From December 1953:
Grace Kelly is trying to forget Clark Gable by dating most of Hollywood’s eligible males, but the torch she carries for “The King” can be seen from Catalina on a clear night.
From December 1953:
Grace Kelly is trying to forget Clark Gable by dating most of Hollywood’s eligible males, but the torch she carries for “The King” can be seen from Catalina on a clear night.
Directed by: Delmer Daves
Co-stars: Gene Tierney
Synopsis: Gable is Philip Sutherland, an American war correspondent stationed in Moscow. He falls in love with Marya (Tierney), a Russian ballet dancer. After they wed, Philip receives orders to ship back to the United States, but they find that the Russian government will not grant Marya a passport to leave Russia. When Philip is tricked into leaving without her, he sets about forming a plan to smuggle her out of Russia.
Best Gable Quote: “When the time comes for me to go, you go with me or I don’t go at all.”
Fun Fact: Shot entirely in London, the coast of Cornwall and at MGM’s British studios. Filmed during a near-two year period in which Gable was overseas, filming also Betrayed (in Holland) and Mogambo (in Africa).
My Verdict: I didn’t like this one very much the first time I saw it, but it is one of those that I like a little bit more each time I see it. Although Gene was young enough to be Clark’s daughter, the romance here is very sweet and it is packed with suspense. I’ve always wished that they showed more of their relationship before they were thrust apart, just for dramatic effect, but that may just be me. Enjoyable film.
Directed by: John Ford
Co-stars: Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden
Synopsis: This is a remake of Gable’s 1932 hit, Red Dust. The setting and character’s names have changed, but the basic love triangle plot remains the same. Gable is Victor Marswell, who earns his living in Africa by trapping wild animals for zoos and carnivals. His no-nonsense way of life is interrupted by the arrival of Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (Gardner), a sassy showgirl from New York who is stranded there. They clash at first but soon are bedfellows. Just as Honey Bear leaves, anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his lovely wife, Linda (Kelly) arrive. Honey Bear’s boat wrecks and when she returns to camp, she finds that Victor now only has eyes for Linda. Heartbroken, she watches their affair unfold behind Donald’s back. Filmed on location in Africa, Mogambo features beautiful scenery and native chants instead of an instrumental score.
Best Gable Quote: “Certainly I’m drunk. But I certainly know what I’m saying. Listen Mrs. Nordley, you’re not going to tell me that you’ve been taking all this seriously are you? You know how it is on safari–it’s in all the books. The women always falls for the white hunter and we guys make the most of it, can you blame us? When you all come along with that look in your eye, ain’t a guy in the whole world that could–”
Fun Fact: Gable and Kelly began a romance during the filming. She called him “Ba”, the Swahili word for father, and they spent their free time fishing together or in his tent. She told friends that they even went skinny-dipping in Lake Victoria. The affair quickly ended after the shoot was moved to London for the interiors and Kelly’s mother began chaperoning them.
My Verdict: I don’t really like to think of this as the remake of Red Dust, because I think the two films stand by themselves as different entities. While Red Dust was a steamy romance, Mogambo is more an adventure romance. Being shot on location in Africa, the settings are absolutely beautiful and certainly beat MGM-crafted jungles. Clark is very distinguished-looking here and tan—you don’t blame Ava and Grace one bit. He’s got chemistry with both, the script is great and there is no shortage of action and adventure.
If you take one look at the Article Archive, you’ll note that the majority of the articles (we’re up to over 130! ) are from the 1930’s and 40’s. This being mainly because that is when Clark Gable was at the peak of stardom and of most interest to writers and the public. As he aged, the top headlines went to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis, Tony Curtis, etc. I can usually snap up any fan magazine from the 30’s and 40’s and find at least one Clark gossip item, article or photo. The 1950’s is hit or miss. Clark was in his fifties and, while still very much respected, was not hot gossip anymore. That is until he was caught out and about with a hot new starlet.
This is one of the first articles I have seen that details the brief romance of Clark and Grace Kelly. Both of them always denied the romance, but Ava Gardner called them out on it in her book and many others have admitted that it was indeed the real deal, albeit for a short time.
If he had not become an actor, and a darn good one, Clark Gable would have made a superb diplomat.
He is charming, tactful, smooth as nylon, and so sincere when denying an allegation, so altogether credible and downright that to doubt him seems like heresy.
You say to him, “What goes with you and Grace Kelly? I understand the two of you were virtually inseparable all through Africa and London? There’s even a rumor that you and Grace have some sort of understanding, maybe an engagement?”
Gable fixes you with a manly stare, shakes that handsome temple-gray head of his and says flatly, “That’s absurd. The whole story’s fantastic. Just because we’ve made one picture together and we’ve been out a few times. She’s a very lovely girl and a fine actress, but that’s all there is to it.”
If his history with women were not so replete with similar denials, one might accept Gable’s protestations and admit that his friendship with blonde, young, beautiful Grace Kelly is purely professional. Except that a few years ago when he was going with Lady Sylvia Ashley and was asked if he contemplated matrimony, he told reporters, “Now, look, boys, she’s a very fine woman and I enjoy her company. But insofar as anything serious is concerned, that’s out.”
Even when he was paying his second wife, Maria Langham close to half a million so that he could be free to marry Carole Lombard, Gable was still shy about admitting his love.
“Carole and I are good friends,” he said at the time, “but I’m in no position to discuss marriage or love or anything like that. Say we’re just good friends and leave it at that.”
On the basis of his established record, it is safe to say that when Gable insists his relationship with an attractive female is casual, it usually is not. For The King, as Spencer Tracy refers to him, has always been a one-woman man—that is, a one-woman-at-a-time man.
When he courts a girl, he concentrates on her. He gives her all his ardor, all his non-working time. No diversification for this gentleman. He makes a girl feel as if he is living for her, only for her.
In the case of Grace Kelly, members of the Mogambo crew insist that during the preparation and making of this film, “Gable had big eyes for Grace.”
I think perhaps Grace got her heart broken a bit by Clark. I’m sure he was very fond of her, but it seemed to be only a location romance and nothing more. Clark was never going to marry a woman that much younger than him–and certainly not a budding actress. Grace was gorgeous, of course, but she was a bit too high society for Clark’s blood (yes I realize that is a bad pun at one of her movies…). Grace had a habit with falling in love with co-stars, such as Bing Crosby and William Holden–Clark was the first in the line. “He makes a girl feel as if he is living for her, only for her.” Whew….
Most of the article then goes into detail about Grace’s background, as she was relatively still an unknown at the time the article was written. After that, Clark is put on the hotspot:
Grace Kelly was flown to Europe, thence to Nairobi in British East Africa, and then 750 land miles out into the bush country. It was in this location that she and Gable became “fast friends.”
Ava and Grace were the only two white female stars on the trek, and at night Ava used to hang a lantern outside her tent to scare off the lions, and in this sort of potentially dangerous environment, Gable took on the halo of the protector.
Africa or no Africa, The King is a pretty romantic guy any way you look at him, and in the span of five weeks’ time, Grace Kelly was looking at him plenty.
By the time they hit London, the rumors coupling these two in a torrid romance were in full force. They were so prevalent that Gable became annoyed at them and refused to answer questions concerning his love life.
Reporters are adroit by profession, however, and would start their questioning along this line. “Are you really happy without a wife?” Gable’s answer to that one was a fast yes.
“How do you feel about marriage generally? That is, you’ve been burned a few times.”
“I’ve always believed in marriage as the best state for man and woman, and I believe in it now. If the right girl came along and I fell in love with her and she with me, I certainly would marry again.”
Mindful of the fact that each of his four wives had had money in her own right, one reporter asked the actor how he felt about a wife who had independent income.
“If a marriage is right,” Gable answered, “a husband will maintain his authority regardless of his wife’s income or wealth.”
“What qualities are you looking for in a wife, Mr. Gable?”
“I’m looking for a woman who has brains, beauty, breeding and a good sense of humor. I’d like her to know her way around both in and out of the home. I myself don’t go in for much entertaining but if entertaining makes her happy she can do all of it she has a hankering for.”
“After you finish Mogambo what are your plans?”
“I left my car back in Rome. I’m going to pick it up, drive through Spain and then settle down in a little house I’ve rented in Majorca. Did I mind the discomfort in Africa? Heck no. A lot of people were bellyaching about the conditions, but I loved the whole setup, sleeping on a cot, the mosquito netting, washing in a canvas basin, even hunting. I shot a crocodile and a python, and a few other animals, but I’m really more of a fisherman than a hunter. Basically, I’m a lazy man, and I guess all lazy men love to fish.”
“Just one more question, Mr. Gable. Is there any truth to the rumor that while you and Grace Kelly were on location you fell in love with her and that she is currently your girl?”
The King’s eyes flashed, his teeth came together, and he shook his head. “That’s absurd,” he said a moment later. “Right now I’ve got no girl.”
I love the description of his eyes flashing; that is just how I would imagine he would react to such a question. He was always such a private person but yet was usually accomodating to interviewers. He was jovial and easygoing, but there was this imaginary line (usually Carole and his romances) and if you crossed it, he shut down. This is the first time in a few years he seems willing to admit maybe he would marry again. After the Sylvia marriage ended, he would often say he would never marry again. By now I suppose he was changing his tune.
I don’t think many of us can blame Grace–what red-blooded female on earth would object to Clark Gable protecting you from lions?
This month’s film is the 1953 jungle romance-adventure Mogambo.
The most interesting thing about this film is that it is a remake of Red Dust, with Clark reprising his role. What man could reprise the leading role of the jungle Lothario twenty years later? Only Clark Gable, of course.
Gable is Victor Marswell, who earns his living in Africa by trapping wild animals for zoos and carnivals. His no-nonsense way of life is interrupted by the arrival of Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (Ava Gardner), a sassy showgirl from New York who is stranded there. They clash at first but soon are bedfellows. Just as Honey Bear leaves, anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his lovely wife, Linda (Grace Kelly) arrive. Honey Bear’s boat wrecks and when she returns to camp, she finds that Victor now only has eyes for Linda. Heartbroken, she watches their affair unfold behind Donald’s back.
This film was a big hit for MGM–actually the biggest hit of Clark’s career since Gone with the Wind. He was relieved that the picture made money; none of his post-war films had been blockbusters. Much of it’s appeal was the fact that it was actually shot on location in Africa. Audiences of the 1950’s were becoming bored with mainstream moviefare as they could see the same thing at home on their newly acquired television sets. They wanted new and exciting things to draw them into the movie theaters. Mogambo certainly delivered that!
Clark is older, grayer and heavier, of course, but the film is no less steamier. I don’t really find myself comparing it to Red Dust when I watch it, as the films are similar really only in their floorplans–the decoration is all different. But there are a few notable comparisons.
The biggest difference between Red Dust and Mogambo would be that while Red Dust‘s Indochina was constructed completely on MGM’s backlot, Mogambo was filmed on location in Nairobi and Uganda. Clark filmed this during his two-year tax exile in which he also filmed Never Let Me Go and Betrayed. Only the last few weeks of filming took place in a sound stage in London. He was excited about filming in Africa, although he had trepidations about the journey, as his flight from Rome to Nairobi was the first plane he had boarded since Carole Lombard’s death in 1942.
The landscapes are beautiful–truly they could not have been faked on a soundstage. The lack of music isn’t noticeable although I do find myself tiring of the African chanting by the end. The footage of animals that is randomly interspersed into the action is rather laughable–especially the shots of the gorillas they are supposed to be hunting. It is rather obvious that they are shouting to the actors to “look afraid!” of invisible gorillas and then the grainy footage of wild gorillas is inserted. But no matter.
Clark was pretty happy for the most part on the set, as he spent a lot of time at the nearby animal preserve and would rise early to go hunting. He butted heads several times with brutish director John Ford. By the time the shoot moved from the African jungle to the British soundstages, the two were hardly speaking.
Ava Gardner is perfect in the role of Honey Bear, handling equally the challenge of playing a woman who is carefree in spirit but also covering a broken heart.
Grace Kelly is stoic, prim and proper and so wide-eyed, like a child. I can’t blame her as she plays the role as written. If you were to compare her role to Mary Astor’s in Red Dust, you would find many differences. Mary’s adulterous wife was prim at the beginning but as the film went on she became sexier and sexier; her stolen moments with Clark are steamy. You understand Clark’s desire to toss aside the too-easily-attainable Jean Harlow for the more hidden sexiness of Mary. Whereas in Mogambo I find myself wondering who in the world would cast aside fun-loving Ava for Grace with her chirpy accent and eye-batting innocence.
It is rather funny that there is more chemistry between Ava and Clark than Grace and Clark, as Grace was spending a lot of her time in Clark’s tent after hours. Grace was only 24 when this was filmed and Clark was 52. She was still a budding star and was in awe of him from the beginning. She said, “There were two reasons I did Mogambo: a free trip to Africa and Clark Gable. If it had been filmed in Arizona, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Grace fell desperately in love with Clark, which became commonplace for her to do with later male co-stars as well such as Bing Crosby and William Holden, and her intense attraction frightened off Clark. At first, he found her a great companion–beautiful, blonde and up for anything, she would rise early with him to go hunting. Their relationship quickly cooled when Grace’s mother joined her in England for the sound stage filming. You can read more about their short relationship here.
Ava Gardner is one of those women that I can’t say whether or not her and Clark ever shared sheets. They seemed to have more of a buddy-buddy relationship and she wasn’t really his type–looks-wise. If they did, it definitely wasn’t on the set of Mogambo. Ava’s husband at the time, Frank Sinatra, flew in to spend the shoot with her. When the shoot extended over Christmas, MGM flew in food and Frank sang Christmas carols to entertain the cast and crew. While Clark and Grace were spending “quiet time” in Clark’s tent, Ava and Frank were anything but quiet in their tent–screaming at each other at all hours of the night. Sick of the constant fighting, Frank left before the shoot was over–also to do a screen test for a little film called From Here to Eternity. Soon after his departure, Ava’s scenes were put on hold as she flew to London to have an abortion. “I hated him so much then that I wanted his child to go unborn,” she later said.
Ava wasn’t the only one to go missing. Clark also delayed production when he ran a fever and developed a gum infection. He had to return to Los Angeles to have his dentist correct the problem.
No Oscar nod for Clark, but Ava was nominated for Best Actress and Grace for Best Supporting Actress the following year. Neither won, but at MGM’s urging Clark escorted Grace to the ceremony.
Since tonight is the Oscars, let’s look at the times Clark attended:
February 27, 1935–Clark was nominated for It Happened One Night and did not expect to win. In fact nobody expected this little bus comedy from Columbia to walk away with Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture. The event was held in the Biltmore Bowl at the Biltmore Hotel and Clark reluctantly took Ria, even though he probably would have preferred the company of his latest mistress, Elizabeth Allan. The Gables arrived with Irving Thalberg, Norma Shearer, Helen Hayes and her husband Charles MacArthur. You can read about Clark’s only Oscar here.
March 5, 1936–Clark was nominated again the following year for Mutiny on the Bounty and attended the event at the Biltmore with Best Actress nominee Merle Oberon. Neither won, but Mutiny won Best Picture. Clark was nominated as Best Actor along with his co-stars Franchot Tone and Charles Laughton. All lost to Victor McLaglen for The Informer, but the Academy noticed how it was rather strange to have three actors from the same film vie for the same award and thus the Best Supporting Actor and Actress category was started the following year.
March 4, 1937–Not nominated, Clark attended as the arm candy for a certain Miss Carole Lombard, who was nominated for My Man Godfrey. In the Biltmore Bowl, they sat with William Powell and Jean Harlow–Powell was a nominee for Godfrey as well. Neither won and for some reason nobody can find any pictures of Clark and Carole at the event, either with Jean and Bill or without. I confirmed at the Academy Library last year that they did indeed attend with Bill and and Jean, but, strangely, all that has surfaced is one photo of that pair and none of Clark and Carole. I am on the hunt!
March 25, 1954–Clark begrudgingly attended as Best Supporting Actress nominee Grace Kelly’s date at the RKO Pantages Theater. They had had a steamy love affair during their location shoot for Mogambo that had resumed after returning to the States, but Grace was also seeing William Holden. MGM encouraged Clark to attend as Grace’s escort, since she was a relative newbie, and to support Mogambo, for which Ava Gardner was also nominated for Best Actress. Clark–and Bill Holden’s wife–were a bit miffed when Grace spent the afterparty at Romanoff’s with her arm around Holden, the Best Actor winner. That was the end of that!
March 26, 1958–Clark attended as a presenter for the first time. He presented the Best Writing, Original Screenplay award and the Best Writing, Adaptation award with Doris Day. I’m still not sure how they convinced Clark to do this; he hated speaking in public and rarely gave any sort of speech, not to mention his hatred of awards shows, dressing in a tux, and putting on formalities. Day was Clark’s co-star in the soon-to-be-released Teacher’s Pet so I am sure Paramount encouraged it as a publicity appearance. George Seaton, the director of Teacher’s Pet, was the president of the Academy at the time so I am sure that had something to do with it. Kay was his date, of course, and the event was held at the RKO Pantages Theater.
I’ll be on my couch tonight…rooting for The Artist!
I’m sure you’ve heard the song by the Postal Service, which is titled “Clark Gable.” The line that features his name is “I’ll kiss you in a way Clark Gable would have admired.” Say what you want about Clark and his acting limitations, but that man was a born onscreen lover!
Rosalind Russell recalled: “The only man who could make a love scene comfortable was Clark Gable. He was born graceful, he knew what to do with his feet and when he took hold of you, there was no fooling around.”
Let’s get a lesson in the fine art of onscreen lip locking from Mr. Gable himself…