In a Nutshell: No Man of Her Own (1932)

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Directed by: Wesley Ruggles

Co-stars: Carole Lombard, Dorothy Mackaill, Grant Mitchell

Synopsis: Gable is Jerry “Babe” Stewart, a crooked card shark on the run from a police investigator when he stops in on the sleepy small town of Glendale. There he meets the bored town librarian, Connie Randall (Lombard) who is just waiting for something exciting to happen to her. Their attraction is instant, although she tries to play hard to get. On the flip of a coin, they get married and she accompanies him back To New York, unaware of his seedy occupation.  When she does figure out how he earns his money, she insists that he could play it straight if he wanted to. But he is conflicted–is he willing to give up his lifestyle for the woman he loves?

Best Gable Quote: “That twinkle in your eye–wrap it up for me, will you?”

Fun Fact: Miriam Hopkins was originally cast for the female lead in the film, then titled No Bed of Her Own.When she balked at being billed below Gable, she was replaced by the less-demanding Lombard. At the film’s wrap party, Lombard gave Gable a ten pound ham with his picture pasted on it.

My Verdict: Let’s face it, this film could have a terrible script and a terrible plot and be outright god awful but Gable fans would still flock to see it because it is the only onscreen pairing of Clark and the love of his life, Carole Lombard. But, luckily for us all, it isn’t bad at all. In fact, it’s quite good. These two, although not interested yet off screen, do indeed have great chemistry. Clark is the perfect cocky swindler and while I doubt there were many small town librarians that looked like Carole, she is well suited to her role. The script is snappy and it’s got pre-code shots of Carole in her underwear and Clark in the shower! What more can you ask for? A must see–the future Mr. and Mrs. Gable, in all their glory!

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

No surprise, since we’re having Carole Lombard month, that this month’s movie is the only Clark and Carole film, No Man of Her Own, from 1932.

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Thanks to the legendary romance of Clark and Carole that would begin about four years later, this film has now become a fan favorite, whereas maybe if Clark’s co-star hadn’t been Carole it would be dismissed as another soapy melodrama.

But actually there is some substance in it, and even overlooking the Clark and Carole legend, it’s a good little pre-code. Clark is Babe Stewart, a womanizing card cheat.  As he says to a pining Dorothy Mackaill early on, “You know I’m a hit and run guy–never have to comb any gal out of my hair. I’m free, see, and ankle chains give me the jitters.”

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Enter Carole as Connie Randall, the librarian in a small town where Babe is hiding out from the cops after a cheat goes bad. Babe is smitten from first sight but she plays hard to get. Instead of his usual conquests who fall at his feet, she won’t go to bed with him—she wants to get married! Imagine! They decide to flip a coin to see if they should get married and Connie wins. Thus Babe returns to New York with a naive wife in tow. Troubles arise as Connie doesn’t know what Babe does for a living–but it doesn’t take long for her to figure it out.

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I remember before I saw it for the first time that I had read in biographies that the chemistry between Clark and Carole was extremely hot and that it was from their characters calling each other “Ma” and “Pa” that they got the idea to call each other that years later. Well the chemistry is undeniable, that is certain. These two heat up the screen with every pre-code take. But I don’t know where the “Ma” and “Pa” business came from, because it certainly isn’t in the film.

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It does have its pre-code steaminess, including Clark and Carole in the shower (separately, of course!)

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Clark was the bigger star and was billed above the title and featured more prominently while Carole was second fiddle. In fact, Miriam Hopkins was to have played Carole’s role (when the project was titled No Bed of Her Own) but balked at being cast below Clark and so was replaced by the less-demanding Carole.

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Carole famously gave Clark a ten pound ham with his picture plastered on it when filming concluded. Typical of Carole! They got along on set fine but there were no romantic sparks. Carole was married to William Powell and Clark had his hands full with wife Ria and his latest side dish, Elizabeth Allan.

I do love the sassy shots of Clark and Carole at the Parmamount commissary during filming! Who knew that this platinum-haired rising star and this mustache-less, fresh faced young chap would soon be Hollywood’s leading couple?

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It is a shame that Clark and Carole didn’t reteam. I’m sure that their love affair would have heated their onscreen chemistry to a boiling point. And 1930’s audiences would have flocked to see them! Carole had dreamt of being Scarlett to Clark’s Rhett, but that of course was not meant to be. I love Carole, but she’s no Scarlett O’Hara. Carole had read the script for Woman of the Year (1942) and had wanted it for her and Clark to star in. She was very disappointed to learn that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were all set to star in it. I actually think Clark and Carole could have really done those parts justice. I especially think Carole could have really nailed this scene in the kitchen!

It’s interesting to contemplate. The film was a hit for Spencer and Katharine and led to them becoming one of the screen’s top teams—as well as starting their romance,which would go on for over 20 years. So, if Clark and Carole had had the chance to star in it, it might have changed Katharine and Spencer’s entire path afterward.

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No Man of Her Own is available on DVD.