Hold Your Man (1933)
Release Date: July 7, 1933
Directed by: Sam Wood
Available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Gable is Eddie Hall, a small-time con man on the run from the cops when he bursts into Ruby Adams’ (Jean Harlow) apartment and finds her in the bathtub. Ruby and Eddie quickly realize they are two peas in a pod: she is somewhat of a con artist herself, seducing and manipulating men to get what she wants. This is definitely pre-production code stuff, as the film offers no innuendo to cover up the fact that Eddie and Ruby are sleeping together. One of Eddie’s cons goes bad and he ends up in jail. Ruby is waiting for him upon his release and they quickly hatch a plan to con money out of one of Ruby’s suitors. It turns sour when Eddie becomes jealous and accidently kills the man. When the cops arrive, Ruby and Eddie are on their way back from getting a marriage license. Ruby gets lost in the crowd and nabbed by the cops, while Eddie escapes. She is sentenced to two years in a women’s reformatory. Soon after arriving there, she realizes she is pregnant. When Eddie learns of her pregnancy, he rushes to be by her side. Ruby’s fellow inmates help hide him and orchestrate a wedding for them in the campus chapel, after Eddie pleads for the priest to marry them so his kid can have a chance and not be illegitimate. Just after they are pronounced man and wife, Eddie is hauled away by the cops and Ruby is left alone, crying. Time passes and the film ends with Eddie being reunited with Ruby and their small tow-headed son at the train station.
Picture Play magazine, September 1933
Cheap and degraded for one half of the picture, the second part sees all the characters nobly vying with each other in reforming and doing unselfish good. The end finds nothing lacking but self-adjustable haloes.
This is mere trickery in writing and it maes for a showy, shallow result which undoubtedly will be hailed by many as great. It is likely to be entertaining to the more thoughtful as a study of shoddy characters camouflaged by smart cracks, gutter shrewdness, and good acting. Nevertheless, it is depressing fiction, unpleasant and synthetic.
Jean Harlow, as the pseudo-heroine with no means of support except a variety of men friends, meets Clark Gable, a petty swindler, and her animalism is stimulated. She insults him while she pursues and after their intimacy is established she enters into his scheme to blackmail an admirer of hers. Mr. Gable is sentenced for murder, Miss Harlow to a reformatory where comic types abound. Impending motherhood softens her, however, and she so wins the love of her fellow inmates when he breaks prison to visit her. The ceremony is performed by a colored preacher, the father of a Negro actress, Theresa Harris, who gives one of the best performances. A happy ending is assured when Miss Harlow and Mr. Gable, in Hollywood clothes, are seen as parents of a froglike child.
Mr. Gable does not seem quite at ease in his role, though his magnetism is undiminished, but Miss Harlow witholds nothing in underscoring the traits of her “Red-headed Woman” and “Red Dust” and adding some more. Hers is a startling exhibit. Whether or not it is acting in the truest sense can best be decided when she attempts an opposite character.
Photoplay magazine, January 1934
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, both crooked to start, both go straight for love. Not another “Red Dust,” but good enough. (Sept.)
“Doesn’t belong to you either, does it?” first line
“Listen sweetheart, how about you and me getting together tonight?”
“Don’t be so hard to get—I’m the fellow that saw you in the bathtub!”
“Gypsies are always supposed to keep movin’!”
“You’re not sore on account of that dame, are you? She don’t mean a thing to me!”
“Yes sir, that baby’s got rhythm!”
“Wait a minute, darling, you ain’t going to cry on your wedding day, are you?”
“Gee this feels good!” last line
Jean Harlow singing “Hold Your Man”
On the Set Scoop:
Silver Screen magazine, July 1933
The set of sets this month is one which Jean and Clark are gracing. It’s not the most gigantic set ever made. In fact, it’s quite small. It isn’t the most pretentious set ever made. As a matter of record, it’s one of the cheapest. Its charm lies in its adherence to fact.
It’s the room of a lady of easy virtue–so easy that she never gets very far ahead. I wouldn’t be knowing much about such rooms but it might have been taken from between the pages of one of Vina Delmar’s novels. A large Maxfield Parrish print hangs over the mantel and a large plush pillow covers the gas burner that stands in the fireplace. Dance programs dangle alongside. Kewpie dolls fill every available nook and corner. When the corners gave out she started hanging them on the walls. Paper flowers cover the light bulbs. On the sofa is a cheap leather pillow with a touching sentiment burned into it: “We’re here today, Tomorrow we’re through, So let’s be gay–It’s up to you!”
Pennants hang wherever there’s room. A few cheap photos adorn the walls. One from a sailor who closely resembles Bill Boyd is inscribed, “Honest Ruby I was sober.” Another one of a fireman standing beside his truck reads, “To Ruby–A fire that’s hard to put out.” Cheap lace curtains hang in the windows. The furniture is period–any period. A golden oak table supports the weight of a radio. A mahogany table fills the centre of the room. There is also an alcove bedroom, a kitchen and bath.
Clark is being chased by cops and bursts in Jean’s apartment (?) in his efforts to escape them. He finds her–some guys have all the luck!–in the bathtub.
Jean lets out a startled yelp and Clark backs out hurriedly, closing the door after him. a moment later in comes Jean in a cheap and gaudy kimono. “Say, listen,” she says angrily–but before she can say more there’s a knock at the door.
“That’s a cop,” Clark explains under his breath. “He’s got me all wrong. Be a pal, will you–and steer him away?” Without waiting for an answer he shoves her towards the door and backs into the bathroom closing the door after him.
Just then the cop opens the door and walks in. “What’s the big idea–bustin’ in here like this?” Jean wants to know.
“We’re looking for a feller,” the cop explains, “and we’re searching the whole house–top to bottom.”
“Well you ain’t gonna search here ’cause he ain’t here,” says Jean, suddenly deciding to help Clark.
“What’s that room there?” asks the cop.
“There’s somebody in there,” he insists.
“Sure, my husband.”
“Who is it darling,” comes in a falsetto squeak from Clark. Without another word the cop strides past Jean and opens the door showing Clark in the bathtub, his face covered with soap suds which he is vigorously rubbing in his neck and ears. “Say, what is this?” he demands of the cop in the same falsetto.
“We’re looking for a feller,” the cop repeats.
“Well, this is a fine place to be looking for him,” Clark rages. “Shut that door–there’s a draft.”
“Beg your pardon,” the cop apologizes. “Sorry, lady.”
When he’s gone, Jean marches to the bathroom door and jerks it open. There sits Clark, apparently in the altogether. As Jean stands gaping he starts to rise and we see he is nude only from the waist up. From the waist down he’s got all his clothes on and he’s dripping wet. “Thanks,” he says, “you’re a swell kid.”
“You sure made that tub in a hurry,” Jean announces, half in wonder, half in admiration.
There’s some swell dialogue in this picture and from the looks of things you won’t need to take your fur coat along.
Behind the Scenes:
The film was adapted from a story by Anita Loos, a screenwriter on the MGM payroll. It was rushed into production as the studio was anxious to reteam Gable and Harlow after Red Dust was a smash hit.
During production, Gable’s estranged father, William “Bill” Gable, turned up (some sources say at his house, others say it was at the MGM lot). He was quite disheveled and ill. Clark’s wife Ria welcomed him into their home, where he remained for the next two years.
Gable was still in the middle of an affair with Joan Crawford at this time and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,was threatening to name Gable as co-respondent in his divorce filing. Studio head Louis B. Mayer ordered Gable and Crawford to stay apart to avoid a scandal.