Wife vs. Secretary (1936)

42nd street
Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy

'Wife vs. Secretary' is a popular romantic comedy, starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy, and with a young James Stewart at the beginning of his career. The movie was made in 1936 and was directed and co-produced by Clarence Brown. It was based on the short story of the same name by Faith Baldwin published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in May 1935. The film was a huge success for MGM, bringing in a profit of $876,000.


Jean Harlow plays Helen Wilson, the indispensable, smart, and efficient secretary of Jake' Stanhope, played by Clark Gable. He is a high-pressure businessman happily married to Linda, played by Myrna Loy. Helen is engaged to Dave, played by James Stewart.

Linda begins to have doubts about Jake's fidelity because the beautiful Ms. Harlow is his secretary. And the doubt is continually being reinforced by Linda's friends, a nasty group of gossips. Innocent events are continually being misinterpreted, but everyone is on the same page by the end of the movie.


Wife vs. Secretary'' was the fifth of six films pairing Gable and Harlow, and the fourth picture for Gable and Loy together. This was the first film in which Loy and Harlow appeared together but they would appear together again in "Libeled Lady" in 1936.

It is a strong cast and all appear in roles which are ideally suited to them. Gable is charismatic and full of charm whilst Loy and Harlow are perfectly cast as unique personalities who are complete opposites.

They receive perfect support from May Robson as Mimi Stanhope,and all are beautifully complemented by Clarence Brown's direction. The movie looks beautiful too, richly designed and costumed and the cinematography makes all three leads look at their best on screen. The music blends in nicely with the tone of the writing and story.

The script contains some witty banter and still feels modern. The story contains few surprises but it is not dull and manages to be both light-hearted and thoughtful at the same time. In short, a very pleasing film about marital fidelity or infidelity, well made and with three top artists at the top of their game.

Main Cast

Clark Gable … Van 'V.S.'/'Jake' Stanhope
Jean Harlow … Helen 'Whitey' Wilson
Myrna Loy … Linda Stanhope
May Robson … Mimi Stanhope
George Barbier … J.D. Underwood
James Stewart … Dave
Hobart Cavanaugh … Joe
John Qualen … Mr. Jenkins
Tom Dugan … Finney
Gilbert Emery … Simpson
Marjorie Gateson … Eve Merritt
Gloria Holden … Joan Carstairs
Eugene Borden … Ship's Officer (uncredited)


Director ... Clarence Brown
Producer ... Clarence Brown, Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay ... Norman Krasna, John Lee Mahin, Alice Duer Miller
From the short story ... "Wife Versus Secretary", (Cosmopolitan May 1935) by Faith Baldwin
Music ... Herbert Stothart, Edward Ward
Cinematography ... Ray June
Distribution Co ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... February 28, 1936
Running time ... 88 minutes

Academy Awards

No Nominations:

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