DVD Review: Wife vs Secretary

Old Man at Party: “Gentlemen, I fear that even I could give that lady dictation.”

Van (Clark Gable) and Linda (Myrna Loy) Stanhope have been married three years and are still very much in love.  In fact, we start our movie with them having breakfast and Van has “forgotten” their anniversary. 

Linda is trying to cut into their freshly caught trout and is having trouble cutting it.  She opens it and finds a diamond necklace inside.  Guess Van didn’t forget after all.  Van heads for the office and wants to get to work since he’s just come off of vacation.  He’s greeted by his loyal secretary Helen Wilson (Jean Harlow) who he calls “Whitey.”  Whitey has just finished redecorating Van’s office.  During one of the board meetings Van decides that he’s going to buy one of the competing magazines.

 However, he wants to keep it on the quite side since the competition may hear and outbid him.  To that end he and Whitey go into the hallway to squeeze into the phone both since the office switchboard has prying ears.  Linda and his mother Mimi (May Robson) stop by to see his newly decorated office and see them in the phone booth.  Mimi plants the seed of doubt in Linda’s mind about Van and Whitey.  Whitey.  Whitey isn’t exactly available and has a finance named Dave (James Steward).  He’s finally gotten the raise that he’s wanted and Whitey can quit her job. 

The problem is that Whitey doesn’t want to quit her job.  Van talks to the owner of the magazine that he’s wanting to by and fate brings them both to a convention in Havana.  He summons Whitey to Havana to have her help him with the contract for the purchase.  He forgets to call his wife so she decides to call him at 2 a.m. to see what’s going on.  When Whitey answers the phone, that pretty much sinks Van’s ship.  Linda decides there’s only one reason why a girl would be in a gentlemen’s hotel room at 2 a.m. and working on a contract is not exactly what she’s thinking.  Linda moves out and files for divorce.  Van can’t get her to talk to him, but Whitey attempts to smooth things over but in a most unorthodox way. 

Linda, Van, and Whitey

Linda, Van, and Whitey

I was expecting a screwball comedy, and although there are moments of comedy this movie really leans more towards drama.  This film is a triple threat with the only teaming of Gable, Harlow, and Loy.  I thought that the final confrontation scene between Loy and Harlow was interestingly conceived and was definitely not what I was expecting.  [spoiler] Harlow goes to see Loy who is on a ship about to sail for Europe. 

You think that she’s going to smooth things over with her, but instead she says something along the lines of I’m glad that you’re a fool and now’s my chance to snag Van so leave if you have to.  This, of course, has the right effect and Loy goes back to Gable and Harlow goes to Stewart and all ends well.[/spoiler] 

Wife versus Secretary is presented in fullscreen as it was originally shown.  Special features include the film’s theatrical trailer and two vintage features.  The first is 10 minutes and called “New Shoes.”  It’s about some talking and singing shoes in a store window and the guy and gal who buy some of them and wear them on their first date.  The second is 19 minutes and won the 1937 Academy Award for best short subject. 

It’s called “The Public Pays.”  It’s like a public service announcement against racketeering.  Seems some mugs come into town and form a bogus association and force all the town dairies to join, forcing the price of babies milk to go up (the cads!).  One lone dairy owner holds out and suddenly his milk wagons are having “accidents.”  He joins with the local police to shut down this nefarious scheme. 

This film uses some of the sets from Wife versus Secretary so it really fits well with the feature.  I can’t be sure, but the photo of the dairy owner’s daughter looked a lot like Shirley Temple to me.  I doubt it.  She was too big a star in 1936 to appear in this short.

The final confrontation

The final confrontation

Wife versus Secretary is a good movie and fans of old movies will enjoy seeing Gable, Harlow, and Loy share the screen.  The inclusion of the award winning “The Public Pays” make it a more appealing purchase.

Wife vs. Secretary is now available at Amazon. As of yet, there is not a release date for the UK. Visit the DVD database for more information. The film is also part of The Clark Gable Signature Collection DVD set now available Amazon. Visit the DVD database for more information.

Further Reading on M&C

Clark Gable Biography - - Clark Gable Movies -