In a Nutshell: Wife vs. Secretary (1936)

myrna loy clark gable jean harlow wife vs. secretary

Directed by: Clarence Brown

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, James Stewart

Synopsis: Gable is Van, “Jake”, or “V.S.” Stanhope, a publishing executive happily married to the elegant Linda (Loy). Tongues start wagging about Van and his beautiful secretary, Helen “Whitey” Wilson (Harlow), whom he considers a close friend and confidante, but nothing more. While trying to secretly buy rights to a magazine from a rival publisher, he sneaks around town with Whitey, finalizing the deal. As his stories become inconsistent, Linda begins to suspect him and Whitey are having an affair. So does Whitey’s patient fiancé, Dave (a youthful Stewart). Dave grows irritated that Whitey refuses to quit her job, telling her that it isn’t natural for a woman not to want to stay home and be married and have children. She breaks up with him after he insinuates her relationship with Van is indecent. Linda’s suspicions finally bubble over when Van refuses to take her along on a business trip to Havana. An emergency occurs and Van calls Whitey to Havana to help him close the deal. When Whitey answers Van’s hotel room phone at 2:00am after a long night, Linda feels she needs no further evidence and begins divorce proceedings when Van returns to New York, refusing to believe his explanations.

Best Gable Quote: “You know, Linda, sometimes I just sit in the office and think about us. I try to be very fair about it and I am too. And I say to myself: who are you to think you are entitled to Linda? Are you good enough for her? And I say to myself: No. Then I say to myself: Well who is entitled to her? Is anyone good enough for her? And I say to myself: No. Then I say to myself: You’re as little entitled to her as anybody else so you hold right on. And I’m holding.”

Fun Fact: Gable and Loy became close friends on the set. She said he brought her coffee every morning and would read her Shakespeare and poetry in her trailer between takes.

My Verdict: I love this movie. The premise is silly and a common one form the 1930’s—a ridiculous stream of misunderstandings leads to marital strife—but this movie stands out because of the snappy script and the great cast. Clark Gable, Myrna Loy AND Jean Harlow! Plus throw in a young Jimmy Stewart as Harlow’s beau! Fabulous. Clark and Jean have their usual great chemistry, and Myrna and Clark’s scenes are adorably sweet. This one may not be one of his most dramatic parts or one of this pinnacle films, but it is a standout to show people in generations to come –“Hey, this is why Clark Gable was so popular.”

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in July 2010.

 

In a Nutshell: San Francisco (1936)

clark gable jeanette macdonald san francisco

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Co-stars: Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy

Synopsis: Gable is Blackie Norton, a ruthless saloon-keeper in 1906 San Francisco, proud of his gambling ways. Despite their differences, he falls in love with Mary Blake (MacDonald), an aspiring opera singer who he hires to sing in his revue. His childhood pal, priest Tim Mullin (Tracy), objects to him putting Mary on display and stopping her from her opera aspirations. Realizing that Tim is right and that she should pursue her dreams instead of letting Blackie hold her back, Mary leaves him and becomes a successful opera star. It isn’t until the shattering earthquake that Blackie realizes his true feelings for Mary and sets out to find her among the rubble.

Best Gable Quote: “You know, I never tried to kid you, Mary. You take me as I am or you don’t take me. Tim doesn’t try to change me because he knows he can’t. And you can’t either. Nothing can. You know what I’ve been waiting for? I’ve been waiting to hear you say that I’m alright with you the way I am. Maybe you’re ready to say it now. Are you?”

Fun Fact: The film was one of the biggest hits of 1936, earning $5.3 million and a profit of $2.2 million. It became Gable’s highest grossing film after Gone with the Wind.

My Verdict: This is one of those films that has it all—drama, comedy, romance, action. It is difficult not to like this film! Although Gable did not like working with MacDonald, I don’t think it shows; they do have great chemistry. She may not be the sexiest of his leading ladies for sure, but she’s beautiful and her purity rubbed up against Clark’s ruggedness works. Gable and Tracy are always a great pairing and here is no exception. The special effects used for the earthquake are extremely impressive if you take in account that you are looking at a film made at a time when talkies hadn’t even been around 10 years yet. No CGI here, real effects and stunt people. The songs are great (although I must confess I always fast forward through MacDonald’s opera sequence…) and the costumes superb. An essential for sure, although I must say I think Clark should have nabbed an Oscar nomination for this one. Just sayin’.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

Ratings

clark gable carole lombard

Since Clark and Carole were married 74 years ago this month, here’s one from November 1936:

London, of all places, has the cutest new betting game. They’re betting, over there, on whether or not certain film couples will marry! ! !

They’ve even got a set of standard odds, like this: even bet that Bob Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck will wed; 90 to 1 against George Brent taking the leap with Garbo; 5 to 1 that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard will; 10 to 1 that Bill Powell and Jean Harlow won’t; 5 to 3 that Ann Sothern becomes Mrs. Roger Pryor; 7 to 4 against the Jackie Coogan-Betty Grable merger; 20 to 1 against Tom Brown and Eleanore Whitney; 6 to 1 against Ginger Rogers saying her I-do’s with Jimmy Stewart; 4 to 3 that Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald do it; 9 to 4 against Cary Grant and Mary Brian; 15 to 1 that George Raft finally does wed Virginia Pine despite hell, high water and Mrs. George Raft; and, finally, 100 to 1 that Ariel and Caliban never become Mr.-and-Mrs.

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Let’s do a check to see what bets won:

Bob Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck did wed, but not until 1939.

George Brent never married Greta Garbo (I found that one quite random!)

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were, of course, married in 1939.

Bill Powell and Jean Harlow never wed, as she died less than a year later.

Ann Sothern and Roger Pryor were married by the time this blurb went to press.

Jackie Coogan and Betty Grable were married in 1937.

Tom Brown and Eleanore Whitney were never married.

Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart were never married (Imagine though!)

Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald were married in 1937.

Cary Grant and Mary Brian were never married.

…and I don’t know who Caliban and Ariel are!

Oh and out of all the couples above who actually were married (besides Clark and Carole, who we all know how that ended, sadly), Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond were the only ones who didn’t divorce.

 

Forest Lawn Glendale

Forest Lawn Glendale is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous! I have heard this before, of course, but this is one of those times where words don’t do it justice. Founded in 1906, the memorial park is famous for its vast collection of sculpture and art, as well as for being one of the first cemeteries to not allow upright headstones, giving the park a smoother look and appeal.

Forest Lawn Glendale

There truly is no other cemetery like it, not that I have ever seen in my life. Of the five we visited, this was the first one (for obvious reasons) and we said later on that we shouldn’t have visited it first since it made all the other cemeteries pale in comparison!

Forest Lawn Glendale

The history here is just incredible. The people who are buried here, were married here, had their funerals here, visited here…

The front gate of Forest Lawn Glendale

The front gates on the day of Jean Harlow's funeral in 1937

It could not have been a more picturesque day when we visited. It was the kind of weather you associate with southern California–72 degrees, sunny, blue skies with few clouds. The only sounds we heard while we walked around the lawn were birds chirping. Separated into sections with names like Vesperland, Graceland (and, the saddest of all, a heart-shaped section called Babyland that was all infant graves), the grounds are pristine and well groomed.

Forest Lawn Glendale

This place is gigantic; over 300 acres and an estimated quarter of a million people are buried on the property. If you ever find yourself here, make sure you know who you are looking for and where; Forest Lawn is not a cemetery where you can just wander around and find celebrities. From the top of the hill by the Great Mausoleum it looked like the rows and rows of graves went on forever.  

Forest Lawn Glendale

Despite signs, we got lost trying to find our way out when we went to leave–it is just that massive. There are more celebrities buried here than in any one place in the world, or so I am told. So please do forgive me if I didn’t visit one of your favorite people that is buried here, as it is we spent nearly four hours roaming around!

We had to give up on finding Carole Lombard’s brother Stuart Peters. The only instruction we had was that he was on Sunrise Slope outside the Great Mausoleum and his plot number. Well, the plots aren’t numbered on the ground at all and after a very long time strolling and reading every tombstone one by one, we had to move on. But Stuart is here….somewhere.

Forest Lawn Glendale

 The one grave that stands out on Sunrise Slope is that of comedian Joe E. Brown.

Joe E Brown

Joe E Brown

Forest Lawn Glendale Joe E. Brown

Jimmy Stewart has a great view on the top of a hill, next to his beloved wife, Gloria (sunflower courtesy of yours truly). I thought her epitaph was really touching. Especially since Jimmy never got over her death and his last words were “I’m going to see Gloria now.”

Jimmy & Gloria Stewart

Jimmy & Gloria Stewart

Forest Lawn Glendale Jimmy Stewart

Forest Lawn Glendale Gloria Stewart

Actress Merle Oberon, who briefly dated Clark right before he started dating Carole, is buried here, tucked away in a quaint little section called the Garden of Rememberance.

Clark Gable & Merle Oberon

Clark Gable and Merle Oberon

Forest Lawn Glendale Garden of Rememberance

Forest Lawn Glendale Merle Oberon

 Not too far from here is the Wee Kirk o’ Heather chapel. Many people have been married here, including Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. Notably in Clark Gable history, Jean Harlow’s funeral was held here on June 9, 1937.  Clark and Carole attended, as well as many Hollywood luminaries. Clark served as one of the pallbearers.

Clark Gable Carole Lombard

Clark and Carole at Jean's funeral

The chapel on the day of Jean Harlow's funeral

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather Chapel

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather Chapel

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather Chapel

Wee Kirk o the Heather

 A short drive to another part of the park…

Clark’s longtime friend Robert Taylor’s cremated remains are here in the Garden of Honor, very inconspicuous in the wall in a section called Columbarium of the Evening Star.

Forest Lawn Glendale Garden of Honor

Forest Lawn Glendale Columbarium of the Evening Star

Taylor was a pallbearer at Clark’s funeral. Taylor’s widow, Ursula Theiss, died last year and is reportedly in there with him, but is currently unmarked.

Clark Gable and Robert Taylor

Clark Gable and Robert Taylor

Forest Lawn Glendale Robert Taylor

 Forest Lawn Glendale Robert Taylor

Forest Lawn Glendale Robert Taylor

Clark’s sassy blonde co-star in Adventure, Joan Blondell, is here as well, with a marker so small you have to really be looking for it.

Clark Gable and Joan Blondell

Clark Gable and Joan Blondell

Forest Lawn Glendale Joan Blondell

Forest Lawn Glendale Joan Blondell

Legendary Spencer Tracy, a friend who co-starred with Clark in Test Pilot and San Francisco, is buried here in his own private garden with a marker that simply says “Tracy.” He was also a pallbearer at Clark’s funeral.

Clark Gable Spencer Tracy

Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy

Forest Lawn Glendale Spencer Tracy

Forest Lawn Glendale Spencer Tracy

Nearby is also the private garden of Walt Disney.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Forest Lawn Glendale Walt Disney

Forest Lawn Glendale Walt Disney

Looming just beyond these gardens is the Freedom Mausoleum– the newer, lesser-known, but still beautiful mausoleum.

Forest Lawn Glendale Freedom Mausoleum

Forest Lawn Glendale Freedom Mausoleum

Interred here is Clark’s co-star in San Francisco and a singing legend, Jeanette MacDonald, who shares her spot with her actor husband, Gene Raymond. Gene co-starred with Carole Lombard in Brief Moment and  Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Gene Raymond Jeanette MacDonald

Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald

Forest Lawn Glendale Freedom Mausoleum

Forest Lawn Glendale Nat King Cole Gene Raymond Jeanette MacDonald

Speaking of singing legends, you can see above them is the final resting place of Nat King Cole.

Nearby is the plot for George Burns and Gracie Allen, sweetly marked “Together Again.”

Clark Gable, Gracie Allen and George Burns

Clark Gable, Gracie Allen and George Burns

Forest Lawn Glendale Gracie Allen and George Burns

We struck out on the lawn with Carole’s brother Stuart, but had better luck in the mausoleum finding Carole’s other brother, Frederic:

Carole Lombard and brother Fred Peters

Forest Lawn Glendale Stuart Peters

Coming tomorrow:  The conclusion of my Hollywood blog posts brings the Great Mausoleum–final resting place of Clark and Carole, and also the Church of the Recessional, where both of their funerals were held.

Forest Lawn Glendale

The Great Mausoleum

This month, fittingly our one year anniversary, I am starting a new blog feature. I am going to be featuring one of Clark’s films every month, as the “Movie of the Month”. In no particular order really. Hopefully it will showcase some movies that Clark fans have yet to see and will pique their interest.

So, for the inaugural month, I am selecting one of my very favorites: Wife vs. Secretary, from 1936.

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This film is pretty much everything you would want from a fluffy 1930’s comedy/drama. The cast is stellar: Clark, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, May Robson and a young Jimmy Stewart in a supporting role. 1936 begins what I personally believe to be the “golden years” of Clark’s life and career, ending of course, in 1941, after Carole died in early 1942. This is the time when Clark was at his happiest in his personal life—separated from Ria and romping around with Carole—and professionally, churning out hit after hit playing the same rogue characters that his fans yearned for more and more of.

Clark is the dashing editor-in-chief of a magazine in this one. Myrna is his delightful wife, who seems to spend her days lounging around their spacious two-story New York apartment in glamorous gowns, throwing lavish parties, assisted by a full-time cook, maid, driver and butler. Ah, to be a rich 1930’s housewife! Jean is Clark’s loyal secretary, who says how high when he says jump. Jimmy is Jean’s neglected fiancé, who is constantly snubbed by Jean’s work commitments and is growing quite tired of it. Despite the fact that Clark showers her with affection, Myrna begins to grow suspicious of Jean and Clark’s relationship after his mother (Robson) puts a bug in her ear about “attractive secretaries”. As is typical in these types of movies, Myrna requires no real proof to kick Clark to the curb! Sure, the plot is a bit predictable but the lavish Art Deco sets, beautiful clothes and perfect cast make this one a real treat. Some favorite scenes of mine are Clark dashing home from his poker game once Myrna has forgiven him, Clark arriving home,  rushing up the stairs and sweeping a waiting Myrna into his arms, and Clark and Jean having a hard time staying upright while playing “whip” on the ice skating rink.

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Myrna and Jean both had excellent chemistry with Clark no matter what the film, so to have them both in the same one is a double treat. Myrna later recalled that the set was a lot of fun and how sweet Jean was. Her and Jean spent a lot of time together around then, as Jean was dating Myrna’s Thin Man costar, William Powell, and had been around the set of After the Thin Man. And while Jimmy and Clark don’t share the screen for long, it’s still a delight to have the two legends in one picture. Later in his life, on a talk show, Jimmy recalled that he kept messing up his lines on purpose during a romantic scene with Jean so that he could keep kissing her! Who could blame him!

This film also marks a switch in Jean’s career. She had begun to break away from the saucy platinum blonde parts into more “respectable lady” parts. Her hair is a honey blonde and her wardrobe is quite modest. She shows some dramatic chops too, especially in a scene towards the end where she tells Myrna what a fool she is for leaving Clark. Unfortunately for us all, she didn’t have a lot of time left to broaden her career, as she died at age 26 the following year.

For more, check out the film page and the section in the gallery.

 Wife vs. Secretary is available on DVD in The Clark Gable Signature Collection.

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