In a Nutshell: After Office Hours (1935)
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Co-stars: Constance Bennett, Billie Burke, Harvey Stephens
Synopsis: Gable is fast-talking, take-no-prisoners-newspaper editor Jim Branch, who is determined to dig up a juicy story on a corrupt millionaire. He starts sucking up to the newspaper’s music reviewer, wealthy socialite Sharon Norwood (Bennett), when he discovers she is close to the impending story. After the millionaire’s wife turns up dead, Sharon and Jim disagree on the culprit. Jim becomes determined to crack the case and reunite with Sharon, whom he has now fallen in love with.
Best Gable Quote: “You mean I’ve got to get out and walk home–like a girl?” (That line always makes me laugh, it’s so absurd)
Fun Fact: Constance Bennett was quite flirty with Gable during filming. He ignored her for the most part, thinking her a prima donna. He had not forgotten how poorly she had treated him when he was a bit player and she was the star in The Easiest Way.
My Verdict: Rather humdrum, forced newspaper comedy that wants to be It Happened One Night but isn’t. Bennett and Gable have no sparks. The murder plot meanders so much and their romance is so forced that in the end the whole film seems run of the mill. This one is forgettable. Not awful, but forgettable.
In a Nutshell: Call of the Wild (1935)
Directed by: William Wellman
Co-stars: Loretta Young, Jack Oakie
Synopsis: Gable is Jack Thornton, on the hunt for a gold mine through the tundra with his sidekick Shorty (Oakie). As they struggle through the mountains in the bitter cold, they encounter Claire Blake (Young) who is stranded alone after her husband left her to search for food. They discover that Claire and her husband were after the same gold mine. Aided by their trusty dog Buck, they find the mine and along the way Claire and Jack fall in love. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as Claire’s husband reappears and a rival turns up to claim the mine as his own.
Best Gable Quote: “I wanted you. And I took you with us. Well, I’m keeping you.”
Fun Fact: Gable and Young had an affair during filming. Only the cast and crew of the film knew about it then and the affair ended after filming wrapped. Young became pregnant and had the baby, a girl named Judy, on November 6, 1935. Gable never admitted parentage and Young put the child in an orphanage and then “adopted” her months later. She only admitted the truth to Judy in the 1990′s, shortly before her death. Judy wrote a book about the experience being the secret love child of two classic stars, called Uncommon Knowledge. Read more about it here.
My Verdict: The scandal surrounding the filming of this movie is what draws people to it nowadays, I think. And with that Loretta Young romance being considered, it is definitely an essential for Gable fans to see. But all that aside, this atill stands as a really good film. The Washington location shoot and its bitter cold may have been less than ideal shooting conditions but they definitely add perfect ambiance, as too many times did the studios throw together a film like this on their backlot and the outcome is less than ideal. Loretta and Clark are so sweet together and their scenes together just sparkle. Being a dog lover myself, I like Clark scenes with Buck, as he is just a natural with animals and it shows. This is not the most faithful adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel, but it’s a delightful film and a must see.
In a Nutshell: Chained (1934)
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Otto Kruger
Synopsis: Gable is Mike Bradley, a South American rancher who falls for the glamorous Diana (Crawford) on a cruise ship. Diana falls for Mike too, despite the fact that she is romantically involved with a married Manhattan businessman, Richard (Kruger). She decides to leave Richard for Mike but, upon her return home, Richard tells her he has finally left his wife for her. Diana feels obligated to marry Richard and Mike is heartbroken.
Best Gable Quote: “I admit I was on the prowl until you dropped down from the sky.”
Fun Fact: The Crawford-Gable affair had cooled off by this time, as she was with Franchot Tone and he was seeing Elizabeth Allan as well as still being married to Ria. Joan claims however, that they still had some “alone moments” on the set.
My Verdict: Enjoyable little ship romance. The script is good and it’s actually a good little plot, although the conclusion seems a bit farfetched to me. I really like Clark and Joan’s chemistry in this film, mainly because it is at times silly and sweet, rather than sultry. This role was no stretch for Clark, but the film is a good example of early 1930’s romance and it’s a good one to start with if you’re interested in seeing why Clark and Joan were paired together so many times.
In a Nutshell: Forsaking All Others (1934)
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery
Synopsis: Clark is Jeffrey Williams, who still harbors a childhood crush on Mary Clay (Crawford). Upon returning from a two year jaunt in Spain, he has plans to finally propose to her until he learns that she is set to marry his best friend, Dillon “Dill” Todd (Montgomery), the next day. He swallows his feelings and agrees to give the bride away. Dill gets an unexpected visit from an old flame, Connie Barnes (Francis Drake), and ends up running off to marry her, sending Mary a telegram explaining and apologizing. Heartbroken, Mary retreats to a cabin to nurse her wounds. She decides to come back to town with encouragement from Jeff and after receiving an invitation from Connie to attend her and Dill’s dinner party. At the party, Dill realizes he is still in love with Mary and soon after they begin seeing each other again, behind Connie’s back. Jeff is Mary’s voice of reason, trying to tell her that Dill will only break her heart again and she is leaving herself vulnerable, all the while hiding his feelings.
Best Gable Quote: “You’re an idiot. A spoiled, silly brat that needs a hairbrush every now and then.” (How many people would dare say that to Joan Crawford?!)
Fun Fact: The screenplay was based on a 1933 play of the same name that starred Tallulah Bankhead. The play had much more of a sexual undertone which was watered down for the film version.
My Verdict: I love the script to this film; it really gives life to what would otherwise have been a rather tired and hokey premise. The film overall is rather silly but it’s great fun. The cast is phenomenal: Gable, Crawford, Montgomery, Billie Burke, even Rosalind Russell in a tiny part. Enjoyable, lovable 30’s romantic comedy fluff.
From September 1931:
Clark Gable is playing opposite Greta Garbo in her new picture. One day at lunch he was approached by an ambitious reporter. “How do you find Miss Garbo?” he was asked.
“I don’t,” said Clark. “She is always on the set ahead of me.”
And what’s more–they say Clark isn’t a bit “scared” of Greta like most of the other leading men who have played opposite her.
In a Nutshell: Men in White (1934)
Directed by: Richard Boleslawski
Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Allan, Otto Kruger
Synopsis: Gable is George Ferguson, a young doctor working hard to prove himself at a New York hospital. He puts medicine and his patients before all else, much to the chagrin of his heiress fiancé, Laura (Loy). He soon learns that all work and no play lead him open to temptation and he falls for Barbara (Allan), a nurse, with devastating consequences.
Best Gable Quote: “What good’s a profession that can’t give you bread and butter after you’ve wasted ten years of your life at it?”
Fun Fact: On the set of this film, Clark began a two-year romance with his married co-star Elizabeth Allan.
My Verdict: I’ve always thought this must have been a better play than a film. The restraints on what they could portray on film were too tight on this tale of sex and abortion. It is rather hard to follow when the main plot points are only hinted at. The Art Deco hospital set is gorgeous (and a bit ridiculous) and Myrna Loy had never looked more beautiful. Clark is showing eeks of dramatic chops here and it works, although his constant costume of what looks like a white Frankenstein costume completely with clunky white shoes isn’t at all flattering!
In a Nutshell: Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Co-stars: Myrna Loy, William Powell
Synopsis: Gable is Blackie Gallagher, a gambling, gun-slinging gangster, who remains best friends with his childhood pal, Jim Wade (Powell), an ambitious lawyer. Blackie’s girl, Eleanor (Loy) grows tired of the shady side of life and soon falls in love with Jim and marries him. Jim is promoted to district attorney and starts a campaign to become New York’s next governor. When a blackmailer threatens Jim’s campaign, Blackie decides to handle the situation himself and kills the man. On trial, Jim has no choice but to prosecute Blackie and he is sentenced to death. The conviction helps Jim win the election, but on the day of Blackie’s execution, Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie and reveals to him that Blackie killed the man to protect Jim. Jim rushes to the prison to commune Blackie’s sentence, but Blackie refuses to let Jim waver on his original decision. After Blackie is put to death, Jim resigns as governor and makes up with Eleanor at the fade out.
Best Gable Quote: “If I can’t live the way I want, at least let me die when I want.”
Fun Fact: The first film that costarred Myrna Loy and William Powell. They hadn’t even met before they began filming their first scene. Director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke noticed their onscreen chemistry and requested them both to star in his next feature, The Thin Man. They would go on to become one of classic film’s most popular onscreen duos, starring in fourteen films together.
My Verdict: The cast makes this one. Carole Lombard’s past husband and future husband are good sparring partners. Willam Powell is perfect as the straight-laced politician and of course Clark is at home as the gamblin’ shootin’ rogue. Myrna Loy is gorgeous and gives a fine performance as the woman caught between two men, one good for her and one not. The film is a nice mix of gangster, drama and romance.
It has some interesting quotes from Clark Gable about playing Rhett Butler:
“One critic’s going to cause me trouble. I feel it in my bones. He said I ought to retire because I could never top my performance as Rhett. I like to be patted on the back as well as the next guy, but, boy, that pat has the makings of a knockout blow. I don’t want people getting the idea that, from here on, I’ll be slipping. God forbid. And I don’t want people going to see Gable in Gone with the Wind and coming way disappointed because they expected to see a super-Gable. There just ain’t no such animal.”
“I tried to duck that Rhett assignment, you know. I didn’t want any part of it. I had my neck out far enough; acting characters that only script writers had ideas about in advance, without sticking it out where everybody could take a swipe at it. Everybody this side of Tibet had read the book, and everybody had different ideas about Rhett, and it was a cinch I couldn’t please everybody.”
“They tried to tell me I was ‘everybody’s choice for the role.’ They showed me carloads of letters to ‘prove’ it. The only way that made me feel good was that, in case I did play the role and there were any complaints”—he grinned again—“I could always say, ‘Folks, you asked for it!’”
“Then they tried to make out that Margaret Mitchell had had me in mind when she created the character. That didn’t go down with me. The book came out in 1936. She had been writing it for three solid years before that, and planning it for years before that. According to my figuring, she thought of Rhett Butler long before anybody, anywhere, thought of me twice.”
“I had an answer for all their arguments except one. That one floored me. It was: if I played Rhett, Selznick would release the picture through MGM, which would mean a lot to the home team.
“…But once I got into the spirit of the thing, I played my fool head off. And had a good time doing it—with Victor Fleming coaching and with running mates like Leigh and Howard and de Havilland. The only thing that bothers me is: I still don’t know what kind of showing I made.
“I like the picture; I think it’s a good one; but that doesn’t mean a thing. I got paid for making it. Besides, any ham likes any picture that gives him a meaty role. And what critics say doesn’t mean much, either. They see shows on passes. The opinion I’m waiting for is the opinion of the fellow who plunks down thirty-five cents of his own hard-earned dough to see it. Meanwhile, I’m not retiring.”
You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.
In a Nutshell: It Happened One Night (1934)
Directed by: Frank Capra
Co-stars: Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Synopsis: Gable is Peter Warne, a cocky newspaperman who has just been fired. On a bus to New York, he meets Ellie Andrews (Colbert), a runaway heiress, on her way to be reunited with her new husband whom her father detests. Peter soon realizes her identity and befriends her so he can get the exclusive story. Along the way, after masquerading as man and wife at an auto camp, sleeping in a field, hitch hiking and stealing a car, they fall in love. When Peter leaves Ellie at a motel in the middle of the night to try and get some money from his old boss to marry her, she mistakenly thinks he has left her for good and calls her father (Connolly) and husband to pick her up. Peter is heartbroken and so is Ellie. She agrees to her father’s wishes that she re-marry her husband, since they were not married by a priest. On her re-wedding day, Peter shows up to collect money from her father for what he spent on her during the trip. He admits to her father that he loves her.
Best Gable Quote: “Perhaps you’re interested in how a man undresses. You know, it’s a funny thing about that. Quite a study in psychology, no two men do it alike. You know, I once knew a man who kept his hat on until he was completely undressed. Yeah, now he made a picture. Years later his secret came out—he wore a toupee. Yeah. No, I have a method all my own. If you notice the coat came first then the tie then the shirt. Now, uh, according to hoyle, after that the pants should be next. Here’s where I’m different. I go for the shoes next. First the right then the left. After that it’s every man for himself.” (Ok, it is nearly impossible to pick one great quote, there are so many, but I had to pick the undressing scene)
Fun Fact: Gable won his only Academy Award for this film; his first nomination. It Happened One Night was the first film to sweep the main categories of the awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Only two films have accomplished the feat since: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs.
My Verdict: Do I really need to go into why this one is a Gable Essential? It is comedy perfection in every element. Romantic, silly, sweet, and dramatic all in one. The script is absolutely wonderful, the direction excellent and Clark and Claudette are perfect. It is a simple little film, with the characters making nary a costume change and the settings far from glamorous, but it is that great script and the superb acting that makes it great. It is so romantic that at the end it surprises you when you realize that Clark and Claudette don’t kiss even once. I completely love this film.
In a Nutshell: Dancing Lady (1933)
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire
Synopsis: 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.
Best Gable Quote: “If you don’t get a good break, you get a bad one. That’s show business.”
Fun Fact: This film is the debut of Fred Astaire. His first scene was with Clark.
My Verdict: Clark hated this film. He said repeatedly for years afterward that he didn’t want to do the part and that he was miscast. He was also horribly sick on the set, suffering from pyorrhea and a life-threatening fever, so that probably didn’t help his opinion. That being said, I like it. The dance numbers are gorgeous and impressive in scale. Joan does an excellent job keeping up with Fred Astaire, which is not an easy feat. I do like these early 1930’s musicals, always with the broke girls with runs in their stockings finally hitting the big time on stage. I would say this is a good film but it is not because of Clark. Really, he is right, he was miscast. His character is moody and always yelling at everybody. This one, the rating is a bit complicated. If you are watching it because it has Clark Gable in it, then it’s two mustaches. But if you are watching it for Joan Crawford and all the singing and dancing, it’s much better.
In a Nutshell: Hold Your Man (1933)
Directed by: Sam Wood
Co-stars: Jean Harlow, Stuart Erwin, Dorothy Burgess
Synopsis: Gable is Eddie Hall, a small-time con man on the run from the cops when he bursts into Ruby Adams’ (Jean Harlow) apartment and finds her in the bathtub. Ruby and Eddie quickly realize they are two peas in a pod: she is somewhat of a con artist herself, seducing and manipulating men to get what she wants. This is definitely pre-production code stuff, as the film offers no innuendo to cover up the fact that Eddie and Ruby are sleeping together. One of Eddie’s cons goes bad and he ends up in jail. Ruby is waiting for him upon his release and they quickly hatch a plan to con money out of one of Ruby’s suitors. It turns sour when Eddie becomes jealous and accidently kills the man. When the cops arrive, Ruby and Eddie are on their way back from getting a marriage license. Ruby gets lost in the crowd and nabbed by the cops, while Eddie escapes. She is sentenced to two years in a women’s reformatory. Soon after arriving there, she realizes she is pregnant. When Eddie learns of her pregnancy, he rushes to be by her side.
Best Gable Quote: “Don’t be so hard to get—I’m the fellow that saw you in the bathtub!”
Fun Fact: Adapted from a story by Anita Loos, a screenwriter on the MGM payroll. It was rushed into production as the studio was anxious to reteam Gable and Harlow after Red Dust was a smash hit.
My Verdict: I really love this film. Clark and Jean are crooks—better suited roles for them that society types–and their chemistry is white hot. I love the rather brazen indications of their indiscretions—her eating breakfast at his place in the morning after he had chased her into the bedroom the night before. And an illegitimate pregnancy was not something you would see even hinted at on the screen just a year later. There are points in the film in which both Clark and Jean get to show comedic AND dramatic chops. The script is snappy and the supporting cast is great. One of my personal favorites.
In a Nutshell: Night Flight (1933)
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Co-stars: John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy
Synopsis: Gable does not appear until a good twenty minutes into this ensemble piece. It is a tale of 24 dramatic hours in the Air Mail industry, where pilots risk their lives every day flying through the pitch black night with limited instruments and no lights guiding the way. This time, it’s a vaccine needed at a children’s hospital in South America. Gable is Jules, a pilot who has lost his way somewhere over Texas, while his wife (Hayes) waits at home for him and grows more and more frantic. Gable’s scenes are limited to a cockpit.
Best Gable Quote: He has no decent lines.
Fun Fact: Gable’s first experience working with producer David O. Selznick, with whom he would later work on Gone with the Wind.
My Verdict: This film is entirely reliant on the star power of its roster rather than plot or substance. It is slow and plodding and an utter waste of all these big stars. Clark and Helen Hayes are reteamed as husband and wife, but their interaction is limited to her talking to his portrait. Clark appears 20 minutes into the film and all of his scenes are in a cockpit. He was put on this film as just another name to add to this all star roster; a much smaller actor could have handled the role; he is completely wasted in this.
In a Nutshell: Strange Interlude (1932)
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Co-stars: Norma Shearer, Alexander Kirkland, Ralph Morgan
Synopsis: 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.
Best Gable Quote: “I couldn’t forget you. Other women only made me love you more. It was always you in my arms.”
Fun Fact: 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.
My Verdict: This one is soapy, soapy, soapy. The “thoughts” of the characters being heard while they stand there with blank looks on their faces becomes very tiresome before you’re halfway through the movie. The more times I see it, the more I can’t stand Norma Shearer’s selfish Nina, who destroys many lives in her self- righteous path. Having a child by another man so that her husband’s family gene of insanity won’t be passed down it an absolutely ludicrous scenario nowadays and it seems silly even portrayed in the film. It is not a bad film overall, it just comes across as extremely dated. Worth it to see Clark in his first onscreen mustache and the first pairing of him with the illustrious Norma.
Directed by: Victor Fleming
Co-stars: Helen Hayes, Lewis Stone
Synopsis: Gable is Giovanni Severa, a pilot in the Italian Air Force. He meets Angela (Hayes), an aristocratic daughter of a prince (Stone). Her father opposes their romance but they steal moments together anyway. When Giovanni goes off to fight in the 1914-1918 war, Angela waits for him so they can get married. When she learns he has died in combat, she knows she will never love again and joins a convent.
Best Gable Quote: “I’m fighting for our love. If it means disgrace then at least we have each other!” (GROAN)
Fun Fact: The film was essentially a remake of a remake, as it had been filmed twice before, in 1923 (with Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman) and in 1915.
My Verdict: I generally like romantic movies, but this one is Valentine’s Day with roses and chocolates and dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower with jewelry and violinists. It’s just too sugary sweet. It seems so odd that rough-and-tumble man’s man Victor Fleming directed this. Clark is reduced to a quivering, lovelorn sack and he looks a bit dopey with the too-thin mustache and oddly boxy uniform. I respect Helen Hayes as an actress but she is badly paired with Clark here. She is only a few months older than him, but for some reason she comes across extremely matronly, like he’s making kissy faces at his mother.! I have only seen this movie twice because, quite simply, I just don’t like it!
From February 1941:
More and more it’s becoming apparent in Hollywood that one movie career and one only in the family is the rule for happy marriage. With this so apparent, one smart girl, who loves her husband above all else, is taking steps in the right direction.
Yes, Carole Lombard, who loves her husband Clark Gable so devotedly, has announced in the future she’ll make only one picture a year.
“At the very most, I’ll make three in two years,” Carole said. “I want to be free to join Clark in his between picture vacations.”
Maybe Carole has in mind that vacation Bob Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck have been trying to take together for several years. But either Bob is free whil Barbara works or it’s the other way around.
At any rate, the two-career marriage have only a 50-50 chance, it seems, and Carole Lombard is taking no chances with hers.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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- Nutshell Reviews: Comrade X (1940) and They Met in Bombay (1941)
- Gone with the Wednesday: Clark Gable Reflects Back on Rhett Butler
- Nutshell Reviews: Strange Cargo (1940) and Boom Town (1940)
- Nutshell Review: Gone with the Wind (1939)
- Nutshell Reviews: Saratoga (1937), Test Pilot (1938), Too Hot to Handle (1938) and Idiot’s Delight (1939)
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