WIFE VS. SECRETARY
(director: Clarence Brown; screenwriters: Norman Krasna/John Lee Mahin/Alice Duer Miller/based on a story by Faith Baldwin; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Frank E. Hull; music: Edward Ward/Herbert Stothart; cast: Clark Gable (Van Stanhope), Jean Harlow (Helen ‘Whitey’ Wilson), Myrna Loy (Linda Stanhope), May Robson (Mimi), Hobart Cavanaugh (Joe), George Emery (Simpson), George Barbier (J.D. Underhill), James Stewart (Dave), Don Rowan (Battleship); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hunt Stromberg; MGM; 1936)
“It’s a star vehicle with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow, that’s filled with old-fashioned Hollywood gloss.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Clarence Brown (“Idiot’s Delight”/”National Velvet”/”Anna Christie”) efficiently directs this production code lightweight romantic comedy about the perceived problems of women in the workplace. It’s a star vehicle with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow, that’s filled with old-fashioned Hollywood gloss. The stars make the snappy screenplay of Norman Krasna, John Lee Mahin and Alice Duer Miller work. It’s based on a story by Faith Baldwin.
Ambitious magazine publisher Van Stanhope (Clark Gable), of a high-priced edition, has been happily married for three years to his easy going devoted wife Linda (Myrna Loy), whom he surprises with the anniversary gift of a diamond bracelet hidden in her breakfast brook trout. Stanhope’s efficient secretary, Whitey (Jean Harlow), is engaged to the low- paid salaryman Dave (James Stewart), who is annoyed she’s always busy doing work for her boss and not able to even spend many evenings with him. Van’s suspicious meddling mother Mimi (May Robson) warns Linda that she shouldn’t trust her husband with such a pretty woman as a secretary and should get her fired. But Van finds the secretary invaluable and continues to innocently see her at all hours, and Linda refuses to believe the gossip among her social set and seems content that nothing is happening. But Linda’s unconcerned attitude changes when hubby refuses to give Whitey a promotion to a different spot in the office despite the recommendation of the magazine’s board of governors and then goes on a business trip to Havana to meet magazine tycoon Underwood (George Barbier), who he is involved with in a deal to take over the cheaper magazine. Linda was not allowed to go, but when she calls hubby at 2am in his hotel room and is shocked to find the secretary Whitey answering the phone she gets upset and when hubby returns to Manhattan she asks for a divorce. Things get straightened out when Whitey visits Linda and reassures her that hubby was always a gentleman, and that she was foolishly divorcing an innocent man.
This is the kind of adult drama old-timers look back at with a strong sense of nostalgia and wonder why Hollywood can’t still make such entertaining mature films.
REVIEWED ON 2/9/2013 GRADE: B-