This month, Clark Gable is a thief chasing jewelry and fellow swindler Rosalind Russell in They Met in Bombay.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

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.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Just a few years earlier, Roz was playing second fiddle in Gable films–the funny bridesmaid to Joan Crawford’s bride in Forsaking All Others and the lady from the past who gets passed over for Jean Harlow in China Seas.

But here she is finally Clark’s leading lady and she was happy for the promotion. Hedy Lamarr was originally slated for the lead in the film, but withdrew after adopting a baby.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Roz recalled: “Clark was a delight to work with.He always shared, never upstaged his marks or the other performers. There was nothing small or petty about him. No director ever had to tell how to do a love scene. He was tremendously graceful. Much like a ballet dancer, he had rhythm and timing. There wasn’t all that enormous clinching and awkwardness that some actors put you through.”

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

This film is a typical Gable formula—he’s a rogue pursuing a pretty lady in an exotic location. Roz appears, wearing a ridiculous hat, and of course instantly enchanting our hero.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Clark then starts stalking her in a rather creepy way, not unlike plucky Joan Crawford chasing him in Dancing Lady.

clark gable they met in bombay

And well, if you’ve ever wanted to see Clark Gable getting a haircut, manicure and pedicure at the same time, this film’s your chance.

clark gable they met in bombay

Roz gets to the necklace before Clark does, after getting the baroness drunk and slipping it off her neck, and scurries back to her room with it. Clark knew she was after the same thing he was and makes sure to get his replica onto the baroness’ neck and swiftly makes off with the real thing himself, letting Roz thing he’s a saint for not turning her in.

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She is of course furious when she finds out the truth.

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But no lady’s hatred of Clark lasts too long and soon Roz’s resentment fades and gives away to a typical Gable clinch. “I’m caught all right,” he says.

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The two lovebirds hide out in a basement in Hong Kong (seemingly sharing the same cramped space, I might add) for a few weeks until they start running out of money. Clark, naturally, wants to think up a new swindle, while it seems Roz is ready to play it straight, get married and have little Rozes.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Clark then gets the idea to impersonate a member of the British military to score a few extra bucks and then gets roped into fighting the Japanese. This, of course, makes an honest man out of him, after he is awarded a medal for bravery.

clark gable they met in bombay They Met 7

For me the film starts to go downhill once he joins the military ranks. It stops being a spy caper and becomes something else entirely. But you know that 1941 audiences ate this kind of thing up–exotic locations, military strategy and all!

clark gable they met in bombay

1941 was the last year of what I’d consider the golden era of Clark’s life–married to Carole, fresh off Gone with the Wind–career going great, home life couldn’t be better. So it’s hard not to watch the film and think that, just over a year later, a heartbroken Clark would be saluting for real.

This film for me is just ok. It’s not without its charms, it’s just the wide swing from fancy debonair caper to military man on a mission is rather jostling. Roz and Clark’s chemistry is plausible, but not white hot.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

They Met in Bombay is available on DVD.

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

This month, Clark Gable is doin’ what he does best as the fast talkin’ rogue, Myrna Loy is his lady and William Powell is his conscience in Manhattan Melodrama.

clark gable william powell myrna loy manhattan melodrama

Gable is Blackie Gallagher, a gambling, gun-slinging gangster, who remains best friends with his childhood pal, Jim Wade (Powell), an ambitious lawyer.  Blackie’s girl, Eleanor (Loy) grows tired of the shady side of life and soon falls in love with Jim and marries him. Jim is promoted to district attorney and starts a campaign to become New York’s next governor. When a blackmailer threatens Jim’s campaign, Blackie decides to handle the situation himself and kills the man. On trial, Jim has no choice but to prosecute Blackie and he is sentenced to death. The conviction helps Jim win the election, but on the day of Blackie’s execution, Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie and reveals to him that Blackie killed the man to protect Jim. Jim rushes to the prison to commune Blackie’s sentence, but Blackie refuses to let Jim waver on his original decision. After Blackie is put to death, Jim resigns as governor and makes up with Eleanor at the fade out.

The cast of this film is wonderful–Clark and Myrna have great chemistry as always, and of course Myrna and Bill can’t be beat.The plot has been done 100 times before–two boys grow up as friends, one turns bad the other good yet they remain friends. Clark would in fact do it again just two years later when he played another bad Blackie in San Francisco. Spencer Tracy is the good childhood friend (a priest, no less) in that one.

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Myrna gets to slink around in gorgeous gowns and also be the prim and proper political wife–not to mention be volleyed between Clark and Bill–not bad for a day’s work.

clark gable myrna loy manhattan melodrama

Clark was tired of the bad gangster types at this point, but at least this one has some heart and actual characterization. He liked the cast and crew of the picture and he was only needed on set for 12 days total–not a bad work assignment.

Clark of course sacrifices himself on behalf of his good friend and guilt eats Bill alive. It’s a movie where everyone does the right thing in the end, but hey at least we were entertained in the meantime.

clark gable william powell manhattan melodrama

“If I can’t live the way I want, at least let me die when I want.”–Poor Clark gets the death chamber. And hey, apparently in 1934 you go from sentencing to death in a matter of weeks. Don’t even think he got his steak dinner!

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Clark is quite good in this film–portraying Blackie’s rough and tumble qualities but letting his heart eek out here and there too. Bill is always good at being the straight and arrow.

This film is an interesting footnote in history for a couple of reasons:

One, this film sparks the beginning of a truly legendary film pairing–Myrna Loy and William Powell. They had never even met before until she opens the door of a car and falls into his lap. Their witty banter and easy chemistry prompted director Van Dyke to decide they were right for his next picture, The Thin Man. And thus started a beautiful teaming that spanned 14 films. Myrna remembered: “My first scene with Bill, a night shot on the back lot, happened before we’d even met. Woody [Van Dyke, the director] was apparently too busy for introductions. My instructions were to run out of a building, through a crowd, and into a strange car. When Woody called “Action,” I opened the car door, jumped in, and landed smack on William Powell’s lap. He looked up nonchalantly: “Miss Loy, I presume?” I said, “Mr. Powell?” And that’s how I met the man who would be my partner in fourteen films.”

clark gable myrna loy manhattan melodrama

Secondly, notorious bank robber John Dillinger was gunned down outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater after seeing this film on July 22, 1934. This event has been tied to the film forever. Myrna recalled: “Supposedly a Myrna Loy fan, he broke cover to see me. Personally, I suspect the theme of the picture rather than my fatal charms attracted him, but I’ve always felt guilty about it, anyway. They filled him full of holes, poor soul.”

Also it’s one of the first roles for a youngster named Mickey Rooney, who played Clark’s character as a child. His performance in this film led to a contract with MGM and the beginning of an illustrious career.

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Oh and lastly, it is worth noting that this is the only film in which you can find the former husband of Carole Lombard starring with the future husband of Carole Lombard!

clark gable myrna loy william powell manhattan melodrama

Manhattan Melodrama is available on DVD as part of the Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection.

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

This month, Clark is a tough cattle baron and Ava Gardner is a sassy newspaperwoman in 1800’s Texas in Lone Star (1952).

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In this semi-factual historical western, Gable is Devereaux Burke, a cattle baron enlisted by President Andrew Jackson (Barrymore) in 1845 to help convince Texas to become part of the United States. Gable encounters newspaperwoman Martha Ronda (Gardner) and her beau, Senator Thomas Craden (Crawford) who want Texas to become its own republic. Devereaux and Martha soon fall in love despite their differing opinions and he prepares for a final showdown with Craden.

This is definitely not Clark’s best Western….by a long shot. I daresay it’s his worst one. It tanked at the box office, with critics citing the lack of interest 1950’s audience had with a Western centering around Texas’ battle for independence.

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What saves it from being entirely passable is his always reliable snap-crackle-pop chemistry with the lovely Ava Gardner. That chemistry is alive and poppin’ here, although one wonders why these two stars are wasted here with this mediocre plot and plodding script.

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In fact, the best scenes of the film are the small little moments between Clark and Ava. I do like his line: “It’s convenient to have a woman you can take for granted. Not very exciting but convenient. I’ve never been that lucky.”

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The brooding Broderick Crawford is the one-dimensional villain here, and he was as uninterested in the process as the rest of them. Director Sherman recalled that they all realized the film was awful during production, but being their assignment, got through it anyway without much gusto. Broderick Crawford was in a drunken stupor throughout filming and Gable and Gardner were just “showing up, reading lines and going home.”

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The film has all the Clark Gable elements—he’s the rogue, wise crackin’ womanizer, full of wit and flirty lines, he punches a few guys out and wins the girl. But it all wasn’t cohesive here.

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Clark was not in the best of spirits when filming began, as he had recently asked his fourth wife, Sylvia Ashley, for a divorce. His ranch home as in upheaval as she moved out and he began some construction to undo changes she had made. The stress of the situation caused him to drink more than usual and his head was not completely in the game on this one. Studio memos noted that “Gable doesn’t look like Gable anymore.”

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This film marks the last screen appearance of the legendary Lionel Barrymore, who was wheelchair bound by this time due to arthritis and an injured hip. Clark and director Vincent Sherman convinced him to take the small role of President Andrew Jackson.

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

 

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

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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.

 

clark gable alexis smith any number can play

This month, Clark Gable is an unhappy gambling man, Alexis Smith his neglected wife, Mary Astor his pleading ex-flame and Wendell Corey is devious brother-in-law in Any Number Can Play.

Gable is Charley Kyng, the owner of a gambling house in New York. After learning he has a heart problem, he begins to re-evaluate his life: his relationship with his wife (Smith) and teenage son (Darryl Hickman), his business and his associates.

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This is one of Clark’s films that I didn’t like very much initially but in subsequent viewings I have become to appreciate it more and more. It’s not a masterpiece but the script is very down to earth and it is rather refreshing to see Clark playing a married man with a wife and son, not chasing skirts. At his age that was becoming a bit old hat!

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Some of the reviews of the film mentioned how it was unrealistic to portray big, hulky Gable crippled by a heart condition. They all ate their words when that is exactly how he died, just over a decade later. Maybe he should have taken the doctor’s advice in the film and cut out the smoking and the drinking…

clark gable any number can play

I’ve heard it said more than once that Clark’s character in this film is like what would have eventually become of his gambling, swaggering Blackie Norton from San Francisco, years in the future. That’s rather true, and it’s a good change of pace for Clark. Audiences at the time didn’t think so, missing the smirking Blackie-type characters.

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Mary Astor makes a brief appearance as Clark’s ex-flame who is still carrying a torch. Their scene together in the beginning of the film, with her begging him to leave his wife, is poignant. Made all the more so by the fact that Clark and Mary were steamy co-stars in Red Dust 17 years earlier.

clark gable mary astor any number can play

I find the chemistry between Clark and Alexis Smith completely lacking. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s more no-nonsense than bombshell, but the heat is not there. I suppose she is fitting for the role of the neglected wife.clark gable alexis smith any number can play clark gable alexis smith any number can play clark gable alexis smith any number can play clark gable alexis smith any number can play clark gable alexis smith any number can play

Clark wasn’t too happy with Alexis’ casting. She was borrowed by MGM from Warner Brothers for the role, as Clark was getting tired of being paired with the same leading ladies over and over again. He didn’t think she fit the bill and she was a different type than he was used to playing against.

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I rather enjoy Clark in the scenes with his teenage son. He didn’t get to play a father often and it’s a welcome change of pace to see him bursting with pride when his son gets in a fight or lecturing his son on showing him respect.

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The supporting cast is spectacular. In addition to Mary Astor, the gambling house also sees Lewis Stone, Frank Morgan, Marjorie Rambeau and Leon Ames.

And the recently deceased Audrey Totter plays Alexis’ sister, with an untrustworthy husband and a crush on Clark. There aren’t any love scenes between Audrey and Clark, just an undertone of her longing for what her sister has. I do find it a bit strange that there are a lot of publicity stills for the film in which Clark and Audrey are posed as though they are romantic interests!

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clark gable audrey totter any number can play

clark gable alexis smith audrey totter any number can play

Any Number Can Play is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Read more about the film here and see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.

clark gable joan crawford love on the run

This month, Clark is a rogue newspaper reporter (again) and Joan Crawford is a spoiled heiress (again) in Love on the Run.

clark gable joan crawford love on the run

Gable is Mike Anthony, a newspaper reporter always in competition with his college buddy, Barnabus Pell (Franchot 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 Barbabus wants his piece of the story, keeping them on the run, of course falling in love along the way.

Love on the Run is, in a word, silly. It starts out cute enough, with Clark and Franchot constantly trying to one up each other.

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But the film meanders into ridiculous territory when Clark and Joan are “on the run” through Europe, being chased by spies whose plane their stole and with Franchot on their tail. There are definitely no plot twists in this one, but it is pretty much what the masses had come to expect from a Clark Gable rom com.

Joan and Clark always have chemistry, even in a silly plot like this. The best scene in the whole film is them meeting in the beginning, with him not telling her he’s a reporter out to scoop her story as she runs out on her wedding. Their banter is classic.

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Later, while hiding out in a chateau and wearing antique duds, they share a sweet dance to a music box as they pretend to be ancient royalty. And soon after comes a typical Clark Gable pick-up line: “You’re the only girl this side of the moon.”

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Clark is definitely in his element playing a wisecracking reporter. This role was not exactly a stretch for him and he was comfortable with the director, W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke.

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Clark was recruited to star with Joan in the film because while Clark was riding high on the success of films like Call of the Wild and San Francisco, Joan’s past few films had failed miserably at the box office. So Clark was brought in as her leading man to boost her back up. My, my, how times had changed. In 1931, Joan was paired with newbie Clark in fare like Dance Fools Dance and Possessed to boost his star power.

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Nobody would have been surprised to hear that Clark and Franchot did not get along on the set of this film. Back in 1933, both were costarring with Joan in Dancing Lady. Clark and Joan had been embroiled in a heavy off-and-on affair since 1931, and when Clark missed a lot of time on the set due to illness, Franchot and Joan fell in love. Clark, despite the fact that he was very much involved at the time with British actress Elizabeth Allan AND despite the fact that he was still married to second wife Ria, felt burned when he returned to the Dancing Lady set and saw that Franchot was a frequent vistor to Joan’s trailor.

Joan and Franchot eventually married in 1935 and so were married on the set of Love on the Run, although because Franchot was pretty much doomed to sidekick Siberia in the 1930’s he gets to watch Clark woo and win his wife.

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Despite this, Clark and Franchot were actually good buddies. They had discovered they had joint loves of booze and cards while on location for their film Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935. Franchot and Joan were the two bickering on the set, actually. All was not bliss in the Tone household.

clark gable franchot tone joan crawford love on the run

As for Clark and Joan offscreen, Love on the Run would be their last film together until 1940’s Strange Cargo. By then, Joan and Franchot were divorced and it was Joan’s turn to be jealous…of Clark’s matrimonial bliss with Carole Lombard. Reportedly their relationship was rather frosty during the making of that film.

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Some of my very favorite publicity stills of Clark and Joan are from Love on the Run—Joan in a flowing dress that cascades out while they dance. I often see these photos online labeled incorrectly as being from Dancing Lady, but no, they are indeed from Love on the Run.

clark gable joan crawford love on the run

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Love on the Run is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection

Read more about the film here and see over 200 pictures from the film in the gallery.

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.
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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.
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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!”
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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!
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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.
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 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

clark gable joan crawford robert montgomery forsaking all others

This month, Clark Gable plays the heartbroken guy to Joan Crawford’s wide-eyed heiress and Robert Montgomery’s selfish but lovable cad in Forsaking All Others.

Clark is Jeffrey Williams, who still harbors a childhood crush on Mary Clay (Crawford). Upon returning from a two year jaunt in Spain, he has plans to finally propose to her until he learns that she is set to marry his best friend, Dillon “Dill” Todd (Montgomery), the next day. He swallows his feelings and agrees to give the bride away. Dill gets an unexpected visit from an old flame, Connie Barnes (Francis Drake), and ends up running off to marry her, sending Mary a telegram explaining and apologizing. Heartbroken, Mary retreats to a cabin to nurse her wounds. She decides to come back to town with encouragement from Jeff and after receiving an invitation from Connie to attend her and Dill’s dinner party. At the party, Dill realizes he is still in love with Mary and soon after they begin seeing each other again, behind Connie’s back. Jeff is Mary’s voice of reason, trying to tell her that Dill will only break her heart again and she is leaving herself vulnerable, all the while hiding his feelings.

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As far as mid-1930’s romantic comedies go, te formula for this one is run of the mill, but the script is actually quite clever and snappy–thanks to Joseph Mankiewicz. Originally a play, many of the sexual undertones were removed but the script more than makes up for any missing steam with its vigor.

Clark gets some of the best lines and even gets to whack Joan with a hairbrush!clark gable joan crawford forsaking all others

“You’re an idiot. A spoiled, silly brat that needs a hairbrush every now and then.” Joan doesn’t mind too much…

Clark and Joan, off-screen lovers for years off and on, have great chemistry. Their scenes together here are sweet and funny. Clark has just the right amount of suave to cover up his broken heart, and Joan is busy fluttering those eye lashes over her innocent baby blues.

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Robert Montgomery is rather foolish, but he’s also hilarious. The part where he catches on fire in the cabin is quite amusing—especially when Clark finds him all burnt up the next day and makes fun of him!

clark gable robert montgomery forsaking all others

It’s funny how Bob and Joan go up to an abandoned house together and end up spending the night and this is a great scandal–how times have changed! Bob is in an interesting position here, as he really is a heartless jerk. He up and leaves Joan at the altar, then tries to woo her behind his wife’s back just weeks later. He even schemes to get her alone at a cabin for the night, telling his limo driver not to show up until morning. But as devious as he is, Bob still makes him a likable character in many ways. He may be devious, but he still has that impish quality!

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Quite amusing is hung-over Clark after the “bachelor dinner.” Despite the fact that the groom didn’t show up, the groomsmen all ended up drunk in a trashed hotel room, with a firehouse flung into the room, flooding the whole hotel! Clark is sleeping head to toe with the hilarious Charles Butterworth, wearing the top half of his tuxedo and Charles only has the bottom half of his. I think this is why most people don’t have their “stag parties” the night before the wedding anymore…

clark gable forsaking all others

clark gable forsaking all others

Clark and Bob were friends in real life and both liked Joan. I think it makes a difference in a film when the actors are friendly. This film comes across as light and airy as a result.

clark gable robert montgomery joan crawford forsaking all others

 Billie Burke is excellent as the twittering, disapproving stand-in mother for Joan. She is in the fortunate position of being swooped up in Clark’s arms and covered in his kisses…not once, but twice! “Haven’t you buried three husbands already?” he asks her. “Two. I don’t know where the last one is!” she replies.

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And in a small part, is future Clark Gable leading lady Rosalind Russell, as one of Joan’s bridesmaids. Her part may be small, but you can see the future snappy Roz the world would soon come to know with lines like “I’m so tired of being a bridesmaid. I’d like to get married so I can wear a decent hat!”

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It’s nice to see Clark pine for a bit before he wins the girl at the end. Speaking of the end, it is quite a cop out—one of those where you just assume they live happily ever after without any evidence to back it up.  I really like the sweet, quiet way Clark tells Joan that he’s in love with her before he leaves. But I guess we are supposed to cheer for the fact that Joan decides to go after him and leave Bob in the lurch? So the whole film she’s been heartbroken over Robert but now suddenly realizes it’s Clark she wants? Oh well, way it goes in movie land!

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Forsaking All Others is available on DVD from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection. You can see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery and read more about the film here.

clark gable myrna loy parnell

In July, for the month that celebrates the anniversary of this website, I always select an important Clark Gable film–one that is a highlight in his career for one reason or another. This year I don’t think that Clark would agree with my choice! It is his much-maligned effort to portray a soft spoken Irishman in Parnell.

In this historical melodrama, Gable is Charles Stewart 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 (Myrna 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.

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As is the case with most 1930’s biopics, the truth is brushed aside for what will make a better film. There are so many inaccuracies here, it would be difficult to list them all. Most glaring is the fact that while in the film Katie and Parnell love each other but keep on with a seemingly chaste love affair, stealing embraces and kisses only, in reality, Katie and Parnell were engaged in quite the scandalous affair that produced three children!  Also, in reality, they were eventually married after the divorce was finalized. The film leaves them unmarried and still pining for each other. Although in both the film and reality, Parnell died in Katie’s arms.

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Joan Crawford was the first choice to play Katie O’Shea. Her and Clark had had success in the past few years with light comedic fare such as Forsaking All Others and Love on the Run. Clark encouraged her to take the role; he was enthusiastic about the film and felt she would be the perfect leading lady for it. Joan found the story boring and refused the part; she was gun-shy on historical dramas after the failure of The Gorgeous Hussy. So, Myrna Loy was whisked away from the set of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, which was to reteam her with her frequent screen partner William Powell, and into Parnell. Joan was put in Myrna’s place in Cheyney. Joan later recalled that Clark was frosty to her after the film’s failure. “I don’t think he ever forgave me for leaving him on that sinking ship,” she said.

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I actually think Joan would have been a bad choice. Katie O’Shea is rather quiet and sweet, much more fitting to Myrna. Clark and Myrna always have chemistry, in my opinion anyway. And the love story here, although largely fictional like the rest of this “biopic,” is cute.

“You know, miracles happen; I have my proof of that now. I’ve seen you before today, Mrs. O’Shea. Last week at the opera. You were wearing a white dress with white roses. The lights went up and there you were. Suddenly there was no music, no opera house, nothing. Nothing but a distance between us,” Clark says to Myrna. Myrna later said she thought that speech was the most romantic of Clark’s career.

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The scene where they are lost in London and wander around in the thick fog, eating hot potatoes with their hands, lightly debating which direction they could be headed, is adorable.

“What I’ve always wanted to do–eat hot potatoes with you,” he says.

“The world’s still there behind the fog, waiting for us,” she says mournfully after they share a kiss.

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Edna May Oliver and Billie Burke both add a light comedic touch as Katie’s aunt and sister. Oliver is a hilarious foible to Burke’s chirpiness. “You speak like the spinster you indefinitely will become!” she hisses to her.

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The significance of Parnell to Clark Gable’s career is great. The screenplay was based on a Broadway play that had had a successful run just a few years prior. Louis B. Mayer eagerly acquired the property, as he wanted his MGM to be involved in more “prestige” projects–probably licking his lips salivating over possible Academy Awards. A great deal of money was spent on the film; there were hundreds of extras to be fitted with period costumes, English snow and fog to simulate, and seventy four sets were constructed. Director John Stahl was quite the perfectionist and the shoot was one of the longest of Clark’s career–108 days.

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On the set

Much of the early press concerning the film was about whether or not Clark was going to grow a beard for the role. The real Parnell had a full, rather bushy, beard. Clark balked at growing a beard and despite Stahl and Mayer’s urgings, would not budge on the issue. The compromise was that Clark grew long “mutton chop” sideburns. They were most unbecoming but I must say, it makes it easy to date candids of him. Sideburns? 1937!

Cake on the set! With Myrna, Clark and Stahl

Cake on the set! With Myrna, Clark and Stahl

 

For a film that is widely considered his biggest failure, a lot of notable moments in Clark Gable history took place during the production. For instance, it was while filming Parnell, at Clark’s 36th birthday party on the set, that Judy Garland first sang “Dear Mr. Gable” to him. Her performance led to her repeating the song in The Broadway Melody of 1938. And you know what? That Miss Garland went on to have quite a career…

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It was also during production that sideburn-ed Clark put his feet and hands in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

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Parnell had the bad luck of being released three days before Jean Harlow died. Naturally, not a lot of press was given to the new films of that week. And the press it did receive wasn’t great. While for the most part fan magazines applauded it, newspapers were not as generous, and neither was the word of mouth. It ended up losing $637,000 at the box office and was officially labeled “a stinker.” Parnell is most often quoted as the worst Gable film and was always the first one out of Gable’s mouth if asked of his least favorite film of his own. It is even listed in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

There was endless razzing over the film for Clark. Spencer Tracy used to chide him with “Remember Parnell” on the set of Test Pilot. I just ran across a gossip item from 1941 that said: Just before Clark Gable and Carole Lombard took off on a hunting trip, Clark received a wire from Spencer Tracy. “I’ve just read the New York reviews on ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’’ said Spence. “I take back everything I ever said about your ‘Parnell.’”

Carole Lombard had a boy pass out Parnell flyers all over MGM to embarrass Clark. During filming, she couldn’t resist getting a rib in. Clark had been complaining to her that while they shot the death scene, Stahl insisted on playing gloomy music for a solid week. So Carole switched the record one day and instead of doom and gloom, “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You.”

Clark took it all in stride but vowed to never make a historical costume drama again. So that is one of the many reasons that he was not ecstatic about playing a certain Captain Rhett Butler in a certain Civil War drama.

It is rather sad that Clark was repeatedly typecast as the same character again and again. When he tried to step outside the box and do some real drama, the fans cried fowl and Clark retreated back into his little box. Clark was very insecure as an actor and he felt that the fans were right. I don’t think that they were. His performance in Parnell is not bad at all. The film itself is just boring and the script is really lacking. It’s not very interesting to American audiences to have a film center around a 19th century Irish forgery case.  Clark’s Rhett Butler showed he had the dramatic chops, but again Rhett was still an extension of the rogues he was used to playing. By the time he showed he could handle real drama in The Misfits, it was too late.

Myrna Loy said later that she liked Parnell and that she didn’t understand the bad press it has received. “Some of the critics complained that we played against type. We were actors for God’s sake. We couldn’t be Blackie Norton and Nora Charles all the time.” She also said that she thought that it’s failure may have been because people couldn’t picture the great he-man Clark Gable sickly and dying of a heart attack. Ironically, she pointed out, that’s exactly what happened in real life.

Parnell is not available on DVD. You can read more about the film here and see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.

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clark gable parnellclark gable myrna loy parnell

clark gable myrna loy parnell

 

 

 

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This month, Clark Gable is ruthless, one-dimensional Nick the chauffeur to Barbara Stanwyck’s plucky young nurse in Night Nurse.

A quintessential pre-code, the film centers around Lora Hart (Stanwyck) as she struggles to keep her ideals while getting through nursing school. After she graduates, she is assigned to be a night nurse to two little girls suffering from malnutrition and anemia. Clark does not appear until halfway through the film and only appears for a few minutes, as Nick, the evil brute of a chauffeur. Lora becomes suspicious of the doctor treating the children and of Nick. Nick throws her around, bullies her and the children say they are scared of him. Lora soon comes to the realization that Nick and the doctor are in it together–to starve the children to death and keep their mother a drunk so they can get their hands on the family’s fortune. It really is a rather disturbing story. Two little girls who are starving and whine that they are hungry, they want to play but don’t have the strength and they are sad that their mother never comes to see them (even though she’s in the same house and has roaring parties every night, just down the hall!), and all the while are threatened by the house staff that is supposed to protect them. Heinous.

This film is all Stanwyck’s–and it should be. Stanwyck’s little pre-code dramas are some of my very favorites. Their luster lies in their grittiness and reality–something that would be completely lost just a few years later when the powers-that-be put the stop to such alarming storylines as starving innocent children for money. She is in her element, in her bobbed 20’s hair, thick lipstick and calf-length skirt, standing up to the man and telling him what’s what.

clark gable barbara stanwyck night nurse

Night Nurse is really a pre-code classic in every sense of the word. New nurse Stanwyck is undressing (pretty much a pre-code standard scene!)  and a male intern pops in the room. “Oh, don’t be embarrassed; you can’t show me a thing. I just came from the delivery room!” he chides. Ooh la la.

barbara stanwyck joan blondell night nurse

A Free Soul, Clark’s breakout film, has just been released a few months prior to Night Nurse. By the time Night Nurse premiered, Clark was a runaway hit and his days of fourth billing were behind him. But not yet during filming of this little programmer (a short, cheap film usually lumped into a double feature with a bigger, splashier movie). In fact, fledgling Clark was shuffled around, making The Finger Points, The Easiest Way and this film simultaneously, which wasn’t difficult to do since all his parts were small and he was in sporadic scenes. So, Clark was a gangster, a laundryman and a chauffeur all at once!

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The part of Nick was so small that Clark doesn’t even appear until 35 minutes in the 70 minute film and is only in about three scenes. James Cagney was originally cast in the role, but after The Public Enemy became a huge hit, he was upgraded from secondary roles so the part of Nick went to then unknown Clark. The role  didn’t exactly require a lot of homework for him. Director William Wellman, who would later direct him all of the Wild and Across the Wide Missouri, gave Clark little attention. His only direction to him was: “He’s a loathsome brute.” All Nick’s lines are things like “Why, you little..” “Aw, shut up!” and “Oh yeah?” Not exactly Shakespeare…clark gable barbara stanwyck night nurse

Clark is mostly clad in a black uniform, hair slicked back with what I am convinced is Crisco, and his eyebrows penciled in with what looks like a Sharpie. Not exactly his best look. He is young and chiseled, though…

clark gable barbara stanwyck night nurse

In his first appearance in the film, where he is introduced as a real bad guy by beating up a drunk and thrashing Stanwyck around, he is oddly dressed in the seemingly non-threatening outfit of a Japanese-looking robe and polka dot pajamas!

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It’s almost comical when Stanwyck says, “And who are you?” The camera zooms in while Clark says with dramatic pause: “I’m Nick…the chauffeur!” Dun dun dun!

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Not to be ignored as Stanwyck’s loyal best pal is Joan Blondell, who often played the best gal pal of the main actress–in fact later would be flirty with Clark and the best gal to Greer Garson in Adventure. Blondell’s got some of my favorite lines, such as when she is teaching Stanwyck the ropes of being a nurse. “Take my tip and keep away from interns; they’re like cancer–the disease is known but not the cure! There’s only one guy in the world that can do a nurse any good and that’s a patient with dough. Just catch one of them with a high fever and a low pulse and make him think you saved his life and you’ll be getting somewhere. And doctors are no good, either. They never marry nurses. And the trouble with interns is they do! All a wife means to an intern is someone to sit in his front office when he starts practice and play nursemaid the rest of her life without pay! The thing to do is to land an appendicitis case–they’ve all got dough!” That’s all you need to know to be a nurse, ladies–that pesky medicine stuff will figure itself out!

barbara stanwyck joan blondell night nurse

I actually find the beginning part of the movie, where Stanwyck and Blondell are working in different parts of the hospital, to be more entertaining than Nick-the-evil-chauffeur-who-must-be-stopped!

Ben Lyon is Stanwyck’s love interest and he’s a bootlegger with gangster connections–tsk, tsk. But hey, being a bootlegger is a far better thing than being a devious chauffeur out to murder little children, eh?

ben lyon night nurse

Nick, poor Nick, must meet his comeuppance for being evil and is hastily killed off, making this one of only a handful of films in Clark’s long filmography in which his character dies. The ending is rather a cop-out–I’m still not sure who exactly is going to look after these children now? Their father is dead and their mother is still a ditzy drunk who couldn’t care less.

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Night Nurse is available on DVD in The Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 2, along with A Free Soul and several other excellent pre-codes.

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

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