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HOLD YOUR MAN (director: Sam Wood; screenwriters: Anita Loos/Howard Emmett Rogers; cinematographer: Harold Hal Rosson; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Arthur Freed; cast: Jean Harlow (Ruby Adams), Clark Gable (Eddie Hall), Stuart Erwin (Al Simpson), Dorothy Burgess (Gypsy Angecon), Muriel Kirkland (Bertha Dillion), Garry Owen (Slim, Eddie’s partner), George Pat Collins (Phil Dunn), Barbara Barondess (Sadie), Elizabeth Patterson (Miss Tuttle), Blanche Frederici (Mrs. Wagner), Paul Hurst (Aubrey C. Mitchell), Theresa Harria (Lily Mae Crippen), George H. Reed (Rev. Crippen); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sam Wood/Bernard Hyman; MGM; 1933)
“How could you not be suckered into enjoying such a devilishly hard-boiled comedy romp!”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was one of the six collaborations (The Secret Six, Red Dust, China Seas, Wife vs. Secretary, and Saratoga) between Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, all money-makers and richly entertaining. The unlucky in love Harlow died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 26, in 1937. Veteran filmmaker Sam Wood effectively directed this romantic comedy that turns into a drama. It might be the least known the duo did, but it nevertheless sparkles with snappy dialogue and Harlow matching wits with Gable line for line. In one such exchange Gable says “You know all the answers.” Harlow replies “Yeah, to all the dumb questions.” Harlow goes on to tell him “Even your smile is crooked.” My favorite Harlowism is “I got two rules when I go out visiting: keep away from couches and stay on your feet.” How could you not be suckered into enjoying such a devilishly hard-boiled comedy romp, especially if you were part of the Depression audience! The film is only weakened, but not entirely killed, by a third act that turns phony sentimental after its brisk-pace and non-stop humor grinds to a halt with the prison scenes of Harlow.

Warning: spoiler in next paragraph.

Small-time confidence man Eddie Hall pulls a fast one on a greedy sucker over a phony diamond ring and is forced to escape the pursing cops by ducking into Ruby Adam’s flat while she’s taking a bubble-bath. She shields him from the cops and the similar types hit it off, seeing each other a month later in a Brooklyn dance hall womanizer Eddie frequents. Ruby’s there with stable nice-guy Al Simpson, who has a good job with a Cincinnati firm and is madly in love with her. But Ruby is attracted to the smooth-talking Eddie and ends up staying over in his Flatbush Avenue apartment. Eddie gets involved with a criminal scheme involving fellow con artists Slim and Phil Dunn, but gets nabbed before the heist driving a hot car. He spends 90 days in the cooler, while Ruby lives in his pad. When he gets out Slim talks Eddie into pulling a sting on wealthy married guy laundry owner (Paul Hurst) making a play for Ruby. The drunk wolf shows up pawing Ruby and the irate Eddie slugs him, not realizing he hit him so hard that he killed him. Eddie goes on-the-lam, while Ruby gets sent to prison. In prison, Ruby learns she’s pregnant. The wanted Eddie doesn’t write or dare visit, until he can’t wait any longer and arranges a visit posing as the brother of Ruby’s cellmate Bertha. Eddie talks African American preacher (George H. Reed), the father of Ruby’s cellmate Lily Mae, into marrying them (this scene was substituted for southern audiences with a white preacher). While in the prison chapel, the suspicious matrons called the police and Eddie is arrested. After serving a two-year stretch, Eddie goes straight and the couple with their son move to Cincy because Al got Eddie a job in his firm.

You can miss the last reel and its schmaltzy depiction of prison life, but the first two reels are very entertaining as the stars deliver big time performances.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”