In a Nutshell: The King and Four Queens (1956)
Directed by: Raoul Walsh
Co-stars: Eleanor Powell, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols, Sara Shane, Jean Wiles
Synopsis: In this Cinemascope Western, Gable is Dan Kehoe, a fugitive outlaw on the hunt for gold. In one town, he hears the story of the bandit McDade brothers, who were blown up in an explosion after stealing a huge pot of gold. Of the four, one escaped but no one knows which one. The gold was hidden by their mother, who is guarding it and the sons’ four wives in the deserted town of Wagon Mound. Kehoe makes up a story and hides out in Wagon Mound, befriending (and flirting with) each of the McDade widows– untrusting Sabina (Parker), bombshell Birdie (Nichols), sweet natured Oralie (Shane) and feisty Ruby (Willes), leading them on in hopes one of them can lead him to the gold. This is all much to the chagrin of Ma McDade (Van Fleet), who is determined to keep each of the wives virtuous for the one brother who may return.
Best Gable Quote: “Miss Sabina, you’re a woman after my own heart. Tougher than worn leather, smarter than spit and colder than January.”
Fun Fact: Eager to branch out after his separation from MGM, Gable decided to try his hand out as a producer and formed a production company with Jane Russell’s husband, Bob Waterfield. After casting, location scouting, editing and tending to all the minute details of the film in addition to starring in it, he found being a producer too stressful and this film was the only one he ever produced.
My Verdict: Another color Western, and in this one Clark’s got a handful of women to contend with. This film is nothing really special and it’s rather sexist, with these women all throwing themselves like objects at Clark’s feet, just because he’s the only man around. I think a barking dog could have played Jo Van Fleet’s part just as successfully, and the daughters-in-law are all caricatures, except for Eleanor. Clark is wasted here in a role pretty much any run-of-the-mill actor could have handled.
In a Nutshell: Band of Angels (1957)
Directed by: Raoul Walsh
Co-stars: Yvonne de Carlo, Sidney Poitier
Synopsis: In this Civil War epic, De Carlo is Amantha Starr, a Kentucky belle who has lived a life of privilege on her father’s plantation. While she is away at finishing school, her father dies. When she returns for his funeral, she learns that as her father was deep in debt and all his assets are being sold. She is shocked when, as the debt collectors round up his slaves for auction, she is told that she too will be on the auction block. She was never told that her mother, long deceased, was an African American slave. She is immediately put on a boat for New Orleans to be part of a slave auction. Wealthy Hamish Bond (Gable) shows up and wins her for $5,000. At first, she is very unhappy and disagreeable towards Hamish, but soon she grows great affection for him. She turns down his his offer for her to be sent to Cincinnati to be free and joins him instead on his plantation in southern Louisiana. But their romance is doomed when Amantha learns the truth about Hamish’s past.
Best Gable Quote: “You know I know better than most men that money is no cure-all. I used to think it was. I used to think it would open the door to friendship and other essentials more important than power. I used to believe it was everything. A drug for loneliness, a painkiller for certain memories–a whole apothecary shop for every problem of life.”
Fun Fact: The film was a complete flop and was critically panned. It was inevitably compared to Gone with the Wind and critics found the chemistry between Clark and Yvonne de Carlo “absurd.” Although Parnell is usually mentioned as being Clark’s worst and most critically panned film, technically Band of Angels lost more money and received far worse reviews.
My Verdict: Here’s what’s wrong with this film: A flimsy plot (on what planet is Yvonne de Carlo half black?), a humdrum script and lack of zingy chemistry with de Carlo, who was young enough to be his daughter and looked it. I just can’t bring myself to accept the romance in this film. He bought her, dressed her up and pretty much informed her don’t worry, he knows she hates him now, but eventually she’ll give in and sleep with him. And she does. Gee, how romantic. It’s another Clark-the-rogue and it’s not an awful film by any means, but not worthy of being one of Clark’s last.