clark gable marion davies

This month, Clark’s a grumbling small-time boxer in a love-hate relationship with Marion Davies’ spunky waitress-turned dancer in Cain and Mabel.

Clark Gable is Larry Cain, a heavyweight boxer, whose publicity team cooks up a fake romance with Mabel O’Dare (Davies), an aspiring musical star, for publicity. The two loathe each other but begrudgingly agree to play along to help both of their careers. Of course along the way they actually do fall in love and decide to quit boxing and show business to be together. Their publicists won’t hear of it however and set to break them up.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

This is completely Marion’s film. She’s billed first and carries the majority of the scenes without Clark–heck, he doesn’t even appear until about 16 minutes into the film. Oooh and his first appearance is in his pajamas!

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Can you imagine slamming the door in Clark Gable’s face if he showed up in his pajamas and a robe?

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Clark at this point had grown fond of his signature mustache and was not amused when Marion specifically requested him for the part–but demanded he shave off his facial hair, claiming she was “allergic” to mustaches. He does look rather hunky though.

clark gable cain and mabel

Clark wins the heavyweight title but his fights aren’t popular enough to earn much of a profit. Marion gets a starring role on Broadway but her shows are hardly sell-outs. “The ushers are quitting because they’re scared of being alone in the dark!” her employer scoffs.

clark gable cain and mabel

So his support team and her support team decide that if they throw them together in a romance, the newspapers will eat it up and it will help both careers. Although both Marion and Clark are unwilling participants, the plan works–her shows are sell-outs and his fights are more popular than ever. Oh, but what happens when they actually DO fall in love?…

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

The plot is rather tired. They love each other, they hate each other, they love each other, they hate each other. When they do fall for each other, it’s sudden and you really have no idea why.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Water fights!

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Clark spends most of the film grumbling and insulting her:

“Someday I’ll meet that dame. When I do, I’ll spank her so tender she could sit on a newspaper and read the headlines!”

“I’m warning you, if I ever meet that dame, they’ll be throwing a benefit for her the next day!”

“If that galloping you were doing tonight is dancing, then I’ve seen the Russian ballet at a horse show!”

“I’m supposed to be a fighter and what am I doing–playing post office all over the front page with a dame!”

Marion was always one to be able to deliver a snappy comeback:

“You may be a champ to somebody but you’re just a punching bag with ears on it to me!”

“He’s got a swelled head so bad he could wear a bathtub for a hat!”

clark gable marion davies

She coos: “There’s something about you that’s very familiar. Oh yes, I remember: I had tripe for dinner!”

He replies: “I had ham, looks like I’m going to have some more.”

Yeah….this script is not exactly great material.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Marion can dance, sure, but her numbers just feel like filler. The point of this film was most definitely to show off Marion’s beauty (there are an excessive amount of close-ups of her face) and her dancing talents. Her singing voice definitely isn’t all that great. This whole publicity stunt-romance with dancing was done better a few years later with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance (1937).

William Randolph Hearst (producer, publishing magnate and Davies’ paramour) spent $35,000 on the carousel for the musical number “Coney Island.” The carousel is onscreen for about a minute total. After filming was completed, it was installed in the backyard of Davies’ Santa Monica home, near her pool and tennis courts.

The biggest number, “I’ll Sing You 1,000 Love Songs” took two weeks to shoot and cost $400,000. For all that it only occupied nine minutes of screen time. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Dance Direction.

marion davies cain and mabel

Filmed in Stage 7 (now Stage 16) at Warner Brothers, a studio that towers over all others on the lot, thanks to this film. Hearst demanded that the studio roof be ripped off and the studio be extended by over 30 feet to accommodate the large dance numbers planned for the film. WB head honcho Jack Warner refused to do it, saying it was too expensive, but Hearst, wanting to make his lady happy, footed the bill. It was deemed too pricey to rip the roof off and build up, so in an extremely difficult process, the studio was actually lifted off the ground and the new addition was built underneath it. At the time, it was the tallest soundstage in the world. Including the two million gallon water tank installed under its floors, the studio is 94 feet tall.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel st

The massive soundstage was later used to film Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Goonies and The Perfect Storm, among others.You can see what the studio looks like now in this post about my visit to Warner Brothers Studios.

Clark and Marion watching the construction of the soundstage

Clark and Marion watching the construction of the soundstage

Cain and Mabel is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

You can read more about the film here.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

***I have been ill for several months, so I apologize for the lack of updates. I am behind on the comments and emails as well, so if I haven’t answered you, I apologize and am doing my best to catch up!

In a Nutshell: Cain and Mabel (1936)

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Directed by: Lloyd Bacon

Co-stars: Marion Davies

Synopsis: Gable is Larry Cain, a small time boxer, whose publicity team cooks up a fake romance with Mabel O’Dare (Davies), an aspiring musical star, for publicity. The two loathe each other but begrudgingly agree to play along to help both of their careers. Of course along the way they actually do fall in love and decide to quit boxing and show business to be together. Their publicists won’t hear of it however and set to break them up.

Best Gable Quote: “I’m supposed to be a fighter and what am I doing–playing post office all over the front page with a dame!”

Fun Fact: William Randolph Hearst (producer, publishing magnate and Davies’ paramour) spent $35,000 on the carousel for the musical number “Coney Island”. After filming was completed, the carousel was installed in the backyard of Davies’ Santa Monica home, near her pool and tennis courts.

My Verdict: This is Marion Davies’ picture and Clark is window dressing. His character is a one-dimensional brutish boxer, who softens like butter after Marion bats her eyelashes at him a few times. This film is definitely one of those that I wouldn’t say is a bad film as a whole, but it’s not a great Gable film. Marion shows she can sing and dance, and Clark shows he still looked good with his shirt off.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

 

In a Nutshell: Love on the Run (1936)

franchot tone joan crawford clark gable love on the run

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone

Synopsis: Gable is Mike Anthony, a newspaper reporter always in competition with his college buddy, Barnabus Pell (Tone) who works for a rival paper. When Mike attends the wedding of socialite Sally Parker  (Crawford) to a European prince, he becomes her confidante and helps her escape the nuptials. With Barnabus hot on their trail, Mike and Sally steal a spy’s plane and head across Europe. The spy wants his plane back (and his secret plans) and Barnabus wants his piece of the story, keeping them on the run, of course falling in love along the way.

Best Gable Quote: “You’re the only girl this side of the moon.”

Fun Fact: Gable and Franchot Tone had become friends during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty and would play cards between takes. This irritated Crawford. Her and husband Tone spent most of their time between scenes fighting. During the course of filming, Tone moved out of their Hollywood home.

My Verdict: It is a rather silly film, full of madcap hijinks. Clark and Joan always do have chemistry, but here I find it watered down. I enjoy his competitive banter with Franchot much better. As a spy story and a sweet romance, it’s rather flat. Not Clark and Joan at their best.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in November 2013.

 

In a Nutshell: Parnell (1937)

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Directed by: John M. Stahl

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Donald Crisp, Edna May Oliver, Billie Burke

Synopsis: In this historical melodrama, Gable is Charles Parnell, an 1880′s Irish politician dubbed “The Uncrowned King of Ireland” for fighting for Irish freedom from British rule. The British trump up false charges against him to try and keep his efforts down but are unsuccessful. But then Parnell falls in love with Katie O’Shea (Loy), the estranged wife of a British Parliament member. When her husband finds out, he files for divorce and names Parnell as co-respondent, resulting in political and social ruin for Parnell.  Just as he begins to fight back for his position, he is taken ill with a sick heart.

Best Gable Quote: “Haven’t you ever felt that there might be someone somewhere who, if you could only find them, is the person that you were always meant to meet?” (How romantic is that line! I have always loved it)

Fun Fact: Gable’s least favorite of all his films and the biggest flop of his and Myrna Loy’s careers. It lost a total of $637,000 at the box office. Gable accepted the role of Charles Parnell because he saw an opportunity to prove himself as a versatile dramatic actor.  When the film flopped so horribly, he shunned all historical dramas. The flop of this picture is the main reason he was reluctant to do Gone with the Wind; he feared another historical flop. Because of the criticism of his Irish accent in this film, he refused to do a Southern accent for GWTW.

My Verdict: I stand by my long-voiced opinion that Parnell isn’t really that bad. There are some Clark Gable films (see anything thus far voted one mustache) that if it’s on TCM I flip right past it. Not this one. Clark’s performance isn’t bad, neither is Myrna’s. The script is tedious and the plot is boring. There just isn’t enough to hold interest. The love story is very sweet (although completely different than it was in reality) and Clark has some very romantic lines. I adore Myrna Loy and their chemistry is top notch as always. A fantastic film? No. But a horrible, wretched film that should be held up as the worst of Clark’s career? Still No.

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Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in July 2013.

Ratings

In a Nutshell: Hell Divers (1931)

clark gable wallace beery hell divers

Directed by: Richard Boleslawski

Co-stars: Wallace Beery, Dorothy Jordan, Marie Prevost

Synopsis: Gable is Steve Nelson, a budding Navy pilot constantly at odds with Windy Riker (Beery), who has been in the service for years and has no patience for newbies. When Windy stages a farce that makes Steve’s girl Ann (Jordan) leave him, their relationship becomes hostile and costs one of them their position in the Navy.

Best Gable Quote: “Say, there isn’t another girl in the world for me but you.. Never has been and never will be.”

Fun Fact: Gable was in the midst of a heated affair with Joan Crawford at the time of filming. His next project was supposed to be the Crawford vehicle Letty Lynton, but studio head Louis B. Mayer wanted Crawford and Gable as far apart as possible to avoid further scandal. He cast Robert Montgomery in the role with Crawford and sent Gable to make Hell Divers.

My Verdict: This film got rave reviews at the time, because of the exciting air footage, which is, naturally, less exciting to us modern day audiences. The film feels like it was thrown together with a formula for me—Clark Gable throws punches, is a hero, wins the girl. THE END! I suppose, though, it is packaged and marketed as more of a man’s man film, so clearly I am not the audience! But it does have some great dramatic scenes in which Clark can show his budding dramatic promise.

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Read more here.

In a Nutshell: Polly of the Circus (1932)

lark gable marion davies polly of the circus

Directed by: Alfred Santell

Co-stars: Marion Davies, C. Aubrey Smith

Synopsis: Gable is Father John Hartley, a small town minister living a peaceful life. The circus
comes to town, with its star attraction: trapeze artist Polly Fisher (Davies). She is
enraged when her risqué posters are covered up and confronts Hartley, who admits that her posters aren’t appropriate in the town. The crowd mocks her at her next performance, causing her to fall. She recuperates at Hartley’s house at his insistence since he feels guilty. Soon they fall in love. But his parish and bishop uncle (Smith) don’t support him marrying a circus girl. When the church turns its back on him, the newlyweds struggle as he refuses to let her return to the circus and she doesn’t understand his devotion to the church.

Best Gable Quote: “Oh yes, I quite approve of marriage. I might even go so far as to get married myself some day.” (all his quotes in this film are so sugary they’ll give you a toothache)

Fun Fact: Gable and Davies had a brief fling during filming, despite Davies’ long time relationship with publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (whose Cosmopolitan Pictures produced the film). Although the affair didn’t last, their friendship did and they remained friends for years.

My Verdict: Both Clark and Marion are out of their element in this one. She is a far better comedic actress than a dramatic one, and Clark is wasted as the saintly preacher. Not that I feel like he should have been pigeon-holed as the gangster all the time, but it seems silly to take this lusty newcomer who audiences fell in love with because he smacked around Barbara Stanwyck and Norma Shearer, and then put him in a white collar. The story is old, old, old—Career vs. Love. Girl leaves Boy so he can keep his career. Boy thinks it’s because she doesn’t love him and is heartbroken. Boy finds out truth and tries to win her back.The film is sweet at its core though.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in April 2013.

 

clark gable marion davies polly of the circus

This month, Clark Gable is a straight-laced minister and Marion Davies is his sassy acrobat love interest in Polly of the Circus.

Clark is Father John Hartley, a small town minister living a peaceful life. The circus
comes to town, with its star attraction: trapeze artist Polly Fisher (Davies). She is
enraged when her risqué posters are covered up and confronts Hartley, who admits that her posters aren’t appropriate in the town. The crowd mocks her at her next performance, causing her to fall. She recuperates at Hartley’s house at his insistence since he feels guilty. Soon they fall in love. But his parish and bishop uncle (Aubrey Smith) don’t support him marrying a circus girl. When the church turns its back on him, the newlyweds struggle as he refuses to let her return to the circus and she doesn’t understand his devotion to the church.

clark gable polly of the circus

Clark is completely wasted here. As a minister, they took away all of his gruffness, roughness and raw sex appeal. Here, his hair is lacquered to his head, his eyebrows heavily pencilled in and he walks around as the perfect boy scout. This is not the Clark Gable of A Free Soul and No Man of Her Own.

He is left to be the butt of Marion’s smirky acrobat, with Marion joking that if he got married he’d give his wife a great big kiss every Ash Wednesday and make her sleep out in a shed during Lent.

clark gable marion davies polly of the circus

It is rather silly to see him in the white collar and being stoic and virtuious. Clark was not a religious man at all, barely ever attended church, so him preaching Bible verses is a bit much.

clark gable polly of the circus

 

Marion and Clark do have chemistry though, and the love story is quite sweet.

clark gable marion davies polly of the circus clark gable marion davies polly of the circus clark gable marion davies polly of the circus

I suppose it is not surprising that they have chemistry as during the filming of Polly of the Circus they had a brief affair. Marion was notoriously the mistress of newspaper magnante William Randolph Hearst but often strayed when someone exciting walked past her. Clark was unhappily married to Ria and still seeing Joan Crawford on occaison. Unlike many brief flings, theirs ended when the cameras stopped and they remained lifelong friends. Marion was one of the few of Clark’s leading ladies that attended his funeral.

clark gable marion davies polly of the circus

Polly of the Circus is available on DVD here. You can read more about the film here and see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.

Beverly Hills

Instead of hopping on a tour bus to be driven around, snapping photos and hoping to catch today’s stars in their bathrobes watering their front lawns, we were on a mission to find the homes of the past.

Let’s start with two of Clark’s wives…

Here is the house on Landale that Clark’s first wife Josephine Dillon lived in from her arrival in Hollywood until her death. Clark owned this property, paid the property taxes and let Josephine live there rent-free. He left her the house in his will.

Josephine Dillon's house

After Clark’s widow Kay Williams sold the Encino ranch to developers in 1970’s, she moved into posh Beverly Hills to this house on the affluent Roxbury Drive with her three children.

Kay Williams Gable's house

She had some nice neighbors: Roxbury Drive was once home to stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Elizabeth Montgomery, Rosemary Clooney, Warner Baxter and more.

Two of Clark’s leading ladies…

Jean Harlow’s house on N. Palm Drive. This was the last home of Jean, who left this rented house for the hospital in 1937 and never returned to it. Rita Hayworth owned it in the 1950’s as well. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio later lived a few houses down.

Jean Harlow's N. Palm Dr home

in 1937

Jean Harlow Palm Dr house

Lana Turner’s house on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. This house is famous for being the place where Lana’s daughter Cheryl stabbed her mother’s boyfriend, mobster Johnny Stompanato, to death on April 5, 1958. Bedford Drive also had its share of famous residents, including Clara Bow, Jeanette MacDonald, Stan Laurel, Greta Garbo and Frank Sinatra.

Lana Turner's Bedford Dr house

Bela Lugosi’s house on Outpost Drive (as I mentioned before, the friend who accompanied me is a classic horror fan). When the house was built in 1935, it was known as the “All Steel” house for having a steel frame, making it “termite free.” Johnny Depp owned it at one point as well.

Bela Lugosi Outpost Dr house

Charlie Chaplin’s house on Summit Drive. This home was known as the “Breakaway House” because Chaplin commissioned studio carpenters to build it on the cheap. It looks like it has been added on to, but apparently the original structure is still the backbone of the house.

Charlie Chaplin's house on Summit Dr

On to Santa Monica…

The Santa Monica Pier

Not too far from the Santa Monica Pier is a stretch of gorgeous beach property located on what is now the Pacific Coast Highway. This once extremely private area was referred to as “Rolls Royce Row” by columnists and was not accessible to the general public. Odd to think that now, since it currently faces a busy six lane highway! Along this road lived Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the last years of his life (with Sylvia Ashley), Marion Davies, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, and Cary Grant with roommate Randolph Scott.

Beach view of "Rolls Royce Row"

The most impressive on this street was this beach house William Randolph Hearst built for his mistress Marion Davies in 1929. It had 34 bedrooms, 55 bathrooms and 3 separate guest houses, as well as a tennis court and swimming pool. Clark, alone and later with Carole, was a guest on many occasions.

After Marion sold it in 1947, it operated as a small hotel called Oceanhouse. In 1956, it became the exclusive Sand and Sea Beach Club. Unfortunately the main house was badly damaged in an earthquake in the 1990’s and it soon fell into severe disrepair. The majority of the property had to be torn down, leaving only one guest house and the original pool. In 2009,the property opened to the public as the Annenberg Community Beach House.

As it looked when Marion lived there. The remaining guest house is in the top right corner.

Marion Davies Santa Monica beach house

The guest house today. Usually, it is open to the public but a wedding was being held there the day we visited so we could not go in.

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

The pool today.

Marion Davies beach house pool in Santa Monica

Just down the street is Norma Shearer’s gorgeous home. Newlyweds Norma and Irving Thalberg had this home built in the late 1920’s.

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

 Because Irving was not a well man and often could not sleep, Norma had the entire house soundproofed so he couldn’t hear the ocean. Irving died of pneumonia in this very house in 1936. Norma moved out in 1942 but couldn’t bring herself to sell the property until 1961. Clark often visited this home to see Irving on MGM related-matters and attend Norma’s many parties.

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica
What’s amazing to me is how far back the ocean is from the original picture and now. Now, there is quite a long stretch of beach between the house and the ocean. This picture from the 1930’s, you can see that the house’s backyard was the ocean!

Norma Shearer's Santa Monica house


Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica