In “Libeled Lady” (1936), Chief Editor of the New York Evening Star Newspaper Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracey) is in trouble. His paper is being sued by socialite Connie Allenbury Myrna Loy) over misrepresentation. Because of this legal battle being dropped into his lap, Haggerty has left his fiancé Gladys (Jean Harlow) at the altar. Again.
In order to save the newspaper and keep his fiancé busy, Haggerty meets with former Chief Editor, now financially-troubled Bill Chandler (William Powell). Together, they convince Gladys to marry Chandler long enough for him to romance Connie in hopes of Haggerty catching Connie in a real scandal with a married man. Therefore, Connie would have no choice but to drop the lawsuit. Of
course when Chandler and Connie start to fall in love, questions rise and the whole scheme becomes more complicated, keeping the audience laughing as well as engrossed on the outcome.
A lot of credit is due to Director John Conway who was able to deliver a romantic comedy full of charm and devoid of cheekiness. The comedy as well as the drama is never played to the camera which generates the central plot into a more natural environment without drawing attention to its unnatural elements. The scene where Chandler (Powell) tries to impress the Allenbury’s with his
limited skills as a fisherman possesses a unique comical build-up that with out it, the scene would have not worked at all.
As for the cast, there is nothing to nitpick or critique about anyone’s performances. The script written by George Oppenheimer, Howard Emmett Rogers and Maurine Dallas Watkins is filled with quick quips of dialogue but everyone is able to follow through without missing a beat. The all-star heavyweights magnificently play off of each other and create wonderful chemistry. Most
importantly, none of them try to steal anyone else’s scenes or thunder.
At the time of the film’s release, MGM Studios advertised “Libeled Lady” as a “must-see” all-star film. With “Libeled Lady” reaching its 70th anniversary, the film still upholds its “must-see” power as being one of the best films of the screwball comedy genre.