This month, Joan Crawford is a plucky newspaper reporter and Clark Gable is a loathsome gangster in Dance Fools Dance.

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Crawford is Bonnie Jordan, a rich girl suddenly thrown into the real world after her father dies and she finds out all his money is gone. She goes to work as a writer for the local newspaper. One of her assignments is to go undercover and get a story on a gangster, Jake (Gable). As Jake pursues her romantically, Bonnie finds out that her unscrupulous brother Rodney (William Bakewell) has hooked up with Jake’s gang and is in deep trouble.

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Joan and Clark were steaming things up behind the scenes at this point and it definitely shows. Their chemistry is crackling. But Clark is the baddie here so Joan is supposed to resist his charms!

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Clark does not get much character development here–his character is bad, that’s all. Much like Night Nurse, the one dimensional baddie is rather stale, but to be expected in this kind of quickie pre-code. Clark was still the newcomer here and was billed way behind big star Joan.

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He gets to mutter these typical mobster lines:

“Now listen, kid. Money talks. And remember, in this business it’s the only thing that talks.”

“If we take you on, there’s certain rules of the game you’ve got to learn. Keeping your mouth shut’s one of them. But first, no matter what happens, don’t talk.”

“Now listen close. ‘Cause I don’t repeat myself! You got us into this jam and you’re going to get us out!”

“If you don’t come through, they’ll be a double murder!”

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And of course he’s got some sly lines for Joan:

“You’ve got me glowing, sister.”

“You’re going to have a little supper with me tonight. Upstairs in my room. We’ve got to get better acquainted.”

“It’s hard to believe a girl like you ever came from Missouri.”

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Clark is only in a handful of scenes. The film is all Joan’s, as she struggles in her usual shopgirl-makes-good way. But she’s pretty darn good at it, after all.

clark gable dance fools dance

One piece of notoriety to the film is that (SPOILER!) it is one of the few Gable films in which he dies. Meets his end by gunshot–in true early 1930’s fashion, with a puff of smoke and no blood!

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Joan once said of the film, “It was a disaster! I gave a lousy performance; that overacting thing again.” While I wouldn’t call it a disaster by any means, it is rather a play-by-numbers pre-code gangster film. A review in a fan magazine at the time states it is “a rehash of half a dozen racketeer films with a touch of a newspaper influence so popular. It is as synthetic a picture as you will find in all Hollywood’s desperate stenciling.”

The film is definitely not a milestone on Clark’s career bu any means, but it is an interesting little stepstone of a film for him. I’ve always liked to watch these little beginner films of his; it’s such a dramatic change from brutish, one-dimensional gangster roles to rogue leading man just a few short years later.

Dance Fools Dance is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

Read more here and see pictures from the film in the gallery.