Thursday, July 08, 2010


A cocky reporter (Robert Williams) gets a scoop about a breach of promise scandal involving the son of a wealthy family. The matriarch (Louise Closser Hale) and the family lawyer (Reginald Owen) aren't happy, but when Williams gets hold of some letters of the son's which were being held for blackmail purposes and hands them over to the family, the socialite daughter (Jean Harlow) is grateful and soon she and the reporter are an item, much to the distress of fellow reporter Loretta Young who has the hots for Williams. Soon, despite predictions from his fellow reporters that Harlow will turn Williams into an emasculated "bird in a gilded cage," the two are married and, sure enough, he's miserable as a man who feels he’s kept by his wife and her family. When he finally snaps after being dubbed "Cinderella Man," he leaves Harlow and snuggles up with Young.

I find myself disagreeing with the generally positive critical opinions on this film, an early work by Frank Capra. Williams was a well-regarded stage actor and this was his first leading role, and sadly, his last as he died of peritonitis just days after this film opened. Most critics praise Williams, saying he has a "sleepy-eyed charm" and comes off like a slightly less macho Clark Gable. Well, he is sleepy-eyed, and his role here is similar to the one that Gable played a couple years later for Capra in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, but the comparison that came to me was of a cross between Will Rogers (his casual, stumbling delivery) and Dwight Frye (his looks, or lack thereof). He works well with Harlow, and the scenes in which they are falling in love (or lust, more appropriately) have some heat. But too often, his almost improvised-feeling style doesn't mesh with the rest of the actors. Many critics think Young and Harlow should have switched roles; I actually think Harlow is the best thing in the movie, working against her image (mostly developed later) of a hard-edged, low-class dame; for her part, Young is OK but can't do much with a part that, although it gets her top billing, isn't developed very well. Owen is fun as the stuffed-shirt lawyer, and Halliwell Hobbes has a couple of good moments as the butler. Claud Allister, who usually plays flaming femme idiots, is subdued here as a valet, and Donald Dillaway as Harlow's brother is handsome but has nothing to do. A few scenes are fun, but overall, with the drab lead and a slow pace, this is a Capra that I can't recommend. [TCM]

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