clark gable myrna loy

From October 1938:

To her husband she’s Minnie. To her public she’s Myrna Loy, but to Clark Gable she is The Queen.

“At first I was a little afraid of her,” Gable admitted. “I thought she was mysterious but I soon learned that there was no mystery about her at all. I found her to be down to earth folks, treating the lowliest worker with the same respect and friendliness as those in the upper brackets. Anybody can talk to her and she listens intently.

“She is a comfortable person. She has definite ideas and is always nonchalant about them. She also gets what she wants for she has a perfect success system. There’s nothing vain about The Queen either. She has tons of freckles on her face but you will never catch her trying to hide them not even for an evening.

“I have never seen her embarrassed; I wondered why. I found out. In her childhood she lived in the wide open spaces of the cow country in Montana. She rode herd in the saddle side by side with her dad, a big raw-boned cattleman. That companionship must have left a lasting impression on her for today she has the mind of a man about pictures.

“In her home, where I visited several times, she lives a very informal life. When she has guests, she does not herd them around like cattle nor permits them to be stuffed shirts. She insists that every guest be right at home and do what he or she wants to do. It’s typical of The Queen.”

 

We interrupt Carole Lombard Month to bring you this post, which is part of the Classic Movie Blog Association’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blogathon.

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I’ve selected Test Pilot to talk about because, in my humble opinion, it should be the third Clark Gable movie you ever see if the first two are Gone with the Wind and It Happened One Night. Here are the reasons why:

1. It is truly a textbook example of a Clark Gable film. It’s got it all: adventure, romance, comedy, snappy dialogue and some intense drama. Clark is Jim Lane, a boozing, womanizing army test pilot who walks to the beat of his own drummer. On one trip, his plane starts leaking  gas and he lands on the field of a Kansas farm, where Ann Barton (Myrna Loy) lives with her parents. Their sparring turns to mutual attraction soon after and by the time Jim’s best friend and mechanic, Gunner Morris (Spencer Tracy) arrives to help fix the plane, they are in love. When Jim brings the plane home to New York, he has Ann in tow, as his new wife. Jim has a lot of adjustments to do to get used to being a married man and Gunner is jealous as it has always just been the two of them and now he is the third wheel.

Although Ann was at first thrilled at her husband’s exciting profession, she learns quickly how dangerous it is. She hides her true feelings from Jim and puts on a happy face with each new mission he takes on. Gunner, who has grown to admire Ann, grows more and more bitter as he watches Ann suffer behind Jim’s back.

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2. It is directed by Victor Fleming, Clark’s longtime pal and a man who had previously directed Clark to greatness in Red Dust and The White Sister. He would later also direct him in Gone with the Wind and Adventure.

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3. It co-stars the great Spencer Tracy. Tracy plays Clark’s best friend and mechanic, Gunner. They had previously been paired in San Francisco. They admired each other but ultimately had a sort of “frenemy” relationship–Clark was often jealous of Spencer’s serious acting ability (this stemming from Spencer being nominated for San Francisco and Clark being ignored). Spencer was envious of Clark’s great popularity. Their last pairing was Boom Town in 1940.

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4. Clark’s love interest is the divine Myrna Loy; this was the sixth of their seven films together. Clark’s pairings with Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow get more attention, but him and Myrna had this great, easy chemistry. They were never romantically involved–she claimed their relationship resembled more of a brother-sister camaraderie–but their chemistry was always evident.

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Test Pilot 5

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5. The supporting cast is no slouch, either. We have Lionel Barrymore as Clark’s grumpy boss, and Marjorie Main as his huffy landlady. Plus Clark’s future off-screen girlfriend Virginia Grey has a small part at the beginning of one of his character’s many girlfriends.

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6. It was one of Myrna’s personal favorites of all her films. “It really stands as an example of what big-studio film making could be: the writing, the directing, the photography, the technical expertise, the casting of that impeccable stock company.

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7. Clark’s technical advisor on the film was  Paul Mantz, who was a onetime copilot and navigator for Amelia Earhart. Clark was fascinated with Mantz’s work. Later, Clark took some flying lessons to pursue a pilot’s license, but never completed them–due to Carole Lombard’s death in a plane crash.

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8. The script is great. Some of Clark’s truly “Gable-esque” quotes include:

“Say, I’m just in the mood for a bull, sister. You go get him; I’m liable to pick him up and throw him right back in your lap!”

“Do all the girls around here look like you this early in the morning? Every girl I’ve ever seen this early…”

“She’s crazy, I broke all the records too! I entered high school a sophomore and came out a freshman!”

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9. Clark is handed one of his best emotional scenes and he hits it out of the park. After [SPOILER] another pilot dies, Clark gets drunk and laments, “The sky looks sweet and wears a pretty blue dress, doesn’t she? Yeah well don’t kid yourself. She lives up there, she invites you up there and when she gets you up there, she knocks you down!” Myrna Loy remembered, ” In Test Pilot, [Clark] had a moment when he talked about the girl in the blue dress–the sky. That scene terrified him, scared him to death. He got so upset when we shot it I had to keep reassuring, comforting him. Not that he couldn’t do the scene–he did it beautifully–but he was afraid it would make him appear too soft. He had this macho thing strapped on him and he couldn’t get out of it.”

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10. Myrna is also given a great dramatic scene, near the end of the film. Tired of constantly worrying about him when he’s in the air, she cries and yells at Clark, “Why won’t you just die already and leave me alone?” I’ve heard people say before Myrna had no dramatic chops and I wouldn’t agree!

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12. The scenes of Clark and Myrna’s day out together are adorable–they go to the movies and a ballgame–and how I’d like to imagine they would have hung out in real life!

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13. It’s one of the few times that you get to see Clark in the role of a father–albeit briefly. To be the onscreen spawn of Clark and Myrna! Lucky kid!

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14. It is one of only four Clark Gable films that were nominated for Best Picture. It was also nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Original Story but walked away empty handed.

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15. It was filmed right when Clark was at his prime–in love with Carole Lombard and happy, the film started a swing of hits for Clark at the end of the 1930’s. He followed it up with Too Hot to Handle, Idiot’s Delight and Gone with the Wind.

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Clark and Myrna on the set

Clark Gable makes a great addition to this blogathon. For Planes, Hell Divers and Night Flight would qualify as well, for Automobiles To Please a Lady all the way (or you could pick It Happened One Night because of the bus scenes), and there are great Train scenes in No Man of Her Own, Saratoga, Idiot’s Delight and Honky Tonk.

You can read more about Test Pilot here, my formal review here and my nutshell review here.

You can read the rest of the blogathon’s entries here.

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 Parnell is widely known as Clark Gable’s worst film. I have always disagreed. While the script could have used some work and is far from historically accurate, there is great chemistry (as always) between Clark and Myrna Loy. It is said that the film was a failure because Clark didn’t play his usual smirking rogue, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Sure, his character is lacking that Gable sass, but hey he can’t just play the same character every film, can he? Hmmm….

Some beautiful portraits with Myrna:

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Some great on the set pictures:

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And of course the screenshots:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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!

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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.

clark gable myrna loy spencer tracy I love Warner Brothers Archive Collection! Thanks to them, the majority of Clark’s films are available to us fans for our home viewing pleasure. And FINALLY they have just released a few of the missing titles: clark gable constance bennett after office hours After Office Hours (1935) with Constance Bennett! Buy it here. clark gable wallace beery hell divers Hell Divers (1931) with Wallace Beery! Buy it here. parnell clark gable myrna loy Parnell (1937) with Myrna Loy! Buy it here.

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and Test Pilot, which I have been anxiously awaiting the release of for years! Buy it here.

In a Nutshell: Saratoga (1937)

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Directed by: Jack Conway

Co-stars: Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon, Una Merkel

Synopsis: Gable is Duke Bradley, a bookie who acquires the deed to the Brookdale horse ranch because the owner, Mr. Clayton (Jonathan Hale) owes him a lot of money. When Clayton dies, his daughter Carol (Harlow), who dislikes Bradley, is determined to get the horse ranch back in the family by winning horse races to pay Bradley back. Meanwhile, Bradley tries to bait Carol’s rich fiancée (Pidgeon) to place bets with him.

Best Gable Quote: “This is more work than I’ve done for a woman since my mother.”

Not-So-Fun Fact: Harlow collapsed into Gable’s arms during the filming of one scene and was rushed to the hospital. Diagnosed with uremic poisoning, she died of  a cerebral edema brought on by kidney failure just days later, at the age of 26. 90% of the film had been completed and MGM executives considered shelving the film altogether or reshooting it with Virginia Bruce or Jean Arthur. Harlow fans were outraged and sent thousands of letters demanding to see her last film.  They decided to finish it with a stand-in for Harlow’s part. Mary Dees was cast as Harlow’s stand-in, being viewed only from behind or beneath big hats and binoculars. Radio actress Paula Winslowe provided Harlow’s voice. Scenes that couldn’t be faked were scrapped altogether or re-written to feature one of the supporting players instead. Because the public flocked to see Harlow’s last film, Saratoga was one of the highest grossing films of 1937. Released just six weeks after Harlow’s death, it earned over $3 million at the box office

My Verdict: This film is infamous for being Jean’s last role and for the game of  “Spot the Fake Harlow!” I think it probably would have been a better film if Jean had lived to finish it. As it is, the film is thrown together in the end and does feel that well. It is one of the weakest of Clark and Jean’s pairings; their sizzle is on simmer rather than boil. Might be just me, but I just don’t find the horse-betting storyline intriguing. Take out the interest in seeing it for it being Jean’s last role and it is a rather mediocre film.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in March 2011.

In a Nutshell: Test Pilot (1938)

clark gable myrna loy spencer tracy test pilot

Directed by: Victor Fleming

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore

Synopsis: Gable is Jim Lane, a boozing, womanizing army test pilot who walks to the beat of his own drummer. On one trip, his plane starts leaking  gas and he lands on the field of a Kansas farm, where Ann Barton (Loy) lives with her parents. Their sparring turns to mutual attraction soon after and by the time Jim’s best friend and mechanic, Gunner Morris (Tracy) arrives to help fix the plane, they are in love. When Jim brings the plane home to New York, he has Ann in tow, as his new wife. Jim has a lot of adjustments to do to get used to being a married man and Gunner is jealous as it has always just been the two of them and now he is the third wheel.

Although Ann was at first thrilled at her husband’s exciting profession, she learns quickly how dangerous it is. She hides her true feelings from Jim and puts on a happy face with each new mission he takes on. Gunner, who has grown to admire Ann, grows more and more bitter as he watches Ann suffer behind Jim’s back.

Best Gable Quote: “The sky looks sweet and wears a pretty blue dress, doesn’t she? Yeah well don’t kid yourself. She lives up there, she invites you up there and when she gets you up there, she knocks you down!”

Fun Fact: Loy recalled that Gable was intimidated by the drunken “sky wears a pretty blue dress” speech and had her rehearse with him over and over; he was afraid of appearing too sensitive. In the end he did it perfect in one take.

My Verdict: This film is the first one comes to mind when people say they have seen the Clark Gable basics: It Happened One Night, Gone with the Wind, The Misfits, etc. Now what should they see? TEST PILOT. Why? Because this film is Clark Gable in his 30’s prime, all wrapped up in a pretty bow and presented to you on a platter. The witty script gives Clark plenty of wisecracks, he’s got a fair share of white-knuckles action scenes in the air, buddy brother-love scenes sparring with Spencer Tracy, and romantic scenes with the fabulous Myrna Loy. I consider it an essential.

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Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in January 2013.

 

In a Nutshell: Too Hot to Handle (1938)

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Directed by: Sam Wood

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Walter Pidgeon, Walter Connolly

Synopsis: Gable is Chris Hunter, a newsreel cameraman who is always where the action is. Walter Pidgeon is Bill Dennis, a rival newsreel cameraman who is constantly trying to out-scoop Chris. Both of them are bored in Shanghai since they can’t get anywhere near the action of the Chinese-Japanese war. His boss (Connolly) demanding action shots of the war, Chris starts making up fake shots using toy airplanes and sending them in. This angers Bill who decides to get even by sending his girlfriend, Alma (Loy) to fly in and he tricks Chris into thinking she is delivering vaccines so he’ll get an action shot. Chris’ driver ends up accidently causing Alma’s plane to crash while trying to get the shot and Chris rescues her from the blaze. Chris and Alma soon fall for each other, much to Bill’s chagrin. The two men constantly try to outdo each other, until binding together (somewhat) to help Alma find her brother, who is held captive by voodoo bushmen in the South American jungle.

Best Gable Quote: “I didn’t distort the truth. I merely heightened the composition.”

Fun Fact: While filming the plane crash, it was reported that the fire got out of control and the director wanted to cut the shot so they could get Loy out of there in time. Gable rushed in and pulled Loy out of the plane, saving her life before the flames engulfed her. The press quickly got wind of the story and it was front page news. Loy recalled she never thought she was in any danger and speculates it was the studio just trying to get some publicity for the film.

My Verdict: Another reteam of Clark and Myrna in an action packed romance! This one includes foreign adventure and Clark gets to be the rogue reporter yet again. It’s an enjoyable romp, with Clark and Myrna showing their usual spark and Clark ruffling Walter Pidgeon’s feathers. The film loses steam for me once they set out in the jungle to rescue Myrna’s brother.

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Read more here.

 

In a Nutshell: Idiot’s Delight (1939)

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Directed by: Clarence Brown

Co-stars: Norma Shearer, Burgess Meredith

Synopsis: Gable is Harry Van, a World War I vet and struggling vaudeville performer when he meets Irene (Shearer), an acrobat, while performing in Omaha, Nebraska. They have a brief romance before going their separate ways. Many years pass as Harry tries different acts and odd jobs in between. Fast forward to 1939 and Harry is on a train in Europe with his current act, Les Blondes. They get stopped from getting into Geneva due to the impending war. Stranded at a mountaintop hotel, Harry notices a Russian countess who looks just a tad too familiar–could it be Irene from Omaha?

Best Gable Quote: “What’s more, it cost seventy-five cents! You know, that’s the most expensive present I ever bought for any dame!” (I had to pick that one because Carole Lombard thought it particularly hilarious and telling of Clark’s penny-pinching ways and would retort it back to him often!)

Fun Fact: Gable was very nervous about the singing and dancing required for the role. He spent over six weeks rehearsing, often at home with Lombard as his coach. On the day they shot the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number, the set was closed to outsiders. Lombard came by to watch and gave him a bouquet of roses afterward.

My Verdict: Every Gable fan should see it. Not because it’s a spectacularly great film, but because it’s your lone chance to see Clark dance and sing and make a bit of a fool of himself. And in that aspect it’s enjoyable. It’s the whole Norma Shearer-doing-a-bad-Garbo-impression part that is lost on me. The plot of is-she-or-isn’t-she-Irene-from-Omaha thing is stale and really quite silly. Overall, it’s not a disappointing film, it’s rather enjoyable, just with a dull romance amongst the singing, dancing and war drama.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in May 2011.

Ratings

In a Nutshell: Cain and Mabel (1936)

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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)

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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: Wife vs. Secretary (1936)

myrna loy clark gable jean harlow wife vs. secretary

Directed by: Clarence Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in July 2010.

 

In a Nutshell: San Francisco (1936)

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Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Co-stars: Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy

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

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

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

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

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It’s on DVD.

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Ratings

In a Nutshell: Men in White (1934)

clark gable myrna loy men in white

Directed by: Richard Boleslawski

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Allan, Otto Kruger

Synopsis: Gable is George Ferguson, a young doctor working hard to prove himself at a New York hospital. He puts medicine and his patients before all else, much to the chagrin of his heiress fiancé, Laura (Loy). He soon learns that all work and no play lead him open to temptation and he falls for Barbara (Allan), a nurse, with devastating consequences.

Best Gable Quote: “What good’s a profession that can’t give you bread and butter after you’ve wasted ten years of your life at it?”

Fun Fact: On the set of this film, Clark began a two-year romance with his married co-star Elizabeth Allan.

My Verdict: I’ve always thought this must have been a better play than a film. The restraints on what they could portray on film were too tight on this tale of sex and abortion. It is rather hard to follow when the main plot points are only hinted at. The Art Deco hospital set is gorgeous (and a bit ridiculous) and Myrna Loy had never looked more beautiful. Clark is showing eeks of dramatic chops here and it works, although his constant costume of what looks like a white Frankenstein costume completely with clunky white shoes isn’t at all flattering!

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It’s on DVD.

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It was Movie of the Month in September 2011.

In a Nutshell: Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

clark gable myrna loy william powell manhattan melodrama

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Co-stars: Myrna Loy, William Powell

Synopsis: 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.

Best Gable Quote: “If I can’t live the way I want, at least let me die when I want.”

Fun Fact: The first film that costarred Myrna Loy and William Powell. They hadn’t even met before they began filming their first scene. Director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke noticed their onscreen chemistry and requested them both to star in his next feature, The Thin Man. They would go on to become one of classic film’s most popular onscreen duos, starring in fourteen films together.

My Verdict: The cast makes this one. Carole Lombard’s past husband and future husband are good sparring partners. Willam Powell is perfect as the straight-laced politician and of course Clark is at home as the gamblin’ shootin’ rogue. Myrna Loy is gorgeous and gives a fine performance as the woman caught between two men, one good for her and one not. The film is a nice mix of gangster, drama and romance.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

Ratings

clark gable night flight

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

clark gable night flight

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

clark gable night flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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