clark gable norma shearer joan crawford douglas fairbanks jr

Clark Gable, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 1932

From November 1936:

Interest in the alleged feud between Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer is revived by the announcement that Joan is to challenge direct comparison with her rival by starring in the new version of “The Last of Mrs Cheyney”. The Lonsdale story was one of Norma’s early talkie successes.

The assignment follows Miss Crawford’s relinquishment of her role in Parnell with Clark Gable. The star, it appears, did not approve of the plan to make the film more romantic fiction than political history.

____

“The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” actually already had Myrna Loy starring in it when the swap was made and Myrna went to Parnell and Joan to “Cheyney”. After the film flopped, Clark was angry at Joan for “abandoning him.”

This month, the site’s friends on Facebook voted and chose this 1934 romantic comedy starring Clark and his most frequent leading lady, Joan Crawford, for January’s Movie of the Month.

clark gable joan crawford chained

Gable is Mike Bradley, a South American rancher who falls for the glamorous Diana (Crawford) on a cruise ship. Diana falls for Mike too, despite the fact that she is romantically involved with a married Manhattan businessman, Richard (Otto Kruger). She decides to leave Richard for Mike but, upon her return home, Richard tells her he has finally left his wife for her. Diana feels obligated to marry Richard and Mike is left in the dust.

clark gable joan crawford chained

This is certainly more Joan’s movie than Clark’s. She’s in more scenes than he is, struggling with emotional turmoil. Clark doesn’t actually appear until twelve minutes into the film, as we had to be properly brought up to speed on Joan and Otto’s dire romantic situation. Boy, oh boy, the frigid society wife who refuses to give a divorce to her wealthy estranged husband  was a tired old record repeatedly played in 1930’s movies. And it happened to a lot of the stars in real life–Clark included, just a few years later!

Joan sets sail for South America so that Otto can try and convince his old battleaxe wife to divorce him.

joan crawford otto kruger chained

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Clark’s buddy Johnnie (Stuart Erwin) tries to pick Joan up in the ship’s bar but is brutally rebuffed. We meet Clark when he then challenges him to pick her up, who of course accepts upon seeing her.”There’s a look in your eye that careful mothers fear!” Johnnie says.

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Joan is there drinking a sherry flip, her and Otto’s sentimental drink, which apparently was considered “old fashioned” even in 1934. Clark says, “They serve that in old people’s homes on Christmas!” What’s in it? Well…

1 1/2 oz cream sherry
2 tsp light cream
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 whole egg
nutmeg

Shake all ingredients (except nutmeg) with ice and strain into a whiskey sour glass. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and serve. 

YUCK! That sounds disgusting!

clark gable joan crawford chained

The way he smiles and tries to win Joan over actually reminds me of Rhett Butler a few years later: “I’d like to see more of you when you’re free of the spell of the elegant Mr. Wilkes…”

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She somehow manages to not fall immediately for his boyish charms.

Ah, then we have 1930’s swimwear in all its glory…

joan crawford chained

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clark gable chained clark gable chained

Random fact: an uncredited and then-unknown Mickey Rooney is one of the random kids swimming in the swimming pool.

Clark’s hitting Joan with every good line he’s got but she is still resistant due to the fact that she is in love with Otto.

clark gable joan crawford chained

“Your eyes are very beautiful, even when they are bloodshot!”

“I’ll admit I was on the prowl until you dropped down from the sky.”

[When she says she’s never been engaged] “Say, what have you known all your life, a lot of blind men?”

I do love the little scene of them strolling the ship’s deck together.

clark gable joan crawford

And this might be one of my favorite screenshots ever:

clark gable joan crawford chained

This is a really great on-the-set snap:

clark gable joan crawford chained

The story is pretty run-of-the-mill for the period, with the unrelenting wife and the shipboard romance, but there are some cute scenes between Clark and Joan–on the ship and running around his ranch in Buenos Aires.

clark gable joan crawford chained

The relationship between Otto and Joan is rather unbelievable. He’s twenty years Joan’s senior and the way he talks to her is more like a father to a daughter. I guess that’s supposed to be the point–she finally finds “real romance” with Clark.

clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained Chained 5 clark gable joan crawford chained

Of course, when Joan finally returns to New York and ready to dump Otto and run off with Clark, Otto announces he finally got his wife to agree to the divorce–the big catch being that his wicked ex-wife won’t permit him to see their sons anymore. He declares it worth it to be with Joan. (Wow, father of the year!) Joan then of course has no choice but to marry him, and so she is “chained” to him and unable to be with Clark.

clark gable otto kruger joan crawford chained

Clark receives the bad news via letter,  signed off with “Best of Luck.” Heartbroken!

clark gable chained clark gable chained clark gable chained

Of course a year later they reunite and she realizes she really can’t live without him but of course, is still “chained.”

clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained

In the end, Clark shows up to tell Otto he’s in love with his wife but chickens out when he sees how much Otto loves Joan. Oh, but Otto reads between the lines and figures out, in those few minutes at the breakfast table, that Clark and Joan love each other and decides to do the chivalrous thing and let her go.

clark gable joan crawford chained

clark gable joan crawford chained

You know, I wonder why they didn’t try to make Otto more unlikable? He’s such a nice guy and is so happily in love with Joan, you really feel bad for him in the end. I guess we are supposed to feel okay about it because the last scene shows married Clark and Joan on their ranch in South America, reading a letter from Otto that says he has been reunited with his sons.

clark gable joan crawford chained

Like I said, this picture is pretty much Joan’s. She gets to make long-suffering looks in her often rather ridiculous-looking 30’s outfits.

joan crawford chained

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Joan later said about this period:

“[Clark and I] knew we would be stars as long as the public paid to see us, but we wondered, the way Metro was typecasting us, if the public would go forever to see “a Joan Crawford picture” or “a Clark Gable picture.” I was the perpetual shopgirl-turned-lady, and he was forever the virile, ballsy hero. We both felt that sooner or later, probably sooner, the public would say the hell with us and we’d sink right back into oblivion. Scared? As Clark would say, we were scared shitless. Actually what Louis B. [Mayer] and the public didn’t know about me and Clark–Clark and me?–didn’t hurt them. If Clark and I hadn’t had each other, at that particular time, we might not have gone on. We simply gave each other courage. We also taught each other how to laugh at ourselves–and that, baby, is the first thing anybody in Hollywood tucks into the survival kit.”

I know a lot of people’s opinion of Joan have been tainted by “no wire hangers!” but I do like her with Clark onscreen. They have great chemistry; you can tell they genuinely like each other. A little film like this would have been a complete flop if he didn’t have a great partner to spar with.

Chained is available on DVD from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

You can read more here and see pictures in the gallery.

clark gable joan crawford chained

joan crawford clark gable

From 1946:

Joan Crawford, who never gives big parties, really went the works on a welcome to Hollywood for Viveca Lindfors, the new Swedish importation. There was a dance floor, orchestra, bar and complete buffet service, all under a huge cellophane tent in Joan’s yard. Every guest showed up but Bette Davis and Clark Gable. Believe it or not, Bette got smacked in the head with a moving camera and went to Laguna Beach to recuperate. Clark didn’t get back in time from a fishing trip. Cutest couple present was Ann Blyth and John Compton, the “daughter” and “son-in-law” of “Mildred Pierce.”

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Anyone else not surprised Bette Davis didn’t attend?

Rosalind Russell, Clark Gable and Anita Colby

Rosalind Russell, Clark Gable and Anita Colby

From 1945:

It took her a long time to go social, but Sonja Henie finally cracked out with Hollywood’s first post-war party. She gave it the works! There was a buffet supper served inside a huge tent. A dance floor, music, and not coin a phrase, more stars than there are in heaven. Clark Gable was with Anita Colby–not serious (they say) but having such fun together. Joan Fontaine and Mrs. Ronald Colman wore the same “exclusive” gown, which didn’t make Joan too happy. Joan Crawford and Phil Terry arrived early, left early and danced only with each other. They missed the best impromptu floor show pit on by Danny Kaye and Cesar Romero. 

clark gable joan crawford

From 1949:

There was quite a stir among the guests at the party for the Ernie Byfields in the Beverly Hills Hotels’ Rodeo Room when Joan Crawford and Clark Gable walked in together. They’ve been friends for years but this was their first of a series of dates.

clark gable joan crawford love on the run

Today we’re looking at some of the photos from Love on the Run (1936), one of the several Clark Gable/Joan Crawford pairings. A lot of people don’t, but I actually do like their films together–they have an easy chemistry. This one for me though is one of the weakest; the plot is silly. But these promotional stills of them dancing together are some of my very favorites (they are often times mis-credited as being from Dancing Lady):

clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run

Some great on the set shots:

clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run clark gable joan crawford love on the run

And of course some great screenshots. Clark was right in his handsome, dashing leading man era here:

clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run clark gable love on the run

This cartoon appeared in Screenland magazine in 1933:

clark gable john barrymore joan crawford norma shearer

 

John Barrymore

Just as sure as not

You’ll find John on his yacht

Developing seaworthy legs.

And spending his time,

Without reason or rhyme,

With his rarest collection of eggs.

 

Joan Crawford

You cannot ignore,

In this group of four,

The personal hobby of Joan.

She considers it play

To model in clay

And even to chisel in stone.

 

Norma Shearer

If you can’t analyze

The charm of her eyes

Of the glamorous lure of her tresses–

You, at least, should have known

That Miss Shearer is prone

To designing her very own dresses.

 

Clark Gable

Here is a man’s man,

A cinema-fan’s man,

An actor in sweater and jeans.

When off of the lot

You Can see Clark get hot

‘A-fishing for whales and sardines.

 

clark gable joan crawford strange cargo
From December 1939:
It was a great thrill for the tiny coast town of Pismo beach to have a big movie location move right into their midst. The entire town was agog because Joan Crawford was reported really to have arrived in her limousine, in true movie star fashion. Every youngster in the village was out for an autograph. The Crawford name was magic until the youngsters found out that the guy driving an old station wagon looked like Clark Gable. When they found out it was Gable, and he fixed up an immediate game of softball to entertain the mob, because the weather got too foggy to work, glamour queen Crawford was lost in the shuffle. No one minded being put on first base, because King Gable was playing that position.

Everyone has specific years in their lives where they look back and realize that that particular year was one of the most memorable of their entire lives. 1939 is being heralded quite a bit this year, as it is widely considered the best year for movies in history, with classics such as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Wuthering Heights, Beau Geste, Juarez, Stagecoach, etc.

Looking back, I don’t think that Clark Gable could deny that 1939 was indeed a special year for him, personally and professionally. Let’s have a look back at Clark’s life, 75 years ago….

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

January –After years and years of pre-production and speculation, talent searches and screen tests, Gone with the Wind finally began filming. Clark joined his co-stars for Technicolor tests on January 20. Filming began officially on January 26, but Clark’s first day on the set was January 31, to film the charity bazaar scene.

clark gable norma shearer idiot's delight

Idiot’s Delight, co-starring Norma Shearer, was released and did moderate box office.

ria franklin gable divorce

March–On March 8, 1939, Clark’s second wife, Ria Franklin Gable, had finally had enough of being villianized in the press for holding onto her loveless marriage for dear life. And thanks to Clark’s contract for Gone with the Wind, she received the hefty lump sum of $300,000 she wanted in exchange for her marital status. So off to Reno she went and was granted a divorce.

clark gable carole lombard

On March 29, 1939, Clark Gable wed Carole Lombard in Kingman, Arizona. After four years together (perhaps longer), this was the marriage Hollywood was waiting for with breathless anticipation.

clark gable carole lombard

On March 30, after driving all night, Clark and Carole awoke to find hundreds of members of the press on the lawn of Carole’s Bel Air home. The adorable photos of the newlyweds, still in their wedding clothes, were taken that morning and their love still shines through in them to this day.

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

June–On June 27, the long and tedious production of Gone with the Wind came to an end. Clark and Vivien Leigh filmed the final scene of the picture, where Rhett walks out on Scarlett and leaves her with those iconic eight words.

clark gable carole lombard encino

July–In July, after months of renovating and decorating, Clark and Carole finally moved into what would eventually be both of their final residences, the ranch in Encino.

August–In August, Carole was entered the hospital to undergo an emergency appendectomy (some people say that in actuality she had suffered a miscarriage). Clark arranged to stay in the room next to hers so she wouldn’t be lonely.

clark gable joan crawford strange cargo

September–In September, Clark reported to the set of his next picture, Strange Cargo, co-starring Joan Crawford.  Their romance had long since fizzled and Joan had recently been named “box office poison” so she was re-teamed with Clark in the hopes of rekindling their onscreen chemistry. The production involved location shooting in Pismo Beach.

December–On December 12, Douglas Fairbanks died. Clark had considered him a friend and him and Carole drove out to his home to pay their respects to his widow, Sylvia Ashley, who would become the fourth Mrs. Gable in ten years time.

clark gable carole lombard gone with the wind

On December 14, Clark and Carole arrived in Atlanta for the world premiere of Gone with the Wind. They rode through downtown Atlanta in a huge parade before hundreds of people, spoke a few words, and retired to their suite at the Georgian Terrace Hotel to change, before attending the ball at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium.

On December 15, Clark and Carole attended a press luncheon, took a tour of the Cyclorama and visited the governor’s mansion. at 8:15pm, they were front and center at Loew’s Grand Theater for the premiere of the film.

December 25 was the newlyweds’ first Christmas in their new home.  She gave Clark white silk pajamas and a matching robe; he gifted her a heart-shaped ruby necklace.

clark gable carole lombard gone with the wind

On December 27, Clark and Carole were back in their finest duds to attend the Hollywood premiere of GWTW at the Carthay Circle Theater.

 

This month, Joan Crawford is a plucky newspaper reporter and Clark Gable is a loathsome gangster in Dance Fools Dance.

clark gable joan crawford dance fools dance

Crawford is Bonnie Jordan, a rich girl suddenly thrown into the real world after her father dies and she finds out all his money is gone. She goes to work as a writer for the local newspaper. One of her assignments is to go undercover and get a story on a gangster, Jake (Gable). As Jake pursues her romantically, Bonnie finds out that her unscrupulous brother Rodney (William Bakewell) has hooked up with Jake’s gang and is in deep trouble.

clark gable dance fools dance

Joan and Clark were steaming things up behind the scenes at this point and it definitely shows. Their chemistry is crackling. But Clark is the baddie here so Joan is supposed to resist his charms!

clark gable joan crawford

Clark does not get much character development here–his character is bad, that’s all. Much like Night Nurse, the one dimensional baddie is rather stale, but to be expected in this kind of quickie pre-code. Clark was still the newcomer here and was billed way behind big star Joan.

clark gable dance fools dance clark gable dance fools dance clark gable dance fools dance clark gable dance fools dance

He gets to mutter these typical mobster lines:

“Now listen, kid. Money talks. And remember, in this business it’s the only thing that talks.”

“If we take you on, there’s certain rules of the game you’ve got to learn. Keeping your mouth shut’s one of them. But first, no matter what happens, don’t talk.”

“Now listen close. ‘Cause I don’t repeat myself! You got us into this jam and you’re going to get us out!”

“If you don’t come through, they’ll be a double murder!”

Dance Fools Dance Part 8 clark gable joan crawford dance fools dance clark gable joan crawford dance fools dance clark gable joan crawford dance fools dance

And of course he’s got some sly lines for Joan:

“You’ve got me glowing, sister.”

“You’re going to have a little supper with me tonight. Upstairs in my room. We’ve got to get better acquainted.”

“It’s hard to believe a girl like you ever came from Missouri.”

clark gable dance fools dance

Clark is only in a handful of scenes. The film is all Joan’s, as she struggles in her usual shopgirl-makes-good way. But she’s pretty darn good at it, after all.

clark gable dance fools dance

One piece of notoriety to the film is that (SPOILER!) it is one of the few Gable films in which he dies. Meets his end by gunshot–in true early 1930’s fashion, with a puff of smoke and no blood!

clark gable dance fools dance

 

Joan once said of the film, “It was a disaster! I gave a lousy performance; that overacting thing again.” While I wouldn’t call it a disaster by any means, it is rather a play-by-numbers pre-code gangster film. A review in a fan magazine at the time states it is “a rehash of half a dozen racketeer films with a touch of a newspaper influence so popular. It is as synthetic a picture as you will find in all Hollywood’s desperate stenciling.”

The film is definitely not a milestone on Clark’s career bu any means, but it is an interesting little stepstone of a film for him. I’ve always liked to watch these little beginner films of his; it’s such a dramatic change from brutish, one-dimensional gangster roles to rogue leading man just a few short years later.

Dance Fools Dance is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

Read more here and see pictures from the film in the gallery.