clark gable

Since tonight is the Oscars, let’s look at the times Clark attended:

clark gable

February 27, 1935–Clark was nominated for  It Happened One Night and did not expect to win. In fact nobody expected this little bus comedy from Columbia to walk away with Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture. The event was held in the Biltmore Bowl at the Biltmore Hotel and Clark reluctantly took Ria, even though he probably would have preferred the company of his latest mistress, Elizabeth Allan. The Gables arrived with Irving Thalberg, Norma Shearer, Helen Hayes and her husband Charles MacArthur. You can read about Clark’s only Oscar here.

clark gable merle oberon

March 5, 1936–Clark was nominated again the following year for  Mutiny on the Bounty and attended the event at the Biltmore with Best Actress nominee Merle Oberon. Neither won, but Mutiny won Best Picture. Clark was nominated as Best Actor along with his co-stars Franchot Tone and Charles Laughton. All lost to Victor McLaglen for The Informer, but the Academy noticed how it was rather strange to have three actors from the same film vie for the same award and thus the Best Supporting Actor and Actress category was started the following year. 

jean harlow william powell

March 4, 1937–Not nominated, Clark attended as the arm candy for a certain Miss Carole Lombard, who was nominated for My Man Godfrey. In the Biltmore Bowl, they sat with William Powell and Jean Harlow–Powell was a nominee for Godfrey as well. Neither won and for some reason nobody can find any pictures of Clark and Carole at the event, either with Jean and Bill or without. I confirmed at the Academy Library last year that they did indeed attend with Bill and and Jean, but, strangely, all that has surfaced is one photo of that pair and none of Clark and Carole. I am on the hunt!

clark gabel grace kelly

March 25, 1954–Clark begrudgingly attended as Best Supporting Actress nominee Grace Kelly’s date at the RKO Pantages Theater. They had had a steamy love affair during their location shoot for Mogambo that had resumed after returning to the States, but Grace was also seeing William Holden. MGM encouraged Clark to attend as Grace’s escort, since she was a relative newbie, and to support Mogambo, for which Ava Gardner was also nominated for Best Actress. Clark–and Bill Holden’s wife–were a bit miffed when Grace spent the afterparty at Romanoff’s with her arm around Holden, the Best Actor winner. That was the end of that!

clark gable doris day

March 26, 1958–Clark attended as a presenter for the first time. He presented the Best Writing, Original Screenplay award and the Best Writing, Adaptation award with Doris Day. I’m still not sure how they convinced Clark to do this; he hated speaking in public and rarely gave any sort of speech, not to mention his hatred of awards shows, dressing in a tux, and putting on formalities. Day was Clark’s co-star in the soon-to-be-released Teacher’s Pet so I am sure Paramount encouraged it as a publicity appearance. George Seaton, the director of Teacher’s Pet, was the president of the Academy at the time so I am sure that had something to do with it. Kay was his date, of course, and the event was held at the RKO Pantages Theater.

***Contrary to popular belief, Clark did not attend the 1940 Academy Awards when he was nominated for Gone with the Wind.

I’ll be on my couch tonight…rooting for The Artist!

 Roosevelt Hotel

Opened in 1927 and situated diagonally from Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, the Roosevelt Hotel is a well-known Hollywood landmark. It was named for Theodore Roosevelt and was financed by Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Marilyn Monroe lived here for two years and did her first photo shoot in the hotel’s pool area. Other notable residents include Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Harold Lloyd…you name them, they probably stayed at, or least partied at, the Roosevelt. Of course, this includes Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who frequently rented out the penthouse before they were married.

1949, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Roosevelt Hotel in 1949

The room rates actually aren’t too expensive, usually ranging from $200-$300 a night for a normal room. (Trust me, in Hollywood, that’s not bad.) That Gable and Lombard suite, however, will knock you back $3,500 a night. Clark paid $5 a night back in the 1930’s (and probably complained about that high price!)

From the hotel’s website:

 The Gable Lombard Penthouse, located on the top floor of the hotel is where the infamous affair between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard began. This 3,000 square foot duplex has three spacious bedrooms and bathrooms, a living area, dining area, and full service kitchen. The 1,000 square foot rooftop deck is situated under the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Sign—offering sweeping views of Los Angeles. The Penthouse can accommodate up to 200 people, and is the perfect setting for intimate gatherings and special events.

Snazzy. I did inquire about seeing the penthouse at the front desk, but they said that it was booked for a wedding. Bummer for me.

 We walked around for a while and went inside the upper level of the Blossom Ballroom. The very first Academy Awards ceremony was held in this room in 1929. It wasn’t until I returned from my trip that I read that the Blossom is supposedly haunted. People hear the piano being played when nobody is in there and there are reports of the lights moving and figures in tuxedos appearing and disappearing. Not knowing this information beforehand and standing in this room, my friend and I both immediately felt that the air became chillier when we entered and we both got goose bumps. There was something unsettling about being in the room. I’m not sure who said it first, but one of us said, “Don’t you feel like someone is watching you in here?’ I don’t know where I stand on the idea of ghosts, but I tell you, if anyplace is haunted, this room IS.

Blossom Ballroom Roosevelt Hotel

Blossom Ballroom

Roosevelt Hotel Blossom Ballroom

Blossom Ballroom

The First Academy Awards in the Blossom Ballroom in 1929

The First Academy Awards in the Blossom Ballroom in 1929

Allegedly, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe haunt different areas of the hotel as well.

 We didn’t see any famous ghosts, but we wandered the halls.

I began “Movie of the Month” last July after the site’s first anniversary. I try to bounce around Clark’s filmography as I figured it would be rather dull to start from the beginning and end at his death. The films featured so far:

June: But Not For Me

May: Idiot’s Delight

April: Band of Angels

March: Saratoga

February: China Seas

January: Hold Your Man

December: Red Dust

November: The Secret Six

October: No Man of Her Own

September: Teacher’s Pet

August: Never Let Me Go

July: Wife vs. Secretary

So, I thought it was fitting to celebrate two years of the site and one year of “Movie of the Months” with a pretty memorable one: Clark’s Oscar winning performance in It Happened One Night.

This film holds a special place in my heart. Years ago, I was just dipping my toe into classic films. I was flipping through the channels and TCM was on commerical and it said It Happened One Night was next. I remembered reading that Clark Gable (who was little more to me at that point than Rhett Butler) had won an Oscar for it but other than that I knew nothing about it. Little did I know that the film I was about to watch not only became one of my favorite films of all time, but it can be credited with this website as if it wasn’t for Clark’s absolutely wonderful performance capturing my heart, I wouldn’t be the Gable fan I am today.

Now an essential classic and considered the first screwball comedy, It Happened One Night is the prime example of a sleeper hit. Produced by the “Siberia” of studios by an un-appreciated director and performed by two stars against their will, it seems an unlikely entry into Academy Award history. But with a snappy screenplay and chemistry that burns through the screen, it indeed earns its place in history. Gable is Peter Warne, a cocky newspaperman who has just been fired. On a bus to New York, he meets Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), a runaway heiress, on her way to be reunited with her new husband whom her father detests. Peter soon realizes her identity and befriends her so he can get the exclusive story. Along the way, after masquerading as man and wife at an auto camp, sleeping in a field, hitch hiking and stealing a car, they fall in love. When Peter leaves Ellie at a motel in the middle of the night to try and get some money from his old boss to marry her, she mistakenly thinks he has left her for good and calls her father (Walter Connolly) and husband to pick her up. Peter is heartbroken and so is Ellie. She agrees to her father’s wishes that she re-marry her husband, since they were not married by a priest. On her re-wedding day, Peter shows up to collect money from her father for what he spent on her during the trip. He admits to her father that he loves her. Her father tells Ellie and as she is going down the aisle, she takes off to be with Peter.

There are so many great scenes in this film! Of course, nobody can forget the “Walls of Jericho” Peter erects in their shared motor lodge room and him making her uncomfortable by undressing in front of her. (Snopes says the legend that undershirt sales plummeted after Clark appeared without one seems unlikely.)

And Peter displaying to Ellie the “art of hitchhiking” is truly unforgettable. 

After his attempts fail (gasp!), Ellie decides to give it a try. “I’ll stop a car,” says Ellie defiantly, “and I won’t use my thumb!” After her baring a shapely leg results in a car schreeching to a halt, Peter retorts bitterly, “Why didn’t you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.”

I also love the scene where they are pretending to be a fighting married couple for some cops that come by looking for Ellie. “QUIT BAWLIN’!”

I remember the first time I saw the film I felt cheated by the ending. We never do get to see Ellie and Peter actually reunite. We only hear the trumpet blow as the “Walls of Jericho” come crumbling down. It’s also interesting to note that Peter and Ellie do not kiss in the film at all. Not one smooch. But yet there is something so romantic about the film and you are left to imagine what it was like when Ellie burst into Peter’s office in her wedding dress to be with him forever. Subtlety that is probably lost on most of today’s modern audiences.

This little-film-that-could went on to sweep the Oscars; the first film to win the “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay. A feat that would be unmatched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975 (and later also achieved by Silence of the Lambs in 1989).

Seems so unlikely considering the film’s humble beginnings. In 1933, director Frank Capra was working for the “poverty row” of studios, little Columbia Pictures. The stars at MGM and Warner Brothers looked down their noses at this little studio and definitely none of them wanted to be sent over to make a picture called “Night Bus.” But this was the script Capra had and the film he had to make.  Even with the name changed, nobody wanted to star in it.

Myrna Loy was Capra’s first choice for the role of Ellie and she recalled:

Frank had tried to borrow me for his… picture, “It Happened One Night.” I’d refused it and Louis B. Mayer backed me up…Oh, I’ve taken flak for refusing that picture. Frank gave it to me for years…But let me say, here and now, they sent me the worst script ever, completely different from the one they shot. I’ve had others corroborate that. In fact Bob Montgomery turned down the male lead for the same reason, but no one believes me. That girl was unplayable as originally written. I mean, we’re in the middle of the Great Depression and she’s running away because being rich bores her.

 Margaret Sullavan, Miriam Hopkins, Constance Bennett–all turned it down. After the script was rewritten and rewritten, Claudette Colbert accepted the role. With the two conditions of a huge hike in salary and if filming could be completed in four weeks, before her planned vacation.

But who for the male lead?

After Robert Montgomery turned it down, Capra was surprised that Louis B. Mayer OFFERED him Clark Gable. Even though he knew that being sent to Columbia from MGM was a punishment for Clark (some sources say for turning down too many scripts and wanting more money, others say for disobeying Mayer by continuing his affair with Joan Crawford), Capra took what he could get and had a meeting with Clark at his office at Columbia.

Capra recalled:

My open doorway darkened; tall, square-shouldered Gable stood there swaying, hat rakishly tilted over his eyes. Evidently, he had stopped at every bar between MGM and Gower Street.

“Is thish Mishter Frank Capra’s office?”

“Yes, Mr. Gable. I’m Frank Capra. Come in, please, come in.”

“Gla-ad to meet cha. Likewise.” He headed for a kitchen chair and plopped himself on it. I held my breath. The chair groaned, but didn’t break. Oh, was he loaded!…He cleared his throat with a  disgusted belch. Then he focused on me.

“Well-l, what’s the poop, shkipper–besides me?” He was not only boiled, he was steamed.

“Well, Mr. Gable, I–”

“That son-of-a-bitch Mayer,” he cut in. “I always wanted to see Siberia, but damn me–I never thought it would smell like this. Blech-h-h!”

My insides were curdling. I picked up a script and riffled it. “Mr. Gable, you and I are supposed to make a picture out of this. Shall I tell you the story or would you rather read the script by yourself?”

“Buddy,” he said in his tough-guy drawl, “I don’t give a [expletive] what you do with it.”

There being no handy rebuttal to that conversation stopper, I mumbled something about my Siberia being MGM, tucked the script under his armpit and suggested he read it between drinks. He swayed to his feet, looked down at me, and giggled drunkenly, “Hee hee-e-e! Sez you.” He wobbled out the door, hit both sides of it, then stumbled off, singing, “They call her frivilous Sa-a-al, a peculiar kinf of a–hey, you guys!” this last came to some Colombians in the courtyard, “Why aren’t you wearing parkas in Siberia?”

That was my first meeting with Clark Gable and, I hoped, my last.

But of course, it wasn’t. And after a few days shooting, Clark got over his “burn” of being “exiled to Siberia” and enjoyed himself on the film. And it shows.

Frank Capra, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable on the set

All of them were shocked when the Academy Award nominations came out and It Happened One Night was nominated for five Oscars. And they were flabbergasted that they WON all five. Claudette Colbert was so sure she wouldn’t win that she didn’t even attend the awards; she was at the train station and had to be summouned back, where she accepted her award in her traveling clothes.

It Happened One Night is a special part of Hollywood history, Clark Gable history, and an overall delightful gem.

It is available remastered on DVD. Read more here and read about Clark’s Oscar here.

claudette

Since the Academy Awards are this weekend, here’s one from May 1935:

The afternoon before the Awards banquet Norma Shearer and Claudette Colbert were having tea together.

“I haven’t any more chance of winning it than the man in the moon,” laughed Claudette.

“Nor I,” laughed Norma.

“Then let’s toast the winner with a cup of tea,” Claudette suggested. They poured the cups.

“To Bette Davis,” they chorused.

That night, of course, Claudette carried home the little gold statuette [for “It Happened One Night”].

____

Claudette famously didn’t even attend the ceremony because she was so sure she wouldn’t win. She had to be stopped at the train station and rushed to the auditorium, where she accepted her Oscar in her coat and traveling suit.

Norma had been up for her role as Elizabeth Barrett in “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” and Grace Moore for “One Night of Love”, but despite this hard competition, relative newcomer Bette Davis was considered a shoo-in with her write-in nomation for playing the trashy English barmaid Mildred in “Of Human Bondage”. Claudette winning was a huge upset. Bette won Best Actress for her role in “Dangerous” the following year, many say it was a “consolation prize” for losing the year before. 

I’ve always found it funny that there seem to be no pictures of Clark and Claudette together on Oscar night, holding their statues. I have seen them each separately with Frank Capra, but never together. Maybe I’ll find one some day!

 

New this week:

Saturday: 100 new pictures in the gallery

Sunday: Article “Goofy Gal Goes Glamorous”

Monday: Clark’s hospital bill

Tuesday: Article “How to Get Your Own Clark Gable”

Wednesday: Clark’s Last Will and Testament

Thursday: Radio Show–Mail Call from 1945

Friday: