powered by AFI
Hold Your Man (1933) was the third of six films co-starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, and the follow-up to their teaming in the phenomenally successful Red Dust (1932). Hold Your Man is the story of a con man on the lam who falls in love with a good-hearted dame. She takes the rap for a crime he's committed, and goes to reform school. But love eventually conquers all.
Writer Anita Loos and Harlow were also a winning team. Loos would write five Harlow films, of which Hold Your Man was the second. The amoral character Harlow had played in their first collaboration, Red-Headed Woman was one of the reasons the studios' self-regulatory Hays Office had tightened its Production Code. Loos' original story for Hold Your Man makes it clear that Harlow's Ruby and Gable's Eddie have premarital sex. But MGM chief Louis B. Mayer demanded that Ruby be punished for her sins. Loos' solution was to send Ruby to reform school, and to devise an ingenious way of getting the couple married. There were few complaints. The Variety critic commented, "earlier sequences have plenty of ginger, but the torrid details are handled with the utmost discretion while conveying a maximum of effect."
Ever the wisecracker, Harlow told reporters, "They have me singing in a reformatory! My singing would be enough to get me in, but I'd never be able to sing my way out." Still, she charmed the press with her Mae West-ian way with the film's title song.
But critics weren't as satisfied with Hold Your Man's somewhat awkward mix of comedy and melodrama. "The sudden transition from hard-boiled wisecracking romance to sentimental penitence provides a jolt," said Frank Nugent in the New York Times. But he added, "Miss Harlow and Mr. Gable will not disappoint their admirers." How right he was. The film cost $266,000 to make, and grossed $1.1 million - a 400% profit. Harlow was now one of MGM's most successful stars, and it was clear that she could carry a picture on her own, without an important male co-star. She would do just that, spectacularly, in her next film, Bombshell (1933).
Director: Sam Wood
Producer: Sam Wood
Screenplay: Anita Loos, Howard Emmett Rogers, based on a story by Loos
Editor: Frank Sullivan
Cinematography: Harold G. Rosson
Art Direction: Merrill Pye
Music: Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown
Principal Cast: Jean Harlow (Ruby Adams), Clark Gable (Eddie Hall), Stuart Erwin (Al Simpson), Dorothy Burgess (Gypsy), Muriel Kirkland (Bertha Dillon), Garry Owen (Slim), Barbara Barondess (Sadie Kline), Paul Hurst (Aubrey Mitchell).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri