Personal Property


1h 24m 1937
Personal Property

Brief Synopsis

The bailiff charged with disposing of a financially strapped widow's estate pretends to be her butler.

Film Details

Also Known As
Man in Her House, Man in Possession
Genre
Comedy
Adaptation
Romantic Comedy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 19, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Man in Possession by H. M. Harwood (London, 22 Jan 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Because the prestigious old London lingerie firm, Dabney Lingerie and Underwear, is broke, eldest son Claude Dabney is about to marry a wealthy American widow. Shortly before the marriage, Claude's younger brother Raymond comes home after being released from prison for buying and then selling a car without paying for it. Though his mother is happy to see him, his father and Claude are worried that his return will cause a scandal and end the marriage plans, so they demand that he leave England. That evening, Raymond attends a performance of Aïda and is seated next to Crystal Wetherby, whom he does not know is Claude's prospective wife. After the performance, Crystal quickly leaves, and Raymond, who is attracted to her, follows her home in a taxi. Outside the house, Raymond runs into Herbert Jenkins, a bailiff who represents Crystal's creditors. Like Claude, Crystal has been hoping to marry for money and does not suspect that her intended is broke. When Jenkins relates to Raymond that he would like to leave because his wife is having a baby, Raymond offers to take his place as the "man in possession," and will live inside the house to make certain that nothing is stolen. Once inside, Raymond is told by Crystal that her husband is upstairs. She then stomps around the house in boots, hoping that the noise will convince Raymond of her husband's presence, but the next morning Raymond learns from her maid, Clara, that Crystal is, indeed, a widow. Now completely infatuated with Crystal, he offers to help her by serving as her butler "Ferguson" during a dinner party for her future husband, his parents and some friends, and is shocked to see that her fiancé is Claude. The equally aghast Dabneys, who are surreptitiously told by Raymond that he is working as a butler to earn an honest living, will not acknowledge their son, then, while Raymond is out of the room, Claude tells Crystal that her butler has been in prison. Later, in the kitchen, Crystal begins to realize that she is attracted to Raymond and they fall in love. The next day, Claude offers Raymond five hundred pounds if he promises to leave England immediately, which Raymond accepts after having a quarrel with Crystal over her impending marriage. A short time later, Raymond pays all of Crystals debts, but, because she now owes him the money, he has Jenkins repossess all of her furniture just before her wedding to Claude is to take place. Raymond then tells Claude about Crystal's financial problems, after which Claude and all the guests leave. Crystal then goes down to the kitchen, and when she sees Raymond, they kiss.

Film Details

Also Known As
Man in Her House, Man in Possession
Genre
Comedy
Adaptation
Romantic Comedy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 19, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Man in Possession by H. M. Harwood (London, 22 Jan 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Personal Property


Personal Property was released in March of 1937 just three months before Jean Harlow's death. It was the last film she finished and she died before the filming of her final movie, Saratoga (1937), could be completed. The plot of Personal Property used a popular gimmick to advance the story - a character who assumes a false identity; in this case, a bailiff charged with disposing of a bankrupt widow's estate masquerades as her butler.

Based on a play by H.R. Harwood, Personal Property was previously made by MGM in 1931 as The Man in Possession with Robert Montgomery and Irene Purcell. For the remake, Harlow was paired with up and coming studio golden boy, Robert Taylor. Clearly being groomed by MGM for stardom, Taylor had already been paired with almost every leading lady on the lot, including Janet Gaynor and Joan Crawford. Taylor headed into filming for Personal Property directly off his success in Camille (1937) with Greta Garbo. Taylor and Harlow first teamed up for Cecil B. DeMille's Lux Radio Theater of the Air on December 14, 1936. Claude Rains joined the pair in a shortened performance of Madame Sans-Gene, a comedy set during the French Revolution.

The other man in Harlow's life in December 1936 was boyfriend William Powell. Just before Christmas, Powell presented Harlow with an 85-carat star sapphire ring. Harlow was ecstatic. When reporters asked her if the engagement was official, Harlow replied, "It is as far as I'm concerned!" Powell was less committal, hurting Harlow's feelings when he commented, "I knew she'd like [the ring]. It's so vulgar." Still, Harlow wore the sapphire. She even wore it during the filming of Personal Property, despite the fact that her character was a penniless widow. At one point during the film's production, Harlow lost her ring, removing it for a dishwashing scene and handing it to a makeup man. An all night search finally turned up the ring in an ashtray.

Late nights were nothing uncommon on the set of Personal Property. Director Woody "One Take" Van Dyke pushed the production through in less than two weeks. No retakes were allowed to the point that once, when Harlow lapsed into a minor coughing fit, the scene was not reshot. The cast had a good incentive to finish the film quickly and on time. They'd been invited to President Roosevelt's birthday party in Washington. Louis B. Mayer, unable to turn down the free publicity, gave his consent for the trip provided Personal Property wrapped in time.

And indeed, as soon as filming was complete, Harlow and Taylor boarded a D.C. bound train, their suitcases full of evening wear from the film. Five gallon bottles of spring water also made the trip, which were used to wash Jean's hair. Unfortunately Jean fell ill on the return trip, never completely recovering her strength from a bad case of the flu. Photographer George Hurrell noticed the differences in Harlow following her trip to Washington. "She looked heavier," he noted. "And she faded fast."

Sadly, Hurrell was right. Jean died on June 7, 1937. Personal Property was re-released soon after. It took in $1.8 million at the box office.

Producer: John W. Considine, Jr.
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Screenplay: H.M. Harwood (play The Man In Possession), Hugh Mills, Ernest Vajda
Production Design: Edwin B. Willis
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Costume Design: Dolly Tree
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Original Music: Edward Ward (uncredited), Franz Waxman
Principal Cast: Jean Harlow (Crystal Wetherby), Robert Taylor (Raymond Dabney), Reginald Owen (Claude Dabney), Una O'Connor (Clara), Henrietta Crosman (Mrs. Dabney).
BW-84m.

by Stephanie Thames

Personal Property

Personal Property

Personal Property was released in March of 1937 just three months before Jean Harlow's death. It was the last film she finished and she died before the filming of her final movie, Saratoga (1937), could be completed. The plot of Personal Property used a popular gimmick to advance the story - a character who assumes a false identity; in this case, a bailiff charged with disposing of a bankrupt widow's estate masquerades as her butler. Based on a play by H.R. Harwood, Personal Property was previously made by MGM in 1931 as The Man in Possession with Robert Montgomery and Irene Purcell. For the remake, Harlow was paired with up and coming studio golden boy, Robert Taylor. Clearly being groomed by MGM for stardom, Taylor had already been paired with almost every leading lady on the lot, including Janet Gaynor and Joan Crawford. Taylor headed into filming for Personal Property directly off his success in Camille (1937) with Greta Garbo. Taylor and Harlow first teamed up for Cecil B. DeMille's Lux Radio Theater of the Air on December 14, 1936. Claude Rains joined the pair in a shortened performance of Madame Sans-Gene, a comedy set during the French Revolution. The other man in Harlow's life in December 1936 was boyfriend William Powell. Just before Christmas, Powell presented Harlow with an 85-carat star sapphire ring. Harlow was ecstatic. When reporters asked her if the engagement was official, Harlow replied, "It is as far as I'm concerned!" Powell was less committal, hurting Harlow's feelings when he commented, "I knew she'd like [the ring]. It's so vulgar." Still, Harlow wore the sapphire. She even wore it during the filming of Personal Property, despite the fact that her character was a penniless widow. At one point during the film's production, Harlow lost her ring, removing it for a dishwashing scene and handing it to a makeup man. An all night search finally turned up the ring in an ashtray. Late nights were nothing uncommon on the set of Personal Property. Director Woody "One Take" Van Dyke pushed the production through in less than two weeks. No retakes were allowed to the point that once, when Harlow lapsed into a minor coughing fit, the scene was not reshot. The cast had a good incentive to finish the film quickly and on time. They'd been invited to President Roosevelt's birthday party in Washington. Louis B. Mayer, unable to turn down the free publicity, gave his consent for the trip provided Personal Property wrapped in time. And indeed, as soon as filming was complete, Harlow and Taylor boarded a D.C. bound train, their suitcases full of evening wear from the film. Five gallon bottles of spring water also made the trip, which were used to wash Jean's hair. Unfortunately Jean fell ill on the return trip, never completely recovering her strength from a bad case of the flu. Photographer George Hurrell noticed the differences in Harlow following her trip to Washington. "She looked heavier," he noted. "And she faded fast." Sadly, Hurrell was right. Jean died on June 7, 1937. Personal Property was re-released soon after. It took in $1.8 million at the box office. Producer: John W. Considine, Jr. Director: W.S. Van Dyke Screenplay: H.M. Harwood (play The Man In Possession), Hugh Mills, Ernest Vajda Production Design: Edwin B. Willis Cinematography: William H. Daniels Costume Design: Dolly Tree Film Editing: Ben Lewis Original Music: Edward Ward (uncredited), Franz Waxman Principal Cast: Jean Harlow (Crystal Wetherby), Robert Taylor (Raymond Dabney), Reginald Owen (Claude Dabney), Una O'Connor (Clara), Henrietta Crosman (Mrs. Dabney). BW-84m. by Stephanie Thames

Quotes

And while we're asking so many questions, why were YOU sent to jail?
- Crystal Wetherby
Murder.
- Raymond Dabney
I wish it had been suicide!
- Crystal Wetherby

Trivia

The original play opened in London on 22 January 1930, and on Broadway on 1 November 1930.

Notes

The working titles of this film were Man in Possession and Man in Her House. H. M. Harwood's play opened on Broadway on November 1, 1930. According to a Hollywood Reporter production chart, Melville Cooper was in the cast, however, he did not appear in the released film. This was the only film in which M-G-M stars Robert Taylor and Jean Harlow appeared together. Reginald Owen, who played "Claude Dabney," and Forrester Harvey, who played the bailiff, "Herbert Jenkins," in the picture, played the same roles in M-G-M's 1931 version of the play, Man in Possession. Robert Montgomery, who appeared in the 1931 film in the role of Raymond recreated the role for a August 12, 1935 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast version of the story.