It’s a word that gets flung about carelessly, particularly in today’s heated political climate.
But, in this movie’s case, it’s used as a comedic plot device.
Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy, Libeled Lady is a hilarious look at the newspaper industry and how they handle being sued for, you guessed it, libel.
The newspaper that has the unfortunate luck of being in this predicament belongs to a tough-talkin’, quick-witted editor named Warren Haggerty (played by Tracy) whose business is the focal point of the entire film.
Dubbed, “The New York Evening Star” the plot kicks off when a wealthy socialite named Connie Allenbury (played by Myrna Loy) sues the paper for running a story about her being a homewrecker. Asking for $5,000,000 dollars in damages, Mr. Haggerty spends day after day, tirelessly trying to get her to drop the charges.
Although Warren is exhausted from working his butt off to avoid being swindled for an absurd amount of money, he is more than content to continue to on this path he’s set for himself.
Well, the more he works, the more time he has to come up with an excuse to why he hasn’t proposed to his girlfriend Gladys Benton (played Jean Harlow.) Luckily for Gladys, Warren is running out of options – fast.
Desperately looking for a way out of this libel suit, he goes for the “nuclear option,” so to speak.
He phones the owner of the ‘Evening Star’ and requests to have him send in disgruntled former employee and ladies man Bill Chandler (played by William Powell) who could help him create a scheme so unbelievable that only a classic Hollywood movie can get away with.
Chandler’s plan is as follows:
- Marry someone in name only; Warren volunteers his girlfriend who, begrudgingly accepts, only on the condition that Haggerty marries her after the whole ordeal.
- Maneuver a way into Connie arms, where his “wife” would find them in a compromising position.
- Lastly, force Connie to drop the suit because, you know, she’s cheating with a married man – that wouldn’t look too good in the papers, now would it?
After brainstorming for a couple of days, the plan is finally set in motion when Bill arranges to meet Connie and her father on an ocean liner returning to America, where he harasses them until he gets into their good graces, which ultimately sees Connie beginning to fall in love with him.
Taking a liking to this young man, Connie’s father J. B Allenbury (played Walter Connolly) invites Bill on a fishing trip for a little R&R.
“No big deal,” Bill says, “I can get through this.”
Except he doesn’t. His feelings for Connie grow – rapidly.
A conflict of interests has become apparent; what is a red-blooded male American supposed to do about this?
Call off the plan, of course!
The pair return to New York where their relationship begins to flourish. Connie isn’t the only woman who has been wooed by Bill’s suave nature, however. Gladys takes their fake marriage and decides she wants to turn into a real one. Unfortunately for her, Connie and Bill have gotten married already, and have gone on their honeymoon.
Warren hears about this and is, understandably, livid.
He decides that he wants to end the scheme and painstakingly seeks out the hotel room that Bill and Connie are staying at.
Warren barges into the room, only to find Bill and Connie doing what newlyweds would normally do on their wedding day- talking.
In true comedic fashion, Bill confesses to Warren that he’s told Connie everything, and he means everything. He goes on to explain that Gladys’ divorce from her first husband wasn’t valid, therefore her “marriage” to him wasn’t real. Gladys, on the other hand, won’t take no for an answer.
Gladys rebuts these claims, asserting that she got ANOTHER divorce later on in Reno and is truly married to Bill. Connie interjects herself into this conversation to tell Gladys that she only fell for Bill because he showed her a bit of kindness while her actual boyfriend didn’t.
Her words fall on deaf ears, and a fight breaks out between Bill and Warren.
During this commotion, Gladys realizes that Connie is right and rushes into the arms of Warren where they embrace.
The film ends when Connie’s father, Mr. Allenbury, finds his daughter in the hotel room and demands an explanation of what’s happening, wherein the four of them attempt to explain it to him all at once causing a massive uproar.
This film is an absolute joy to watch, It plays like a cool sip of water.
The acting is superb, the dialog is phenomenal and the chemistry between the four leads is palpable. Not only that but, to see the inner workings of a daily newspaper was a joy to observe- even if this movie was a comedy.
Libeled Lady is, in a lot of ways, a great film to pick for this blogathon. It’s entertaining, interesting and gives the audience a great glimpse at a professional setting. Yes, it may be a rather light-hearted film, and maybe not as serious as some of the other movies in this blogathon, but, I still believe it gives you the essence of what it’s like to be a newspaperman.
All in all, this film is a really exceptional one to experience. Harlow, Tracy, Powell, and Loy make a hilarious team to watch. If I have the chance to watch this picture again, I would! And I strongly suggest you do that same, you certainly won’t regret it.
If you want to read more entries in this blogathon, click: here.