For Reel

Hold Your Man (1933)
March 23, 2011, 4:44 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Sam Wood

The third of the six films starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow is Hold Your Man, an unusual Pre-Code MGM picture which begins in the world of wise-cracking con men before spending its second half in a woman’s prison. Written by Anita Loos, among the most prolific women in the early days of Hollywood (having written everything from The Musketeers of Pig Alley (with D.W. Griffith) to The Women), what is most refreshing about the picture is its liberalism in dealing with gender and race. The women of the reformatory are the active heroes, whereas Gable takes on a more passive role as a romantic companion in the latter half of the film. More surprisingly, a black pastor performs the final marriage ceremony, which according to TCM’s Robert Osborne was a scene that had to be filmed a second time with a caucasian actor in the role because certain theaters wouldn’t exhibit the film should a black actor star in such a significant part. One’s enjoyment of the film will depend on how well they can stomach the transition from crime comedy to schmaltzy melodrama, however this was undeniably a comparatively demanding role for Harlow in the early 1930s and she successfully pulls it off. From showing her familiar sass with brazenly delivered lines like, “You know, you wouldn’t be a bad lookin’ dame… if it wasn’t for your face!”, to utilizing her cherubic face to express a childlike vulnerability, it is an interesting performance in an atypical melodrama.

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