|Jean Harlow and Clark Gable|
Margaret Hamilton to Frank Morgan: "You have no idea what my face looked like before I used your cream."
Frank Morgan to Margaret Hamilton: "I can imagine."
Race track gambler Duke Bradley (Clark Gable) thinks that Carol Clayton (Jean Harlow), the daughter of his friend, Frank Jonathan Hale), is a bit snooty. Carol is engaged to the rich "sucker" Hartley Madison (Walter Pidgeon), but she finds herself drawn to the cruder Duke even as she engages in verbal fisticuffs with him. Will Carol and Duke admit their feelings for one another? This is the slight premise of Saratoga, which also has some bits of business about bidding on horses, switching jockeys at the last minute, and betting on the climactic race, most of which is a little confusing and even a bit on the dull side. This is a shame, because each and every cast member is working at the top of his or her game, and that not only includes the already-named, but Una Merkel as Duke's racing pal; Frank Morgan as her befuddled and jealous husband, who markets cold cream as "Harriet Hale;" Hattie McDaniel as Carol's saucy and lovable maid/companion; Frankie Darro as an obnoxious jockey; and George Zucco (doing a rare turn at comedy) as a slightly strange doctor. Margaret Hamilton also scores in a small role as one of Morgan's unsatisfied customers, and Lionel Barrymore is fine, as usual, working in his befuddled, cranky, old-timer mode.The acting in this is just wonderful and there are some memorable scenes, such as a near-silent one in which Duke communicates to Carol that her father has died. There's a very enjoyable train scene with the various principals taking turns at singing a chorus, their acting skills and personality making up for untrained voices. Despite several genuinely amusing moments, the film has an air of sadness because Harlow died tragically young while making this picture, and her scenes had to be finished with a dubbed double seen only from the back or behind binoculars. The film has an amiable nature, even though the Walter Pidgeon character is treated especially shabby, and Carol doesn't come off like the most likable of creatures.
Verdict: So many fine actors and so many good things in it that it's too bad this really isn't all that memorable. **1/2.