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Libeled Lady

Libeled Lady is a screwball comedy film starring Jean Harlow, William Powell (who were romantically involved at the time), Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. The movie was written by George Oppenheimer, Howard Emmett Rogers, Wallace Sullivan and Maurine Dallas Watkins, and directed by Jack Conway.

Libeled Lady was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was remade in as Easy to Wed with Esther Williams, Van Johnson, and Lucille Ball.


After she is falsely accused of breaking up a marriage, the wealthy Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) sues the New York Evening Star newspaper for $5,000,000 for libel. Desperate, Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy), the chief editor, turns to former reporter and suave ladies' man Bill Chandler (William Powell) for help.

Bill figures that if he can maneuver Connie into being alone with him when his wife shows up, the suit will have to be dropped. Chandler is not married, so Warren volunteers his long-suffering fiancée, Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow), over her loud protests.

Bill arranges to return to America from England on the same cruise ship as Connie and her father J. B. (Walter Connolly). He pays some men to pose as reporters and harass Connie at the dock, so he can "rescue" her and become acquainted. On the sea voyage, Connie initially treats him with contempt, assuming that he is just the latest in a long line of fortune hunters after her money, but Bill gradually overcomes her suspicions.

Complications arise when Connie and Bill actually fall in love. They get married, but Gladys decides that she prefers Bill to a marriage-averse newspaperman and interrupts their honeymoon to reclaim her husband. Bill reveals that he found out that Gladys' Mexican divorce wasn't valid, but then Gladys tops him. She got a second divorce, and she and Bill are actually man and wife. Fortunately, Connie and Bill manage to show Gladys that she really loves Warren.


Libeled Lady went into production in mid-July and wrapped on 1 September. Location shooting took place in Sonora, California.

Lionel Barrymore was originally cast as "Mr. Allenbury", the role eventually taken by Walter Connolly, and Rosalind Russell had originally been considered to play "Connie Allenbury," which went to Myrna Loy.

Jean Harlow and William Powell were an off-screen couple, and Harlow wanted to play "Connie Allenbury", so that her character and Powell's would wind up together, but MGM insisted that the film be another William Powell-Myrna Loy vehicle, as they originally intended, so Harlow, who had already signed on to do the film, had to play "Gladys Benton." Nevertheless, as "Gladys," top-billed Harlow got to play a wedding scene with Powell. Harlow also changed her legal name during the filming of Libeled Lady, from her birthname of Harlean Carpenter McGrew Bern Rosson to Jean Harlow.

Libeled Lady was released on 9 October , and earned $2.7 million at the box office. It received an Academy Award nomination as Best Picture in , but lost to The Great Ziegfeld, which also starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. Libeled Lady confirmed Harlow's position as one of the biggest female stars in Hollywood, but she would only go on to make two more films before dying of cerebral edema as a result of uremic poisoning at the age of 26.


Cast notes

  • Although he played many other roles as well in the 96 films he made in his ten year film career, E.E. Clive often played butlers, as he did in this film. Libeled Lady also has a brief appearance by Hattie McDaniel as a maid, a role she played with great frequency.


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