As fair warning, spoilers lay ahead!
"Love? Marriage has got nothing to do with love. Marriage is a business. At least, it's a woman's business. And love is an emotion. A man doesn't let emotion interfere with his business. And if more women would learn not to let emotion interfere with theirs, fewer of them would end up in the divorce court."
When the following lines are uttered by our heroine in the first ten minutes of the movie, you know it's going to be good.
Ann Harding receives top billing as Joan Colby, a very practical woman who, given her father's financial losses, believes she needs to let her head and not her heart rule any matrimonial decisions. She has her cap set on John Fletcher (William Powell), a shipping magnate who is debonair, dashing and a playboy. He has the financial wherewithal to make Joan's life comfortable; unfortunately he also has a regular Saturday night kind of thing named Monica Page.
|Joan and her elaborate nightie|
Joan, however, has been lying to herself for months. She is in love with John and was hoping for a "real" marriage. Because of that, and because she's a genuinely nice and caring person, she's been working at increasing his business. Like most magnates and "gentlemen" of the time, movie-wise, he never seems to work.
|John needs a drink after the Colonel catches him|
Joan's younger sister, Valerie, throws a major wrench in the works. Valerie is Joan's polar opposite - - we see it from the very beginning when, while shopping for a wedding trousseau, she throws all caution to the wind, despite her father's precarious financial standing. Marriage does not cure her and she comes to Joan to bail her out of financial dilemmas. When Joan finally realizes that Valerie will only learn when she has to stand on her own two feet, Valerie blabs to John that their father walking in he and Joan, leading to their marriage, was a set up. All planned and delivered by Joan. Uh oh.
John is rightfully pissed and more than a little disappointed in Joan, who he felt was above this kind of deception. He had realized earlier that same day that he was in love with his wife; instead of talking it out, he returns to Monica Page, leaving Joan to host a dinner she has organized for his benefit, one to get him a contract with the postal service. The dinner goes all kinds of wrong, in the way that only 1930s screwball can deliver, but the ending is just right, with John realizing that Joan is a swell girl and he does love her.
Sure, the film is trite on paper and purely formula but the stars make it so endearing and imminently watchable.
William Powell is a year out from his super stardom role in The Thin Man; he plays against the Nick Charles type, somewhere in between the bad guys and heavies he smoothly turned in for Warner Brothers and the aboveboard gentlemen MGM preferred. His John Fletcher is at his core a good guy bit takes a particularly good girl to scratch the surface and find it.
Double Harness is a perfect example of why Ms. Harding was such a well respected and critically acclaimed actress in the early 1930s and it's tragic that she's not one of the better remembered and considered actresses of yesteryear today. This film is but one of a handful of Pre-Codes in which she masterfully appears and is very much worth your time.
Joan, Valerie and the Colonel are all smiles
after Valerie has spent too much money
Double Harness is chock full of style, sophistication, suaveness and sex and is just delightful to watch. It's 70 minutes of well spent time and a wonderful showcase for Ms. Harding and Mr. Powell.
Double Harness can be difficult to find on DVD (although you can locate reasonable copies if you're persistent) and is shown now and again on TCM.