Friday, February 19, 2021

Ann Harding and William Powell share a "Double Harness"

 Double Harness (1933) is a pre-Code melodrama directed by John Cromwell (Of Human Bondage) and starring Ann Harding and William Powell. The screenplay was written by Jane Murfin (What Price Hollywood?, Alice Adams), and the music was by Max Steiner.

The plot concerns Joan Colby (Harding), the sensible older sister who decides to get married not for love but for her own betterment. She sets her sights on rich playboy, John Fletcher (Powell) who owns a shipping line that is floundering due to his indifference in working for a living.

Joan tricks John into marrying her but she turns out to be a great asset. She encourages him to take an interest in the family business which he does to great success. Everything comes undone when John discovers the truth surrounding their marriage. Will Joan be able to convince her husband that their marriage wasn’t a mistake?

William Powell and Ann Harding

John Cromwell (1886 – 1979) was an American film and stage director. Cromwell started his career as an actor on the stage and in the early days of talking pictures. He was under contract to Paramount where he directed many pre-Code films. Some of the stars he directed during this time included Kay Francis, William Powell, and Jean Arthur. In 1933, he moved to RKO and directed Irene Dunne in Ann Vickers (1933), Spitfire (1934) with Katharine Hepburn, and Of Human Bondage (1934) with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Of Human Bondage was a tremendous box office success and made Cromwell a top director in Hollywood. Other films he directed include Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Since You Went Away (1944), Anna and the Kind of Siam (1946), and Dead Reckoning. He is the father of actor James Cromwell.

The Strand Theatre in Plainfield, NJ promotes Double Harness

Ann Harding (1901 - 1981) was an American stage, radio, movie, and television actress. She acted on Broadway and with other theater companies before going to Hollywood. Harding arrived in Hollywood just as the sound era in movies was beginning. Due to her stage training and perfect diction, Harding was one of the first major stars to emerge in the early days of talking pictures. Harding was under contract to Pathe, which was eventually taken over by RKO Pictures where she became one of its top female stars alongside Helen Twelvetrees and Constance Bennett. Harding received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in Holiday (1930). Katharine Hepburn played the same role in the 1938 version, and like Hepburn, Harding attended Bryn Mawr College. Other popular films starring Harding include The Animal Kingdon (1932), When Ladies Meet (1933), and Peter Ibbetson (1935). After the end of the 1930s, Harding’s popularity as a leading lady waned and she started playing secondary leads and character roles. She continued to act on the stage, radio, and television until her retirement in 1965.

William Powell (1892 – 1984) was an American actor who was most famous for the Thin Man series in which he costarred with Myrna Loy. Loy and Powell made 14 films together. Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: The Thin Man (1934), My Many Godfrey (1936), and Life With Father (1947). Powell was under contract to Paramount, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where he had his greatest success. Some of Powell’s popular films include Manhattan Melodrama (1934), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Libeled Lady (1936), The Last of Mrs. Cheney (1937), Love Crazy (1941), Life with Father (1947), The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947), Dancing in the Dark (1949), How to Marry a Millionare (1953), and Mister Roberts (1955).

Double Harness trivia:

  • The $5000  (each) set aside for Joan and Valerie to be used for their wedding is equal to over $92,000 today.
  • The newspaper announcing the home of Valerie and Dennis at being at 2200 Lombard Street in San Francisco was home to a pizzeria in 2016.
  • The film had been out of circulation for decades due to a dispute with the producer’s estate. TCM acquired the rights to six films from RKO in 2007. Double Harness was one of the six.
  • The film played Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below.

To join the discussion on Zoom on February 23, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click on the link here. Once you RSVP, you will get an email with a Zoom link.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What do you think is the significance of the title?
  2. What did you think of Joan’s plan to trap John into marriage?
  3. Why do you think Joan acted so diligently on behalf of John’s business?
  4. What do you think made John return to Joan and their marriage?
  5. Ann Harding was a favorite of actress Barbara Stanwyck.What do you think Stanwyck saw in Harding’s acting style?

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