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Personal Property (1937)

Approved | | Comedy, Romance | 19 March 1937 (USA)
Raymond Dabney returns to his family after trouble with the law. He convinces the sheriff to give him a job watching the house and furniture of widow Crystal Wetherby without knowing she is... See full summary »


W.S. Van Dyke (as W.S. Van Dyke II)


H.M. Harwood (play), Hugh Mills (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Jean Harlow ... Crystal Wetherby
Robert Taylor ... Raymond Dabney aka Ferguson
Reginald Owen ... Claude Dabney
Una O'Connor ... Clara, Crystal's Maid
Henrietta Crosman ... Mrs. Cosgrove Dabney
E.E. Clive ... Cosgrove Dabney
Cora Witherspoon ... Mrs. Burns
Marla Shelton ... Catherine Burns
Forrester Harvey ... Herbert Jenkins, Bailiff
Lionel Braham ... Lord Carstairs
Barnett Parker ... Arthur 'Trevy' Trevelyan
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Melville Cooper ... (scenes deleted)
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Raymond Dabney returns to his family after trouble with the law. He convinces the sheriff to give him a job watching the house and furniture of widow Crystal Wetherby without knowing she is engaged to his brother. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


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


After Crystal and Ferguson close the front door on Dabney after the dinner party, a moving shadow of the boom microphone is visible to the upper right of the door. See more »


Claude Dabney: [First lines] I think I'm justified in saying that the Dabney line of women's hosiery and undergarments is second...
Miss Briggs: Second?
Claude Dabney: Second to none! - Underline second. - Underline none. - In the United Kingdom or the Empire, for that matter. If sales are falling - comma - and they are falling - comma - underline are - it is to you, as Sales Manager, that we look for an explanation.
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Written by Giuseppe Verdi
Excerpts played and sung at the opera
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User Reviews

Gentleman Prefers Blonde
31 January 2012 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

PERSONAL PROPERTY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937), directed by W.S.Van Dyke, stars Jean Harlow in one of her final screen performances before her untimely death later in the year. In her only comedy, in fact, only movie role opposite then rising leading man, Robert Taylor. It was also a remake of MGM's earlier carnation titled THE MAN OF POSSESSION (1931) starring Robert Montgomery and Irene Purcell in the Taylor and Harlow roles. While each have aired on Turner Classic Movies for comparison, both are forgotten comedies with the latter noteworthy only for the screen presence of Jean Harlow alone.

Taylor plays Raymond Dabney, son of an accomplished British family. Having served a jail sentence for selling a car without having paid for it, and now released early for good behavior, Raymond, greeted by his loving mother (Henrietta Crosman), doesn't get the same reception from his serious minded brother, Claude (Reginald Owen), partners with his father (E.E. Clive) in women's underwear. With both men disowning him as part of the family, Raymond is offered 300 pounds to go far away as possible and start life anew, possibly in Canada or Australia, but he would rather remain in London instead. Later, while at a cocktail lounge, Raymond meets Crystal Wetherby (Jean Harlow), an American widow of a big game hunter. Impressed by her beauty, Raymond, after making a bad impression, follows her to the opera and seats himself beside her during a performance of "Aida." If that's not enough, Raymond follows her home after the performance. Through arrangements by Herbert Jenkins (Forrester Harvey), a bailiff working for the sheriff whose wife is in the hospital expecting a baby, Raymond gets his opportunity by taking his place and legally entering as well as staying in Crystal's mansion as a "man in possession," a custodian of her possessions until the debts of her personal property have been paid. Due to her upcoming dinner plans to entertain her fiancé and future in-laws, Raymond agrees to assist her by acting the role of Ferguson, her butler. All goes well until Raymond meets Crystal's guests, who turn out to be more than familiar faces from his questionable past.

With the plot being centered more on Robert Taylor's character than Harlow's, both become equally balanced by the midway point. PERSONAL PROPERTY does has some funny scenes. While, Hugh Mills and Ernest Vadja, who scripted this story from the play by H.M. Harwood, make every effort by turning this into an honest effort of hilarious drawing room comedy, the final results are simply average, no more, no less. One truly funny moment occurs with the arrival of mumbling British bore (Barnett Parker) and his confused exchange with Taylor. This great scene was later clipped into a 1964 documentary, MGM'S BIG PARADE OF COMEDY, which indicates others have felt this a highlight as well. Very brief, but good. A pity there weren't enough great scenes like it to make up for some rather weak material. Another problem with PERSONAL PROPERTY is that Taylor acts and looks too American to play the part of a British family. Taylor's butler and Harlow's rich girl gimmick is an obvious attempt to bring forth another MY MAN GODFREY (1936) that served William Powell and Carole Lombard so well, though not on the same level.

Cora Witherspoon, who previously enacted opposite Harlow in the hilarious LIBELED LADY (1936) as Mrs. Burns-Norvell, the gabby mother, assumes similar chores here, this time simply as Mrs. Burns, with Marla Shelton as her flirtatious daughter who has her eyes on the young "butler" (Taylor). Interesting to note the supporting players, consisting those of Una O'Connor (in the role as Harlow's maid); Forrester Harvey and E.E. Clive to be those in memorable support in the James Whale science fiction classic, THE INVISIBLE MAN (Universal, 1933). Even more interesting is both Reginald Owen and Forrester Harvey reprise their roles from the 1931 film. Other British character types as Billy Bevan and Lionel Brahm serve their brief parts well.

Placed on home video in the 1990s, PERSONAL PROPERTY should make an impression on those curious about the careers of both Harlow and Taylor, or lesser known "screwball comedies" from this era. With better roles ahead for Taylor, especially his reported personal favorite being WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940), Harlow next project would be another comedy, SARATOGA, noteworthy mostly as the one she never lived to complete, though her remaining scenes were performed by a stand-in double. For PERSONAL PROPERTY, it's all Harlow. (**1/2)

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Release Date:

19 March 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Man in Possession See more »


Box Office


$299,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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