Monday, March 18, 2013

Libeled Lady (1936)

Libeled Lady
Directed by Jack Conway
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow
Grade: A –

A viewing of “Libeled Lady” at least illuminates something that had been puzzling me for a while: that Best Picture Oscar snub for “My Man Godfrey.” Why vote for ‘Godfrey’ – its collection of actors far more deserving than a sparkling but philosophically conflicted script – when you can throw a bone to Jack Conway’s “Libeled Lady,” a spicier, more capable comedy about duping daffy socialites? Of course, the question should be why Conway’s film didn’t land nominations for its cast, led by a supreme William Powell (nominated for ‘Godfrey’) and loaded with great supporting turns from Loy, Tracy, and Harlow. The film showcases the strengths of screwball comedy – particularly its canny measure of deceit, which appears to set characters up for a fall before harmlessly snatching them from the jaws of self-destruction. Rallying us to the corner of the newspaper industry works because the film portrays it as a hopeless instigator of its own downfall, while the genre’s trademark gender politics has rarely felt as incisive as within the central relationship between old favourites Powell and Loy.

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