Dancing Lady (1933)
Release Date: November 24, 1933
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Gable is Patch Gallagher, a short-fused Broadway producer who hires down-on-her-luck ex-burlesque dancer Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) for the chorus line of his latest show. Janie is constantly pursued by a rich playboy admirer, Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). Patch begins to have feelings for plucky Janie, but grows bitter as it becomes obvious she is wrapped up with Tod. When he promotes her to the lead in the production, Tod becomes impatient (Janie said she’d marry him if the play fell through) and pays off the Broadway powers-that-be to shut the play down. Janie finds out of his deceit (thanks to a drunken Patch) and dumps Tod. She encourages Patch to put on the show all on his own. The conclusion, the showing of the production, is a beautiful art deco showcase of dancing, singing and spectacular sets.
Dancing Lady was conceived to compete with rival Warner Brothers’ hit, 42nd Street. Crawford was the main attraction and producer David Selznick (who Gable later worked with on Gone with the Wind) used the vehicle to showcase newcomers Nelson Eddy and Fred Astaire, as well as Ted Healy and his Three Stooges. Also look for an almost-unrecognizable (if it wasn’t for that voice) Eve Arden as a blonde in a small role.
Photoplay magazine, February 1934
Top notch entertainment that should please the majority of movie-goers. A musical production with the usual backstage atmosphere–which differs only in that it has an interesting story woven through it.
As Janie, a young dancer who makes her way (through the kindnesses of Franchot Tone, wealthy playboy) from burlesque to lead in a Broadway musical directed by Patch Gallagher, Joan Crawford gives an admirable performance.
Clark Gable, as the hardboiled director, is well cast. May Robson, Minnie Lightner, Sterling Holloway, Ted Healy and his stooges all do fine work. Art Jarrett and Nelson Eddy lend fine vocal accompaniment.
The dance scenes are dazzling in extravagant splendor. Fred Astaire and Joan are a perfect complement.
Screenland magazine, February 1934:
This is the picture that took so long to make that it kept your Joan Crawford off the country’s screens for almost eight months. Was it worth it? Well, I can say honestly that it’s a glittering and rather gorgeous movie that it will bring back the Crawford you seem to prefer, the colorful heroine of “Our Dancing Daughters,” and that it will not fail to entertain you. Yes, it’s another musical—but it’s one of the best. And it’s novel to see a star of Crawford’s caliber actually dancing, and effectively, too. The film opens with Joan doing a “strip tease” in a burlesque show. The theatre is raided and our heroine is jailed until Franchot “Park Avenue Playboy” Tone comes to the rescue. She then battles her way to Broadway stardom under the tutelage of Clark Gable, who plays a hard-boiled dance director. And incidentally, Gable gives one grand performance here. Ted Healy and his stooges are priceless. But the film is mostly Crawford—practically a one-girl show! Grand if you like the star. A good show even if you don’t. You’ll like seeing Joan and Gable together again.
Photoplay magazine, August 1934
A backstage musical with gorgeous settings, lovely girls, novel dance routines, some good song numbers, a real plot and cast of winners, including Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire. (Feb.)
“All right, all right, break it up, break it up!” first line
“With all the real talent gone to Hollywood, you’ve got to make the most of what you can get!”
“Sure I know how he is. I had a cousin like him once—we had to shoot him!”
“Those guys are a lot of silk hats and silk socks with nothing in between.”
“If you don’t get a good break, you get a bad one. That’s show business.”
“I’m a little drunk. Is that what you’re trying to say? Well, drunk or sober, my hat’s still off to you.
There’s more ways than one to close a show and you taught me a new one. What’s the matter, afraid your boyfriend will get a poke in the jaw for throwing a hundred people out of work so he can take you on a joy ride to Cuba?”
Behind the Scenes:
Gable was hospitalized early in the production due to a high fever. It was determined he had pyorrhea, from his rotting teeth and gums, that was starting to spread throughout his body. Almost all of his teeth were removed and then he had to wait for two weeks for his gums to heal before he could be fitted with dentures. They shot all the scenes without Gable and then production was shut down waiting for him to return. Producer David O. Selznick grew impatient and wanted to replace him with Robert Montgomery, but studio head Louis B. Mayer nixed the idea. Gable finally returned after six weeks, only to nearly collapse on the set and have to be rushed back to the hospital. When he was fully healed and returned again on October 20, he had been absent from the set since June 12 and the film was $150,000 over budget because of the delay.
During the filming, Gable and Crawford were in the midst of their love affair. She began to fall in love with costar Franchot Tone during Gable’s absence from the set, and by the time he returned, he found he had been replaced by Tone as the main visitor to Crawford’s dressing trailer.