This month is an eighth-billed, mustache-less Clark Gable as a noble laundryman in The Easiest Way.
In this scandalous pre-code, Laura Murdock (Constance Bennett) is a young woman anxious to escape her impoverished family. She quickly realizes that the easiest way to do that is by being “kept” by rich men. She begins an affair with afluent businessman William (Adolphe Menjou), who keeps her in furs and expensive jewels. Although this brings her the riches and lifestyle she has always dreamed of, it alienates her from the man she really loves (Robert Montgomery) and her family. Especially her sister, Peg (Anita Page), who married hard-working blue collar Nick (Clark Gable), who bans Laura from their house for her indecent behavior.
The theme of this film was pretty common for the era but is very outdated now. Laura is having sex with a man without being married to him and in return he lavishes her with anything she desires. As a result, her mother will have nothing to do with her, calling her immoral. The only members of her family willing to speak to her are her lazy drunk father, who doesn’t care where the money is coming from as long as it’s coming in, and her sister Peg who tries very hard to have a relationship with her despite her husband forbidding it. You don’t see many people turning their backs on family members for having sex with or living with men out of wedlock nowadays!
I find Constance Bennett rather cold and her expressions tend to range from about A to C. Robert Montgomery is his usual buoyant self, and you feel badly that his heart is broken by Laura. Adolphe Menjou is young looking here and is playing a role he played very well and quite often–the rich businessman. I find it rather funny that the film makes Adolphe out to be some kind of villain. Sure, it isn’t right to essentially pay a woman to sleep with you and not marry her, but he is kind of a victim as well, since Constance uses him then drops him like a hot potato then comes begging when she needs more money, then is willing to leave him again at a drop of a hat. Guess that’s the risk you take by not marrying the girl!
This of course being a pre-code, Constance’s Laura must pay for her sins. She can not have a happily ever after. She must lose everything in the end, as bad girls should! The last scene of the film, where Nick takes in his immoral sister-in-law on Christmas Eve, is pretty much the only semblance of a Christmas scene Clark ever filmed.
Clark and Anita represent the “right way” of doing things. Clark starts out just driving the laundry truck as he saves money to marry Anita. By the end of the picture he owns his own laundry business and the couple has a nice home and a chubby toddler. Constance’s way up the ladder is “the easiest,” but not the proper way, scolds the film.
It’s rather funny that while Clark plays the noble and hard-working everyman in this picture, later this same year he is the rich man with the mistress in Possessed. And while he’s eighth billed in this one, he’s second billed in Possessed!
Clark looks rather hunky here, all young and chiseled and rather brutish. His scenes with Anita Page are very sweet. His voice is a tad higher than usual, something he worked the kinks out of by the end of the year.
Just four years later, Constance Bennett would be Clark Gable’s leading lady in the lackluster After Office Hours. Apparently on the set of The Easiest Way, Constance was quite the diva and ignored Clark and Anita between takes. When they filmed After Office Hours and Clark was more on Constance’s star level, she practically threw himself at him. Clark despised diva behavior and hadn’t forgotten; he rebuffed her and the set was rather chilly.
Anita Page died just a few years ago and spoke fondly of Clark and their lone picture together. She claims they had an affair during filming.