clark gable norma shearer idiots delight

From February 1939:

Norma Shearer has found an acrobat is more popular than a queen, taking the grosses of “Marie Antoinette” and “Idiot’s Delight” into consideration.

Of course, in the latter, the ladies in the audience do nip-ups, too, because Clark Gable is in the cast.


I am not sure what “nip-up” is supposed to mean…

clark gable norma shearer a free soul

From August 1931:

Every reader of Adela Rogers St. John’s interesting Hollywood stories in New Movie [magazine] will want to see the talkie built at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios from her novel, “A Free Soul.” The story makes a very effective vehicle for Norma Shearer.

The motherless Jan Ashe has been raised by her father, a hard-drinking lawyer, to do as she likes. Conventions are something to break–until she discovers that she can’t find happiness in smashing the rules of life. There’s a murder trial sequence that will surely get you.

“A Free Soul” is superbly played. Miss Shearer steps further upward as the reckless Jan, Lionel Barrymore is admirable as her sodden but brilliant father, while Clark Gable–watch this boy!–is corking as the gambler who wins Jan for a few dangerously menacing moments.


clark gable norma shearer joan crawford douglas fairbanks jr

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

From November 1936:

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

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


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

norma shearer

It is quite common to read that Clark Gable slept with every one of his leading ladies. And while that statement has been buzzing around for so long that many people take it as fact, it’s not true at all. In fact, I think the number of leading ladies he starred opposite that he wasn’t romantically involved with far outnumbers the opposite. Perhaps that is why Norma Shearer doesn’t get much attention as one of his onscreen lovelies–in fact she is one of the few that I can think of that I haven’t even heard a rumor he had slept with her! Nonetheless, Ms. Shearer is an interesting footnote in Clark’s personal and professional life.

norma shearer

Norma was the reigning “Queen of the Lot” at MGM by the time Clark was paired with her in his star-making turn in A Free Soul in 1931. She was married to MGM’s head of production, “wonder boy” Irving Thalberg and had recently given birth to his son. Being married to the boss and having 10 years of silent pictures under her belt, Norma had her pick of all the juicy roles at MGM, the biggest and most prestigious studio of that period. In A Free Soul, Norma had the privilege of being Clark’s onscreen love interest before anyone knew that really was a privilege. Before that picture, few people noticed Clark, who had been getting by playing thugs and secondary parts in films such as Night Nurse and The Easiest Way. A Free Soul changed all that. Clark’s star power suddenly skyrocketed, earning him thousands of female fans who were intrigued by him defiling the Queen of MGM and telling her to “take it and like it.”

After Clark’s death, Norma was quoted: “Perhaps that was where Noel Coward got the idea for his line: ‘Every woman should be hit regularly—like a gong.’ And for that sort of thing it was Gable who made villains popular. Instead of the audience’s wanting the good man to get the girl, they wanted the bad man to get the girl.”

clark gable norma shearer a free soul

Clark Gable and Norma Shearer in A Free Soul

In 1932 Clark and Norma were paired again in the screen adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Strange Interlude.  They played friends who end up sleeping together in order to produce a child to masquerade as her husband’s. (Didn’t you know that is the right thing to do when your husband has a family history of mental illness?)  Maureen O’Sullivan played the girlfriend of Norma and Clark’s son in the last part of the film and apparently Norma was not a fan of hers. Maureen later recalled, “Norma spoke very little to me, but Gable was kind and attentive. I didn’t even notice she noticed this–but she did, and didn’t like it. She sent a message asking him to spend less time talking with me on the set.”

clark gable norma shearer strange interlude

Clark and Norma in Strange Interlude

Norma and Clark’s relationship when the cameras stopped rolling could be described as cordial and friendly. He was however, not a fan of Norma, as the wife of MGM’s head of production, not wearing any underwear under her costumes!

As a footnote in history, it’s worth mentioning that Norma memorably sparked that infamous Carole Lombard temper at the Mayfair Ball in 1936–the same ball where Clark and Carole first caught each other’s eye. Carole was elected hostess of the ball, and designated it a “White Ball” and everyone was strictly instructed to only wear white. While a few women sneaked on by in pale blue and blush, Norma chose to make no mistake of her shunning of the rule, arriving in a vibrant red dress. Carole was spitting nails! The incident was so whispered about around town that it has been said it was the inspiration for the famous red dress scene in the 1938 Bette Davis film Jezebel.

David Niven, Merle Oberon, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg at the Mayfair Ball

David Niven, Merle Oberon, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg at the Mayfair Ball

In June 1938, Norma Shearer was announced as having secured the role every actress desired—that of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.  From the Associated Press:

All’s out in free! The game’s over. Gone with the Wind has been cast.

Norma Shearer, who was born in Canada, will play the role of the Southern spitfire–“charged with electricity and possessed of the devil”–Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” when the picture is made later this year.

But by August 1, Norma “gave up” the role, apparently due to the backlash. From the New York Times:

Norma Shearer today announced her withdrawal from the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s ”Gone With the Wind,” which David O. Selznick is to make as a motion picture. Attributing her decision to fan mail, in which a substantial number of correspondents voiced their opinion that she was unsuited for the part, Miss Shearer made her decision known through the M-G-M publicity department.

Norma seemed an absurd choice for sure. Steve Wilson, curator for the Harry Ransom Center, discovered many details in David O. Selznick’s papers about this apparent casting of Norma as Scarlett:

Selznick had to make a deal with MGM to get Clark Gable. When they first started to get the deal together, Norma Shearer was part of that deal. She had been paired with Clark Gable a couple of times [A Free Soul, Strange Interlude] and they were about to make Idiot’s Delight. I believe she was the driving force behind the deal. She went to Louis B. Mayer and Nicholas Schenck [chairman of the board of Lowe’s, Inc., the owner of MGM] to say she wanted to be in this movie. But the public was not behind her as Scarlett. Some thought she could play Melanie. At one point, when Shearer thought she was going to play Scarlett, she sent a super secret memo to Selznick outlining her thoughts about the script. Basically, she thought that Scarlett — in the early part of the movie — was fine, but later on was not sympathetic enough. She wanted Selznick to change the script to make Scarlett more sympathetic. As it turned out, Shearer leaked this to Hedda Hopper and then the letters really started pouring in. So, that was a surprise to me to learn that Norma Shearer was so involved in that aspect of it and that she really wanted the part so badly that she really went after it very aggressively.”

Truly, Norma would have been absolutely disastrous casting! It seems odd that perfectionist Selznick even remotely considered her. But along came the perfect Scarlett, of course, named Vivien Leigh.

Speaking of Vivien Leigh, here is an interesting anecdote from Gavin Lambert’s biography, Norma Shearer:

[In the 1960’s] when George Cukor gave a party for Vivien Leigh during her last visit to Hollywood, he stage-managed a memorable encounter. As one of the guests commented, Scarlett O’Hara met Marie Antoinette. The two actresses, Vivien with the manic depressive’s wild flash in her eyes, Norma with the dew of unshed tears in hers, began talking immediately about how the public had identified them forever with their most famous roles. Vivien denied that she had anything personally in common with Scarlett, Norma insisted she had never felt like Marie. They laughed and shook their heads at the absurdity of it. Then Vivien said quietly, all the same, it had to mean something. Norma quietly agreed. They have each other long searching looks, and for a moment they seemed very serious and a little sad. Then they laughed again, praising each other’s performance, and kissed.

Not sure how true that is, but an interesting little exchange.

clark gable norma shearer idiot's delight

Clark and Norma in Idiot’s Delight (1939)

By the time Clark and Norma were re-teamed for the final time in Idiot’s Delight, Clark was a bonafide star and an Oscar winner with many hits under his belt. His next role was Rhett Butler. Norma, however, was at the end of her career. After her beloved husband’s death in 1936 at the age of 37, she was left a widow with two small children and nearly died of pneumonia herself. She wasn’t seen on the screen for two years. She came back to star in a pet project of Irving’s, Marie Antoinette, which was well received but didn’t grab her the second Oscar she desperately wanted. Norma’s last notable role was in the classic all-female cast film The Women. Her later projects, Escape and Her Cardboard Lover, failed to dazzle and approaching 40 made Norma nervous. She retired from the screen in 1942 and subsequently married to Martin Arrouge,  a ski instructor 20 years her junior.

Although Clark and Norma would never grace the screen together again, their paths still crossed. Norma was very close friends to Sylvia Ashley, who would become the fourth Mrs. Clark Gable in 1949. Norma and Sylvia ran in the same circles, naturally, when Sylvia was married to Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Sylvia even attended Norma’s wedding to Martin.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sylvia Ashley, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg

Douglas Fairbanks, Sylvia Ashley, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg

Worth noting is that Norma was also was one of only a handful of Clark’s leading ladies to attend his funeral.

clark gable funeral norma shearer

Norma Shearer and Martin Arrouge at Clark’s funeral

Sadly, Norma’s name is not usually mentioned when someone recalls great actresses of her era. Contemporaries such as Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and yes, even Joan Crawford are mentioned far ahead of her. Which would indeed have saddened her, as she spent her whole life trying to be the shiniest star.  Crippled by near-blindness and dementia in her later years, Norma died at the Motion Picture Country Home on June 12, 1985 of bronchial pneumonia. She is buried with Irving Thalberg in the Grand Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Glendale, not too far from Clark and Carole Lombard.

In the 1950’s, Norma sat down and wrote her memoirs.  Unfortunately they have never seen the light of day. Martin, her widower, would never let them be published. Why? Probably because they were rather fluffy. One of the few people to read what Norma wrote was actress Janet Leigh, who was discovered by Norma. Janet recalled, “[There was] no real mention of any problems. No reality at all…I wondered what to tell her. Finally I said, ‘How lucky you’ve been, what a wonderful life you’ve had.’ It seemed to go down well.” Apparently, a biographer has now gotten a hold of Norma’s memoirs and we are supposed to be getting a new book on her in the next year–I’m sure with some reality thrown in!

Read more about A Free Soul, Strange Interlude and Idiot’s Delight.  See Norma and Irving’s Santa Monica home and see their crypt at Forest Lawn Glendale .

Read more Spotlights:

Suzanne Dadolle

The Brown Derby Restaurant Part 1

The Brown Derby Restaurant Part 2

The Brown Derby Restaurant Part 3

Paulette Goddard

Merle Oberon

Ginger Rogers

Vivien Leigh

Myrna Loy


Have a suggestion for a Spotlight? Leave a comment!

Let’s take a look at some of the photos from 1939’s Idiot’s Delight, infamously known as Clark’s singing and dancing picture.

On the Set:

Clark, Norma and producer Hunt Stromberg

Clark, Norma and producer Hunt Stromberg

clark gable norma shearer louis mayer clarence brown

Clark, director Clarence Brown, Norma Shearer and Louis Mayer

Director Clarence Brown turns his personal camera on Clark and "les blondes"

Director Clarence Brown turns his personal camera on Clark and “les blondes”

clark gable

Clark and the blondes (Virginia Dale, Paula Stone, Bernadene Hayes, Joan Marsh, Lorraine Krueger and Virginia Grey) stroll the MGM lot

clark gable norma shearer

Clark and Norma on the MGM lot

clark gable adela rogers st johns

on the set with writer Adela Rogers St. Johns

Lots of divine publicity shots with Norma Shearer:

clark gable norma shearer clark gable norma shearer clark gable norma shearer clark gable norma shearer clark gable norma shearerclark gable norma shearerclark gable norma shearer

And of course there were many publicity shots taken of Clark with those pretty blondes:

clark gable idiot's delightclark gable idiot's delightclark gable idiot's delightclark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delightclark gable idiot's delight

And how about some Clark close-up screenshots?

clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delightclark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delight clark gable idiot's delightclark gable idiot's delight

This cartoon appeared in Screenland magazine in 1933:

clark gable john barrymore joan crawford norma shearer


John Barrymore

Just as sure as not

You’ll find John on his yacht

Developing seaworthy legs.

And spending his time,

Without reason or rhyme,

With his rarest collection of eggs.


Joan Crawford

You cannot ignore,

In this group of four,

The personal hobby of Joan.

She considers it play

To model in clay

And even to chisel in stone.


Norma Shearer

If you can’t analyze

The charm of her eyes

Of the glamorous lure of her tresses–

You, at least, should have known

That Miss Shearer is prone

To designing her very own dresses.


Clark Gable

Here is a man’s man,

A cinema-fan’s man,

An actor in sweater and jeans.

When off of the lot

You Can see Clark get hot

‘A-fishing for whales and sardines.


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

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

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

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

clark gable norma shearer idiot's delight

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

ria franklin gable divorce

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

clark gable carole lombard

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

clark gable carole lombard

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

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

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

clark gable carole lombard encino

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

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

clark gable joan crawford strange cargo

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

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

clark gable carole lombard gone with the wind

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

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

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

clark gable carole lombard gone with the wind

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


clark gable

Letter to the editor, February 1935:

We are two young mothers who feel it our duty to not let the evil influence of our cinema contaminate the innocent young minds of our children. You can imagine our distress when we found out that our little Freddie, aged ten, and Johnnie, aged eleven, had wandered into the neighborhood theater during the showing of “Dancing Lady.”  We feel that such pictures are a menace to civilizaton and that they should be abolished.

Our little ones now prefer to attend an evening show instead of hearing bedtime stories. “Peter Rabbit” and “Bunny Brown” are being sadly neglected these days.

We wonder if such actresses as Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer realize their evil influence upon the youth of America, and such actors as Clark Gable and James Cagney–we shudder at their very names. Let us have more of Janet Gaynor’s pure, wholesome films so that we may take the kiddies to an occaisonal clean show.

The one player who has our vote for the kiddies is that young actor Max Baer, whose ethereal charm makes him the ideal of the mothers of America. Let us have more of Max Baer. We think he’s cute!

–Two Worried Mothers

Beach Haven, New Jersey


Wow, makes you wonder what these two worried mothers would think of what is out in theaters in 2014…

And I’m sure little Freddie and little Johnnie turned out just fine and not forever tainted by the memory of Dancing Lady



In a Nutshell: Saratoga (1937)

clark gable jean harlow saratoga

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.


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.


Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in January 2013.


In a Nutshell: Too Hot to Handle (1938)

too hot to handle myrna loy clark gable

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.


Read more here.


In a Nutshell: Idiot’s Delight (1939)

clark gable idiot's delight

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.


It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in May 2011.


In a Nutshell: Strange Interlude (1932)

clark gable norma shearer strange interlude

Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard

Co-stars: Norma Shearer, Alexander Kirkland, Ralph Morgan

Synopsis: Gable is Dr. Ned Darrell, who has fallen in love with Nina Leeds (Shearer), a free-spirited young woman who is mourning the loss of her love in World War I. Also in love with her are family friend Charlie (Morgan) and Sam (Kirkland), a friend of her deceased boyfriend. Sam proposes to Nina and even though she is still heartbroken, she accepts and decides to move on with her life. Right after their marriage, Sam’s mother (May Robson) tells Nina that she and Sam must never have a child because insanity runs rampant in Sam’s father’s side of the family. She recommends that Nina give Sam a child fathered by another man to keep him happy and never let him know the truth. Devastated by the news, Nina turns to Ned for advice and Ned agrees that she must give Sam a child to make him happy. Ned volunteers to sire the child and soon they are in a passionate affair behind Sam’s back. A boy is born to Nina and Sam never suspects that the child is not his. Jealous Charlie watches this all unfold, pining for Nina all the while. Years pass and Nina and Ned constantly struggle with their love for each other and whether or not to tell Sam the truth.

Best Gable Quote: “I couldn’t forget you. Other women only made me love you more. It was always you in my arms.”

Fun Fact: This is the first Gable film to feature him with a mustache, although it was a fake one applied by the makeup department to make him look older.

My Verdict: This one is soapy, soapy, soapy. The “thoughts” of the characters being heard while they stand there with blank looks on their faces becomes very tiresome before you’re halfway through the movie. The more times I see it, the more I can’t stand Norma Shearer’s selfish Nina, who destroys many lives in her self- righteous path. Having a child by another man so that her husband’s family gene of insanity won’t be passed down it an absolutely ludicrous scenario nowadays and it seems silly even portrayed in the film. It is not a bad film overall, it just comes across as extremely dated. Worth it to see Clark in his first onscreen mustache and the first pairing of him with the illustrious Norma.mustachemustache

It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in March 2012.


In a Nutshell: The White Sister (1933)

clark gable the white sister helen hayes

Directed by: Victor Fleming

Co-stars: Helen Hayes, Lewis Stone

Synopsis: Gable is Giovanni Severa, a pilot in the Italian Air Force. He meets Angela (Hayes), an aristocratic daughter of a prince (Stone). Her father opposes their romance but they steal moments together anyway. When Giovanni goes off to fight in the 1914-1918 war, Angela waits for him so they can get married. When she learns he has died in combat, she knows she will never love again and joins a convent.

Best Gable Quote: “I’m fighting for our love. If it means disgrace then at least we have each other!” (GROAN)

Fun Fact: The film was essentially a remake of a remake, as it had been filmed twice before, in 1923 (with Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman) and in 1915.

My Verdict: I generally like romantic movies, but this one is Valentine’s Day with roses and chocolates and dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower with jewelry and violinists. It’s just too sugary sweet. It seems so odd that rough-and-tumble man’s man Victor Fleming directed this. Clark is reduced to a quivering, lovelorn sack and he looks a bit dopey with the too-thin mustache and oddly boxy uniform. I respect Helen Hayes as an actress but she is badly paired with Clark here. She is only a few months older than him, but for some reason she comes across extremely matronly, like he’s making kissy faces at his mother.! I have only seen this movie twice because, quite simply, I just don’t like it!mustache

It’s on DVD.