Thursday, August 18, 2016

Relationships In Movies Are Too Much Work

OK, one more movie with Jean Harlow. Hey, Myrna Loy's in it, too. And Jimmy Stewart! Oh crap, so's Clark Gable. Will Wife vs. Secretary make him unlikable to me?

Clark gable runs a publishing house for some magazine that tells women they need to buy whatever to be happy/please their man/stave off time/whatever. Harlow is his indispensible secretary, whom everyone assumes he's fooling around with. "Everyone" even includes his own mother, but not his wife, played by Loy. Harlow is engaged to a young Stewart, who works in some job where he just got a raise to $75/week, and expects that because of that, Harlow will quit her job.

Wife vs. Secretary is one of those films where a lot of conflict could be avoided if people were just honest with each other. The funny thing is, the characters do try talking some things out, it just isn't effective enough because there's one big, stupid thing being kept secret. Also, when Stewart's character tries to explain why he wants Harlow to stop working, he frames it less as his being insecure that he'll look shabby compared to gable and his socialite friends, and more that Harlow is getting greedy. You can tell the insecurity is there, but he presents it to her as a failing on her part, not his.

But the big problem is Gable decides to buy this weekly magazine, and worries that if a rival publishing house gets wind of it, they'll make an offer he can't match. So everything must be hush-hush, even from his wife. This despite the fact he came up with the idea in a room with his secretary and his board of directors, and you know those schmoes probably go drinking at the same clubs as the boys from the rival publisher. So not only does he decline to tell Loy what he's doing, he actively lies. He goes to the home of the magazine owner, bringing Harlow along to help practice his spiel, but tells his wife he went to the club for a swim all afternoon. Which she soon learns is a lie, and it spirals down from there. It just seems like such a stupid thing to hide from her. He can't explain he needs it kept secret and trust her to do so?

So it's frustrating. Loy gets fed up enough to leave him, and Harlow actually goes to her and convinces her to come back, even though she points out that if Loy leaves, Gable will turn to Harlow on the rebound, and she's not going to rebuff him. But at the end, all couples end up back together, and I don't know how I feel about that. Gable hadn't been unfaithful, hadn't even considered it apparently, until he became aware of the fact everyone thought he was being unfaithful. Harlow seems more than willing by the end of the film to start up with Gable, but once he and Loy are reunited, she quietly leaves and there's Stewart, dutifully waiting (after having been almost entirely absent the second half of the film).

Just not really my speed, as movies go.

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