This month, Clark is a tough cattle baron and Ava Gardner is a sassy newspaperwoman in 1800’s Texas in Lone Star (1952).

clark gable ava gardner lone star

In this semi-factual historical western, Gable is Devereaux Burke, a cattle baron enlisted by President Andrew Jackson (Barrymore) in 1845 to help convince Texas to become part of the United States. Gable encounters newspaperwoman Martha Ronda (Gardner) and her beau, Senator Thomas Craden (Crawford) who want Texas to become its own republic. Devereaux and Martha soon fall in love despite their differing opinions and he prepares for a final showdown with Craden.

This is definitely not Clark’s best Western….by a long shot. I daresay it’s his worst one. It tanked at the box office, with critics citing the lack of interest 1950’s audience had with a Western centering around Texas’ battle for independence.

clark gable lone star

What saves it from being entirely passable is his always reliable snap-crackle-pop chemistry with the lovely Ava Gardner. That chemistry is alive and poppin’ here, although one wonders why these two stars are wasted here with this mediocre plot and plodding script.

clark gable ava gardner lone star

In fact, the best scenes of the film are the small little moments between Clark and Ava. I do like his line: “It’s convenient to have a woman you can take for granted. Not very exciting but convenient. I’ve never been that lucky.”

clark gable ava gardner lone star

The brooding Broderick Crawford is the one-dimensional villain here, and he was as uninterested in the process as the rest of them. Director Sherman recalled that they all realized the film was awful during production, but being their assignment, got through it anyway without much gusto. Broderick Crawford was in a drunken stupor throughout filming and Gable and Gardner were just “showing up, reading lines and going home.”

clark gable ava gardner broderick crawford

The film has all the Clark Gable elements—he’s the rogue, wise crackin’ womanizer, full of wit and flirty lines, he punches a few guys out and wins the girl. But it all wasn’t cohesive here.

clark gable ava gardner

 

Clark was not in the best of spirits when filming began, as he had recently asked his fourth wife, Sylvia Ashley, for a divorce. His ranch home as in upheaval as she moved out and he began some construction to undo changes she had made. The stress of the situation caused him to drink more than usual and his head was not completely in the game on this one. Studio memos noted that “Gable doesn’t look like Gable anymore.”

clark gable ava gardner lone star

This film marks the last screen appearance of the legendary Lionel Barrymore, who was wheelchair bound by this time due to arthritis and an injured hip. Clark and director Vincent Sherman convinced him to take the small role of President Andrew Jackson.

clark gable lionel barrymore lone star

You can read more about the film here and see pictures from the film in the gallery.

 

In a Nutshell: Never Let Me Go (1953)

clark gable never let me go

Directed by: Delmer Daves

Co-stars: Gene Tierney

Synopsis: Gable is Philip Sutherland, an American war correspondent stationed in Moscow. He falls in love with Marya (Tierney), a Russian ballet dancer. After they wed, Philip receives orders to ship back to the United States, but they find that the Russian government will not grant Marya a passport to leave Russia. When Philip is tricked into leaving without her, he sets about forming a plan to smuggle her out of Russia.

Best Gable Quote: “When the time comes for me to go, you go with me or I don’t go at all.”

Fun Fact: Shot entirely in London, the coast of Cornwall and at MGM’s British studios. Filmed during a near-two year period in which Gable was overseas, filming also Betrayed (in Holland) and Mogambo (in Africa).

My Verdict: I didn’t like this one very much the first time I saw it, but it is one of those that I like a little bit more each time I see it. Although Gene was young enough to be Clark’s daughter, the romance here is very sweet and it is packed with suspense. I’ve always wished that they showed more of their relationship before they were thrust apart, just for dramatic effect, but that may just be me. Enjoyable film.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in August 2010.

In a Nutshell: Mogambo (1953)

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

Directed by: John Ford

Co-stars: Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden

Synopsis: This is a remake of Gable’s 1932 hit, Red Dust. The setting and character’s names have changed, but the basic love triangle plot remains the same. Gable is Victor Marswell, who earns his living in Africa by trapping wild animals for zoos and carnivals. His no-nonsense way of life is interrupted by the arrival of Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (Gardner), a sassy showgirl from New York who is stranded there. They clash at first but soon are bedfellows. Just as Honey Bear leaves, anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his lovely wife, Linda (Kelly) arrive. Honey Bear’s boat wrecks and when she returns to camp, she finds that Victor now only has eyes for Linda. Heartbroken, she watches their affair unfold behind Donald’s back. Filmed on location in Africa, Mogambo features beautiful scenery and native chants instead of an instrumental score.

Best Gable Quote: “Certainly I’m drunk. But I certainly know what I’m saying. Listen Mrs. Nordley, you’re not going to tell me that you’ve been taking all this seriously are you? You know how it is on safari–it’s in all the books. The women always falls for the white hunter and we guys make the most of it, can you blame us? When you all come along with that look in your eye, ain’t a guy in the whole world that could–”

Fun Fact: Gable and Kelly began a romance during the filming. She called him “Ba”, the Swahili word for father, and they spent their free time fishing together or in his tent. She told friends that they even went skinny-dipping in Lake Victoria. The affair quickly ended after the shoot was moved to London for the interiors and Kelly’s mother began chaperoning them.

My Verdict: I don’t really like to think of this as the remake of Red Dust, because I think the two films stand by themselves as different entities. While Red Dust was a steamy romance, Mogambo is more an adventure romance. Being shot on location in Africa, the settings are absolutely beautiful and certainly beat MGM-crafted jungles. Clark is very distinguished-looking here and tan—you don’t blame Ava and Grace one bit. He’s got chemistry with both, the script is great and there is no shortage of action and adventure.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in November 2012.

Ratings

 

In a Nutshell: Across the Wide Missouri (1951)

clark gable across the wide missouri

Directed by: William Wellman

Co-stars: Ricardo Montalban, Adolphe Menjou

Synopsis: Gable is Flint Mitchell, a fur trapper from Kentucky leading a group of French and Scottish trappers through the rugged West in the 1820′s. Battling Blackfoot Indians all the way, especially their chief Ironshirt (Montalban), he finds love with an Indian chief’s granddaughter (portrayed by Mexican actress Maria Elena Marques).

Best Gable Quote: “You’re full of magic…the one woman in the world for me and I love you, pigeon. Maybe I didn’t know it when  I found you but I know it now. You can’t understand what I’m trying to tell you and I don’t understand much you say. Someday, maybe.”

Fun Fact: Test audiences reacted negatively to the film, especially its bloated 135-minute running time. It was then edited down to 76 minutes and a narrator was added to fill in any plot holes that resulted. MGM musical star Howard Keel read the narration, uncredited.

My Verdict: Not the best Western in the world, but not really the worst. Clark looks quite handsome in this, his first color picture since GWTW. His hair is dyed dark black and he’s deeply tanned and in shape. The plot is a pretty basic Western one–cowboys vs. Indians–and the romance borders on creepy considering his wife is sold to him like a piece of meat and can’t speak English! Clark does what he can with the material.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

In a Nutshell: Lone Star (1952)

clark gable ava gardner broderick crawford lone star

Directed by: Vincent Sherman

Co-stars: Ava Gardner, Broderick Crawford

Synopsis: In this semi-factual historical western, Gable is Devereaux Burke, a cattle baron enlisted by President Andrew Jackson (Barrymore) in 1845 to help convince Texas to become part of the United States. Gable encounters newspaperwoman Martha Ronda (Gardner) and her beau, Senator Thomas Craden (Crawford) who want Texas to become its own republic. Devereaux and Martha soon fall in love despite their differing opinions and he prepares for a final showdown with Craden.

Best Gable Quote: “It’s convenient to have a woman you can take for granted. Not very exciting but convenient. I’ve never been that lucky.”

Fun Fact: The last film of the legendary Lionel Barrymore, who was wheelchair bound. Sherman and Gable both convinced him to take the small role of President Andrew Jackson.

My Verdict: Not very good. Rather boring and tedious. The best scenes are the ones between Ava and Clark, who snap and crackle with chemistry, but even they can save this dull plot and plodding script. Clark’s worst Western.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

Ratings

 

clark gable ava gardner grace kelly mogambo

This month’s film is the 1953 jungle romance-adventure Mogambo.

The most interesting thing about this film is that it is a remake of Red Dust, with Clark reprising his role. What man could reprise the leading role of the jungle Lothario twenty years later? Only Clark Gable, of course.

clark gable red dust

Clark Gable in Red Dust

clark gable mogambo

Clark Gable in Mogambo

Gable is Victor Marswell, who earns his living in Africa by trapping wild animals for zoos and carnivals. His no-nonsense way of life is interrupted by the arrival of Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (Ava Gardner), a sassy showgirl from New York who is stranded there. They clash at first but soon are bedfellows. Just as Honey Bear leaves, anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his lovely wife, Linda (Grace Kelly) arrive. Honey Bear’s boat wrecks and when she returns to camp, she finds that Victor now only has eyes for Linda. Heartbroken, she watches their affair unfold behind Donald’s back.

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

This film was a big hit for MGM–actually the biggest hit of Clark’s career since Gone with the Wind. He was relieved that the picture made money; none of his post-war films had been blockbusters. Much of it’s appeal was the fact that it was actually shot on location in Africa. Audiences of the 1950’s were becoming bored with mainstream moviefare as they could see the same thing at home on their newly acquired television sets. They wanted new and exciting things to draw them into the movie theaters. Mogambo certainly delivered that!

Clark is older, grayer and heavier, of course, but the film is no less steamier. I don’t really find myself comparing it to Red Dust when I watch it, as the films are similar really only in their floorplans–the decoration is all different. But there are a few notable comparisons.clark gable mogambo

The biggest difference between Red Dust and Mogambo would be that while Red Dust‘s Indochina was constructed completely on MGM’s backlot, Mogambo was filmed on location in Nairobi and Uganda. Clark filmed this during his two-year tax exile in which he also filmed Never Let Me Go and Betrayed. Only the last few weeks of filming took place in a sound stage in London. He was excited about filming in Africa, although he had trepidations about the journey, as his flight from Rome to Nairobi was the first plane he had boarded since Carole Lombard’s death in 1942.

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

The landscapes are beautiful–truly they could not have been faked on a soundstage. The lack of music isn’t noticeable although I do find myself tiring of the African chanting by the end. The footage of animals that is randomly interspersed into the action is rather laughable–especially the shots of the gorillas they are supposed to be hunting. It is rather obvious that they are shouting to the actors to “look afraid!” of invisible gorillas and then the grainy footage of wild gorillas is inserted. But no matter.

clark gable mogambo

Clark was pretty happy for the most part on the set, as he spent a lot of time at the nearby animal preserve and would rise early to go hunting. He butted heads several times with brutish director John Ford. By the time the shoot moved from the African jungle to the British soundstages, the two were hardly speaking.

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

Ava Gardner is perfect in the role of Honey Bear, handling equally the challenge of playing a woman who is carefree in spirit but also covering a broken heart.

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

Grace Kelly is stoic, prim and proper and so wide-eyed, like a child. I can’t blame her as she plays the role as written. If you were to compare her role to Mary Astor’s in Red Dust, you would find many differences. Mary’s adulterous wife was prim at the beginning but as the film went on she became sexier and sexier; her stolen moments with Clark are steamy.  You understand Clark’s desire to toss aside the too-easily-attainable Jean Harlow for the more hidden sexiness of Mary. Whereas in Mogambo I find myself wondering who in the world would cast aside fun-loving Ava for Grace with her chirpy accent and eye-batting innocence.

clark gable grace kelly mogambo

It is rather funny that there is more chemistry between Ava and Clark than Grace and Clark, as Grace was spending a lot of her time in Clark’s tent after hours. Grace was only 24 when this was filmed and Clark was 52. She was still a budding star and was  in awe of him from the beginning. She said, “There were two reasons I did Mogambo: a free trip to Africa and Clark Gable. If it had been filmed in Arizona, I wouldn’t have done it.”

clark gable grace kelly mogambo

Clark and Grace on the set

Grace fell desperately in love with Clark, which became commonplace for her to do with later male co-stars as well such as Bing Crosby and William Holden, and her intense attraction frightened off Clark. At first, he found her a great companion–beautiful, blonde and up for anything, she would rise early with him to go hunting. Their relationship quickly cooled when Grace’s mother joined her in England for the sound stage filming. You can read more about their short relationship here.

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

Clark and Ava on the set

Ava Gardner is one of those women that I can’t say whether or not her and Clark ever shared sheets. They seemed to have more of a buddy-buddy relationship and she wasn’t really his type–looks-wise. If they did, it definitely wasn’t on the set of Mogambo. Ava’s husband at the time, Frank Sinatra, flew in to spend the shoot with her. When the shoot extended over Christmas, MGM flew in food and Frank sang Christmas carols to entertain the cast and crew. While Clark and Grace were spending “quiet time” in Clark’s tent, Ava and Frank were anything but quiet in their tent–screaming at each other at all hours of the night. Sick of the constant fighting, Frank left before the shoot was over–also to do a screen test for a little film called From Here to Eternity. Soon after his departure, Ava’s scenes were put on hold as she flew to London to have an abortion. “I hated him so much then that I wanted his child to go unborn,” she later said.

clark gable ava gardner mogambo

Ava wasn’t the only one to go missing. Clark also delayed production when he ran a fever and developed a gum infection. He had to return to Los Angeles to have his dentist correct the problem.

No Oscar nod for Clark, but Ava was nominated for Best Actress and Grace for Best Supporting Actress the following year. Neither won, but at MGM’s urging Clark escorted Grace to the ceremony.

Mogambo is available on DVD in the Clark Gable Signature Collection. You can see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.

clark gable mogambo

clark gable deborah kerr the hucksters

Voted on by you Gable fans…The Hucksters is the Movie of the Month for February!

And the winner of The Hucksters on DVD is Debbie Moore, who voted via Facebook!

The Hucksters is my personal favorite of Clark’s films after he returned from the war. The script is good and with a cast that includes Deborak Kerr, Ava Gardner, Sydney Greenstreet and Adolphe Menjou, Clark is surrounded by talent. It was the first script offered to him after the war that he actually liked. The film is considered a drama, but it has some comedic moments and is really more of a satire, ridiculing the advertising industry.

clark gable the hucksters

Clark’s character, Victor “Vic” Norman ( a Don Draper of the 40’s!), is just home from the war and immediately sets his sights on returning to the advertising game. He seeks a job from Adolphe Menjou (an off screen pal of Gable). To land the job, he must entice a British widow (Deborah Kerr) to pose for a soap campaign. He falls in love with her, as a nightclub singer (a young and fresh-faced Ava Gardner, their first film together) falls for him. He is constantly at odds with himself: is all this manipulation and diminishing self respect worth it, just to please a bellowing soap company tycoon (Sydney Greenstreet)?

Ava Gardner, here at the very beginning of her career, is very beautiful here and the scenes between her and Clark have real sizzle.

clark gable ava gardner the hucksters

clark gable ava gardner the hucksters

I wouldn’t refer to what Clark and Deborah have as sizzle, persay, but I would say their chemistry works for what the picture calls for. Deborah’s character is supposed to be restrained and rather prudish, and Deborah fits the bill here.

clark gable deborah kerr the hucksters

clark gable deborah kerr the hucksters

Clark was at first very pleased with the casting of Deborah, since he liked being paired with new actresses instead of the same ones time and time again. But as the film went on and the MGM publicity machine started its work for the picture, he became rather annoyed at the film’s tagline, “Gable’s New Star is Deborah Kerr!”, meant to bolster American awareness of the British newcomer and to indicate how to pronounce her name.

clark gable deborah kerr the hucksters

Clark’s smooth talking is at home here in the advertising world and he isn’t holding back any punches, schmoozing clients, canoodling with both Deborah and Ava and sparring with Sydney Greenstreet.

clark gable sydney greenstreet the hucksters

You can read more on the film here, it’s available on DVD here and see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.