Tuesday, March 18, 2008

All the Classic Movies That I Have Seen

1. Wife vs. Secretary (1936).

It's blonde bombshell Jean Harlow as you have never seen her before, playing an ultra-efficient secretary. And, oh yes, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy are in this movie too. Gable plays Harlow's boss and Loy plays Gable's wife. All goes perfectly until Loy starts listening to female acquaintances who fear Gable is getting along too comfortably with his secretary. Suddenly Loy gets jealous and all Hades breaks loose.

Okay, to be fair, the movie is not quite as melodramatic as the title makes it seem. And I found it hard to imagine any character played by Myrna Loy having cause to be jealous of anyone, even an internationally famous sex symbol like Jean Harlow.

And yet after seeing how quickly my own relationship with my former novia was undermined by the insinuations of mi novia's parents (mi novia would say one thing and after a five-minute conversation with her parents, turn around and say the exact opposite), I find the plot of this movie a lot easier to believe than I used to.

Still, Myrna Loy being jealous of another woman...who would have thunk it?

2. Blonde Venus (1932).

No, Marlene Dietrich isn't the most convincing actress in the world when it comes to playing German hausfraus. In fact, she seems more convincing in this movie when she puts a veil in front of her face and pretends to be a Spaniard than when she plays a loving German housewife and mother.

And one has to wonder just how serious one should take a movie in which the main romance starts off as the result of blackmail. (Oh, those oh so romantic Europeans!)

Yet this movie manages to be intriguing despite itself. Among other things, it features an early appearance by Cary Grant, who plays a gruffer character than his usual persona, and a surprising number of nude scenes (none of which feature Ms. Dietrich, alas).

Since the movie begins when Dietrich's future husband catches her skinny-dipping with her co-workers in a local pond, it's tempting to see this movie as an updated version of the old Swan Maiden legend. But Ms. Dietrich never dons any type of bird outfit in this movie. Indeed, the closest she comes to such an outfit is when she puts on a gorilla suit for a musical number.

For that matter, one can see a parallel between this movie and Ibsen's The Doll's House since like Nora, Dietrich's character is forced to do something not quite kosher in order to help out her ailing husband. Word gets out about what exactly Ms. Dietrich did and the couple separate.

Do they get together again? See the movie and find out. But, given the sentimental nature of certain scenes, you can probably guess the ending long before it happens.

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