Phillip Duggan (sparhawk2k) wrote in celluloidraving,
Phillip Duggan

Wife vs. Secretary (1936) ... 7.5/10


This is your standard situational comedy dealing with a husband, his jealous wide, and yes, you guessed it, his secretary. It's not a very original story or even a very original title for that matter, but in this case it's mostly the cast which strives to set it apart from the rest. It seems very obvious that this was created as a vehicle for Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Myrna Loy and often feels like a vehicle and not much more throughout the movie. There is also a fun part for a very young James Stewart. It was also Gloria Holden's first credited role (though not a big one) and done the same year in which she did Dracula's Daughter (1936). This isn't necessarily the worst movie? in the world though. The characters were quite interesting and well suited to the people playing the parts. Tthey got a lot of good lines and fun chances to show off in their own ways.

Clark Gable is charming as always. You can't really expect any less. And he fit quite well into his role of a shrewd business man who's also oblivious enough to not notice what is going on with the people around him. I rather enjoyed this role because honestly, I was in the same boat. Even with the step back and the bigger perspective I still had trouble seeing where everybody was coming from with Gable and his secretary. Myrna Loy was quite convincing in her role though. I might not have understood where her character was coming from, but I did believe that she was doing more than just following the plot. Her fall from her original trusting self to wondering at his every move became quite interesting. And after the Thin Man series it was fun to see the differences in her. And then there's Jean Harlow. An amazing actress with a tragically short career, this role was fun to see. "Men like me because I don't wear a brassiere. Women like me because I don't look like a girl who would steal a husband. At least not for long." And in many ways that actually summed up this role quite nicely. At least the second part of that statement. She didn't seem like anybody who would steal anything. She seemed sweet and innocent and intent on her career. But as time went on she becomes more and more of a threat. And you look back wondering why you didn't see her as such earlier. She has obvious comedic talent which really does show through here. And she lends quite a bit to making this story more believable.

I think my biggest problem with this film wasn't anything it did wrong so much as certain things I couldn't get past personally. To begin with, I had a lot of trouble with how easily Linda was convinced of her husband's infidelity. She went from totally trusting to questioning his every move without so much as a single good reason in my eyes. And no level of acting could make up for that for me. I could just never quite wrap my mind around her character's reasoning. I'm too idealistic I suppose. I also wanted to scream on numerous occasions at the lines coming out of Jimmy Stewart's mouth. "A girl like you has to make up her mind to have a home with a man. That's natural. What you're doing isn't." And he was referring to having a job. Well, to having a career more than anything... Meaning something she enjoys which he wants to get rid of because it interferes with what he wants. He got a raise so she's supposed to quit everything and revolve her life around him. And it was James Stewart saying it. Guy Johnson, Jefferson Smith, Tom Destry Jr., George Bailey, Elwood P. Dowd, etc... *Cringe*. Yes, I know thoughts like this weren't uncommon in this time period� But I've also managed to avoid anything this blatant in most movies I've seen so far. They are rarely this foreword with the subject and even if they were I rarely have to hear somebody like James Stewart delivering the lines. It hurt. Luckily he does a semi-repentance of sorts but it still doesn't quite make up for it. By this point I was starting to look for lines like that out of everyone's mouth like it was some holy crusade by the film maker.

This film was enjoyable, especially for the performances and it's something I think most lovers of older comedies would enjoy. Especially if you don't have all the biases that I do! The cast does a wonderful job and again shows why they were all up there on top of the heap as stars. And Jimmy Stewart? is already showing us he's on his way.
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