Riffraff (1936): Marital Melodrama, Starring Tracy and Jean Harlow

Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow give energetic and vivid performances in the contrived marital melodrama “Riffraff,” made just a year before Harlow died (of poisoning) at the prime of her career.
Tracy plays a fisherman named Dutch, who marries Hattie (Harlow), a tough girl working in the cannery. When Dutch helps settle a strike, he begins to think he’s a special man, but he only manages to get his peers in trouble. As a result, Dutch is expelled from the union and fired from his job.
In desperation, he leaves Hattie and goes away. Unfazed, knowing that he needs money, Hattie steals for him but gets caught, which sends her to prison.  Meanwhile, a friend gets Dutch a job, and he defeats a plan to dynamite a ship, which makes him a hero. 
Hattie escapes from prison during a story night, but she is caught again. The couple reunites, when Hattie presents Dutch their baby-boy. Dutch declares that his calling is to be the best tuna fisherman in the world. He expects Hattie to follow him, only to be told that she wants to serve her time in jail, hoping he would wait for her. In the last scene, the couple declares love while holding their baby together.
Critics at the time, such as the writer for the Hollywood Spectator, complained that “there are so many crowds milling through the picture, so much uproar and confusion, that it is difficult at times to distinguish between story and superfluous production.”
The same critic found the performances unconvincing, because Tracy and Harlow “acted” too much, as if they violated the realism of the plot, which was contrived and mechanically structured.
In my view, Tracy, as a bumptious, conceited ass, and Harlow, as a sexy and tough-talking girl, are the only reason to see the film, which like many others of its era, has not aged well.
Cast
Hattie (Jean Harlow)
Dutch (Spencer Tracy)
Lil (Una Merkel)
Nick (Joseph Callelia)
Flytrap (Victor Kilian)
Jimmy (Mickey Rooney)
Crew
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Associate producer: David Lewis
Directed by J. Walter Ruben
Screenplay: Frances Marion, H.W. Hanemann and Anita Loose, based on an original story by Frances Marion
Camera; Ray June
Editor: Frank Sullivan
Music: Edward Ward
Art direction: Cedric Gibbons; associate art director, Stanwood Rogers
Costumes: Dolly Tree
Running time: 89 Minutes
The film was released on January 3, 1936