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Film / Double Harness

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Romancing the playboy.
Double Harness (1933) is a pre-code romantic drama film directed by John Cromwell, starring Ann Harding and William Powell.

Joan Colby (Harding) takes a rather cynical view towards love and marriage and is convinced that she can marry without the need of pesky emotions. She sets her eyes on John Fletcher (Powell) who’s let his family's shipping line fall to the wayside by being an Idle Rich playboy. They have a nice little romance, but John is by no means interested in getting married. However, Joan falls hard for him, so she quickly decides to trick her way into marriage to get the security she wants.

Max Steiner composed the score.


Double Harness demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Alcohol Hic: Valerie, who is sort of a mess, starts doing this after drinking way too much at Joan's dinner party.
    Dennis: For goodness's sake, don't start hiccuping.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: And now you must marry her. A rare and different spin: Having found Joan and John in a compromising situation, Joan’s father forces John to marry her because of propriety reasons.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Joan’s sister, Valerie, is horribly spoiled. She gets married and wastes her dowry money on just clothing. While married, she gets in with some loan sharks and racks up huge debts all because of her extravagant shopping.
  • The Casanova: John is a rich playboy who is friendly to all the ladies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joan's awfully witty and playfully teases John whenever she can.
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  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Once John marries Joan, but it gets a little tough for him to stay faithful.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling thing is established in the opening scene, where Valerie wants more of the $5000 that she and Joan are both supposed to be married with, and starts picking up more expensive stuff at the clothing store, while Joan says she can be married by a justice of the peace.
  • Fake-Out Opening: In the opening shot, a woman in a wedding gown strides towards the camera as "Here Comes the Bride" plays. She's a floor model, showing off a wedding dress for Valerie.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Valerie is irresponsible, callous, and selfish while Joan is level headed, frank, and reasonable.
  • Flowers of Romance: John buys reconciliatory flowers for Joan to tell her that he’s willing to make their marriage work. It’s all undone by the The Reveal, however.
  • Gold Digger: Joan makes it very clear that she wants to marry someone wealthy. Her plan is to marry John and make something of him in the process. She's, however, Lighter and Softer than your average gold digger.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Things get sour right off the bat with the Fletchers: they spend their honeymoon in separate quarters, but they still stay married for Joan's sake. It's obvious that they're going to get a divorce soon, however.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: Finding Joan and John in a compromising situation, Joan's father presses John to marry her. Much to Joan's surprise, John agrees.
  • Idle Rich: How John starts about before Joan starts reforming him into a working man.
  • Lady Killer In Love: John with Joan in the beginning.
  • Lingerie Scene: Joan changes into her lingerie while in John's apartment (although given that it's the 1930s, it's hard to tell that her outfit was supposed to be lingerie). It becomes quite the predicament when her father comes in and finds her dressed that way.
  • Marriage of Convenience: What Joan wants:
    Love? Marriage has 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.
  • Ms. Red Ink: Valerie has a problem with spending money and running up debts. She hits up Joan for $1000 (in 1933 money, so over ten grand in the 21st century) to pay for all the clothes she's bought, and it isn't the first time.
  • Naughty by Night: Joan seems like a goody-two shoes, but she's ready to seduce and have sex with John to get what she wants.
  • Old Money: The Fletchers are an old family famous for their shipping line.
  • The Reveal: Joan tricked John into marrying her: Joan’s father pretended to be upset about their intimate relationship, forcing them to marry for propriety reasons. But, in reality, Joan was colluding with her dad to make John marry her.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Exactly want Joan wants to reverse: she wants John to devote himself to his work and make something out of himself.
  • Sexless Marriage: There's zero sparks for the Fletchers.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: When Joan ends up at John’s apartment for “coffee” (yes, this excuse is as old as that), they share a cigarette and, well, they don’t show anything, but we know what happened.
  • Shotgun Wedding: To protect Joan's honour, John must marry her.