Strange Interlude (1932)
Release Date: December 30,1932
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Available on DVD through The Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Gable is Dr. Ned Darrell, who has fallen in love with Nina Leeds (Shearer), a free-spirited young woman who is mourning the loss of her love in World War I. Also in love with her are family friend Charlie (Morgan) and Sam (Kirkland), a friend of her deceased boyfriend. Sam proposes to Nina and even though she is still heartbroken, she accepts and decides to move on with her life. Right after their marriage, Sam’s mother (May Robson) tells Nina that she and Sam must never have a child because insanity runs rampant in Sam’s father’s side of the family. She recommends that Nina give Sam a child fathered by another man to keep him happy and never let him know the truth. Devastated by the news, Nina turns to Ned for advice and Ned agrees that she must give Sam a child to make him happy. Ned volunteers to sire the child and soon they are in a passionate affair behind Sam’s back. A boy is born to Nina and Sam never suspects that the child is not his. Jealous Charlie watches this all unfold, pining for Nina all the while. Years pass and Nina and Ned constantly struggle with their love for each other and whether or not to tell Sam the truth.
Movie Classic magazine, September 1932:
I’m proud to inform you that, no matter how “Strange Interlude” affects you, you will not forget it. It’s an experience you’ll talk about, after you untangle your emotions. They have pared down the five hours of Eugene O’Neill’s stage play to two hours on the screen–but the story of his frustrated heroine and the effect of her steadily mounting tragedy on those whose lives are bound up with hers is till there in all its emotional intensity. Norma Shearer, as Nina, loses her crispness and touches greatness; Clark Gable, as Dr, Darrell, her lover, is newly, intensely sensitive; Alexander Kirkland, as Sam, her husband, is convincingly harmless; Ralph Morgan, as Marsden, the sharp, old-maidish friend, is bitingly amusing. Their changes from youth to old age will amaze you; the way in which their inner thoughts are revealed will fascinate you. there was never another picture like this!
Photoplay magazine, September 1932:
Not as rollicking or thrilling film entertainment is this picture given the place of honor among the month’s productions. But Photoplay goes on record as keenly appreciating the courage and ability of Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, its producers, and must point out the significance of this contribution to screen art. We have been reading a lot of criticism from screen reviewers. This picture is a devastating answer. Get behind this picture, you highbrow critics, or holr your peace. See this picturem, fans, and do your bit to encourage men who dare to spend a fortune to produce such a radical departure from screen fare.
Eugene O’Neill is the Pooh-Bah of theatrical intellectuals. The story of “Strange Interlude” is a morbid one, deficient in the action of the medium into which it is wonderfully transalated. It is a tale of a nurotic woman and her three lovers, from youth to old age. Its pace is tedious at times. Its adaptation, direction and acting are superb. Its novelty is the utterance of unspoken thoughts, a technical and at times confusing device, but intensely interesting.
Norma Shearer here takes her place among the great artists of her day. Clark gable does his finest technical screen work as he ages over a period of forty years. Ralph Morgan, Alexander Kirkland and Robert Young share honors.
Photoplay magazine, February 1933:
From a technical standpoint–the most daring picture ever produced. Imagine Eugene O’Neill’s analytical play in movies! The utterance of unspoken thoughts makes the film both novel and interesting. Norma Shearer and Clark Gable astonishingly good. (Sept.)
“Certainly, Nina.” first line
“I couldn’t share a woman–even with a ghost.”
“You must admit that these triangular scenes are to say the least humiliating.”
“You’re simply letting your romantic imagination run away with you.”
“I couldn’t forget you. Other women only made me love you more. It was always you in my arms.”
“To kill happiness is a worse murder than taking life.”
“You can’t experiment or meddle with human lives. But if you do, you have to have the courage to follow through.”
“See here, son, there are things a man of honor doesn’t tell anyone. Not even his mother and father.”
“Both our lives have been pretty futile, Nina.”
“Goodbye, Nina.” last line
Behind the Scenes:
Based on the popular Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Eugene O’Neill, Strange Interlude is different from most pre-code melodramas in that the viewer gets to hear the characters’ thoughts, told in voice-overs while the actors stand there with funny looks on their faces. The effect was much more successful on stage when the thoughts were told as side monologues.
MGM studio head Irving Thalberg (also Shearer’s husband) personally supervised the production of this film. Gable felt uneasy having Thalberg on the set–especially while he was filming love scenes with Shearer, who never wore any underwear.
This is the first Gable film to feature him with a mustache, although it was a fake one applied by the makeup department to make him look older.