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Jack Conway
Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy
Writing Credits:
Maurine Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, George Oppenheimer

When a socialite sues a big paper for libel, the editor responsible calls in the help of his ignored fiancée and a former employee to frame her and make the false story seem true.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 11/24/20

Keystone Hotel Short
New Shows Short
Little Cheeser Short
• “Leo Is On the Air” Radio Promo
• Trailer


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Libeled Lady [Blu-Ray] (1936)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 17, 2020)

If you want a snapshot of mid-1930s movie stardom, 1936’s Libeled Lady offers a good place to start. With four of the era’s biggest icons, it offers one-stop shopping in that regard.

The editor of a major New York newspaper, Warren Hagerty (Spencer Tracy) persistently delays his marriage to Gladys Benson (Jean Harlow). His work remains his focus, and issues on the job prompt him to postpone the nuptials again and again.

Another crisis arises when wealthy society woman Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) sues Warren’s paper for libel, as that publication inaccurately accused her of breaking up a relationship. To settle this, Warren concocts a complicated plan in he uses womanizing former reporter Bill Chandler (William Powell) – and a very reluctant Gladys – to entrap Connie and force her to drop the suit.

Hilarity ensues? To a decent degree, I’d say. While Lady doesn’t become a comedy classic, it mostly entertains.

Not that one should expect a particularly creative story. Though Lady lays on one complication after another, it really acts as a fairly straightforward rom-com most of the time.

Much of the film pursues the potential relationship between Connie and Bill. It shouldn’t take much to recognize that their initial antagonism will eventually manifest into love, and these elements can seem predictable.

The side of the film with the Warren/Gladys romance takes a backseat, and the movie does surprisingly little with the phony Bill/Gladys affair. It brings us occasional beats related to that awkward coupling, but most of the movie goes after the Connie/Bill connection.

That seems like a good choice, mainly because Loy and Powell demonstrate such strong chemistry. Already a successful onscreen couple via 1934’s The Thin Man, Loy and Powell would also star together in another 1936 flick, the Best Picture winning Great Ziegfeld.

That shared experience comes through in Lady, as their easy energy adds to the film. Tracy and Harlow feel like a less natural pair, but they still bring charm to their parts.

Though it lost to Ziegfeld, Lady enjoyed an Oscar Best Picture nomination, which comes as a surprise. Granted, 1936’s other picks weren’t eternal classics in their own right, and with 10 nominees, the Academy needed to fill a lot of slots.

Still, Lady seems pretty insubstantial for a Best Picture choice. Light and frothy, it doesn’t come across like Oscar material.

That doesn’t make it a bad film, though, and Lady packs pretty good rom-com entertainment into its 98 minutes. While few seem likely to view it as a classic, Lady keeps us engaged.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

Libeled Lady appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer showed its age.

Sharpness was mediocre. The movie usually offered decent delineation, but it could be rather soft at times.

Though that tendency wasn’t overwhelming, I thought it meant the film wasn’t as crisp and taut as consistently as I’d like. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent.

With a natural layer of grain, I suspected no issues with noise reduction. The image came free from print flaws.

Blacks seemed reasonably deep and taut, while shadows demonstrated nice delineation. Because I trust Warner Archives, this was probably as good an image as we could expect, but it still felt lackluster at times.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Lady proved satisfactory but dated. Speech came across as a little brittle but remained intelligible and reasonably concise. Music showed good clarity, as it showed limited dimensionality but seemed clean and bright.

Similar thoughts greeted the effects, which were acceptably clear. Some light hiss interfered at times, but I heard no pops or defects. This was a perfectly decent mix for its age.

A few extras appear, and we get three short films. Keystone Hotel (14:53) offers a live-action comedy in which Count Drewa Blanc (Mel Turpin) judges a beauty contest and finds himself under pressure from different parties to pick their preferred winner. It relies on a lot of slapstick and doesn’t offer much entertainment.

Though also live-action, New Shoes (10:23) features talking footwear that sparks love between the people who wear them. No, really.

Shoes gets points for sheer weirdness, at least. We also hear Mae “Betty Boop” Questel and Disney regular Billy Bletcher as the footwear. Toss in the Andrews Sisters as themselves and this becomes a weird but watchable short.

Finally, Little Cheeser (9:22) brings an animated piece about a mouse whose dark side prompts him to misbehave. It’s more cute than funny.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Leo Is On the Air, a radio promo. It runs 13 minutes, 30 seconds and provides an extended ad for Lady. Leo just presents soundbites from the film, so it never becomes interesting.

Packed with some of the era’s biggest stars, 1936’s Libeled Lady never turns into a potential classic. Nonetheless, it amuses and presents enough light charm to become a likable romantic comedy. The Blu-ray offers decent picture and audio along with a mix of bonus materials. This turns into a mostly fun romp.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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