In a Nutshell: Strange Interlude (1932)

clark gable norma shearer strange interlude

Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard

Co-stars: Norma Shearer, Alexander Kirkland, Ralph Morgan

Synopsis: Gable is Dr. Ned Darrell, who has fallen in love with Nina Leeds (Shearer), a free-spirited young woman who is mourning the loss of her love in World War I. Also in love with her are family friend Charlie (Morgan) and Sam (Kirkland), a friend of her deceased boyfriend. Sam proposes to Nina and even though she is still heartbroken, she accepts and decides to move on with her life. Right after their marriage, Sam’s mother (May Robson) tells Nina that she and Sam must never have a child because insanity runs rampant in Sam’s father’s side of the family. She recommends that Nina give Sam a child fathered by another man to keep him happy and never let him know the truth. Devastated by the news, Nina turns to Ned for advice and Ned agrees that she must give Sam a child to make him happy. Ned volunteers to sire the child and soon they are in a passionate affair behind Sam’s back. A boy is born to Nina and Sam never suspects that the child is not his. Jealous Charlie watches this all unfold, pining for Nina all the while. Years pass and Nina and Ned constantly struggle with their love for each other and whether or not to tell Sam the truth.

Best Gable Quote: “I couldn’t forget you. Other women only made me love you more. It was always you in my arms.”

Fun Fact: This is the first Gable film to feature him with a mustache, although it was a fake one applied by the makeup department to make him look older.

My Verdict: This one is soapy, soapy, soapy. The “thoughts” of the characters being heard while they stand there with blank looks on their faces becomes very tiresome before you’re halfway through the movie. The more times I see it, the more I can’t stand Norma Shearer’s selfish Nina, who destroys many lives in her self- righteous path. Having a child by another man so that her husband’s family gene of insanity won’t be passed down it an absolutely ludicrous scenario nowadays and it seems silly even portrayed in the film. It is not a bad film overall, it just comes across as extremely dated. Worth it to see Clark in his first onscreen mustache and the first pairing of him with the illustrious Norma.mustachemustache

It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in March 2012.

 

In a Nutshell: The White Sister (1933)

clark gable the white sister helen hayes

Directed by: Victor Fleming

Co-stars: Helen Hayes, Lewis Stone

Synopsis: Gable is Giovanni Severa, a pilot in the Italian Air Force. He meets Angela (Hayes), an aristocratic daughter of a prince (Stone). Her father opposes their romance but they steal moments together anyway. When Giovanni goes off to fight in the 1914-1918 war, Angela waits for him so they can get married. When she learns he has died in combat, she knows she will never love again and joins a convent.

Best Gable Quote: “I’m fighting for our love. If it means disgrace then at least we have each other!” (GROAN)

Fun Fact: The film was essentially a remake of a remake, as it had been filmed twice before, in 1923 (with Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman) and in 1915.

My Verdict: I generally like romantic movies, but this one is Valentine’s Day with roses and chocolates and dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower with jewelry and violinists. It’s just too sugary sweet. It seems so odd that rough-and-tumble man’s man Victor Fleming directed this. Clark is reduced to a quivering, lovelorn sack and he looks a bit dopey with the too-thin mustache and oddly boxy uniform. I respect Helen Hayes as an actress but she is badly paired with Clark here. She is only a few months older than him, but for some reason she comes across extremely matronly, like he’s making kissy faces at his mother.! I have only seen this movie twice because, quite simply, I just don’t like it!mustache

It’s on DVD.

clark gable night flight

Okay, okay, I know it’s the end of the month and here I am just now declaring the Movie of the Month for September. In my defense, I just moved and my office has turned out to be the last room to get unpacked. I always rewatch the Movie of the Month and reread the passages about it in some of the books I have. So I had to wait until I found my DVDs and books! I actually had another film in mind for this month but I can’t find the DVD at the moment, so Night Flight it is.

clark gable night flight

Night Flight is a true ensemble piece, boosting an impressive lineup of Hollywood royalty: Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Robert Montgomery, Lionel and John Barrymore. Clark Gable is hardly the star of this one, as he does not appear until a good twenty minutes into the film. It is a tale of 24 dramatic hours in the Air Mail industry, where pilots risk their lives every day flying through the pitch black night with limited instruments and no lights guiding the way. This time, it’s a vaccine needed at a children’s hospital in South America. Gable is Jules, a pilot who has lost his way somewhere over Texas, while his wife (Hayes) waits at home for him and grows more and more frantic.

clark gable night flight

Ok, so it is definitely worth pointing out that not only does Clark not appear until 20 minutes into the film, but all his scenes are limited to the cockpit of a plane. He has no scenes with Helen, his onscreen love interest. The reason for this was probably that his first film with Helen, The White Sister, had failed miserably at the box office–much blame given to the utterly awkward chemistry between Clark and Helen.

clark gable helen hayes night flight

The extent of romance between Clark and Helen: her gazing at his portrait

Night Flight is clunky to me; it relies to heavily on the star power of its roster rather than actual plot. It is also very dated, as modern audiences hardly understand the peril of pilots flying through darkness.

The film paired Clark  with renowned producer David O’ Selznick, whom he would later memorably work with on Gone with the Wind.  David was all about doing things big and bold and his last ensemble piece, the classic Dinner at Eight, was a big hit. Night Flight did not perform as expected, however. Despite earning a decent profit of $175,000, MGM was disappointed with the returns, expecting more from a film that demanded so many of its big name stars. After the flop of this film and the disastrous production of their next joint effort–Dancing Lady, Clark’s distrust of Selznick grew and simmered on the back burner for years…undoubtedly one of the factors in him not wanting to play Rhett Butler under Selznick’s guiding hand.

Since Clark is in a cockpit the whole time, the best scenes are given to the Barrymores. I also like Myrna and Robert’s small scenes. Clark’s name on this one is really for window dressing–the part could have been handled by a much smaller player. I suppose though they needed his name to round out their “all star roster.”

clark gable night flight clark gable night flight clark gable night flight clark gable night flight

All in all, not a film for the Gable fan seeking out its finest. Night Flight was the last film in his resume that I saw; at the time it was very difficult to find. Talk about ending my quest on a disappointment!

Night Flight is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection

You can see about 20 pictures from the film in the gallery and read more about it here.

 

 

 

It’s interesting to see what a few short years in Hollywood will do to one’s stardom!

Clark Gable burst on the scene in 1931 and literally went from a nobody to a somebody over night. His path can be traced through MGM’s magazine advertisements….

MGM ad 1931

In 1931, he was a newbie and certainly didn’t merit a picture in the stars at the top or even listed in bold among names such as Marion Davies, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford or Norma Shearer (all of which would be Clark’s leading ladies!). No, Clark is listed in the small print among names such as Dorothy Appleby, Gus Shy and Edwina Booth. But also among the names are the likes of Lionel Barrymore, Leslie Howard and Robert Young. A Free Soul, Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise and The Secret Six are all mentioned, but not with Clark’s name attached–he wasn’t a name every one knew…yet.

mgm 1932

Just one year later, Clark has been bumped way up in the order! Not only does he merit a picture right next to the grand dame Greta Garbo and among the likes of John Barrymore, Helen Hayes and Buster Keaton, but he also merits a second picture with Norma Shearer for Strange Interlude. She is, of course, billed first but still, that’s quite a bump in one year’s time! Hell Divers, Possessed and The White Sister are also listed, although Helen Hayes is the only star mentioned in the latter.

mgm 1933

By the time MGM’s Leo the Lion was celebrating his tenth birthday in 1933, Clark was cemented as one of the top elite of MGM’s sparkling roster of stars. There he is, pictured second below Queen of the Lot Norma Shearer, among the likes of Jean Harlow, Jimmy Durante and Wallace Beery. His films Night Flight and Dancing Lady are singled out as some of MGM’s “happiest hits” on the way to viewers.

Not too shabby for a boy from Cadiz, Ohio…

 

The Mayfair Ball was annual event held every February by the exclusive Mayfair Club. It was the seen-and-be-seen event of the year, taking place in one of the posh Hollywood hotels. The event is best remembered by Clark Gable and Carole Lombard fans for being the birthplace of their spark, as they began flirting for the first time at the Mayfair Ball in 1936.

Well, it turns out that that wasn’t the first time Clark attended the ball. In 1932, he attended with Ria on his arm, and the magic of the night was descibed by Picture Play magazine:

Beauty, Fashion and Fame Assemble on That Night of Nights, The Mayfair Ball

Hollywood goes Mayfair–the first big social event of the year–in brillant fashion. There are more screen personalities in the Biltmore ballroom tonight than will be found together again in many a moon. Crowds gather in the lobby and about the street entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of the great ones. Place cards that make up a “Who’s Who in Hollywood” are laid on tables in the ballroom. Lights are subdued, waiters receive final instructions.

The music starts. The guests begin to arrive, groups of four and six and eight. Furs and velvets and satins; perfume and flowers and laughter. Excitement, thrill, glamour in the air. Applause from the crowds in the foyer. The great social event of the season is on.clark gable ria langham norma shearer dolores del rio joan crawford helen hayesL to R: Joan Bennett with Gene Markey, Irene Wate, Lillian Bond, Joan Blondell, Genevieve Tobin, Marion Nixon, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Crawford, Clark Gable with wife Ria, Norma Shearer, Dolores del Rio, Helen Hayes, June Clyde, Ginger Rogers, Lilyan Tashman with Eddie Lowe.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall…