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Hold Your Man

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Hold your man (1933) – Jean Harlow playing piano

 

Ruby (Jean Harlow) plays “Hold your man” in the piano for her reformatory colleagues. 
Hold Your Man

Is a 1933 American romantic drama film directed by an uncredited Sam Wood and starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, the third of their six films together.   The screenplay by Anita Loos and Howard Emmett Rogers was based on a story by Loos.

Plot

Small-time con man Eddie Hall (Clark Gable) hides from his latest victim and a policeman in the first unlocked apartment he can find. It turns out to occupied by Ruby Adams (Jean Harlow), a cynical woman with numerous boyfriends. When it is safe to come out, Eddie wants to become better acquainted with his pretty rescuer. Although she resists at first, she ends up falling in love with him.

Eddie’s partner Slim (Garry Owen) comes up with a scheme to catch one of Ruby’s married admirers in a compromising position and blackmail him, but Eddie finds at the last moment that he cannot bear to have his girl involved in something that sordid. He breaks into Ruby’s apartment and punches the would-be victim, accidentally killing him. Eddie escapes, but Ruby is caught and sentenced to a reformatory for two years. One of her fellow inmates turns out to be Gypsy Angecon (Dorothy Burgess), Eddie’s previous girlfriend.

When Eddie learns from a released Gypsy that Ruby is pregnant with his child, he visits her, but as a fugitive, he has to pretend to be there to see another inmate. Even though the authorities become suspicious, Eddie is determined to marry Ruby so his child will not be illegitimate. With the police closing in, instead of escaping, he persuades a minister visiting his wayward daughter to marry them.

Afterwards, Eddie is caught and sent to prison. When he gets out, he is welcomed by Ruby and their young son. Ruby announces that Al Simpson (Stuart Erwin), who had wanted to marry her himself, has gotten Eddie a legitimate job.

Cast

Cast notes

  • About her singing in the film, Jean Harlow said, “They have me singing in a reformatory! My singing would be enough to get me in, but I’d never be able to sing my way out.”  The song she sings, “Hold Your Man”, was written by Nacio Herb Brown(music) and Arthur Freed (lyrics).

Production

Gable and Harlow in Hold Your Man

Hold Your Man – the working titles for which were “Black Orange Blossoms”, “He Was Her Man” and “Nora” – was in production from April 16 through May 1933.

Harlow and Gable made six films together, and Hold Your Man was the third, following on the great success of 1932’s Red Dust. Writer Anita Loos also had an extended working relationship with Harlow: this was the second of five films they made together, their first being Red-Headed Woman. Under the tightened reign of the Hays Office, Loos was forced by Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, to have Harlow’s character be punished for her sins (pre-marital sex among them), which is why Ruby spends time in a reformatory, and also why Ruby and Eddie have to get married.

Response

Critics were aware that the studio was trying to have its cake and eat it too, by presenting scandalous behavior early in the film, which is then justified by the punishment the characters are made to suffer later on – a pattern that would become endemic under the Production Code. In Variety, a critic wrote “”earlier sequences have plenty of ginger, but the torrid details are handled with the utmost discretion while conveying a maximum of effect.”   and Frank Nugent in The New York Times wrote “The sudden transition from hard-boiled wisecracking romance to sentimental penitence provides a jolt.”

Nevertheless, the critics praised Harlow and Gable, and the film was a smashing box office success, grossing $1.1 million on a budget of $260,000—a profit of 300%. Harlow was well on her way to being the biggest star in Hollywood, and her next picture, Bombshell (1933), would not even need a male star to carry the film.

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