Part Two of me watching Gable and Lombard (1976) again and reporting back on how terrible it is. Here’s Part One.
(I am quoting a movie that is Rated R so please pardon the language)
Having decided to make a go of their relationship and to keep it under wraps, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are now disguising themselves as Western Union delivery boys and cab drivers to sneak off together. Aren’t those Clark’s pre-denture teeth?
He calls her “Ma” here for the first time, but she still shrieks “Gable” all the time.
In reality Clark and Carole were seen everywhere–premieres, auto races, horse races, restaurants, parties–everywhere. They received lots of press and fans were thrilled. I suppose that wasn’t enough drama though; in the film she laments that they can’t even go to a movie together and eat popcorn like a real couple.
So they make the big tragedy of this film the fact that they have to hide their romance, when in reality that was never the case. There was frustration that they couldn’t get married because of Ria, but there was not a big secret romance.
Now they’re out on a fishing trip. She’s in a big hat and sitting with a cigarette at first but eventually out-fishes him.
I appreciate they included the wood-paneled station wagon.
Their rendezvous is broken up when reporters find out Clark’s up there and so she has to go back to town before they’re discovered.
Suddenly we’re in late 1938/1939 (I guess?) with Hedda Hopper, Clark and Carole pretending they don’t know really know each other.
Like her hair and dress. That is all.
Of course by now they were America’s favorite couple, photographed everywhere. Nobody cared anymore that Clark was still legally married.But instead of trumping up the glamour and the cuteness of their courtship, we have Clark on a fake date with Vivien Leigh [NEVER HAPPENED], with Carole looking on from a distance in dismay.
And then Clark is filming Gone with the Wind, with Carole visiting the set dressed up like a Confederate soldier, whiskers and all, to check up on him. He accuses her of being jealous of “my love scene with that British dame.”
He undresses her as she mocks him as “Mr. Butler” and even says “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.” She leaves half-dressed, in part of her silly costume. Nobody’s going to notice her walking out of Clark Gable’s dressing room like that?
Next, Carole is in the bathtub at Paramount. This time Clark’s spying on her because he’s jealous she’ll be in a bathtub with another man.What movie is this supposed to be? In what 1930’s movie do men get in bathtubs with women?
Clark spies on her, watching her shriek and go on and on like a banshee in the tub, in one of the worst cases of over-acting I’ve ever witnessed.
Then they’re in bed together and she says she wants to make a baby with his ears. I’m growing tired. Tired and restless at the pointlessness of it all. Doesn’t this movie seem ungodly long? (This coming from someone who loves Gone with the Wind)
Sweeping music interrupted by knocks at the door. It’s Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, there to lecture them on being immoral.
“It’s immoral to be in love? It makes me so damn mad, all this phony bullshit!” Carole shrieks.
Mayer informs Carole that Ria is indeed willing to divorce Clark for the right price. This starts a fight after Mayer leaves, of course. Which is ridiculous, as Carole always knew what was delaying the divorce is that Ria wanted a huge lump sum. Timeline is again skewed, as Clark got the lump sum as a bonus for signing onto Gone with the Wind, which is the film he is already shooting at this point.
“Forgive me if I show my naivete as I was living under the delusion that underneath this self-righteous stud was an honest man. I’m a fool. I think he’s happy with me, it’s a joke. What is it baby, the money, the convenience, the steady lay? I hope it’s not the Sunday morning biscuits because if it is, all this time you could have been screwing Betty Crocker!” Carole cries.
Somebody wrote that. In a script. And was paid to do so.
More shrieking at him. So much shrieking.
Prepare yourself for Clark’s sappy monologue:
“Let me explain. Mayer’s right. For a price, Ria’d give me a divorce. All I’ve got to do is give her the moon. If I gave her everything I saved, and most all my future income, I’d be a free man. I suppose if I really wanted a divorce I’d do it. I guess down deep I don’t really want one. Well, it’s not you, baby. You’re everything a guy could hope for. It’s just that I’ve tried it twice before, I was married once before Ria. It didn’t work out. I’ve never been able to make it work out with anybody. I guess I don’t got what it takes to make a woman happy.”
He admits he doesn’t have the guts to try it again, that he’s scared. Whatever. Clark was never worried about that; his two previous marriages were both marriages of convenience, not of love. But true that what Ria wanted would literally have cleaned him out.
She reassures him.
Since it’s been 1.5 seconds since their last fight ended, they start another one–now over the fact that Clark never says “I love you.”
“You know how I feel, baby. I’m just not the kind of guy that can say those things. Some guys can say them. I can’t, so what?”
“You’re not frightened of marriage, that’s a crock of shit. You’re frightened of yourself. You’re frightened of your feelings for a woman because you think it makes you less of a man. You and your phony image of what a man is supposed to be–just screw ‘em and leave ‘em! Well I’ve got news for you, honey. You can plant all the hair in Hollywood on your chest and that still doesn’t make you a man. It makes you just what you are right now–nothing.”
Then she declares she’s taking the next train to Indiana to see her mother. Carole’s mother had lived in California with her for years but whatever. I guess it was an excuse to do a sappy train scene where he runs to the train station after her, pounding on her stateroom door and yelling “I love you!” at the top of his lungs. Oh and it’s suggested he goes to Indiana with her.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention all of this is completely made up. It’d be easier actually for me to point out what’s true in this movie rather than what’s made up. Brolin does look a lot like Clark in that coat with the sunglasses and hat, I must admit.
It’s bothering me so much that he calls her “Ma” and she calls him “Gable.”
Now we finally meet Ria, which I find long overdue. Wouldn’t it have held more dramatic weight to paint the picture of this loveless marriage he was trapped in earlier? Instead of throwing it in there 45 minutes in and then making it the backbone of the whole movie with no backstory whatsoever?
Ria is shown living in a lavish mansion with a huge yard and pool and butler. Which isn’t exactly true. Her house was nice but they have her living at Buckingham Palace.
The depiction of Ria is way off base but of course they’d have to have given some backstory to explain why he was in a loveless marriage to a homely much older woman, so instead they have Ria looking like a typical Beverly Hills society wife. She also has very 1970’s hair.
She refuses his divorce offer, now that a story has come out about Clark and Carole’s love nest. “You’ve defiled me in public and you’ll have to pay for it!’
In reality this article called Hollywood’s Unmarried Husbands and Wives had come out, and that is what angered Ria and Mayer, urging the divorce along. It was about several Hollywood couples, not just Clark and Carole.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know what the word love meant before this. And now I do. For the first time. And I’m asking you to understand,” he pleas. Oh my lord, what prose.
Carole’s house apparently had a grand view of the ocean? (No) I guess this is their new love nest.
I wish they’d included all of her animals that were always running around.
Clark and Carole were always giving each other crazy gifts and so many of them would have made great scenes (like what about the doves he woke up to find in his hotel room?) but of course the one gift that this trashy movie chooses to include is….
“To the King. That part of you more precious than gold, this will protect from catching cold.” Yup, a sweater for his penis. We have to endure a whole process of her trying it on him while licking his ear and telling him she had to tell the lady who made it that it was for keeping cucumbers cool in the summer. (Facepalm)
She lights candles on the cake she’s had made for them to celebrate getting rid of Ria. It has a car on it with hearts all over it. Which would be the Model T that she gave him as a Valentine’s Day gag in 1936. Only they didn’t show that in this film thus far, skipped over it, even though it was a cute story about how they got together in the beginning. And now we’re in 1939, as he’s already filming Gone with the Wind, and we see cast members from Wizard of Oz roaming around.
A press conference is called to deny the claims of the magazine that Clark and Carole have been shacked up together. Carole arrives in a stylish tailored suit and hat.
Clark starts reading the script that was prepared for him for the press, which ticks Carole off and she decides she’s had enough of this charade.
In what is the absolutely most garish, disgusting and vomit-inducing scene in the entire crappy film, Carole changes out of her suit and waltzes into the press conference, wearing a revealing red dress reminiscent of the dress Rhett picks out for Scarlett to wear to Ashley’s birthday in Gone with the Wind, and yells, “Well there’s my horny little hunk of horsemeat! Where you been, angel ass, you know you’re late for your ten o’clock screw, mama can’t wait all day, she’s got customers! Oh hiya dolls, how ya doin’, you must be the new shipment they sent over to keep Gable happy!” as she grabs her chest and shimmys in her lowcut prostitute dress. “What do you get, ten bucks a trick? Five would be highway robbery!” “You just keep that log rollin’ honey because the oven’s hot and the rooster’s ready to crow. He calls me rooster because of my motto–Cock a doodle doo! Cock a doodle doo! Any cock will do!” she shrieks and shrieks.
Want some horrible GIFs of it? Here you go.
I am sorry but I cannot imagine any fan of Carole Lombard defending this scene. What an utterly disrespectful, trashy, and absolutely ridiculous display. Portraying Carole as some kind of slut, out parading like that and shrieking “any cock will do!” is a direct insult to her as a person and it makes me angry. She may have “cursed like a man” but she was still a lady. A very respectable lady in Hollywood. What was the point of this entire scene!
And then Clark chases her down and says he’s proud of her. “I’d have done it myself but I couldn’t find a red dress to fit.”
He reminds her, “I just want you to know that whatever dumb thing you ever do I’m always going to be right there with you.” How romantic. I am so done with this film. How much longer do I have to endure this?
Oh, and nothing comes of that scene at all. We see no reverberations from it whatsoever.
After that tomfoolery, we immediately go into a completely made-up paternity suit on the front pages of the paper: A cocktail waitress claiming that she is four months pregnant with his baby.I suppose that this is a strange slant on the 1937 paternity trial that Clark endured when a British woman claimed he had fathered her teenage daughter. Why throw this in at this point in the movie? Why include it at all? I do not, for the life of me, understand the script of this movie.
Clark and Carole meet with the publicists and Mayer, trying to do damage control.
When Carole shows up at their “love nest” later that day, she runs through the house looking for him and calls him Pa! Finally.
Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can’t be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation.
I like his pinstripe suit. The whole suit and tie is very Clark-like. I’m trying to be positive, see?
But then Carole shows up at the trial anyway, prim and proper in a suit with hat and gloves. “Me and that big ape over there have been hitting the sack every night and I have the sore back to prove it!’ she announces on the stand. More ladylike behavior. For some reason now everyone thinks that her admitting that they slept together every night is funny rather than shocking. She even describes his butt and says she’d know if he ever moved it.
Didn’t everyone already know they were together after the article was published and after her display at the press conference? Why was her testimony at the trial the defining moment when everyone figured it out? That doesn’t make sense!
They leave the court room and their getaway vehicle is a white car painted with red hearts. So the car she gave him in 1936,now she gave him in 1939 after this made-up court case. Wouldn’t it have been cuter to have shown her giving it him early on as part of their courtship? Why did she give him a cake with the car on it earlier in the film when she hadn’t given him the actual car yet? This script gives me a headache. I think I have read more comprehensive writing when I used to grade eighth grade English essays.
Now they are packing up his dressing room and moving off to a farm apparently, since she torpedoed both their careers with her testimony.
Change of heart! They suddenly decide to attend a premiere together to prove they don’t care what everybody says. They get out of the car and are met with silence, then everyone claps. Oh, now they are accepted!
Everyone stands and claps for them when they arrive in the theater. Love is victorious! His wife is granting a divorce!
They finally get to eat popcorn together!
We are given no scene of their wedding at all. Nope, next scene they are already married (we only know that because they call each other Mr. Gable and Mrs. Gable) and have the ranch (I guess, we don’t see the house, just open pasture and horses).
And here’s where he tells her he’s joining the Army. And she says she’s going off to sell war bonds. Very non-dramatic scene; seems thrown in. Oh, and this conversation starts with her asking him if he’s heard on the radio about the battle of Corrigedor, which took place on May 5, 1942. Carole died in the plane crash on January 16, 1942. (Facepalm). It’s called FACT CHECKING! She could have just mentioned Pearl Harbor, couldn’t she have, just to be realistic? Oh no, realism wasn’t the name of the game, I forgot.
That’s it. Now we are back at Clark waiting for word on the plane crash. No word of her mother going with her or his pal Otto Winkler. Nope. We don’t get to see him pacing at the bar waiting for news, none of it.
He’s told she didn’t survive. We don’t even get the drama of it being night and the flames blazing on the mountain. He gets back in the car and says, “Hey, I heard a good one today….” tells a bad sex joke and then says “My wife told me that one,” as he cries and laughs at the same time.
And that is the end.
Truly more horrible than I even remembered.
Why not show Clark and Carole happily married on the farm with the chickens and horses? A montage even, of them riding horses and hunting and fishing together? You could even include the post-wedding news conference of them all happy, them attending the premiere of Gone with the Wind arm in arm, etc. Then later show them struggling to have a baby and the arguing that ensued–real conflicts in the marriage, but the love shining through. How about her selling war bonds to big crowds, sending him telegrams along the way? Him regretting not taking her to the train? Him preparing this big party for her when she returns? No, we have none of that. They weather a bunch of made-up scandals while sneaking off to sleep together and then she dies. We don’t even get the satisfaction of seeing their wedding–that could have been a great scene, them sneaking out of town to Arizona and surprising a small town minister. The absolute travesty of this movie is that they took a great love story–one that without much embellishment or made-up scandals would make a wonderful movie–and made it a bunch of nonsense. A bunch of made-up nonsense with their names on it.
The film was critically panned and largely forgotten, thank goodness, except for it popping up on late night cable here and there. Thankfully the careers of James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh survived the wreckage.
Roger Ebert said of it:
Gable is ready to drop everything for a little farm in Ohio, and Lombard doesn’t give a damn about fame and fortune, and the high point of their day is when she comes banging through the kitchen door with an armload of groceries. Lombard and Gable in real life were apparently somewhat like this – he always said acting was a little silly and so he just tried to act natural, and she was an unaffected free spirit – but by limiting itself to this aspect of their lives the movie never deals with the reasons we find them interesting in the first place. The witty and sensual Lombard of “Twentieth Century” and the sly Gable of “It Happened One Night” would hardly recognize themselves as the innocents portrayed by Furie and his actors, Jill Clayburgh and James Brolin. Real people grow older and more complicated.
The movie spans nearly a decade, but they never seem to grow older and hardly ever seem to work (the movie takes a fan-magazine approach to filmmaking – it’s all dressing rooms and autograph hounds and world premieres). We learn that Gable and Lombard had to live together secretly because Gable’s wife wouldn’t give him a divorce – but the movie never admits what an open secret theirs was. And there are so many dumb practical jokes and would-be risque innuendoes that any concern for their real thoughts and feelings is lost, So we don’t get a notion of their private lives, and we don’t even remotely learn from this movie what made them great stars and personalities. Brolin does, indeed, look a lot like Gable – but imitation here has nothing to do with flattery.
The screenwriter, Barry Sandler, did an interview a few years ago where he said, “You know, the critical reaction was tough. I took certain liberties which you have to do when you’re doing a biography. You can’t stick to every specific detail. You have to shape it into a dramatic narrative that’s going to engage an audience even if you have to eliminate or consolidate or compress or rearrange whatever. So, you know, I got some critics criticizing me for that. I also took a more fun, sexual kind of approach to the relationship, and the critics thought that was being sacrilegious or whatever. Nonetheless, I’m very proud of the film. I had a great time making it and have some very fond memories of it.” You took events of their lives and threw them up in the air, put them in random order and filled most of it with made-up scenarios.
He also said, “I did a lot of research. I remember studying for hours in the Academy library, going over old newspaper articles and new stories, and just reading all the material I could read about that. So, you know, all of that is true: the paternity suit, the sock thing, and obviously the plane crash.” Yeah like none of it is true. Seedlings of truth. What research did you do exactly. Yes, she did die in a plane crash, but the surrounding story of that is missing. The paternity suit was nothing like it was portrayed in the film, for starters–instead of a 4 month pregnant cocktail waitress, it was a middle-aged woman with a teenage daughter she claimed Clark fathered in the 1920’s in England–long before he even met Carole or became a star. Carole had nothing to do with the trial when it took place in 1937.
When asked why they chose to make Clark Gable already in the Army when Carole died, his response was: “That’s the thing about doing a biography. If you want to make characters sympathetic and likable, you have to sort of forge it a bit. If that had been the situation, he would have lost the respect of the audience. So in a way, it’s making him the one who decides that he wants to go fight. It makes him more admirable, I guess, in the eyes of the audience.”
Wouldn’t it make him more sympathetic to show the truth–the 41 year old widower showing up in the same suit he wore to his wife’s funeral, with tears in his eyes, taking his oath to join the Army and declaring “I don’t care if I come back.” ??
You can read the whole interview here. Vincent, over at his divine blog Carole & Co, did a piece about the interview a few years back here.
If you really want to subject yourself to this, the film is on DVD and is available for streaming on Amazon for a low price.