In a Nutshell: Men in White (1934)

clark gable myrna loy men in white

Directed by: Richard Boleslawski

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Allan, Otto Kruger

Synopsis: Gable is George Ferguson, a young doctor working hard to prove himself at a New York hospital. He puts medicine and his patients before all else, much to the chagrin of his heiress fiancé, Laura (Loy). He soon learns that all work and no play lead him open to temptation and he falls for Barbara (Allan), a nurse, with devastating consequences.

Best Gable Quote: “What good’s a profession that can’t give you bread and butter after you’ve wasted ten years of your life at it?”

Fun Fact: On the set of this film, Clark began a two-year romance with his married co-star Elizabeth Allan.

My Verdict: I’ve always thought this must have been a better play than a film. The restraints on what they could portray on film were too tight on this tale of sex and abortion. It is rather hard to follow when the main plot points are only hinted at. The Art Deco hospital set is gorgeous (and a bit ridiculous) and Myrna Loy had never looked more beautiful. Clark is showing eeks of dramatic chops here and it works, although his constant costume of what looks like a white Frankenstein costume completely with clunky white shoes isn’t at all flattering!

mustachemustache

It’s on DVD.

Read more here

It was Movie of the Month in September 2011.

In a Nutshell: Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

clark gable myrna loy william powell manhattan melodrama

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, William Powell

Synopsis: Gable is Blackie Gallagher, a gambling, gun-slinging gangster, who remains best friends with his childhood pal, Jim Wade (Powell), an ambitious lawyer.  Blackie’s girl, Eleanor (Loy) grows tired of the shady side of life and soon falls in love with Jim and marries him. Jim is promoted to district attorney and starts a campaign to become New York’s next governor. When a blackmailer threatens Jim’s campaign, Blackie decides to handle the situation himself and kills the man. On trial, Jim has no choice but to prosecute Blackie and he is sentenced to death. The conviction helps Jim win the election, but on the day of Blackie’s execution, Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie and reveals to him that Blackie killed the man to protect Jim. Jim rushes to the prison to commune Blackie’s sentence, but Blackie refuses to let Jim waver on his original decision. After Blackie is put to death, Jim resigns as governor and makes up with Eleanor at the fade out.

Best Gable Quote: “If I can’t live the way I want, at least let me die when I want.”

Fun Fact: The first film that costarred Myrna Loy and William Powell. They hadn’t even met before they began filming their first scene. Director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke noticed their onscreen chemistry and requested them both to star in his next feature, The Thin Man. They would go on to become one of classic film’s most popular onscreen duos, starring in fourteen films together.

My Verdict: The cast makes this one. Carole Lombard’s past husband and future husband are good sparring partners. Willam Powell is perfect as the straight-laced politician and of course Clark is at home as the gamblin’ shootin’ rogue. Myrna Loy is gorgeous and gives a fine performance as the woman caught between two men, one good for her and one not. The film is a nice mix of gangster, drama and romance.

mustachemustachemustache

 

It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

Ratings

Men in White is a complicated film to review. It is hard to view the film as it is, without thinking of what it could have been. This film was one of the surefire victims of the Legion of Decency.

(Spoilers ahead)

Gable, mustache-less, baby-faced and wearing far too much pancake makeup, is George Ferguson, a young doctor working hard to prove himself at a New York hospital. He puts medicine and his patients before all else, much to the chagrin of his heiress fiancé, Laura (Myrna Loy). He soon learns that all work and no play lead him open to temptation and he falls for Barbara (Elizabeth Allan), a nurse. Soon after their one night encounter, Barbara learns she is pregnant and submits to a back alley abortion. She develops a horrible infection from this and requires emergency surgery.

Clark Gable

The last few sentences of the synopsis are what I learned happened in the film AFTER I watched it for the first time. My first viewing of this film was when I was just getting into classic films. It was on late one night in TCM and I just happened upon it. It was my introduction to Myrna Loy, who before this I had never even heard of. I actually remember going straight to the computer afterwards to look her up and after seeing her impressive filmography and her gorgeous pictures, I marveled at how I never had heard of her before. It’s not much of a part for her, as she doesn’t do much but flounce around and put on her best rich-girl pout, but something about her struck me from first sight.

Clark Gable and Myrna Loy

After I looked up Myrna Loy, my next stop was to look up what the heck just happened in this film. As I learned later after viewing many an early 1930’s film, that MUCH unlike the films of today, things had to implied very carefully onscreen so that they did not offend and the studio didn’t get slammed by Joseph Breen and his Legion of Decency for indecent content.

This film could have been a much better film if it had been allowed to explain its own plot. But thanks to some horrible editing and omitting, the film taken at face value will leave one quite confused.

Let’s start with George and Barbara’s one night stand. I’ve seen many a sly pre-marital sex insinuation in early ’30’s films. Just the year before, in Hold Your Man with Jean Harlow, this was done quite well. Clark is pictured chasing her into the bedroom and shutting the door behind him with his foot. The next scene they are having breakfast together. Subtle, but you got the point. In Men in White, George and Barbara have a brief conversation that is not very romantic in nature and the scene ends with her sitting on his bed and removing her nurse’s hat while he shuts the door. From that we are to deduce that they ahem, knocked boots. A bit far fetched, but okay.

Well after that things get more confusing as of course the words “pregnant”, “baby”, or “abortion” are not mentioned. It is through strained looks and powers of deduction that you are supposed to realize what has happened to Barbara. It’s all rather confusing and especially considering it is the major climax of the film, one wonders why they even bothered making the film at all if they had to eliminate all communication of the main plot?

Clark Gable and Elizabeth Allan

The end result is quite unsatisfying. At least you can give Laura some props for not taking her cheatin’ man back, as many of them did in the films of that era.

Clark Gable, Myrna Loy

Clark is quite handsome in this, despite his wardrobe consisting mostly of unflattering all-white scrubs. Chiseled and un-mustached, he looks so young and carefree, despite his penciled-in eyebrows and thick makeup. His most touching scenes are with a sick little girl he cures. What is it about his scenes with children–they always seem so natural! The scenes have a slight echo to Rhett and Bonnie Blue, some five years down the road.

I also quite love the fantastic Art Deco hospital set. A hospital with a  huge winding staircase? Only at MGM!

This movie was filmed in only eighteen days–impressive even for MGM standards. And apparently that wasn’t too short a time for Clark to fall for his co-star. No, not Myrna Loy, but the young newlywed Elizabeth Allan. They started an affair on set that lasted on and off for two years. You can read more about her relationship with Clark here.

Clark caught flirting with Elizabeth Allan on set

Men in White is available on DVD.

 normal_mag116

I have a vintage magazine addiction. The first step towards getting help is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I admit it. I now have so many magazines stacked on my desk and nightstand and scanner that I had to promise my husband I would not buy another one until I have gone through every one of them.

And so I am. In the coming weeks you will find lots of new pictures in the gallery as a result, as well as many new articles. The majority of these articles are quite intriguing and so I am devoting a blog post here and there to them.

Also, I would like the Clark Gable fandom’s opinion on a certain subject. I have received a little bit of angry feedback from apparently diehard Carole Lombard fans who are displeased that I post articles about her on this site. They said I am “further broadcasting the disillusion that all she should be remembered for is being Mrs. Clark Gable.” Being quite the Lombard fan myself (who isn’t?) I never thought of it that way. I figured that usually Gable fans are interested in the love of his life as well, so why not post her interviews and stories? Comment below and let me know if you agree or disagree. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone and I do have Lombard articles in the stack waiting to be typed.

Moving on, to our newest article….

This piece, “The New Romance in Clark Gable’s Life” appeared in Liberty magazine in March 1936. Of course, considering the date, you would jump to the conclusion that the “new love” is Carole Lombard. But the famous “Nervous Breakdown Party” that ignited their romance was only the month before, way after this magazine went to press.

No, this article is speculating on who Clark’s next romance will be. And it is certainly interesting to read this speculation as we all know who it was to be.

He wanted to be a great actor, and he married the woman who could help him become
one. He wanted to be a man of the world, and he married the ideal woman to make
him that. Now he wants to be himself, and he’ll marry the woman who will help him to
realize that ambition.
In short, what he is trying to do is to tune in on happiness.
What he needs is the kind of wife Barbara Stanwyck was to Frank Fay, the kind of wife
Ann Dvorak is to Leslie Fenton; a girl who will say, as Ann said the other day, “I am
not ashamed of having a love that fills my life to the exclusion of everything else. I’m
happy it is that way.”
That kind of girl is rare. But she must exist somewhere for Clark Gable.
You would probably recognize her on the street.
Who knows? If you are a woman, you might recognize her in your looking glass!

They are pretty much spot on, aren’t they? Carole was the first wife who he actually loved, who he actually could be himself and she loved him for it.

Most surprising to me about this article is that it is the first one I have ever read that hints at the affair between Clark and Joan Crawford.

There had been a bargain-day rush among Metro’s women stars to land this amazing
newcomer for their leading man. Garbo, Shearer, Crawford. They all wanted him, and
they all got him. But Joan got him oftenest and hardest. Not since Garbo and Gilbert
made “Flesh and the Devil” had there been love scenes in Hollywood so—what shall we
say?—sincerely played as the Crawford-Gable scenes in that torrid titbit, “Possessed.”
How far the thing went off the set nobody knew except Clark and Joan. Probably not
very far. But people talked, and people will; and the talk must have reached the ears of
Ria Gable, for on March 8, 1932, she packed her bags and, with her daughter and son
by a previous marriage, hopped the Santa Fe for New York. It reached, also, the highly
sensitized ears of the guardians of Hollywood morals—and, incidentally, of Hollywood
investments in socially strayward stars.

It is also the first I have seen to even skirt the possibility of the romance between Clark and Elizabeth Allan:

Elizabeth Allan, the pretty little English girl who played with him in “Men in White”,
was the first. He sat next to her at a party in a nightclub, and the early editions had
them married—anyway on the altar steps. Of course the Gables weren’t even divorced
and it takes a year in California before a divorce becomes effective; but to stop the
rumors, poor “Liz” Allan had to hop a boat for England, rout out her perfectly good
husband, Bill O’Bryen, and go on a much advertised second honeymoon.

And, probably not realizing how very close they were to unwinding a very tightly woven secret, they mention Loretta Young:

The next day Clark heard that Loretta Young, who had played with him in “Call of the
Wild”, was seriously ill in a Hollywood hospital. Naturally he telegraphed her flowers.
Roses they were—but the tabloids turned them into orange blossoms. Loretta had a
relapse.

Read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.