clark gable marion davies

This month, Clark’s a grumbling small-time boxer in a love-hate relationship with Marion Davies’ spunky waitress-turned dancer in Cain and Mabel.

Clark Gable is Larry Cain, a heavyweight boxer, whose publicity team cooks up a fake romance with Mabel O’Dare (Davies), an aspiring musical star, for publicity. The two loathe each other but begrudgingly agree to play along to help both of their careers. Of course along the way they actually do fall in love and decide to quit boxing and show business to be together. Their publicists won’t hear of it however and set to break them up.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

This is completely Marion’s film. She’s billed first and carries the majority of the scenes without Clark–heck, he doesn’t even appear until about 16 minutes into the film. Oooh and his first appearance is in his pajamas!

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Can you imagine slamming the door in Clark Gable’s face if he showed up in his pajamas and a robe?

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Clark at this point had grown fond of his signature mustache and was not amused when Marion specifically requested him for the part–but demanded he shave off his facial hair, claiming she was “allergic” to mustaches. He does look rather hunky though.

clark gable cain and mabel

Clark wins the heavyweight title but his fights aren’t popular enough to earn much of a profit. Marion gets a starring role on Broadway but her shows are hardly sell-outs. “The ushers are quitting because they’re scared of being alone in the dark!” her employer scoffs.

clark gable cain and mabel

So his support team and her support team decide that if they throw them together in a romance, the newspapers will eat it up and it will help both careers. Although both Marion and Clark are unwilling participants, the plan works–her shows are sell-outs and his fights are more popular than ever. Oh, but what happens when they actually DO fall in love?…

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

The plot is rather tired. They love each other, they hate each other, they love each other, they hate each other. When they do fall for each other, it’s sudden and you really have no idea why.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Water fights!

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Clark spends most of the film grumbling and insulting her:

“Someday I’ll meet that dame. When I do, I’ll spank her so tender she could sit on a newspaper and read the headlines!”

“I’m warning you, if I ever meet that dame, they’ll be throwing a benefit for her the next day!”

“If that galloping you were doing tonight is dancing, then I’ve seen the Russian ballet at a horse show!”

“I’m supposed to be a fighter and what am I doing–playing post office all over the front page with a dame!”

Marion was always one to be able to deliver a snappy comeback:

“You may be a champ to somebody but you’re just a punching bag with ears on it to me!”

“He’s got a swelled head so bad he could wear a bathtub for a hat!”

clark gable marion davies

She coos: “There’s something about you that’s very familiar. Oh yes, I remember: I had tripe for dinner!”

He replies: “I had ham, looks like I’m going to have some more.”

Yeah….this script is not exactly great material.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Marion can dance, sure, but her numbers just feel like filler. The point of this film was most definitely to show off Marion’s beauty (there are an excessive amount of close-ups of her face) and her dancing talents. Her singing voice definitely isn’t all that great. This whole publicity stunt-romance with dancing was done better a few years later with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance (1937).

William Randolph Hearst (producer, publishing magnate and Davies’ paramour) spent $35,000 on the carousel for the musical number “Coney Island.” The carousel is onscreen for about a minute total. After filming was completed, it was installed in the backyard of Davies’ Santa Monica home, near her pool and tennis courts.

The biggest number, “I’ll Sing You 1,000 Love Songs” took two weeks to shoot and cost $400,000. For all that it only occupied nine minutes of screen time. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Dance Direction.

marion davies cain and mabel

Filmed in Stage 7 (now Stage 16) at Warner Brothers, a studio that towers over all others on the lot, thanks to this film. Hearst demanded that the studio roof be ripped off and the studio be extended by over 30 feet to accommodate the large dance numbers planned for the film. WB head honcho Jack Warner refused to do it, saying it was too expensive, but Hearst, wanting to make his lady happy, footed the bill. It was deemed too pricey to rip the roof off and build up, so in an extremely difficult process, the studio was actually lifted off the ground and the new addition was built underneath it. At the time, it was the tallest soundstage in the world. Including the two million gallon water tank installed under its floors, the studio is 94 feet tall.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel st

The massive soundstage was later used to film Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Goonies and The Perfect Storm, among others.You can see what the studio looks like now in this post about my visit to Warner Brothers Studios.

Clark and Marion watching the construction of the soundstage

Clark and Marion watching the construction of the soundstage

Cain and Mabel is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

You can read more about the film here.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

***I have been ill for several months, so I apologize for the lack of updates. I am behind on the comments and emails as well, so if I haven’t answered you, I apologize and am doing my best to catch up!

In a Nutshell: Cain and Mabel (1936)

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Directed by: Lloyd Bacon

Co-stars: Marion Davies

Synopsis: Gable is Larry Cain, a small time boxer, whose publicity team cooks up a fake romance with Mabel O’Dare (Davies), an aspiring musical star, for publicity. The two loathe each other but begrudgingly agree to play along to help both of their careers. Of course along the way they actually do fall in love and decide to quit boxing and show business to be together. Their publicists won’t hear of it however and set to break them up.

Best Gable Quote: “I’m supposed to be a fighter and what am I doing–playing post office all over the front page with a dame!”

Fun Fact: William Randolph Hearst (producer, publishing magnate and Davies’ paramour) spent $35,000 on the carousel for the musical number “Coney Island”. After filming was completed, the carousel was installed in the backyard of Davies’ Santa Monica home, near her pool and tennis courts.

My Verdict: This is Marion Davies’ picture and Clark is window dressing. His character is a one-dimensional brutish boxer, who softens like butter after Marion bats her eyelashes at him a few times. This film is definitely one of those that I wouldn’t say is a bad film as a whole, but it’s not a great Gable film. Marion shows she can sing and dance, and Clark shows he still looked good with his shirt off.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

 

In a Nutshell: Love on the Run (1936)

franchot tone joan crawford clark gable love on the run

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone

Synopsis: Gable is Mike Anthony, a newspaper reporter always in competition with his college buddy, Barnabus Pell (Tone) who works for a rival paper. When Mike attends the wedding of socialite Sally Parker  (Crawford) to a European prince, he becomes her confidante and helps her escape the nuptials. With Barnabus hot on their trail, Mike and Sally steal a spy’s plane and head across Europe. The spy wants his plane back (and his secret plans) and Barnabus wants his piece of the story, keeping them on the run, of course falling in love along the way.

Best Gable Quote: “You’re the only girl this side of the moon.”

Fun Fact: Gable and Franchot Tone had become friends during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty and would play cards between takes. This irritated Crawford. Her and husband Tone spent most of their time between scenes fighting. During the course of filming, Tone moved out of their Hollywood home.

My Verdict: It is a rather silly film, full of madcap hijinks. Clark and Joan always do have chemistry, but here I find it watered down. I enjoy his competitive banter with Franchot much better. As a spy story and a sweet romance, it’s rather flat. Not Clark and Joan at their best.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in November 2013.

 

In a Nutshell: Parnell (1937)

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Directed by: John M. Stahl

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Donald Crisp, Edna May Oliver, Billie Burke

Synopsis: In this historical melodrama, Gable is Charles Parnell, an 1880′s Irish politician dubbed “The Uncrowned King of Ireland” for fighting for Irish freedom from British rule. The British trump up false charges against him to try and keep his efforts down but are unsuccessful. But then Parnell falls in love with Katie O’Shea (Loy), the estranged wife of a British Parliament member. When her husband finds out, he files for divorce and names Parnell as co-respondent, resulting in political and social ruin for Parnell.  Just as he begins to fight back for his position, he is taken ill with a sick heart.

Best Gable Quote: “Haven’t you ever felt that there might be someone somewhere who, if you could only find them, is the person that you were always meant to meet?” (How romantic is that line! I have always loved it)

Fun Fact: Gable’s least favorite of all his films and the biggest flop of his and Myrna Loy’s careers. It lost a total of $637,000 at the box office. Gable accepted the role of Charles Parnell because he saw an opportunity to prove himself as a versatile dramatic actor.  When the film flopped so horribly, he shunned all historical dramas. The flop of this picture is the main reason he was reluctant to do Gone with the Wind; he feared another historical flop. Because of the criticism of his Irish accent in this film, he refused to do a Southern accent for GWTW.

My Verdict: I stand by my long-voiced opinion that Parnell isn’t really that bad. There are some Clark Gable films (see anything thus far voted one mustache) that if it’s on TCM I flip right past it. Not this one. Clark’s performance isn’t bad, neither is Myrna’s. The script is tedious and the plot is boring. There just isn’t enough to hold interest. The love story is very sweet (although completely different than it was in reality) and Clark has some very romantic lines. I adore Myrna Loy and their chemistry is top notch as always. A fantastic film? No. But a horrible, wretched film that should be held up as the worst of Clark’s career? Still No.

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Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in July 2013.

Ratings

 

This post is part of Bette Classic Movie Blog’s Moustaches for Movember Blogathon. Movember is a campaign in which men grow moustaches over the month of November to raise funds for prostate cancer.  You can learn more about the cause here.

You think of Clark Gable and you think of that familiar moustache (well, that and maybe the ears…) It’s funny that the mustache has become so synonomous with the image of Clark Gable, considering he didn’t want one to begin with.

Clark was a clean freak, the kind who took showers multiple times a day and who reportedly shaved his chest hair because he considered all that extra hair “un-clean.” So it seems unlikely he would willingly sport a moustache. And he wasn’t willing…at first.

The first time Clark grew a moustache was in 1930 in the play Love, Honor and Betray with Alice Brady. He was playing a French gigolo and the part called for some upper lip adornment. He tried a fake one at first but it would often come off during romantic scenes so he was forced to grow a real one. He shaved it off as soon as the play closed.

Clark Gable Alice Brady

Clark and Alice Brady in Love Honor and Betray

A clean shaven  Clark emerged on the Hollywood scene in 1931, playing mostly gangster roles and fitting the part nicely.

Clark Gable A Free Soul

Clark in A Free Soul

In 1932, Clark appeared with his very on screen first moustache, although it was a fake. In Strange Interlude, Clark’s character ages 20 years and a fake mustache was applied halfway through the film to show him aging. He hated it.

Clark aging not-so-gracefully in Strange Interlude:

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

Starting out baby-faced...

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

A little older, here's the fake moustache's appearance...

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

Older and getting grayer...

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

And looking like Colonel Sanders.

His next role as Giovanni in The White Sister also called for a moustache, just as Ronald Colman had had in the previous 1923 version.

Clark Gable

Clark in The White Sister

I am not sure if he actually grew one for the role or if it was fake, but it appears to be real in his next picture, Night Flight.

Clark Gable Night Flight

Clark in Night Flight

The moustache was real in Clark’s next role as a Broadway producer in Dancing Lady. I think by this time he was becoming used to it. Clark was absent from the set for several weeks due to a high fever. He had to have his teeth extracted and because of the surgery, his moustache was shaved off. So, when he finally returned to the set, he was again sporting a fake.

Clark Gable

Clark in Dancing Lady

I think Clark changed his mind about the moustache around the time he won the Oscar for It Happened One Night.  Popular before the film, his fame now soared and his moustache was copied by millions of fans.

Clark Gable It Happened One Night

Clark in It Happened One Night

As it was now a part of his film popularity, Clark’s  feathers were ruffled when he had to shave the moustache off for historical accuracy to portray Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty.

Clark Gable Mutiny on the Bounty

Clark in Mutiny on the Bounty

He wasted no time growing it back and there it was in his following two films, Wife vs. Secretary and San Francisco.

Clark Gable

Clark in Wife vs. Secretary

Clark Gable

Clark in San Francisco

But Marion Davies, his costar in his next film, Cain and Mabel, claimed to be “allergic to moustaches” so he had to shave it off to play Larry Cain.

Clark Gable

Clark in Cain and Mabel

During the shooting of Cain and Mabel, he was called back to do some retakes from San Francisco and had to sport another fake!

The moustache is back in Love on the Run.

Clark Gable

Clark in Love on The Run

In 1937, Clark was set to play nineteenth century Irish politician Charles Parnell in the biographical drama Parnell. The real Parnell had a full beard. For whatever reason, despite the fact that in between shooting films Clark often grew a full beard while out on hunting trips, Clark refused to grow a beard for the role. The compromise was some very unflattering long sideburns, or “mutton chops”.  Why Clark thought that was better than a beard is beyond me! And the film was famously a flop.

The real Charles Parnell

Clark Gable Parnell

Clark as Parnell

Myrna Loy Clark Gable

Clark and Myrna Loy in Parnell

 Clark’s moustache was of course one of the components in making him the perfect Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, as Margaret Mitchell describes Scarlett’s first view of him:

He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eyes caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth beneath a close-clipped black moustache.

Clark Gable Gone with the Wind

Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

Cammie King (Bonnie Blue) famously said that one of her few memories of the set is that Clark’s moustache tickled.

Clark Gable Cammie King Gone with the Wind

Cammie King and Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

The moustache was here to stay through the late 1930’s to the early 1940’s. The skinny, sculptured mustache had given way to a thicker, more modern look.

Clark Gable They Met in Bombay

Clark in They Met in Bombay

But in 1942, Clark enlisted in the Army Air Corps and only commanding officers could have facial hair. And so, with much publicity, Clark shaved off his famous moustache.

Clark Gable

Clark shaving off his moustache after joining the Army

Clark Gable

A moustache-less Clark receiving his shots after joining the Army

Once he graduated from officer’s school, the moustache was back. But this time, it was thicker and more of a “man’s moustache.” Probably the lack of time and utensils to do a proper trimming while stationed overseas…

Clark Gable

Officer Gable

Clark Gable

Officer Gable

 

Post war, the moustache was here to stay, becoming grayer, but staying put.

Clark Gable Command Decision

Clark in Command Decision

He did make one moustache-less appearance in Homecoming, during a flashback sequence. I’m not sure if the scene was shot last so he could shave off the moustache or what, but it is definitely gone.

Clark Gable Homecoming

Moustache-less in one scene of Homecoming

By the twilight of his career, his moustache was a security blanket that he knew fans expected. I don’t think any producer would have requested a bare-faced Clark at this point.

Clark Gable Teacher's Pet

Clark in Teacher's Pet

When you look at The Misfits, it would be hard to imagine Gay Langland without a moustache…it’s just something an aging Reno cowboy is expected to have.

Clark Gable The Misfits

Clark in The Misfits

Visit Bette’s Classic Film Blog to view all of the Moustache for Movember posts and visit here to donate to the cause.