In a Nutshell: Dancing Lady (1933)

clark gable joan crawford dancing lady

Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard

Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire

Synopsis: Gable is Patch Gallagher, a short-fused Broadway producer who hires down-on-her-luck ex-burlesque dancer Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) for the chorus line of his latest show. Janie is constantly pursued by a rich playboy admirer, Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). Patch begins to have feelings for plucky Janie, but grows bitter as it becomes obvious she is wrapped up with Tod. When he promotes her to the lead in the production, Tod becomes impatient (Janie said she’d marry him if the play fell through) and pays off the Broadway powers-that-be to shut the play down. Janie finds out of his deceit (thanks to a drunken Patch) and dumps Tod. She encourages Patch to put on the show all on his own. The conclusion, the showing of the production, is a beautiful art deco showcase of dancing, singing and spectacular sets.

Best Gable Quote: “If you don’t get a good break, you get a bad one. That’s show business.”

Fun Fact: This film is the debut of Fred Astaire. His first scene was with Clark.

My Verdict: Clark hated this film. He said repeatedly for years afterward that he didn’t want to do the part and that he was miscast. He was also horribly sick on the set, suffering from pyorrhea and a life-threatening fever, so that probably didn’t help his opinion. That being said, I like it. The dance numbers are gorgeous and impressive in scale. Joan does an excellent job keeping up with Fred Astaire, which is not an easy feat. I do like these early 1930’s musicals, always with the broke girls with runs in their stockings finally hitting the big time on stage. I would say this is a good film but it is not because of Clark. Really, he is right, he was miscast. His character is moody and always yelling at everybody. This one, the rating is a bit complicated. If you are watching it because it has Clark Gable in it, then it’s two mustaches. But if you are watching it for Joan Crawford and all the singing and dancing, it’s much better.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in September 2012.

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