clark gable virginia bruce

Virginia Bruce and Clark Gable

 

From November 1936:

Virginia Bruce, who is seen with filmland’s most eligible young men, enjoys a variety of escorts, because, she says, “No one man combines all the qualities I like.”

The perfect escort, according to the Hollywood actress, would have to possess the best points of the men. She lists them:

Robert Taylor to make all the other girls jealous.

Jack Dempsey for protection.

Clark Gable for his manly characteristics.

Noel Coward for his wit.

Fred Astaire as a dancing partner.

George Bernard Shaw for his intelligent conversation.

William Powell for his spontaneous good humor.

James Stewart for his lack of affectation.

Cesar Romero for his polished manners.

Francis Lederer for his charm.

___

Well now, that would be quite the man…

clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
In 1933, Clark was in a musical–but no singing and dancing for him…just brooding and yelling.
In Dancing Lady, Clark is Patch Gallagher, a short-fused Broadway producer who hires down-on-her-luck ex-burlesque dancer Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) for the chorus line of his latest show. Janie is constantly pursued by a rich playboy admirer, Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). Patch begins to have feelings for plucky Janie, but grows bitter as it becomes obvious she is wrapped up with Tod. When he promotes her to the lead in the production, Tod becomes impatient (Janie said she’d marry him if the play fell through) and pays off the Broadway powers-that-be to shut the play down. Janie finds out of his deceit (thanks to a drunken Patch) and dumps Tod. She encourages Patch to put on the show all on his own. The conclusion, the showing of the production, is a beautiful art deco showcase of dancing, singing and spectacular sets.clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
The producer of this musical extravaganza was David Selznick, whom Clark had just worked with in the ensemble piece Night Flight and would later work with in Gone with the Wind. Clark did not enjoy working with Selznick in Night Flight—finding his perfectionist ways tedious and was perturbed that the film’s many delays caused him to miss a planned fishing trip. So he was hardly excited to be working with him again in Dancing Lady. It was Selznick’s idea to take James Warner Bellah’s rags to riches novel and make it into a grand musical. Selznick had originally wanted to cast Jean Harlow, whom he had just worked with with great success in Dinner at Eight. But Joan Crawford was desperate for the role, as her career had started to take a dive after the recent failures of Today We Live and Rain. MGM wanted to tag her onto Clark’s rising star to revive her career. And the film is really Crawford’s, with her scenes practically doubling Clark’s.clark gable jona crawford dancing lady
But one of the things I really like about this film is that it is so very quintessentially 1930’s. From the scandalous burlesque-girl-makes-her-dreams-come-true storyline to the dance numbers, to the gorgeous costumes,–from itty bitty dancing rompers and fringe-lined bathing suits to esquite ruffled gowns. joan crawford dancing lady
Speaking of costumes, my oh my this was definitely the pre-code era. We have everything here from Crawford in those tiny rompers and a small bikini top, to girl cops in the finale number wearing short flippy skirts with see-through mesh tops with pasties covering their nipples! It is a role that fit Joan like a glove, as she always played “poor girl makes it big” roles at this point in her career, and she was a hoofer before she was an actress.clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
The supporting cast can’t be ignored. Yes, that’s Eve Arden with platinum blonde hair ranting and raving with a fake Southern accent after she leaves the stage early in the film. And there’s Sterling Holloway, known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, as one the theater managers Clark ticks off. May Robson plays Franchot’s crusty deaf Grandma as only she could. That unmistakable voice is indeed Nelson Eddy in a top hat in the finale number “Rhythm of the Day” as well. Especially of note is that this film marks the first film appearance of Ted Healy and his Three Stooges, here as stagehands. clark gable the three stooges dancing lady
Oh, and that skinny, balding man hoofing it with Crawford nearly an hour into the film? Why, that would be the very first film appearance of a certain Mr. Fred Astaire. That’s right, Fred’s first scene in a film was with Clark Gable and his first dancing and singing partner was Joan Crawford! Later on in his signature hat and tails, no less.
joan crawford fred astaire dancing ladu
Fred Astaire and Joan Crawford pose outside the soundstage
Clark always described himself as miscast in the film. And it’s true. He is rather wasted. He is angry in nearly every scene, barking orders and brooding in corners. The romance with Joan seems rather forced as most of the time he’s either yelling at her or avoiding her. The one cute scene is when they both are working out at the gym. She hurts her hand and so he rubs it. She hurts her shoulder and so he rubs it. She hurts her butt…and tells him he better not!clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
clark gable dancing lady
clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
Part of the bad memory of the film for him might be because he was very sick during filming. In 1957, he recalled, “MGM assigned me to do a bad part in Dancing Lady with Joan Crawford—a picture I didn’t like. But as bad as the part was, it wasn’t as bad as my health…I’d lost a lot of weight. They’d been working me hard and I was tired. I told myself, ‘If I have a few operations, that will take care of my health and the part in Dancing Lady too.’ I had my appendix and tonsils out, but it didn’t take care of everything, for MGM was mad at me. For some strange reason they thought I’d taken evasive action to avoid their picture. They bided their time during the eight or nine weeks I was in the hospital. Then the very day after I got out they called me in and said, ‘We’re sending you over to Columbia Pictures on a loan-out.’” The loan out? That would be for a little picture called It Happened One Night, which would earn Clark his one and only Oscar.clark gable dancing ladyclark gable dancing lady
Not only were his tonsils and appendix taken out, but so were nearly all of his teeth. He had developed pyorrhea—a serious infection of the gums that threatened his life. He was extremely ill with a high fever as the infection spread. After two weeks of rest, his gums were finally well enough for indentations to be made for a new set of dentures.
clark gable dancing lady
After being absent for weeks, Clark appeared back on set to film one scene: the one he has with Fred Astaire.  Clark’s mustache had been shaved off for his gum surgery and so he had to wear a fake one. In his absence, they had already filmed all of Fred’s dancing numbers and he had to finish his scenes so he could start his first film with RKO, whom he had recently signed a contract. Clark was on set just one day to film that one scene and Crawford recalled, “He was so weak, perspiration broke out on his face. I never felt so sorry for anyone.”clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
Clark and Joan had been notoriously engaged in a heated affair off and on for about two years when filming on Dancing Lady began. Clark’s long absences from the set led the bored Joan to seek comfort elsewhere–in the arms of co-star Franchot Tone. By the time Clark finally returned to set to finish the film, he had been replaced by Franchot as the main visitor to Joan’s dressing room. Joan and Franchot were eventually married in 1935.franchot tone joan crawford clark gable dancing lady
Dancing Lady is available on DVD in the Clark Gable Signature Collection. You can see over 150 pictures from the film here and read more about the film here.

Hollywood Boulevard

The infamous Hollywood Boulevard is about what you would expect: a mix of the old and the new, with buildings like Grauman’s Chinese and the El Capitan Theater sharing sidewalk space with the Kodak Theater and an H&M. The streets filled with hundreds of fans, milling the street taking photos, and hundreds of vendors harrassing you at every turn to buy their stuff or take their tour.

An obvious place to start here is Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They do offer tours inside this historic theater, but we did not take one. Instead, we milled around outside and compared our hands to celebrities.

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Here is Clark Gable, whom I must say had very big hands. His fingers went way past mine and his feet dwarfed mine (and I have big feet!)

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Clark leaving his mark

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Not only did he leave his prints on January 20, 1937, but Clark attended several premieres at Grauman’s, from Grand Hotel in 1932 to A Star is Born in 1954.

Clark and Carole Lombard attended the Greek War Relief Benefit here in 1941.I wish I could tell whose prints they are standing on!

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

I took a few shots of some more prints (click to enlarge):

Myrna Loy and William Powell

William Powell Myrna Loy

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer

Loretta Young

Loretta Young

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow

Jimmy Stewart

Jimmy Stewart

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Across the street is the El Capitan Theater, which opened in 1926 and was a live theater for over a decade before becoming a movie theater, which it still is today. Clark performed there in the late 1920’s.

El Capitan Theater

El Capitan Theater

Also nearby is the Pig n Whistle, a famous restaurant dating back to 1927. Clark surely enjoyed a snack or two here, no?

Pig n Whistle

You can usually tell tourists on Hollywood Blvd because they are all walking with their heads down, exclaiming over the names beneath their feet. I was surprised at the variety of people that had stars. Everyone from the Muppets to little known 30’s stars like Madge Evans.  The majority of these we found just by walking with our heads down. Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow have primo spots, right across the street from Grauman’s.

Click to enlarge:


Where is Clark, you ask? Good question. The answer would be way down on Vine Street, just past the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

Hollywood and Vine

Hollywood and Vine

Clark’s star is here in front of….a Trader Joe’s. Which I found rather depressing. But I guess better that than a seedy tattoo parlor like many of the other ones were. And at least there were no prostitutes standing on it or homeless people sleeping on it….

Clark Gable Hollywood Walk of Fame

The one day when it was raining and we were soaked to the bone, we spent a while roaming the Hollywood Museum, which is housed in the original Art Deco Max Factor building. The building in itself was a sight to behold. Every star you could name used to grace these rooms for beauty treatments; even Clark’s second wife Ria visited weekly. There were so many things; it was a challenge to take it all in.

The lobby:

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Rows and rows of pictures…

Hollywood Museum

This picture of Clark and Carole lunching at the Paramount commissary had a peculiar caption:

Hollywood Museum Clark Gable Carole Lombard

Hollywood Museum

“Woman of Her Soon”? Did someone read them the title over the telephone and they misunderstood? That’s No Man of Her Own, folks…

The “Blondes” Room–where Carole would have gone. They had rooms for “Brunettes” “Brownettes” and “Redheads” too.

Hollywood Museum

The most intriguing part of the museum for me was the Jean Harlow exhibit:

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

There wasn’t much Clark in the museum; a few pictures here and there and an autograph or two. They also had an entire floor devoted to Lucille Ball.

Historic Hollywood High School (okay, it’s actually on nearby Sunset Blvd…) featuring a huge mural as a tribute to its previous students.

Hollywood High School

Hollywood High School

Carole Lombard attended here, but did not graduate, dropping out to pursue her dramatic dreams. Alumni include Judy Garland, Fay Wray, Lana Turner and many more.