In a Nutshell: Comrade X (1940)
Directed by: King Vidor
Co-stars: Hedy Lamarr, Felix Bressart, Oskar Homolka, Eve Arden
Synopsis: Gable is McKinley Thompson, an American reporter living in Russia who is secretly sending news out of the country as the elusive “Comrade X”. His bumbling valet, Igor (Bressart) discovers who he is and blackmails him to take his headstrong Communist daughter (Lamarr) out of Russia to protect her from prosecution. Everything doesn’t go as planned and soon the three of them are racing out of Russia with the Russian army on their tails.
Best Gable Quote: “I don’t talk to ladies that start yelling. It’s a rule I’ve got.”
Fun Fact: This film was made to hurriedly reteam Clark with rising star Hedy Lamarr, since audiences responded so well to their chemistry in Boom Town. When the screenplay was originally accepted, Greta Garbo was in mind for Lamarr’s role, but it was thought it was too close to her recent role in Ninotchka.
My Verdict: At times very funny, it’s best taken at face value as a comedy rather than rolling one’s eyes at the obvious Russian stereotypes displayed here. Clark is at his wisecrackin’ best and Lamarr is pretty to look at although I find their chemistry is not exactly earth shattering. Bressart and Eve Arden are a hoot.
In a Nutshell: They Met in Bombay (1941)
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Co-stars: Rosalind Russell, Peter Lorre
Synopsis: Gable is Gerald Meldrick, a jewel thief who has trailed a British duchess to India to steal her antique diamond necklace. He encounters Anya Von Duren (Russell), a rival thief out for the same score. She succeeds in stealing the necklace, but he fools her into believing he is a detective and gets the necklace from her. She figures him out and he proposes they be partners. They hop on a Chinese ship headed for Hong Kong but the crooked captain (Lorre) tries to turn them in for ransom. Paddling their way to shore, they hide out in Hong Kong. Gerald disguises himself as a British officer in hopes of getting them out of there, but he is soon sent to the front to fight against the Japanese.
Best Gable Quote: “When a man’s a dreamer, a woman wants him to be practical. When he’s practical, she wants him to be a dreamer. That’s the story of my whole life.”
Fun Fact: Gable, tired of being cast with the same leading ladies over and over again, was pleased with the casting of Rosalind Russell. She had had supporting roles in two other films with him a few years prior, but this was her first (and only) as his leading lady.
My Verdict: It’s a joy to watch Clark onscreen with Rosalind Russell, even if her character here is more tame than her eventual zany comedies. While I wouldn’t call their chemistry white hot, it is comfortable and believable. The film really loses its way halfway through and the spy caper storyline feels stale. It’s kind of a cross between Comrade X and Love on the Run. I think both Gable and Russell deserved a better vehicle.