In a Nutshell: Comrade X (1940)

clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x

Directed by: King Vidor

Co-stars: Hedy Lamarr, Felix Bressart, Oskar Homolka, Eve Arden

Synopsis: Gable is McKinley Thompson, an American reporter living in Russia who is secretly sending news out of the country as the elusive “Comrade X”. His bumbling valet, Igor (Bressart) discovers who he is and blackmails him to take his headstrong Communist daughter (Lamarr) out of Russia to protect her from prosecution. Everything doesn’t go as planned and soon the three of them are racing out of Russia with the Russian army on their tails.

Best Gable Quote: “I don’t talk to ladies that start yelling. It’s a rule I’ve got.”

Fun Fact: This film was made to hurriedly reteam Clark with rising star Hedy Lamarr, since audiences responded so well to their chemistry in Boom Town. When the screenplay was originally accepted, Greta Garbo was in mind for Lamarr’s role, but it was thought it was too close to her recent role in Ninotchka.

My Verdict: At times very funny, it’s best taken at face value as a comedy rather than rolling one’s eyes at the obvious Russian stereotypes displayed here. Clark is at his wisecrackin’ best and Lamarr is pretty to look at although I find their chemistry is not exactly earth shattering. Bressart and Eve Arden are a hoot.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in October 2013.

In a Nutshell: They Met in Bombay (1941)

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Directed by: Clarence Brown

Co-stars: Rosalind Russell, Peter Lorre

Synopsis: 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.

Best Gable Quote: “When a man’s a dreamer, a woman wants him to be practical. When he’s practical, she wants him to be a dreamer. That’s the story of my whole life.”

Fun Fact: Gable, tired of being cast with the same leading ladies over and over again, was pleased with the casting of Rosalind Russell. She had had supporting roles in two other films with him a  few years prior, but this was her first (and only) as his leading lady.

My Verdict: It’s a joy to watch Clark onscreen with Rosalind Russell, even if her character here is more tame than her eventual zany comedies. While I wouldn’t call their chemistry white hot, it is comfortable and believable. The film really loses its way halfway through and the spy caper storyline feels stale. It’s kind of a cross between Comrade X and Love on the Run. I think both Gable and Russell deserved a better vehicle.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

Ratings

clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x
This month, Clark is a rogue foreign correspondant in Russia and Hedy Lamarr is his reluctant hostage in Comrade X.
Gable is McKinley Thompson, an American reporter living in Russia who is secretly sending news out of the country as the elusive “Comrade X”. His bumbling valet, Igor (Felix Bressart) discovers who he is and blackmails him to take his headstrong Communist daughter (Hedy Lamarr) out of Russia to protect her from prosecution. Everything doesn’t go as planned and soon the three of them are racing out of Russia with the Russian army on their tails.
clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x
This one isn’t legendary film making by any means, but it’s fun. Clark is always at ease playing a wise crackin’ reporter and this role is just his cup of tea.In many ways, it’s kind of like a poor man’s Ninotchka, and Hedy is no Garbo (interestingly, this film actually did better box office than Ninotchka, although Ninotchka gets the “classic” title these days). It’s really just one of those films with a pretty simple plot that seems more exotic and interesting because of its foreign location. The message doesn’t go much further than “America=Good Russia=Bad,” but what that is pretty much par for the course in 1940.
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Clark was on a Gone with the Wind-success high when this came out, and he was in the happiest time of his life, married to Carole Lombard and jetting off with her on hunting jags in between film projects. I always think that during those years you can see the happiness coming out of his pores.
clark gable comrade x
Clark and Hedy Lamarr were reteamed quickly after the success of their steamy scenes in Boom Town. I can’t say that she is one of my favorite Gable leading ladies, but she’s not bad. She plays the hardheaded Russian communist well, and of course she is undeniably sexy. Director King Vidor recalled that she was “far more naive than sophisticated.” She was very nervous starring opposite Clark but he was kind to her and egged her along.
clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x
Clark appears for the first time a few minutes into the film, hung over and arriving at his hotel after hitching a ride with a pig farmer. Upon his arrival, he orders more alcohol, cucumbers, raw eggs and tabasco and warns that any delay in their arrival would be fatal. There are definitely echoes of Peter Warne, Clark’s other fast-talking reporter in It Happened One Night. Oh, and also Mike Anthony in Love on the Run
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Although the love story here is a bit far fetched, it does have a cute sequence here and there. On their wedding night, Hedy emerges from the bathroom in her long sleeved, high necked nightgown. “Oh, so you did  bring your parachute,” Clark cracks.
clark gable comrade x
He provides her with a more skimpy alternative. “I’m going to spread Communism in this?” she scoffs. “Like a house fire!” Clark retorts. “What a trousseau,” he remarks as she goes into the bathroom to change.
Comrade X clark gable comrade x
This being a Clark Gable vehicle after all, Clark is full of lines for Hedy, naturally.“There’s nothing you couldn’t sell with a smile like that.” and “You’re a beautiful woman and nobody’s going to turn a machine gun on you if I can help it!”
Comrade X clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x
The best scene between the two is hardly romantic, as they battle it out in the hotel room on their wedding night. “Fine wedding night this turned out to be!” Clark muses. The sound editing of Hedy yelling at him in Russian in this scene is truly god awful–it’s downright laughable. Her lips aren’t moving but yet there is a woman’s voice yelling Russian!
clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x
Eve Arden is a hoot (when isn’t she?) as a fellow reporter who has a thing for Clark. “Miss me?” Clark asks when he returns after his drunken binge. “No, I can always go to the zoo while you’re away,” she snaps back.
clark gable eve arden comrade x
 And Bressart is the perfect stuttering meek father, although him and Hedy sharing some of the same blood is a bit of a stretch.
clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x
I see some traces of Rhett Butler’s stern but calm anger in the scene where Bressart confronts Clark about being “Comrade X.”  “Is that so?” he slowly approaches Bressart with a stable but threatening glare.
clark gable comrade x
Of course you can’t help but roll your eyes that Hedy, such a staunch believer in Communism and steadfast in her beliefs, would suddenly renounce all of it for the chance to live in the United States with Clark. Also, I find it a bit of bad editing that they get out of Russia safely and then suddenly all is right in the world, there they are at a baseball game in the United States. It’s not like they were next door. How did they get Hedy in? Guess that’s not for us to worry about.
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Comrade X is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection. Read more about the film here and see over 190 pictures in the gallery.
clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x

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From September 1940:

Players who came to the Hollywood feast early get most of the gravy. The highest salaries go to firmly established stars like these:

Clark Gable hits the cash register for about $7,500 weekly, 52 weeks a year, with fat bonuses.

Ronald Colman pockets $150,000 per picture, plus 10% of the world gross when it goes over a certain amount–and it usually does.

Robert Taylor brings Barbara Stanwyck an envelope containing about $5,000 weekly, plus bonuses.

Bette Davis earns not less than $3,500 a week the year round.

Deanna Durbin, who blossomed before the economy blight, earns over $2,500 a week, and bonuses.

Claudette Colbert draws $150,000 per picture.

Jimmy Stewart gets about $2,500 a week–and a crack at that bonus.

Due to Hollywood;s reluctance to reveal actual salaries, these sums are estimated on the basis of information supplied by reliable sources.

Hardly threatened with starvation, these stars still can’t approach the Arabian Nights scale of living once rampant in Hollywood:

Linda Darnell has climbed from $110 to $350 a week within the last year. It will be a long time before she reaches the $1,500 mark.

Mary Beth Hughes collects $350 a week for mugging with John Barrymore.

Carole Landis, much publicized, earns $350 weekly for the same sort of role that brings Carole Lombard $150,000 per picture.

Robert Stack gets about $250 a week, opposite Durbin and Dietrich. Robert Montgomery’s greater fame, experience and ability would rate $4,000 weekly for the same work.

Hedy Lamarr, as well known as Colbert and Garbo, earned $750 weekly a few months ago, now gets $1,250, may never reach $5,000.

clark gable hedy lamarr claudette colbert spencer tracy boom town

This month, Clark Gable is a womanizin’ oil chaser, Spencer Tracy is his long-suffering best pal, Claudette Colbert is his best girl, and Hedy Lamarr is his sidedish in Boom Town.

Gable is “Big John” McMasters and Tracy is “Square John” Sand, or as Big John calls him right from the beginning, “Shorty”. They are two wildcatters out west trying to strike oil. They pool their money and smarts and soon hit it big. Putting a snag in their festivities is the arrival of Elizabeth or “Betsy” (Colbert), Shorty’s sweetheart from back home. She arrives to see him but falls in love with Big John instead, and they are married the night they met.

A year passes and when Shorty thinks that Big John is not treating Betsy right, the two men come to blows and flip a coin to decide who gets the oil rigs. Shorty wins and Big John and Betsy hit the road. The film follows them through the years as Big John and Betsy have a son and strike it rich, first in Oklahoma, then in New York. Shorty also strikes it rich but soon loses it all. When the two men meet again and decide to let bygones be bygones, their friendship and working relationship is tested again when Shorty discovers Big John is having an affair with the elegant Karen VanMeer (Lamarr).

The film is rather melodramatic, but the cast is fantastic and it keeps your interest even if oil drilling isn’t exactly your idea of a thrilling topic.

clark gable spencer tracy boom town

The film has all the ingredients for the perfect Clark Gable stew: he gets dirty, he throws punches, he juggles two gorgeous girls, and he’s kind of a cad through it all but in the end it all works out a-ok for Clark.

Clark and Claudette, the Oscar-winning duo from 1934’s It Happened One Night, are re-teamed here for the second (and last) time. The chemistry hasn’t faded for these two–they still fell easily into the roles of two people very much in love.

clark gable claudette colbert boomt town

clark gable claudette colbert boom town

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Boom Town

One of my all-time favorite Clark Gable scenes is in this film. Claudette, torn between her obligation to her childhood beau Spencer and her newfound love for Clark, runs up the stairs to her hotel room and away from his embrace.

Clark at first seems confused but then says softly–but firmly, and with an almost pleading look in his eyes, “Hey! Come down here.” When Claudette obliges, he informs her, “I make up my mind quick. I made it up when I first saw you I guess. You aren’t ever going to leave.” Just try and resist that!

clark gable claudette colbert boom town clark gable boom town clark gable boom town clark gable claudette colbert boom town clark gable claudette colbert boom town

 

Spencer Tracy is again playing Clark’s conscience, much as he did in San Francisco. He is left to be the one shaking his head at Clark’s actions and trying to steer him down the right path. Clark and Spencer were “frenemies” of sorts–considered themselves very close friends but at the same time envied each other. Clark was jealous that Spencer was so highly regarded as an actor, and Spencer was jealous of Clark’s popularity and hearthrob status.

clark gable spencer tracy boom town

In this film, Clark and Spencer get to beat each other up in a rather hokey fight scene. Throwing fake punches and breaking furniture right and left, Spencer throttles Clark for cheating on Claudette with Hedy. Hokey and makes some amusing screenshots!

clark gable spencer tracy boom town clark gable boom town clark gable boom town clark gable boom town clark gable boom town

While filming the fight scene, Spencer’s stand-in accidently smacked Clark square in the mouth, breaking his dentures and cutting his lip–causing a delay in filming.

Hedy Lamarr is pure window dressing in this film. But if anyone could be good looking window dressing, it was Hedy! She was very nervous about the role and apparently Clark often had to reassure her. Their scenes together were steamy enough that MGM quickly reteamed them in Comrade X.

clark gable hedy lamarr boom town

 

Boom Town was filmed during what was probably the happiest time of Clark Gable’s life. Riding high on the recent success of Gone with the Wind and in a newlywed bliss with Carole Lombard, Clark had never looked better.

clark gable boom town

Boom Town is available on DVD in The Clark Gable Signature Collection. Read more about the film here and see over 200 pictures from the film in the gallery.

frank morgan clark gable claudette colbert spencer tracy boom town

newlweds

Since Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married 74 years ago this week, here is a vintage article I found that lists the celebrity couples that were newlyweds in 1939. So let’s see who else would be celebrating 74 years together this year…

 

ronald benita colman

Ronald Colman and Benita Hume

They were included in this article, but apparently they were married in September 1938, so not sure why they were included but…

Benita was Ronald’s second wife. They were married until his death in 1958, and had one daughter, Juliet.

nelson ann eddy

Nelson Eddy and Ann Denitz

Married in January 1939, celebrated singer Nelson and Ann were married until his death in 1967. They had no children.

robert taylor barbara stanwyck

Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck

Taylor and Stanwyck rivaled Clark Gable and Carole Lombard as the top celebrity marriage of 1939. They were divorced in 1952, sadly. He later married actress Ursula Theiss and had two children. Stanwyck had been married once before, to actor Frank Fay, but did not marry a third time.

ida lupino louis hayward

Louis Hayward and Ida Lupino

Director Hayward and famed actress/director Lupino were married in November 1938.It was the first marriage for both. They were divorced in 1945 and both of them went on to marry twice more.

leo gorcey kay marvis

Leo Gorcey and Kay Marvis

“Bowery Boy” Leo was 21 when he and Kay were married in May 1939, his first of five wives. She was 17. They were divorced in 1944 when she left him for Groucho Marx.

tyrone power annabella

Tyrone Power and Annabella

Hearthrob Power and French beauty Annabella were married in April 1939, the first for him, second for her. They were divorced in 1948. He went on to marry twice more, having three children. Annabella did not remarry.

alexander korda merle oberon

Alexander Korda and Merle Oberon

Hungarian director Korda and British actress Oberon were married in June 1939. His second marriage, her first. They were divorced in 1945. He went on to marry once more, her three times.

sigrid gurie

Lawrence Spangard and Sigrid Gurie

“The Norwegian Garbo” Gurie married Dr. Spangard in August 1939. They were divorced in 1948 and she went on to marry once more.

 gene markey hedy lamarr

Gene Markey and Hedy Lamarr

Exotic Lamarr married screenwriter (and ladies man) Markey in March 1939. They adopted a son together and were divorced soon after, in 1941. They had both been married once before, him to actress Joan Bennett.

Lamarr was married four more times, Markey twice more–his third wife was Myrna Loy.

nan grey jackie westrope

Jackie Westrope and Nan Grey

30’s and 40’s actress Grey married jockey Westrope in 1939. They had two daughters and were divorced in 1950. She married once more. I am not too familiar with this couple but their picture is very sweet!

 

Oh and the last one….

clark gable carole lombard

 

clark gable carole lombard

74 years ago this month, lovebirds Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were among the throngs of celebrities attending the world premiere of MGM’s Marie Antoinette at the  Carthay Circle Theater  in Hollywood (no longer standing, sadly.)
marie antoinette premiere program

Premiere Program

The film has been on MGM’s drawing table for years; a pet project of producer Irving Thalberg, who died in 1936 before a camera ever rolled on the project. His wife, Norma Shearer, was set to be the star of the picture. After her husband’s death, the project was shelved while Norma grieved and was ill with pneumonia. The film finally started production in December 1937 and was a lavish affair, with a $1.8 million budget–practically unheard of at that time, most of it spent on the elaborate costumes, wigs and sets. The budget was so bloated that originally the film was to be shot in Technicolor but that idea had to be scrapped to save money. Norma has her critics as an actress, but Marie Antoinette really is her finest work. It was her personal favorite of all of her films and would often be the only one she would be willing to discuss with people when she was in failing mental health late in her life.
MGM made sure the premiere of this prestige picture was a grand event, with a virtual who’s who of Hollywood attending. Such as:
Earl of Warwick, Simone Simon, Jinx Falkenberg, Merle Oberon and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Earl of Warwick, Simone Simon, Jinx Falkenberg, Merle Oberon and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
hedy lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

 

jean bello jean harlow mother

Jean Harlow's mother attended...looking eerily like Jean, eyebrows and all and even wearing Jean's white fur wrap!

judy garland freddie bartholomew

Judy Garland and Freddie Bartholomew came together...with their mothers!

Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck
Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck
Louis B. Mayer, Helen Hayes, Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power
Louis B. Mayer, Helen Hayes, Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power
Norma was truly the queen of the night and, having recently ended a short fling with Jimmy Stewart, her co-star Tyrone Power was her escort.
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Clark and Carole looked fabulous. I love Carole’s tightly curled ‘do and massive corsage!
clark gable carole lombard
clark gable carole lombard
clark gable carole lombard tyrone power

signing the guest book with Tyrone Power

clark gable carole lombard
clark gable carole lombard
TCM has the newsreel of the premiere (which is also on the film’s DVD):

Afterwards, everyone went over the infamous Hollywood nightspot the Trocadero for the after party. Spotted:
Producer Joe Mankiewicz, Viennese star Rose Stradner, Spencer Tracy and his wife

Producer Joe Mankiewicz, Viennese star Rose Stradner, Spencer Tracy and his wife

Pat Paterson (Mrs. Boyer), Basil Rathbone and Charles Boyer
Pat Paterson (Mrs. Boyer), Basil Rathbone and Charles Boyer
It is at this after party at “the Troc” that this picture of Clark and Carole was taken, one of my favorites. Think they are having a good time?
clark gable carole lombard
Looks like their table was the fun one!
clark gable carole lombard
I have a feeling that party went well into the night…

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…

rosalind russell clark gable they met in bombay

with Rosalind Russell in "They Met in Bombay" (1941)

clark gable norma shearer a free soul

with Norma Shearer in "A Free Soul" (1931)

greer garson clark gable adventure

with Greer Garson in "Adventure" (1945)

joan crawford clark gable chained

with Joan Crawford in "Chained" (1934)

ann baxter clark gable homecoming

with Ann Baxter in Homecoming

clark gable idiot's delight

with a lucky nurse in "Idiot's Delight"(1939)

hedy lamarr clark gable comrade x

with Hedy Lamarr in "Comrade X" (1940)

clark gable lana turner honky tonk

with Lana Turner in "Honky Tonk" (1940)

jeanette macdonald san francisco clark gable

with Jeanette MacDonald in "San Francisco" (1936)

clark gable myrna loy men in white

with Myrna Loy in "Men in White" (1934)

clark gable constance bennett after office hours

with Constance Bennett in "After Office Hours" (1935)

mary astor clark gable red dust

with Mary Astor in "Red Dust" (1932)

grace kelly clark gable mogambo

with Grace Kelly in "Mogambo" (1953)

marion davies clark gable polly of the circus

with Marion Davies in "Polly of the Circus" (1932)

greta garbo clark gable susan lenox

with Greta Garbo in "Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise" (1931)

doris day clark gable teacher's pet

with Doris Day in "Teacher's Pet" (1958)

claudette colbert clark gable boom town

with Claudette Colbert in "Boom Town" (1940)

loretta young clark gable call of the wild

with Loretta Young in "Call of the Wild" (1935)

yvonne de carlo clark gable band of angels

with Yvonne de Carlo in "Band of Angels" (1957)

deborah kerr clark gable the hucksters

with Deborah Kerr in "The Hucksters" (1947)

barbara stanwyck clark gable to please a lady

with Barbara Stanwyck in "To Please a Lady" (1950)

jean harlow clark gable china seas

with Jean Harlow in "China Seas" (1935)

carole lombard clark gable no man of her own

with Carole Lombard in "No Man of Her Own" (1932)

Clark Gable Hedy Lamarr

From July 1940:

On the set of “Boom Town”, Mickey Rooney dropped by for a visit with his idol, Clark Gable. Gable was doing a scene with Hedy Lamarr, in which the weeping actress threw herself down on a couch. Gable was supposed to come up to Hedy, pat her on the shoulder and tell her how much he loved her. The scene was just getting underway when Mickey arrived on the set, and Gable motioned to him to take his place. Imagine Hedy’s surprise when she heard Mickey’s voice, quivering from sheer nerves, saying, “I love you.” She turned quickly and burst into laughter, which Mickey blushed to the roots of his blonde hair. “That’s all right, Mickey,” said Hedy. “You sound a lot more convincing than Clark.”

comrade2

From November 1940:

In “Comrade X”, Hedy Lamarr plays a street conductor in Russia. Clark Gable gets on her car and gives her some “rubles” for his carfare. We just happened to be looking at the “rubles”–and they turned out to be Marie Antoinette coins, last used in [the 1937 Norma Shearer picture] “Marie Antoinette”.

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Interesting piece of film trivia there!

New this week:

Photos in the gallery

Four new articles, all from the 1940’s

normal_comrade11

From January 1941:

Hedy Lamarr, who has completely forgotten her nervous jitters and family troubles that tore at her heart, has become a fun-loving, chattering, prank-playing imp on the “Comrade X” set. And all because that irresistable Clark Gable has kidded Hedy out of those self-conscious blues into being a real and naturla human being. It’s a new Lamarr, take our word for it.

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New this week:

Tuesday: New look for the site, film page for The Painted Desert

Wednesday: Page for Grace Kelly

Thursday: Pics of Clark and Sylvia Ashley in the gallery

Friday: Clark’s death certificate