. The great underestimated JOAN BENNETT. She can fit any place: on safari or a scarlet street or be the mother of a bride. Yes her sister Constance is known as THE fashion plate. But little sister Joan’s not bad. She’s stylish as diamonds with attitude for days. Whew!!

* * * * * * * * * *

She looks like she stepped out of 2018 with those shades and jumpsuit. What can I say about her. No one wore clothes like her. They say no one loved being a movie star more than JOAN CRAWFORD. Well if you’re going to be good at something…

Her career spans decades. I’m partial to her Oscar-winning role in “Mildred Pierce.” But she was good in “Rain“, “Daisy Kenyon” and with Gable. Hell, she’s a STAR!

* * * * * * * * * *

“THE LOOK”

You know how to whistle don’t you? LAUREN BACALL is worth whistling for. She was known as “The Look” in her modeling days, and boy she had it. She was never the frilly feminine type. Very tailored. Pants suit her, don’cha think? I like her in “Dark Passage” and “Written on the Wind.” I dunno…I kind of think she was never really given a chance to bloom as an actress. Perhaps not getting good scripts. Perhaps overshadowed by her more famous husband. Perhaps there was more to Life for her. In movies, she always seems down~to~earth, no nonsense; a little intimidating. If you approach her, you’d better bring it. 

* * * * * * * * * *

You can’t get more doe-like, more feminine than Loretta Young. Even in this staged photo shoot, she’s a vision. ( Pssst! See her strong performances in “The Stranger” and “Midnight Mary.” )

* * * * * * * * * *

For this flaming redhead, comedy or drama, gowns or slacks…LUCILLE BALL could do and wear it all with ease. Yeh, I love Lucy.

* * * * * * * * * *

This is MERLE OBERON playing George Sand in “A Song to Remember.” And I have to tell you, I’m floored by this costume. Isn’t it smart? Merle, a unique looking beauty, hasn’t made movies were so memorable other than the towering “Wuthering Heights.” ( I personally like her and Dana Andrews in “Night Song” ). My claim to fame is when I went to see the throngs of stars attend the premiere of “The Godfather” ( 1972 ) back in NYC, I saw Merle Oberon with Robert Wolders. Very few people were excited by seeing her. Boy, I was.

* * * * * * * * * *

One of my favorites…PAULETTE GODDARD walks with her beau, Charlie…swinging her shades. Looking sassy, stylish, comfortable and nonchalant. I understand her collection of jewels and paintings is unparalleled in Hollywood. Another actress with not a stellar filmography, her role in “The Women” is a standout. My friend Wendy writes a wonderful essay for my blog on Goddard I urge you to read.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Love Goddess is looking mighty casual here in a pair of slacks. Hell, I confess…I don’t care WHAT  RITA HAYWORTH  wears.

* * * * * * * * * *

MY STANY!!!!

These are my two favorite fotos of Stany. One she looks younger than one remembers her, and the other she’s so disheveled in “My Reputation” ( 1946 ), her hair and plaid jacket just kill me. 

    

But the theme is pants…

Her career is legendary. But get a load of that blouse, the belt, those leopard print shoes, her attitude. That’s BARBARA STANWYCK alright. See her hand in her pocket? Damn, she’s ready to kick ass, and she ain’t takin’ names either. Elegant.

     

Thank you all for perusing my Friday Foto Follies. I might try this again in the future with another theme I’ve gathered along my way. Once again, I tip my hat to Aurora over at Once Upon A Screen who can REALLY show that a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out her photo galleries by clicking on this photo of 40’s horror Queen, Evelyn Ankers:

…and this?  Oh…it’s just my indulgence. I’m an Evelyn Ankers fan:

[   H  O  M  E   ]

__________________________________________________________________________

CHINA SEAS ( 1935 )

I haven’t seen this one in for ever and it is chock full of plot: pirates, typhoon, jewel thieves, unrequited love, rekindled lost love, duty, redemption, Gable struggling between what he wants and what he needs…and the wonderful wardrobe malfunction by Harlow that remains in the picture. What more can I ask of Tay Garnett’s 1935 hit:  CHINA SEAS?

CHINA SEAS ( III )
Captain, my Captain. My…Captain.

GABLE – I mean really, didja ever see a thing more dashing than Gable? Good grief, in those Captain whites or the black turtleneck, unshaven and hair undone or spiffed up like a shiny penny – he barks orders to crew and girl alike. He’s very commanding. But he is in the typical Gable pickle. He thinks he’s in love with an upper crust English gal, when he’s really in love with a girl who knows what’s what. I don’t know that I believe 100% his love for Rosalind Russell, but I definitely believe his passion for Harlow. We know where he belongs; he just has to catch up with the audience. And speaking of Harlow…

CHINA SEAS ( I )

“You and I are friends. We’ve had a lot of fun together and as far as I’m concerned you’re a number one girl in the archipelago. But I don’t remember making any vows to you nor do I recall asking for any.”

 

HARLOW ( CHINA SEAS )HARLOW – What can I say? She’s a satin gem. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s in love, she’s jealous, she’s hurt, she’s angry. She’s everything you could want from pre-code or post-code. Harlow’s just a dream. See her get revved up at the table when she’s being put down by the snootiest and crustiest of the upper crust. She’s puts up with losing her man but she also puts her dukes up and won’t back down.

CHINA SEAS ( V ) BEERY – I liked the big lug in this. Oh he might’ve been spitting jealous of Clark Gable’s rise in stature on the M-G-M lot ( get real Wally ) and vowed not to work with him again. But it doesn’t show in this film. There’s charm and humor in his scenes and he’s wonderful with Harlow ( recreating the spark they had as a battling couple in Dinner At Eight ). He’s not gruff, but Irish and roguish. Oh he still wants to steal some gold, and fairly cripples Gable in an iron boot. But he’s so charming and in love with a dream he’ll never catch that I really like him in this.

CHINA SEAS ( VII )RUSSELL – She’s moving up the ranks at the studio but still a supporting player in this. Hair in tight curls like some kind of Margaret Lindsay-type, she’s the girl Gable aspires for. You know…like he did with Grace Kelly or Mary Astor. But she’s a good egg in this. She’s upper crust, but down-to-earth, following (uhmm…chasing) Gable to this port of call. Roz really doesn’t have much to do in this movie and her character good-naturedly gives him up in the end, but she’s a nice presence and contrast to Harlow in this. Russell’s career will come into its own shortly ( with Night Must Fall” The Womenand “His Girl Friday looming ahead in her future ) with a more distinct screen persona and stunning good looks. But she does a good job in this.

CHINA SEAS ( VI )  HARLOW - HATTIE ( CHINA SEAS )  CHNA SEAS ( VI )

Character actors: C. Aubrey Smith, Dudley Digges, Akim TamiroffHattie McDaniel, ( sass ) Robert Benchley ( drunken bon mots ) my man Willie Fung ( I love seeing him in movies ) and ~ looking kinda sexy with his shirt open ~ Lewis Stone. LEWIS STONE ( CHINA SEAS )For a silver haired man of 56 at the time of this film, he does his own stunts as a man crippled during the course of the movie, but goes out like Veronica Lake in So Proudly We Hail. There’s also a fascinating actress names Soo Yong who is allowed to play her character Yu-Lan with upper class bearing, speaking standard English and allowed to sit at the Captain’s table. She really gets in a couple of good digs at Harlow’s expense.

CHINA SEAS ( IIII )

Directed by Tay Garnett in a nice breezy fashion, we see he can handle crowd scenes, and the typhoon scene is very convincing, along with that rolling steam engine crushing every thing in its path. Garnett had command of things. “China Seas” is like sparkling champagne to me, all shiny black and white, bubbly and gritty.

 

 

(  H O M E  )

__________________________________________________________________________

 

BOMBSHELL

BOMBSHELL ( I )                Lee Tracy and Jean Harlow in Victor Fleming’s “BOMBSHELL” ( 1933 )

Folks, for my money BOMBSHELL” ( 1933 ) is a qualitative, unequivocal hit. Loud, shrill, over-the-top, shrieking, sharp and most of all…funny? It’s those very elements that offers up my enjoyment of this movie. This in no short part is because JEAN HARLOW carries this motion picture from here to Kingdom come.

I’m no Harlow aficionado. ( Here is a very good one ). I just know I like what I’ve seen. This is the iconic image of her that is burned in our retina. And this very image may be what gets in our way of appreciating her talents as an actress.

HARLOW

But if you can get past this ( go on…try to look away now ) she’s done a number of films where she might be some variation of this bombshell who is not a man’s first choice to take home to Momma, but may get an appreciative slap on the back from Dad if he does. As sexy as she was she seemed to always be fighting to get her man whether it was Gable or Tracy. But you tell me if Harlow’s the same Harlow who’s in Wife vs. Secretary as she was in Dinner At Eight. Go on, I dare you. I double darn triple dare ya. ( I wish I could have seen more of that girl; but maybe that girl didn’t pay the studio’s bills ).

“Bombshell” is all Harlow. She deftly handles it all like a juggler spinning those plates on Ed Sullivan’s show. I think she plays it on different notes. She talks at breakneck speed, uses humor ( read sarcasm ). She’s harried, put-upon, lied to, double/triple-crossed. She puts on airs, thinks she’s in love, is exasperated and goes from one drama to another. She’s the eye of the hurricane in this screwball comedy.

From Lola’s bloodsucking family to those over-sized dogs wrangled by Louise Beavers ( who I’m grateful is allowed to be normal. Well..normal for this cacophonous household ) to the phoniness of show business to her agent who wants her pound of flesh ( any way he can get her ) the whole movie is a wild ride with a great supporting cast including Una Merkel, Frank Morgan, C. Aubrey Smith, Isabel Jewell, Pat O’Brien, Franchot Tone, Ted Healy, Louise Beavers and the great Lee Tracy who is the piston in Harlow’s engine. Their sparring rivals anything Borg & McEnroe, Martina & Evert, or Venus & Serena EVER did at Wimbledon. Jean Harlow died at 26, on this day – June 7th, 1937. It was a great loss to the movie industry as she was just reaching her peak and from all accounts, well liked in Hollywood. I wonder what the forties would have brought. Her character of Lola Burns is the antithesis to the quiet Harlean Carpenter who was brought to Hollywood at a young age. And that’s what acting is all about.

If “Bombshell” is shown at the 2016 TCMFF, it would be the hit of the festival. And I’ll be the first on line to say “I told you so.”

BOMBSHELL ( III )  BOMBSHELL ( IV )

Harlow: “Hey, I didn’t give you that for a negligee. It’s an evening wrap.”

Louise Beavers: “I know Miss Lola but the negligee what you gave me got all tore up night before last.”

Harlow: “Your day off is sure brutal on your lingerie.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( VI )Una Merkel: “Can’t you get up in time to put on your uniform.”

Beavers: “Don’t scald me with your steam woman. I knows where the body’s buried.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( VII )

Harlow: “I ask you Miss Carroll, as one lady to another, isn’t that
a load of clam?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

BOMBSHELL ( XXIII )

Lee Tracy: “Just because a guy with an Ellis Island accent happens to have a dress suit with a hair ribbon across his chest, you dames get a pedigree and start reaching for the diamond tiara.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  BOMBSHELL ( IX ) BOMBSHELL ( VIII )

Harlow: “Tijuana again?! They’ve been giving you a sleigh ride on that roulette wheel.”

Frank Morgan: “Now look you mustn’t be too hard on him.”

Harlow: “Not another nickel. He’s been supporting every gambling joint on that border with his millionaire complex and my money.”

Morgan: “Yeah but they’re liable to hold him…”

Harlow: “So let them hold him. Let ‘em put him to work on a rock pile. I don’t care, I’m through. He’s a lion and a no good and a…oh what the heck. Ma liked him.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( XI )

 “Gosh, where’ve you been all my life.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( XII )

Isabel Jewell: “I’m staying out of basements, I was born in
one.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This melee is the highpoint of the movie for me. And Frank Morgan’s all in it:

BOMBSHELL ( XIX )  BOMBSHELL ( XIV )

 Frank Morgan: “This is outrageous. It’s vandalism. I won’t stand for it. This is Medieval! It’s Medieval!”

And the capper:

BOMBSHELL ( XVI )

Isabel Jewell: “I’m gettin’ sober, aren’t you?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Enough is enough! Harlow’s had it up to here…and down to her platinum roots:

BOMBSHELL ( X )   BOMBSHELL ( XXI )

BOMBSHELL ( XX )

“Get away from me all of you. You’re nothing but a pack of leeches…treating me like a strip act on a burlesque show. A glamorous bombshell, ey? A glorified chump. That’s what I’ve been. Well, I’m through do you understand…with the business…with everybody. You can get another It Girl, But Girl or a How When and Where Girl. I’m clearing out. I’m going where ladies and gentlemen hang their hats and get some peace and quiet.”

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 BOMBSHELL ( XXX )   BOMBSHELL ( XXIX )

Franchot Tone: “Your hair is like a field of daisies. I’d like to run barefoot through your hair.”

Harlow: “…not even Norma Shearer and Helen Hayes in their nicest pictures were ever spoken to like that.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( XXXI )  BOMBSHELL ( XXXII )

 Harlow: “And never speak to me again!”

Yes there is A Star Is Born and What Price Hollywood? is another goodie about Hollywood on Hollywood. But I’ll take “Bombshell” any day of the week. All manner of chaos breaks out around Harlow thanks to Lee Tracy being the wind beneath her wings. But you can’t help but watch Harlow. I think this was an Oscar-winning performance. She doesn’t come up for air. She is sexy and comedic. In fact you a little bit forget about her sex appeal the girl is assaulted on ev’ry front. SHE is a force of Nature. And she is gone much much too soon.

(  H O M  E  )

_____________________________________________________________________________

DUELING DIVAS: “Libeled Lady” vs. “Easy to Wed”

This post is in conjunction with the 4th annual Dueling Divas Blogathon hosted by BACKLOTS, and I want to thank you Backlots for letting this “new blog on the block” participate.

 DUELING DIVAS LOGO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m entering a blogathon under my own steam this time around, having debuted my new blog CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch a week ago. The divas I present for this duel will be a little unusual because instead of it being two people, I’d like to present two classic M-G-M films: “Libeled Lady” ( 1936 ) and “Easy to Wed” ( 1946 ). Both films are perfectly cast with a quartet ( make that, octet ) of some of the brightest stars M-G-M has to offer.

I’d like to pit these two in a head-to-head duel, perhaps not as sworn enemies, but as friendly rivals with the buffer of ten years between them. There are differences between the remakes to be sure. I’ll compare and contrast the two. In this duel, no one gets hurt and everybody wins.

__________________________________________________________________________

“LIBELED LADY” ( directed by Jack Conway )

Connie Allenbury brings a $5 million dollar lawsuit for libel against a newspaper. An editor and head reporter conspire to put her in a compromising position so she will drop that lawsuit. The best laid plans…

LIBELED LADY ( III )

This is what I call, my “Martini” of a movie. It sparkles, fizzes, tickles and crackles. Its lines are a little cleaner. It’s an 8 x 10 glossy of a film with these points:

* The glorious shimmering gleam of black & white

* The search for Bill Chandler is done with a montage of different people

* Powell & Harlow marry to put the scheme in play

* Powell sails across the Atlantic to try and entrap Loy

* Powell lies about fly fishing

* No competition for Loy’s affections by other suitors

* No big musical numbers

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

“EASY TO WED” ( directed by Edward Buzzell )

EASY TO WED ( V )

* M-G-M’s crayon box of vibrant colors

* The search for Bill Chandler is done singly by Warren Haggerty using a telephone

* Wynn tricks Johnson and Ball and really marries them in the movie

* Johnson lies about duck hunting

* A half-hearted attempt at a rival for Esther Williams’ affections with that band leader. (Hey, if you really want to give Van Johnson some real competition throw in the swarthy, hot Latino charms of Montalban or Lamas. Hey wait…Johnson’s s’posed to WIN the girl! Nevermind.)

* Two big musical numbers as only M-G-M can do in the 40’s

“Libeled Lady” is as tight as a drum; a stream-lined laser beam of story telling from beginning to end. “Easy to Wed” is slightly bloated with those musical numbers. Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean bloated in a bad way, really. The numbers are there to show off both ladies to their gorgeous technicolor advantage. Williams is a magnificent specimen and Lucy, well she’s just made for color with that blazing red hair. I love Ethel Smith and her hepcat organ playing. It tickled me to see the charity ball number with the Mexican/South American theme. Ahhh, the good ol’ “Good Neighbor Policy” is in full swing in the 40’s. Whatever happened to that policy? Boy, how times have changed.

It’s crazy to make a head-to-head comparison of the cast, right?  The “Libeled Lady” cast can shade their performance, whereas the “Easy To Wed” cast plays it just a tad broader. I might be crazy to compare apples to oranges, Ali to Louis, DiMaggio to Jeter, Sinatra to Bing…or Dino…or Nat King Cole.  But awwwww what the heck…let’s go crazy:

__________________________________________________________________________

MYRNA LOY / ESTHER WILLIAMS – (( CONNIE ALLENBURY ))

LIBELED LADY ( XVI ) EASY TO WED ( II )

Whereas Gladdy just wants to get married, Connie Allenbury has a protective wall up. Connie trusts no man, thinking they’re all after her money. No one can be huffy and turn her nose up in the air like Myrna Loy. And a cute little nose it is. Loy and Esther Williams are the “straight man” in this comic fare.  Myrna is perfect. You can see she “gets” the joke. She looks divine and is properly haughty, you know, as heiressesess are. She’s frigid, no wait…frosty. Those almond-shaped eyes of hers could cut you to shreds. But out on the floating lanai, we see Loy’s warmth and friendliness. There’s no doubt of her elegance and bearing in this movie.

Esther Williams plays Connie not quite as frosty as Loy; maybe more on the stuck-up side. My friend Wendy says of Williams:

“Esther was always the big prey in her movies, cool and aloof, but ultimately caught by the hero.”

‘The big prey.’ I like the sound of that. Esther always seemed to be the cold one in her films, chased and eventually warmed up and won over. And yes, by film’s end both Loy and Williams get warmed by their charming leading men. I love Esther and her rounded ways in this; she’s not as cheddar-sharp as Myrna. She’s at ease in her acting, very natural. There’s a regular girl underneath that shell of theirs. They both don’t really have much to do ( the Gladys role is the pivotal one, ) but they sure look great doing it. Believable. And dressed to the nines in the bargain. I have to chuckle at how M-G-M worked Esther into the water.

__________________________________________________________________________

WILLIAM POWELL / VAN JOHNSON – (( BILL CHANDLER ))

LIBELED LADY ( X )   EASY TO WED ( IV )

Both actors are good as the character: Bill Chandler. Powell was born to wear white tie and tails, and Johnson fills out his tuxedo very nicely. He’s a big guy. ( I swoon over white or cream-colored tux jackets men used to wear. Sigh!! ) They both handle light comedy well. Powell’s pitch is sophistication. He sounds upper crust. Johnson sounds a bit of a wise-ass and definitely all-American. I’ve no doubt both are ladies men. One could dabble with any society heiress or one of the 400, and the other brings it down a notch to simple American pleasures like dancing and ball games, and be more regular, down-to-earth. In both films, the duck hunting/fly fishing scene goes on much too long and is not funny to me at all but for an initial chuckle. This is like a commercial break for me. But I was happy to see Powell all loosey-goosey in the water, as limber as a fish.

Sometimes I think Powell is too stiff and stuffed a shirt. He might be too polite and mannered to get a girl in the clinches real quick. But I might have to eat those words; recently seeing Powell do a lot more of his thing in the early 30’s, I’d have to say his arm was always wrapped around some girl. Van Johnson seems more easy breezy. He’s boyish, makes jokes, is the butt of jokes. Don’t ask me why I crack up when Lucille Ball hurls insults at him ( “baboon” “ape” ) and Johnson says: “An ape can do anything a man…can…do. And let’s leave personalities out of this.”

LIBELED LADY ( XIII )   LIBELED LADY ( XIV )

I loved the maturity of Powell and Loy talking in the cabin; their real getting-to-know-each-other scene. I also loved the playfulness of Johnson and Williams playing marbles; gosh they’re so pretty together, aren’t they? Powell and Tracy have great chemistry with each other and THAT is the real find of “Libeled Lady” for me. But Johnson also knows how to handle his pal ( Keenan Wynn ) very well. They’ve got beautiful rhythm as well.

__________________________________________________________________________

SPENCER TRACY / KEENAN WYNN – (( WARREN HAGGERTY ))

LIBELED LADY ( IX )  EASY TO WED ( III )

The next time I say “Spencer Tracy is an un-sexy, boxy and granite-like man with little sense of humor,” would you just say to me: “D’uhhhh…’Libeled Lady’.” Thanks. See, the big takeaway I took away from “Libeled Lady” is the teamwork between Tracy and Powell. Why had I not notice that before? ( There are none so blind…  ) They are both so natural, speaking their lines as though they emanated from their own thoughts. They fluidly work off each other…Powell having the slightly upper hand since he’s got Tracy over a barrel in this plan. Their comic timing is impeccable. In fact, I like Tracy and Powell better than Tracy and Gable, and that’s sayin’ sumthin’. Powell and Tracy seem to be on the same plateau whereas working opposite Gable…well, he’s so alpha that it’s just off the hook in matching him. Tracy can dial up the infuriation or the somewhat hen-peckedness he is with Harlow while he also throws her under the bus. He plays more notes than Keenan Wynn.

And that’s not a bad thing; Tracy’s an actor and Wynn’s a comic.  With Wynn, you know what you’re getting: a RAT! And you smell a rat as soon as you see him coming. His “Warren” is more bombastic than Spencer Tracy and plays just one note: conniving, under-handed, double-crossing. Tracy is slightly subtler. But he’s just as devious and underhanded. Yeah, Tracy is the better actor, but Keenan is the better rat. I loved watching him navigate through this plot. Gladys is very clear: “If you don’t want to marry me just say so!” Both Warren Haggertys are willing to pimp Gladdy out at the drop of a newspaper headline. I liked both actors as Haggerty, but Wynn edges out Tracy because he’s so obvious. Wynn and Johnson have great chemistry together. ( “I’m bleeding. I’m bleeding. I AM bleeding!!” ) I’m not sure if either “Warren” really cared for Gladys or just didn’t want Bill to have her. But if you need a snake in the grass, I wouldn’t have Keenan Wynn any other way.

__________________________________________________________________________

JEAN HARLOW / LUCILLE BALL – (( GLADYS ))

LIBELED LADY ( VI ) EASY TO WED ( XIII )

I think Harlow and Lucy should kiss the hem of their agents’ trousers for getting them the role of Gladys. ( Alright…so maybe the standard 10% is thanks enough. ) Maybe I should be kissing their agents for getting these two gals such a great role. They really have the featured part of the movie. It all hinges on them putting the boys’ scheme into play and she’s got to play it two ways.

Whether she is blonde or redhead, HELL HATH NO FURY… What an entrance they both make, storming into the newsroom. ( When Lucy enters, papers fly. She is a hurricane. ) Harlow shines brightest in a showy role. She sinks her shimmery satin persona into you and doesn’t let go from the moment she bursts on the scene loaded for bear. And the bear is Spencer Tracy. I feel bad for Gladys. Doesn’t the movie try and make her seem like the bad guy by the end of this? Like she’s the fly in the ointment of love;  like she is the Shelley ( “A Place in the Sun” ) Winters albatross around Cupid’s neck? So SHE’s thwarting  Young Love? Oy vey! The girl just wants to get married.

LIBELED LADY ( II )

You need someone to toss a line better than anyone in the business, besides Eve Arden? Well you’ve got two of the best of them in these films, ( Harlow & Ball ) both proven masters. Harlow can dial it up or tone it down at will. She could pour on the purposely over-acting lovey dovey goo one minute, and then as soon as her ‘audience’ disappears, she’s slamming Powell the next. She  could be brassy, she could modulate her tone. I think of Tracy calling her up asking if she wants to get married. She’s in a satin cloud of a bed and answers: “What do you think?” I’m thinking that’s Harlow’s real voice. I love her good natured teasing when Powell has to learn fly fishing. ( “Remember, there’s a man on second.” ) I love when she “acts” the loving wife in front of others. In the car on the way to the Allenbury’s cabin, she practices the speech she’ll say when she busts up the joint between Bill and Connie as if she were Bernhardt. I liked her at the breakfast table when she just wants to talk to Bill during their ‘truce’ – see,  she’s developed some feelings for him. Poor girl, that’ll be her downfall.

EASY TO WED ( VI )

I love Lucy. Lucille Ball is fantastic as Gladys, too. We never knew what Harlow’s Gladys did for a living, but Lucy’s Gladys is a showgirl. She wears the hell out of those clothes. Her singing may be dubbed, but Lucy can still sell a dance number. ( I just love her umbrella toss at the end of the number when it doesn’t open! ) I love her yelling. But I love love love when she and Johnson goes back to Keenan Wynn’s office to say she’s not going through with the law suit. I crack up at her diction and love how she rolls her “R”s and enuciates: “Warren.” She’s gone high-brow. She’s good natured, but she’s a redhead. Her idle runs high, so don’t get her angry. Lucille Ball looks good, sounds good and sinks her teeth into this good role.

LIBELED LADY ( FURRED )    EASY TO WED ( I )

Faux bigamies, invalid divorces, the libel suit is dropped and everyone can live happily ever after. Except Gladys. Here is where it gets poignant when Gladys has to lose out. Bill, Connie and Warren have a good laugh at Gladys’ expense. And Gladys fighting back is sad. Lucy and Myrna handle that scene a little better than their counterparts. Lucy’s hurt puts a lump in my throat. But the lesson learned for all of them is you can’t steal love. Everyone winds up being with the right partner, and it all does end happily ever after in both films.

Again, my sincere thanks to BACKLOTS for letting my new blog play in the Dueling Divas sandbox with the big kids. If any one of you has not seen “Libeled Lady” or “Easy to Wed” you must put them in your dvd machine quick, fast and in a hurry. That is, if you like to laugh. They’re BOTH divas, and both gems in their own way.

( HOME )

__________________________________________________________________________