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After shifting allegiance from Fox to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Spencer Tracy struggled to find his niche as an actor, trapped as he was between the man of action type and the sophisticated romantic lead. He would become a bona fide movie star in Fritz Lang's Fury (1936) at Metro but his initial films there were meant to test his mettle against prospective leading ladies - and such was the case with Whipsaw (1935), which billed him below Myrna Loy. This adaptation of a James Edward Grant short story (published in Liberty in 1934) was made primarily to appease Loy, then flush with success from The Thin Man (1934) and grumbling about higher wages. Loy's partner in this spritely crime comedy about a beautiful jewel thief and the dogged G-Man who pursues and ultimately falls for her was to have been her Thin Man cohort William Powell, but when Powell proved unavailable Metro trucked in its new acquisition. According to Loy's biographer, Tracy initially found Loy standoffish, given her tendency to keep to herself between setups, all the better to study her lines; what the actor learned, however, was that Loy put a great deal of effort, as did he, into appearing natural before the cameras - and with this new understanding the costars became easy friends. The film did little for either actor's career but soon both were off to more rewarding assignments: Tracy to Fury and San Francisco (1936), and Loy to Wife vs. Secretary (1936) with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow and many more team-ups with William Powell.
By Richard Harland Smith