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Eddie Hall and his partner Slim are a pair of nickel-and-dime con men on the hustle. Nearly caught by the police, Eddie ducks into Ruby Adams's apartment and convinces her to hide him. Ruby isn't averse to taking advantage of the gullible herself and has even tried to manipulate money out of Al, the square shooter from Cincinnati who adores her. Ruby and Eddie hit it off, but when Eddie accidentally kills a drunk who was pawing Ruby, he takes off and she ends up in a women's reformatory, where she discovers she is pregnant. Devastated at the thought that Eddie has deserted her, she doesn't realize that Eddie has undergone a great change--one that will have a powerful impact on her. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Hold Your Man" is significant as Harlow's transitional film from the pre-code days. Although technically the Hays Code did not go into effect until July 1934, studios were to some extent trying to police themselves earlier than that to take some of the heat off. Harlow is significantly de-tuned physically here, from the hot presence a year earlier in "Red-Headed Woman" and "Red Dust". It also appears that to illustrate their ability to police themselves without a formal approval process, the studio tacked on a moralistic second half that turned a very entertaining romantic comedy into a sappy melodrama.
The film begins when depression-era hustler Eddie (Clark Gable) and his pal Slim con a pedestrian out of $30. Running from the police he blunders into an apartment and finds Ruby (Harlow) taking a bath. Ruby turns out to be a bit of a con artist herself and gets rid of the police. Eddie takes off but he has made an impression on Ruby and she arranges an "accidental" meeting. They soon fall in love but their marriage plans are interrupted by Eddie's accidental murder of one of Ruby's marks. He gets away but Ruby gets two years in a reformatory, which is portrayed as an intense Home Economics class.
Until it crashes and burns at the end this is a slick little romantic comedy written by Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Gable provides his standard bravado and Harlow gives it right back to him. The script is quite clever and entertaining. Gable does not have quite the chemistry with Harlow that he had with Claudette Colbert or Rosalind Russell, but this is the kind of film that is best when its two stars are competing instead of cuddling.
Unfortunately the audience's identification impulse and emotional connection are casualties of Harlow's abrupt personality change from gritty seductress to dewy-eyed self-pitying victim. This confuses and distances those who were most involved in the story until that point.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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