Libeled Lady

Libeled Lady is a 1936 screwball comedy film starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Spencer Tracy, written by George Oppenheimer, Howard Emmett Rogers, Wallace Sullivan, and Maurine Dallas Watkins, and directed by Jack Conway. This was the fifth of fourteen films in which Powell and Loy were teamed.

Libeled Lady
Theatrical Film Poster
Directed byJack Conway
Produced byLawrence Weingarten
Written byWallace Sullivan
Screenplay byMaurine Dallas Watkins
Howard Emmett Rogers
George Oppenheimer
StarringJean Harlow
William Powell
Myrna Loy
Spencer Tracy
Walter Connolly
Music byWilliam Axt
CinematographyNorbert Brodine
Edited byFrederick Y. Smith
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 9, 1936 (1936-10-09)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,723,000[1]

Libeled Lady was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was remade in 1946 as Easy to Wed with Esther Williams, Van Johnson, and Lucille Ball.


Wealthy Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) is falsely accused of breaking up a marriage and sues the New York Evening Star newspaper for $5,000,000 for libel. Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy), the managing editor, turns in desperation to former reporter and suave ladies' man Bill Chandler (William Powell) for help. Bill's scheme is to maneuver Connie into being alone with him when his wife shows up, so that the suit will have to be dropped. Bill is not married, so Warren volunteers his long-suffering fiancée, Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow), to marry Bill in name only, over her loud protests.

Bill arranges to return to America from England on the same ocean liner as Connie and her father J. B. (Walter Connolly). He pays some men to pose as reporters and harass Connie at the dock, so that he can "rescue" her and become acquainted. On the voyage, Connie initially treats him with contempt, assuming that he is just the latest in a long line of fortune hunters after her money, but Bill gradually overcomes her suspicions.

Complications arise when Connie and Bill actually fall in love. They get married, but Gladys decides that she prefers Bill to a marriage-averse newspaperman and interrupts their honeymoon to reclaim her husband. Bill reveals that he found out that Gladys' Yucatán divorce was not valid, but Gladys states she got a second divorce in Reno, so she and Bill are actually man and wife. Connie and Bill manage to show Gladys that she really loves Warren.


Cast notes
  • Hattie McDaniel, who frequently played maids, makes a brief appearance as a hotel cleaner.


The film went into production in mid-July 1936 and wrapped on September 1. Location shooting took place in Sonora, California.[2] Lionel Barrymore was originally cast as Mr. Allenbury,[3] and Rosalind Russell was originally considered to play Connie Allenbury.

Harlow and Powell were an off-screen couple, and Harlow wanted to play Connie Allenbury, so that her character and Powell's wound up together.[4] MGM insisted, however, that the film be another William Powell-Myrna Loy vehicle, as they originally intended. Harlow had already signed on to do the film but had to settle for the role of Gladys Benton. Nevertheless, as Gladys, top-billed Harlow got to play a wedding scene with Powell. During filming, Harlow changed her legal name from her birth name of Harlean Carpenter McGrew Bern Rosson to Jean Harlow.[4] She made only two more films before dying at the age of 26 in 1937.

It has been rumored that Loy and Tracy had an affair during the shooting of the film.[5]

Two great passenger liners made cameos as the ship in the film, the SS Queen Anne: Cunard's venerable RMS Berengaria (in the pierside view) and France's beautiful SS Normandie in an aerial shot.


The film was released on 9 October 1936,[6] and earned $2.7 million at the box office[4] $1,601,000 earned in the US and Canada and $1,122,000 overseas, resulting in a profit of $1,189,000.[1]

It received an Academy Award nomination as Best Picture in 1937, but lost to The Great Ziegfeld, which also starred William Powell and Myrna Loy.


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. TCM Overview
  3. TCM Notes
  4. Frank Miller "Libeled Lady" (TCM article)
  5. Anderson, Christopher. An Affair to Remember: The Remarkable Love Story of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. New York: Morrow, 1997, pp. 85-86
  6. IMDB Release dates

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