clark gable saratoga

From October 1937:

Recently Clark Gable, in a picture, was required to crawl under a bed for a comedy scene. He tried it several times but with no success–the director didn’t like it. Exasperated, the director went through the whole scene, himself, to show Clark how it should be done. As he scrambled out from under the bed he said, “You see, Clark, there’s nothing to it–it’s an easy stunt.”

“Yeah,” retorted Clark, “it’s easy for you–but look at all the practice you’ve had!”

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It was actually under a couch–in Saratoga.

Let’s have a look at some of the beautiful photos from Saratoga (1937).  Taken at face value, Saratoga is not a spectacular film. It has become infamous because it was Jean Harlow’s final film–in fact she died of kidney failure before it was completed, at the young age of 26.

When it came time to take publicity photos for the film, Jean was so weak she could hardly hold herself up. That is why in these beautiful pictures, Jean is laying down, leaning on Clark or being held up by him.

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Jean and Clark were good buddies and always had fun on the set. Clark was devastated by her death

Let's have a look at some of the beautiful photos from Saratoga (1937).  Taken at face value, Saratoga is not a spectacular film. It has become infamous because it was Jean Harlow's final film--in fact she died of kidney failure before it was completed, at the young age of 26.  When it came time to take publicity photos for the film, Jean was so weak she could hardly hold herself up. That is why in these beautiful pictures, Jean is laying down, leaning on Clark or being held up by him. Let's have a look at some of the beautiful photos from Saratoga (1937).  Taken at face value, Saratoga is not a spectacular film. It has become infamous because it was Jean Harlow's final film--in fact she died of kidney failure before it was completed, at the young age of 26.  When it came time to take publicity photos for the film, Jean was so weak she could hardly hold herself up. That is why in these beautiful pictures, Jean is laying down, leaning on Clark or being held up by him.

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clark gable jean harlow saratoga

Let's have a look at some of the beautiful photos from Saratoga (1937).  Taken at face value, Saratoga is not a spectacular film. It has become infamous because it was Jean Harlow's final film--in fact she died of kidney failure before it was completed, at the young age of 26.  When it came time to take publicity photos for the film, Jean was so weak she could hardly hold herself up. That is why in these beautiful pictures, Jean is laying down, leaning on Clark or being held up by him.

Some memorable screenshots:

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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.

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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)

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.

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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.

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It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in May 2011.

Ratings

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Since “Saratoga” is Movie of the Month and we’re celebrating Jean Harlow’s centennial…

From August 1937:

 On the Saratoga set, watching Clark Gable and Jean Harlow emote, the onlookers snicker when Gable does an impromptu imitation of the Harlow walk. Sitting on the sidelines, Peggy, Jeans hairdresser, is wearing that super-colossal star sapphire ring. The scene is shot and lunch is called. Before she leaves for the commissary Peggy slips the ring off her finger and hands it to Jean, but Jean returns it. Wear it to lunch, Peggy, she says. Maybe youll do yourself some good. So Peggy rushes off to startle her friends, and Jean turns to us. Ill bet you didnt know, she says, that were going steady.

Just because she likes swing music, a lot of rumors have been popping up about Jean Harlow. She enjoys a hot trumpet and Bill Powell doesnt, so shes been dropping in on one of Hollywoods better known swing salons with Don Friede, her literary agent. (Miss H., as you know, has written a book. It may not hurt the sale of Gone with the Wind, but still its a book, and a couple of studios are dickering for it.) To the tune of Basin Street Blues  Jean dreams her dreams and perhaps whips up an outline for her next novel. At any rate, she must have won her point, for one evening we dropped into the swing palace and found her there with agent who couldnt have been anyone but Bill Powell.

Jean and Bill, incidentally, celebrated their third anniversary last month. It was the third anniversary of the day they first went out together, and three years of keeping steady company is something of a record in Hollywood. Personal to Miss H.: Why dont you two get married?

 

 

Jean Harlow & William Powell

Jean Harlow & William Powell

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New this week:

TCM Listings have been updated through June (some rare stuff coming up!)

New article: “The New Romance in Clark Gable’s Life” in The Article Archive

 

 

As we wind up our parade of Gable and Harlow pairings, it is only natural that the last one is their last film together and, sadly, Harlow’s last film period.

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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 the 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.

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Jean, looking bloated and tired, was struggling through the film. She collapsed into Clark’s arms one day on the set (I have also heard some places that it was Walter Pidgeon’s arms, but it is more often said it was Clark so I’ll go with it) after complaining she wasn’t feeling well. After months of doctors diagnosing her with the flu and simple colds,  it was finally determined that she was in the end stages of renal failure. In those days, before dialysis, there wasn’t anything they could do. The Baby was gone.

Clark was on the set when director Jack Conway received the phone call that Jean had died. While some people started weeping, Clark, almost angrily, stormed off the set and declared to a waiting reporter, “I am too overcome by grief to make any comment.” He was a pallbearer at her funeral.

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The film was about 90% completed at the time of her death and it was so sudden that Louis B. Mayer and the producers didn’t know what to do. They shelved the film and even contemplated re-shooting it with Virginia Grey (interestingly). When this news was leaked to the press, Harlow fans were outraged and sent thousands of letters to MGM demanding to see her final film. So, the script was re-worked and most of Harlow’s remaining lines were given to supporting players (Hattie McDaniel emerges as a real scene stealer as a result and Una Merkel gets more attention from Clark). They hired C-list actress Geraldine Dvorak to do the close-up shots, since her face somewhat resembled Jean’s. Dancer Mary Dees was to be Harlow’s body stand-in, covering her face in big hats, binoculars and weird camera angles. Radio personality Paula Winslowe was hired to dub in Harlow’s voice. She did the best she could to get the Harlow squawk down, but it isn’t very convincing.

 This video shows the “fake Jean”:

Gable was very uneasy with these changes. Harlow had been a good friend and he was deeply sad at her death and didn’t want to continue the film at all. He said that acting with Mary Dees was like “holding a ghost.”

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In the end, the truth is, Saratoga is not a great film. It’s rather mediocre. Gable is fine, playing his typical wisecracking con artist, Harlow (the real one)  is a good sparring partner, and Pidgeon does a good job looking like he is a turkey whose feathers have been ruffled. One can definitely tell “real Jean” from “fake Jean” and the ending is obviously just tacked on footage from the earlier train scene. But the fan magazines of the day all raved over the film and thousands flocked to see Harlow’s swan song. It turned out to be one of the highest grossing films of 1937 as a result.

I'd let Clark be my babysitter any day...

I'd let Clark be my babysitter any day...

My favorite scene is Clark and Jean arguing in her room and him hiding under the couch when Walter enters. When Walter spots a lit cigar, Jean pretends it is hers and Clark is relieved from under his perch. It’s quite cute. One wonders if the film would have had more great moments like these if it had been completed as planned.

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A piece of trivia I have found most interesting is how the death of Jean affected The Wizard of Oz. Shirley Temple, the first choice for Dorothy, was supposed to be loaned from Twentieth Century Fox to MGM for the role in exchange for Jean in the Tyrone Power picture In Old Chicago. Because of Jean’s death, the deal was called off and MGM was “stuck” using Judy Garland and Fox replaced Jean with Alice Faye.  Jean was also up for the lead in the classic comedy Topper, with Cary Grant, and was recast with Constance Bennett.

Also, what book did Jean take with her to the hospital and declared she was finally going to finish before she left there? Gone with the Wind, naturally.

Saratoga is, unbelievably, not available on DVD. Read more about it here and see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.

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