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Harriet Craig (Rosalind Russell) is a thoroughly hateful character. This is one of those films that gains power from the strength of the villainous antagonist rather than from a relatively weak protagonist.
Harriet is married to the gentle henpecked Walter Craig. Walter never catches on, even though the Craigs have no friends and Walter has become something of a laughing stock in town. Harriet never cared much for Walter, but she sure liked his money which enabled her to have a beautiful home, servants, and a respectable place in the community. Harriet is, therefore, one of those respectable, upwardly mobile prostitutes who uses marriage to barter her good looks for money and position. It's not a pretty picture.
However, Harriet's strategy for maintaining her marriage is deeply flawed. She acts like a manipulative, controlling cold-hearted bitch at all times and ultimately her life implodes.
This film is quite well done and the viewer just can't escape a warm feeling of satisfaction as the malevolent Harriet gets what's coming to her--and more. Although the Harriet character lacks nuance (she's just SO witchy), the story still worked, at least for me. This emotional resonance indicates that the writers, actors, and director Dorothy Arzner did a good job in projecting a wholly believable villain.
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