This month, Clark Gable is a thief chasing jewelry and fellow swindler Rosalind Russell in They Met in Bombay.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Gable is Gerald Meldrick, a jewel thief who has trailed a British duchess to India to steal her antique diamond necklace. He encounters Anya Von Duren (Russell), a rival thief out for the same score. She succeeds in stealing the necklace, but he fools her into believing he is a detective and gets the necklace from her. She figures him out and he proposes they be partners. They hop on a Chinese ship headed for Hong Kong but the crooked captain (Lorre) tries to turn them in for ransom. Paddling their way to shore, they hide out in Hong Kong. Gerald disguises himself as a British officer in hopes of getting them out of there, but he is soon sent to the front to fight against the Japanese.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Just a few years earlier, Roz was playing second fiddle in Gable films–the funny bridesmaid to Joan Crawford’s bride in Forsaking All Others and the lady from the past who gets passed over for Jean Harlow in China Seas.

But here she is finally Clark’s leading lady and she was happy for the promotion. Hedy Lamarr was originally slated for the lead in the film, but withdrew after adopting a baby.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Roz recalled: “Clark was a delight to work with.He always shared, never upstaged his marks or the other performers. There was nothing small or petty about him. No director ever had to tell how to do a love scene. He was tremendously graceful. Much like a ballet dancer, he had rhythm and timing. There wasn’t all that enormous clinching and awkwardness that some actors put you through.”

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

This film is a typical Gable formula—he’s a rogue pursuing a pretty lady in an exotic location. Roz appears, wearing a ridiculous hat, and of course instantly enchanting our hero.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Clark then starts stalking her in a rather creepy way, not unlike plucky Joan Crawford chasing him in Dancing Lady.

clark gable they met in bombay

And well, if you’ve ever wanted to see Clark Gable getting a haircut, manicure and pedicure at the same time, this film’s your chance.

clark gable they met in bombay

Roz gets to the necklace before Clark does, after getting the baroness drunk and slipping it off her neck, and scurries back to her room with it. Clark knew she was after the same thing he was and makes sure to get his replica onto the baroness’ neck and swiftly makes off with the real thing himself, letting Roz thing he’s a saint for not turning her in.

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She is of course furious when she finds out the truth.

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But no lady’s hatred of Clark lasts too long and soon Roz’s resentment fades and gives away to a typical Gable clinch. “I’m caught all right,” he says.

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The two lovebirds hide out in a basement in Hong Kong (seemingly sharing the same cramped space, I might add) for a few weeks until they start running out of money. Clark, naturally, wants to think up a new swindle, while it seems Roz is ready to play it straight, get married and have little Rozes.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Clark then gets the idea to impersonate a member of the British military to score a few extra bucks and then gets roped into fighting the Japanese. This, of course, makes an honest man out of him, after he is awarded a medal for bravery.

clark gable they met in bombay They Met 7

For me the film starts to go downhill once he joins the military ranks. It stops being a spy caper and becomes something else entirely. But you know that 1941 audiences ate this kind of thing up–exotic locations, military strategy and all!

clark gable they met in bombay

1941 was the last year of what I’d consider the golden era of Clark’s life–married to Carole, fresh off Gone with the Wind–career going great, home life couldn’t be better. So it’s hard not to watch the film and think that, just over a year later, a heartbroken Clark would be saluting for real.

This film for me is just ok. It’s not without its charms, it’s just the wide swing from fancy debonair caper to military man on a mission is rather jostling. Roz and Clark’s chemistry is plausible, but not white hot.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

They Met in Bombay is available on DVD.

Read more about the film here and see pictures from the film in the gallery.

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From 1946:

Clark Gable got his fill of flying during the war. He doesn’t even want to do a flying picture. His next will be “Lucky Baldwin,” and Angela Lansbury (MGM’s next big star, according to L.B. Mayer) plays the gal who wins, loses and recaptures the colorful gambler. In his spare time Clark’s been hunting in Utah and Arizona. He came to Hollywood with the limit of doves and pheasant. On the subject of “wife hunting,” Clark still isn’t interested in even taking out a license!

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That Angela Lansbury picture didn’t happen, although from the description it sounds like it might have been a pre-production title for Any Number Can Play, and Lansbury was replaced by Alexis Smith.

clark gable carole lombard ranch house

From September 1941:

The beautiful ranch home of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard is for sale. The asking price is to be $130,000. The reason? The Gables have bought a ranch in Ventura county. They plan to build there and raise about 1200 head of cattle. They’d  like to make only one picture a year, preferably both at the same time. During that period they’d rent an apartment in Beverly Hills. And once upon a time Carole was known as a party girl!

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The ranch was on and off the market in 1941. After Carole’s death, Clark put it back up for sale, but could never bring himself to sell it. It was the last home for both of them.

clark gable south america

From January 1936:

Clark Gable’s reception committee in Lima, Peru, made his American fans look like pikers. He got away from the airport alive, which was a miracle. In his hotel, preparing to shave, a mob of girls broke down the door and entered through the window. Clark finally had to attend a large party in his honor, unshaved!

 

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From November 1935:

Extra! Clark Gable Arrested! Imagine your favorite hero’s surprise when two strong arms of the law strode into the studio and slapped a firm hand on his shoulder. Seems Gable is such a stout huntsman that he makes his own shells. He borrowed a reloading machine from a friend on the Culver City police department and forgot to return it. So a John Doe warrant was issued, since the rest of the department did not know who had the machine and thought it had been stolen. Whitey Hendry, head of the MGM police, learned of the warrant, and knew who had the machine. So he tipped off the boys to rib Clark. The boy really took it big, and a whole of explanations were in order. 

 

 

30th Academy Awards

On March 26, 1958, Clark Gable put on a tux (complete with tails, no less) and headed to the RKO Pantages Theater for the 30th Annual Academy Awards. He attended as a presenter with his Teacher’s Pet co-star, Doris Day.  This marked one of the handful of times that Clark attended the awards and is especially significant because it is one of just a few occasions that he appeared on television. Clark and Doris presented the two awards for Best Screenplay, Adapted and Written for the Screen.

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Clark and Doris appear at 4:40, after Bob Hope does some stand-up (lot of Russian and I’m-never-nominated jokes). Notice they play the theme from Teacher’s Pet when they walk out. Clark looks very nervous; he was notoriously scared of crowds and public speaking. And what is with his haircut?

The big winner that year was Bridge on the River Kwai, walking away with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing in addition the screenplay Oscar. Sayonara was also a big winner, winning four Oscars.

Other presenters that evening included John Wayne, June Allyson, Vincent Price, Bette Davis, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Ronald Reagan, Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Cyd Charisse, Lana Turner and Sophia Loren–wow!

Some of my all-time favorite pictures are from the rehearsal a few days prior:

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Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope and David Niven

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Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope and David Niven

 

Taking a smoke break

Taking a smoke break

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“Run Silent Run Deep” co-stars Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster

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Clark Gable and Doris Day

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Shirley Jones, Van Johnson, Mae West, Rock Hudson, Marge and Gower Champion, Janet Leigh, Rhonda Fleming, Bob Hope, and Shirley MacLaine.

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Host Bob Hope

 

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Jimmy Stewart

Debbie Reynolds rehearses her big number, "Tammy."

Debbie Reynolds rehearses her big number, “Tammy.”

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Shirley MacLaine

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Mae West and Rock Hudson rehearse their number, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

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Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and choreographer Jack Cole rehearse the number “It’s Great Not To Be Nominated.”

PS…you can watch Kirk and Burt’s hilarious performance here. 

CLARK GABLE ROBERT TAYLOR

This 1937 is purely MGM propaganda–“We have two hot male leads! Look at how great they both are!” A bunch of hogwash to think that because they were both leading men they were instantly rivals. Clark and Bob, in fact, grew to be good friends in the years following. Bob and his wife Barbara Stanwyck had a ranch near Clark and Carole’s and the four of them were often together. Only thing worthwhile in this article is some of the quotes:

“I see Mr. Taylor as a rival!” marvels Mr. Gable, spreading his four-square smile. “Never even thought of such a thing. Bob’s a fine boy, a fine-looking boy, a young, healthy, virile, clean, intelligent American boy, and God knows we need more of them in this business. I’m glad he came along. He has taken some of the burden off my shoulders, and I’m grateful to him. I’ve worked plenty. I do too many pictures. I’d rather do less and be seen less. For a long time Bob Montgomery and I were the only leading men on the lot, and we were kept going from one woman star to another. Bill Powell has been here for only the last year and a half. Then Spencer Tracy joined the gang. Now, with Taylor, there are five of us. And as for Bob all I can say, and say it from the heart, is welcome to our Culver City.”

Mr. Taylor is all but diffident as he hesitates to say: “I don’t know how Gable feels about me, but I’d like to be a pal of his. He’s completely a man. When I came here people kept asking, ‘Why don’t you get acquainted with Clark?’ I told them, ‘He doesn’t want any of me.’ You see, I felt he was too big to be bothered with small-fry. So for a long time it was just a case of ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’ when we happened to pass on the lot. I’d been a fan of his ever since seeing him in ‘Free Soul’—still am. After that picture I talked about him for weeks, then did more talking when I saw him in ‘The Secret Six.’ But I didn’t have the nerve to talk to him on the lot. Finally there was a matter of business I wanted his advice on, and I got up guts enough to ask him if he’d let me see him about it. He opened up like a book, and he’s been swell ever since. Now we go to lunch together, and I get a big kick out of it. My being a leading man hasn’t made any difference. I couldn’t be a rival of his even if I were chump enough to have any such fool idea.”

I love his description of liking Clark in A Free Soul and being intimidated by him.

“That’s the way I figure myself,” explains Mr. Gable. “When I came into pictures I hadn’t the faintest notion of ever becoming a star. Such a possibility never entered my head. Far from it, I didn’t think I could even be a leading man, for at that time leading men were different from those of today. I wasn’t a pretty boy. And, anyway, they didn’t think much of stage actors then. They’d rather have a good-looking doorman or a truck-driver. My looks, romantically, weren’t worth a nickel. I’d never have got my foot in at all if it hadn’t been for gangster pictures. All that saved me was that I could look tough.”

What do you think, are his looks worth a nickel?? He is right, though. Clark helped usher in a new era of leading man. Gone were the overly romantic, fluffy stylings of Valentino and Gilbert, in were the rough, tough and manly men who would slap your face one minute and take you in their arms the next.

“I was lucky to get anywhere,” Mr. Gable is grateful to say. “It’s all in the luck of the game. But popularity in pictures is very temporary. It may be for this year, then it’s gone forever. You’re up today and down tomorrow. There’s no use trying to keep it up. You just have to struggle along and make the best of it. But the trouble today is that the average beginner wants to start as a star and work down. He needn’t worry about the working-down part—there’s sure to be plenty of people to help him. What has helped me most of all is experience. I’ve had seventeen years of it. Best of all was that I got in theatrical stock companies. It’s unfortunate we haven’t them today, for there’s no other place where an actor gets such valuable training. It’s like an interne learning to be a doctor. Bob Taylor is fortunate for having studied in the studio dramatic class. He came out of it knowing something about the work he was going to do. I only hope there’ll be more like him. We haven’t enough young actors to fill the bill. It is because of the lack of them that there are so many foreign actors in American pictures. Not that I object to them generally. But I don’t think it a good idea to have foreigners play American characters, for no matter how good they are they can’t be convincing. It takes actors like Taylor to play those parts. When I started I was at least what might be called a home-grown, or garden variety of actor. Sprouting in Akron, after coming down from the Ohio back-hills, I was just about as green as they come. With Taylor it was different. He came out of college, where he had played in the dramatic society. But it was simply the glamour of the theatre that got me. I’d sit pop-eyed in the gallery watching the actors and say, ‘Oh God, if I could only do that!’”

It’s interesting what he says about foreign actors in American roles—wonder if he still thought that after starring opposite Vivien Leigh as a certain Miss O’Hara?

You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.

clark gable carole lombard

From April 1940:

1940 is going to be a great year for husband wife teams. Joan Blondell and Dick Powell start things going in April when they co-star in “I Want a Divorce” for Paramount. Then Metro will follow with a picture co-starring Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and another with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck.

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Shame that never happened!