AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Wife Vs. Secretary
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Feb 1936
Production Date:   25 Nov--14 Jan 1936
Duration (in mins):   85 or 88-89
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Clark Gable (Van ["V.S." Stanhope, also known as Jake])  
    Jean Harlow ([Helen] Whitey [Wilson])  
    Myrna Loy (Linda [Stanhope])  
    May Robson (Mimi [Stanhope])  
    George Barbier ([J. D.] Underwood)  
    James Stewart (Dave)  
    Hobart Cavanaugh (Joe)  
    Tom Dugan (Finney)  
    George Emery (Simpson)  
    Marjorie Gateson (Eve Merritt)  
    Gloria Holden (Joan Carstairs)  
    Margaret Irving (Edna)  
    Billy Newell (Tom)  
    John M. Qualen (Mr. Jenkins)  
    Leonard Carey (Taggart)  
    Charles Trowbridge ("Hal" Harrington)  
    Hilda Howe (Mary Connors)  
    Mary MacGregor (Ellen)  
    Jack Mulhall (Howard)  
    Frank Elliott (Mr. Barker)  
    Greta Meyer (German cook)  
    Aileen Pringle (Mrs. Barker)  
    Frank Puglia (Hotel clerk)  
    Myra Marsh (Miss Clark)  
    Holmes Herbert (Frawley)  
    Frederick Burton (Trent)  
    Harold Minjir (Williams)  
    Maurice Cass (Bakewell)  
    Tom Herbert (Business man)  
    Guy D'Ennery (Cuban waiter)  
    Niles Welch (Tom Axel)  
    Richard Hemingway (Bridegroom)  
    Paul Ellis (Raoul)  
    Don Rowan (Battleship)  
    Clay Clement (Herbert)  
    Tom Mahoney (Policeman)  
    Nena Quartaro (Telephone operator)  
    Charles Irwin (Information clerk)  
    Andre Cheron (Frenchman)  
    Eugene Borden (Ship's officer)  
    Hooper Atchley (Postal clerk)  
    Lucille Ward (Scrub woman)  
    Clifford Jones (Elevator boy)  
    Edward Le Saint    
    Helen Shipman    

Summary: On their third anniversary, New York magazine publisher Van Stanhope and his wife Linda are still very much in love. Van's mother Mimi, however, feels that his secretary, Helen "Whitey" Wilson, is too attractive not to be a temptation to Van. Linda trusts him and refuses to give in to jealousy, even when some of her friends express the same opinion as Mimi. Van and Whitey's relationship is strictly business, but his dependence on her, and her devotion to him, is a source of displeasure for her fiancĂ© Joe, who wants her to give notice and marry him. She refuses and becomes even more involved with work, helping Van to develop a secret deal to buy a "five cent" weekly from tycoon J. D. Underwood. Because Van is afraid that Hanson House, a rival publishing concern, will ruin his deal, he and Whitey have to be very secretive, even from Linda. At an ice skating party for Stanhope Publications, Linda's jealousy is aroused by a catty remark by one of the executive wives, and she asks Van to transfer Whitey. They quarrel over her jealousy, but make up that night. A short time later, when Van has to go to an advertising convention in Havana, he won't let Linda accompany him because he needs to corner Underwood to close the deal. He later has to summon Whitey to join him, and they work round the clock to finish the needed paperwork for the offer to Underwood. When the deal is closed, they celebrate and for a moment are strongly attracted to each other, but nothing happens. Linda calls a few moments later, however, and when Whitey answers the telephone, she assumes the worst. When Van returns to New York, Linda refuses to listen to him and begins divorce proceedings. Van tries to get her back, but gives up and invites Whitey to sail with him for Bermuda. She has fallen in love with him, but realizing that his happiness is with his wife, she goes to Linda, who is about to sail for Europe, and tells her what a fool she would be to give her husband up. Linda then goes back to Van, and as Whitey leaves the office, she is met by Joe. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Production Text: Clarence Brown's Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
  Charles Dorian (Asst dir)
Producer: Hunt Stromberg (Prod)
Writer: Norman Krasna (Scr)
  John Lee Mahin (Scr)
  Alice Duer Miller (Scr)
Photography: Ray June (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  William A. Horning (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Frank E. Hull (Film ed)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Ward)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
  Edward Ward (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Country: United States

Songs: "Thank You for a Lovely Evening," music and lyrics by Jimmy McHugh.
Composer: Jimmy McHugh
Source Text: Based on the short story "Wife Versus Secretary" by Faith Baldwin in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (May 1935).
Authors: Faith Baldwin

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 26/2/1936 dd/mm/yyyy LP6177 Yes

PCA NO: 1989
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy-drama
 
Subjects (Major): Infidelity
  Jealousy
  Marriage
  Publishers and publishing
  Secretaries
 
Subjects (Minor): Conventions (Gatherings)
  Divorce
  Engagements
  Havana (Cuba)
  Ice skaters and ice skating
  Men's clubs
  Mothers-in-law
  New York City
  Self-sacrifice
  Telephone
  Tycoons
  Unrequited love
  Wedding anniversaries

Note: Most written contemporary and modern sources list the surname of Clark Gable's character as "Sanford." On screen credits give only the first name of "Van," although he is called "Mr. Stanhope" many times throughout the film. In the breakfast table scene between "Van" and "Linda," early in the film, she calls him "Jake" rather than "Van." There is no further mention of the name "Jake," and no explanation for its use in that one scene. At one point in the plot, a new issue of a magazine is brought to Van's attention and the camera focuses on an article written by Alice Duer Miller (co-screenwriter of Wife vs. Secretary ) entitled "Are We Debutantes or Are We Mice?" At that point Van says to his subordinate "Hey, Alice has written a very nice article here." According to a news item in HR William Powell was announced as the male lead in the picture, opposite Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy several months before Miller's story appeared in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan . Other news items note that Powell was too busy with other projects to appear in the picture when it finally went into production. This was the first film made by Loy after her return to work at M-G-M following a highly publicized salary dispute with M-G-M. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   25 Nov 35   p. 3.
Daily Variety   14 Feb 36   p. 3.
Film Daily   19 Feb 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Nov 34   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Sep 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Nov 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Feb 36   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   15 Feb 36   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   18 Jan 36   p. 27.
Motion Picture Herald   22 Feb 36   p. 64.
New York Times   29 Feb 36   p. 11.
Variety   4 Mar 36   p. 26.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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