In a Nutshell: Strange Cargo (1940)
Directed by: Frank Bozarge
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Peter Lorre, Ian Hunter
Synopsis: Gable is Verne, a thief who has been imprisoned for years in a dirty jail on an island in New Guinea. Out on work duty one day, he comes across Julie (Crawford), a cafe singer. She turns him in when he breaks out to try and be with her. She is then banished from the island for harboring a criminal. When Verne manages to escape again along with fellow inmates, Julie joins them on their voyage to the mainland. Both are uneasy by the presence of Cambreau (Hunter), a mysterious Christ-like figure who recites scriptures and begs them to repent their ways. Julie struggles with her love for Verne and whether or not to continue on with him in a life of crime or to come clean. Lorre appears as the devious Monsieur Pig, who wants Julie all to himself.
Best Gable Quote: “You’ve got class, kid. Or is it because I haven’t seen any women lately?”
My Verdict: Acting is top notch, with fine performances by all the main cast. It’s rather refreshing to see Joan Crawford a bit dirtied up! That being said, I find the script rather preachy and tedious, but I suppose that’s rather the point? After it gets going, there isn’t a whole lot of excitement.
In a Nutshell: Boom Town (1940)
Directed by: Jack Conway
Co-stars: Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, Hedy Lamarr, Frank Morgan
Synopsis: Gable is “Big John” McMasters and Tracy is “Square John” Sand, or as Big John calls him right from the beginning, “Shorty”. They are two wildcatters out west trying to strike oil. They pool their money and smarts and soon hit it big. Putting a snag in their festivities is the arrival of Elizabeth or “Betsy” (Colbert), Shorty’s sweetheart from back home. She arrives to see him but falls in love with Big John instead, and they are married the night they met. A year passes and when Shorty thinks that Big John is not treating Betsy right, the two men come to blows and flip a coin to decide who gets the oil rigs. Shorty wins and Big John and Betsy hit the road. The film follows them through the years as Big John and Betsy have a son and strike it rich, first in Oklahoma, then in New York. Shorty also strikes it rich but soon loses it all. When the two men meet again and decide to let bygones be bygones, their friendship and working relationship is tested again when Shorty discovers Big John is having an affair with the elegant Karen VanMeer (Lamarr).
Best Gable Quote: “You’re not getting away from me. You know that, don’t you? I’m not blaming you, baby, but you aren’t walking out with him or anybody else, understand? Sand! He told me all about it. I had to give him a licking to show him that’s out! You’re my girl, see, and you always will be. Even if I have to lick you to prove it!”
Fun Fact: When filming the fight scene between Gable and Tracy, Tracy’s stunt double accidently punched him square in the jaw, breaking his false teeth and cutting up his lips. He was out for three weeks to heal and the film was shot around him until he returned.
My Verdict: You can’t beat this cast. Excellence all around: Clark is in his element, perfect as the skirt chasin’ wildcatter, and Tracy is always perfect as Clark’s conscience and constant foil. Lamarr is the perfect window dressing (and here that’s about all she is) and the sparks between Claudette and Clark have not faded since It Happened One Night.