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Film / Hold Your Man

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Hold Your Man is a 1933 drama film from The Pre-Code Era, directed Sam Wood and starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow.

Eddie Hall (Gable) is a small-time crook. When a scam to relieve a mark of $30 winds up getting Eddie chased by the cops, he dashes into an apartment building and flings himself into a random unlocked door, which happens to be that of Ruby Adams (Harlow). Ruby, who is something of a hustler herself, lets him hide. Sparks fly—it's Gable and Harlow!—Eddie and Ruby fall in love, and soon she's joining him in his con jobs. However, an unexpected tragedy changes things for the both of them.

The third of six films that Harlow made with Gable before her untimely death at the age of 26 ended their screen partnership.



  • All Women Are Lustful: Eddie impersonates another inmate's brother in order to get into the jail. When he kisses her, she invites him to do it again, saying "It's been a long time."
  • Bathtub Scene: If you were writing a movie with Jean Harlow, wouldn't you have put her in a sudsy bathtub at some point?
  • Call-Back: "Hold Your Man", first played as a jazz tune in Ruby's apartment, then in a more melancholy manner by Ruby on a jail piano.
  • Cat Fight: Cut very very short when Eddie's other girlfriend, Gypsy, delivers a Cat Fight-style slap to Ruby's cheek. Ruby, obviously not interested in any of that, punches Gypsy right in the face instead.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: When Gypsy first appears, it seems like a one-shot gag as Eddie's drunk, jealous girlfriend, who promptly gets arrested for indecent exposure. Then they wind up cellmates and Gypsy becomes Ruby's tormenter. Later a freed and penitent Gypsy comes back again and helps Eddie and Ruby get married.
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  • Cigarette of Anxiety: "It's snowing cigarettes!", says Eddie's partner as Eddie smokes up a storm. They are waiting out a scam that involves Ruby being romanced by one of her admirers, and Eddie doesn't like it.
  • Con Man: Eddie is a rather small-time variant of this, getting by on a series of quick low-scale cons, until one goes horribly wrong.
  • Dies Wide Open: The unfortunate mark who dies after being punched by Eddie.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Eddie's jealous reaction when setting up a con in which the mark will be romancing Ruby is how he realizes he loves her.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: What seems like it's going to be a merry lark about charming con artists turns completely different when Eddie accidentally kills the mark and Ruby goes to prison for it. This is because MGM, which was getting a little jittery about Jean Harlow repeatedly playing slutty schemers who got away with it, felt like they needed a movie where she got some Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Headbutt of Love: Eddie and Ruby when they finally see each other again after a long time apart.
  • Meet Cute: Eddie, fleeing from the cops, dives into Ruby's apartment and finds her naked in the bath.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: After lifting $30 from the mark, Eddie tells his partner in the violin scam that they got only $20, and gives him $10.
  • Organ Grinder: The presence of one outside Eddie's apartment helps the audience know that Ruby did, in fact, stay the night in Eddie's room
  • Really Gets Around: Ruby, who starts to feel a little guilty about bilking Al, says "I've been around a long time" when he's being nice to her. Also, her apartment is festooned with pictures of various men who are presumably sugar daddies.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Matron Wagner, who probably could have seen everybody involved in Ruby's wedding to Eddie get extended prison sentences, but instead hugs a weeping Ruby and says she'll be content with revoking their privileges for a week.
  • Romantic False Lead: Al, Ruby's suitor, a handsome, kind, gentle and utterly colorless businessman from Cincinnati, who might as well be called Not Clark Gable.
  • Soapbox Sadie: One of Ruby's cellmates is a comically earnest socialist who calls Ruby "comrade."
  • Title Theme Tune: "Hold Your Man", first played on a phonograph while Ruby and Eddie dance, later played by Ruby while in jail.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Ruby puts the $5 that Eddie gives her for hiding him.
  • Violin Scam: Eddie pulls the "ring" variant of this scam, with he and the mark finding a supposedly valuable ring in the street, and having it appraised by a supposed pawn shop operator who is actually Eddie's partner.

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