In a Nutshell: Adventure (1945)
Directed by: Victor Fleming
Co-stars: Greer Garson, Thomas Mitchell
Synopsis: Gable is Harry Patterson, a hard-boiled, womanizing sailor. When his ship is destroyed by a Japanese sub and he and his crew–including best pal Mudgin (Mitchell) –are stuck in San Francisco, he meets a stoic spinster librarian, Emily (Garson) and her bubbly roommate, Helen (Blondell). Despite their differences, Harry and Emily fall in love and impulsively decide to get married. They soon realize they made a mistake and Harry heads back out to sea. But he discovers maybe Emily has changed him and the life of a sailor isn’t as appealing as it was before.
Best Gable Quote: “She was always saying good-bye to me from the moment we met! That screwball!”
Fun Fact: Gable’s first film in three years, since returning from World War II. The film’s slogan, “Gable’s back and Garson’s got him!” was much hyped and often parodied.
My Verdict: This film is one of Clark’s that is always maligned, and not justly. I don’t think it’s all that bad. It’s a pretty good little drama, with some entertaining comedic parts. Clark’s character is a huge jerk and by the end of the film we are supposed to believe he completely changed his spots, not exactly buying it. Greer is not the best of Clark’s leading ladies, but despite them not being the best of friends onscreen, they are a good contrast of prim and proper vs. sarcastic wildman. Joan Blondell and Thomas Mitchell are both superb support. Not the best, but certainly doesn’t need to be ranked as the worst.
In a Nutshell: The Hucksters (1947)
Directed by: Jack Conway
Co-stars: Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Sydney Greenstreet, Adolphe Menjou
Synopsis: Clark’s character, Victor “Vic” Norman, is just home from the war and immediately sets his sights on returning to the advertising game. He seeks a job from Adolphe Menjou (an off screen pal of Gable). To land the job, he must entice a British widow (Deborah Kerr) to pose for a soap campaign. He falls in love with her, as a nightclub singer (a young and fresh-faced Ava Gardner, their first film together) falls for him. He is constantly at odds with himself: is all this manipulation and diminishing self respect worth it, just to please a bellowing soap company tycoon (Sydney Greenstreet)?
Best Gable Quote: “I haven’t had much experience with honest people and I’m not sure I like them. How can you tell what they’re going to do next?
Fun Fact: The book upon which the screenplay was based had Kerr’s character as being married and having an affair with Gable’s character. The script was changed to make her a widow and a more sympathetic character.
My Verdict: This film is a little-known gem. It’s not one that most people think of when they rattle off great Gable films, but it really is fantastic. It’s the best script of Clark’s post-war offerings, and Clark zings with Deborah and Ava both. He’s in his element as the advertising peddler, and the role of a man back from war and not sure where to start on rebooting his life rang a familiar bell. This is one that I find myself re-watching probably once a year and liking it more every time I see it.
In a Nutshell: Homecoming (1948)
Directed by: Mervyn Leroy
Co-stars: Lana Turner, Ann Baxter, John Hodiak
Synopsis: Gable is Dr. Ulysses “Lee” Johnson, a successful surgeon with a loving and caring wife, Penny (Baxter). When he volunteers for the Army and heads overseas to fight in World War II, he meets a snappy nurse, Jane “Snapshot” McCall (Turner). At first his stuffy, conservative ways and her free-thinking style clash, but soon they are working well together in crisis and become friends. Penny becomes suspicious of their relationship when Lee mentions her frequently in his letters home. Her suspicions ring true, as Lee and Snapshot fall in love. But what can he tell his wife, upon returning home after three long years?
Best Gable Quote: “Why can’t people just stay at home and live their own lives? Enjoy the good things–their work, their homes, music–why must they always be chasing around sticking their noses in other people’s affairs?”
Fun Fact: For the scenes that flashed back to Gable and Baxter’s courtship, hemorrhoid cream was applied to Gable’s face to shrink his eye bags, heavy makeup was applied to his face and neck, and his jowls were pulled back with rubber bands. The result was less than flattering and he hated it. The flashback scenes were thus cut back.
My Verdict: This one isn’t a new story really, if you watch a lot of post-World War II dramas. But it is a good little drama and the cast is solid. Lana is stripped of her sex appeal here, spending the film in fatigues, but her and Clark have chemistry and it works. I find Ann Baxter lacking as the wife, there is simply no spark there. All in all a good, if not fantastic, film.