(I’m especially interested in this movie because I was a secretary before becoming a stay-at-home mother. The wives of my two bosses never showed any sign of worry, even though I was young, slim, etc. Apparently times have changed. But imagine if they’d been jealous of me–that would’ve caused a lot of trouble, and potentially jeopardized a job I needed!)
The secretary, Whitey, is attracted to Gable’s character, Van, and if he never noticed his secretary’s charms (since she is, after all, played by Jean Harlow), you’d have to check his pulse.
But their relationship is strictly business, never once becoming improper: Van’s character loves his wife passionately, and his secretary–who has brains, not just beauty–also has good character.
Yet people begin talking. Though Myrna Loy’s character is initially very modern-thinking, all this talk makes her suspicious–leading to all sorts of trouble which never would’ve happened if only she’d ignored all the talk.
She thinks a hush-hush business deal, is actually an affair between Van and Whitey. Her jealousy practically drives Van into Whitey’s arms. Van says, “There’s an old Chinese proverb that says if you want to keep a man honest, never call him a liar.”
Meanwhile, Whitey’s fiancé, played by Jimmy Stewart, is also jealous of Van, which estranges Whitey and her fiancé.
As Jimmy Stewart’s character says at the end of the movie, “Gosh, all the fighting and worrying people do, it always seems to be about one thing: They don’t seem to trust each other. Well, I’ve found this out: Don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any, because if you don’t find it, you’ll make it. Just believe in someone.”
I noticed during the dancing scene that nobody looked at the wife funny for dancing with other men, but everybody looked at Van funny for dancing with Whitey.
It also annoys me that Whitey’s fiancé objects to her job, telling her that her having a career she likes (even after marriage) is somehow “unnatural” and works against having a home, marriage, and kids; and pushing her to quit so they can marry.
It’s also sexist to assume that a beautiful secretary was hired because of her looks.
I am very anti-jealousy. I was raised, and socialized in, very open environments which accepted opposite-sex friendships/working relationships/church relationships as the norm.
In college, if I had objected to my boyfriends having female friends, I would’ve been dropped like a hot rock; they had female friends, I had guy friends, it was accepted whether we knew each other or not.
My friends are usually like this as well, especially my SCA friends, who see open and playful flirting as normal no matter what your marital status.
I also tend to pick up behaviors from the people I spend my time with, so I follow their lead of what is acceptable, start to open up a bit on things I was more reserved on before. (The exceptions are things I morally object to, such as smoking or drugs or getting drunk–or cheating, which normally I don’t see my friends doing, anyway.)
The only friends of my husband whom I ever objected to, were women he’d slept with before we met. I didn’t even object to friends of his who didn’t seem to like me for some reason, since it seemed very inappropriate to tell him who his friends should be.
So when I encounter jealous people, I don’t understand them, don’t know what makes a person want to be that way. Wouldn’t they rather just relax and trust and enjoy life instead of wasting their time and energy being angry, suspicious and vigilant? Wouldn’t they rather be the person their spouse can’t wait to come home to, rather than making his/her life miserable?
If you’re providing a warm, comfortable, happy relationship for your spouse to come home to, then other women/men should not be a threat. And if they are a threat, then your spouse is a cad/caddette whom you’re better off without, anyway, so let him/her leave. I have written about this subject at length here.