clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

From July 1941:

“[Clark Gable] never once–literally or figuratively–stepped on my toes in the midst of a key scene,” said Miss Russell [of working with Clark in “They Met in Bombay”], “He never tried to ‘throw’ me by altering his actions or his voice unexpectedly. And he never once gave me that superior ‘down the nose’ delivery calculated to unbalance a player opposite. I’ve encountered that elsewhere too.”

Miss Russell further explained that Gable never sought to maneuver her into ungraceful or disadvantageous positions–position which would give the audience an uninterrupted view of the back or her neck while she was speaking her best lines!

“On the contrary,” she said, “Gable pointedly gave me every break, and once halted production to demand a change in the script so that certain ‘business’ involved in his contributions to the scene would not detract from interest in mine.”

“Yes,” Miss Russell summed up, “definitely I like working with Clark Gable.”

This month, Clark Gable is a thief chasing jewelry and fellow swindler Rosalind Russell in They Met in Bombay.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Gable is Gerald Meldrick, a jewel thief who has trailed a British duchess to India to steal her antique diamond necklace. He encounters Anya Von Duren (Russell), a rival thief out for the same score. She succeeds in stealing the necklace, but he fools her into believing he is a detective and gets the necklace from her. She figures him out and he proposes they be partners. They hop on a Chinese ship headed for Hong Kong but the crooked captain (Lorre) tries to turn them in for ransom. Paddling their way to shore, they hide out in Hong Kong. Gerald disguises himself as a British officer in hopes of getting them out of there, but he is soon sent to the front to fight against the Japanese.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Just a few years earlier, Roz was playing second fiddle in Gable films–the funny bridesmaid to Joan Crawford’s bride in Forsaking All Others and the lady from the past who gets passed over for Jean Harlow in China Seas.

But here she is finally Clark’s leading lady and she was happy for the promotion. Hedy Lamarr was originally slated for the lead in the film, but withdrew after adopting a baby.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Roz recalled: “Clark was a delight to work with.He always shared, never upstaged his marks or the other performers. There was nothing small or petty about him. No director ever had to tell how to do a love scene. He was tremendously graceful. Much like a ballet dancer, he had rhythm and timing. There wasn’t all that enormous clinching and awkwardness that some actors put you through.”

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

This film is a typical Gable formula—he’s a rogue pursuing a pretty lady in an exotic location. Roz appears, wearing a ridiculous hat, and of course instantly enchanting our hero.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Clark then starts stalking her in a rather creepy way, not unlike plucky Joan Crawford chasing him in Dancing Lady.

clark gable they met in bombay

And well, if you’ve ever wanted to see Clark Gable getting a haircut, manicure and pedicure at the same time, this film’s your chance.

clark gable they met in bombay

Roz gets to the necklace before Clark does, after getting the baroness drunk and slipping it off her neck, and scurries back to her room with it. Clark knew she was after the same thing he was and makes sure to get his replica onto the baroness’ neck and swiftly makes off with the real thing himself, letting Roz thing he’s a saint for not turning her in.

they met in bombay clark gable clark gable they met in bombay clark gable they met in bombay

She is of course furious when she finds out the truth.

they met in bombay clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay clark gable they met in bombay clark gable they met in bombay clark gable

But no lady’s hatred of Clark lasts too long and soon Roz’s resentment fades and gives away to a typical Gable clinch. “I’m caught all right,” he says.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

The two lovebirds hide out in a basement in Hong Kong (seemingly sharing the same cramped space, I might add) for a few weeks until they start running out of money. Clark, naturally, wants to think up a new swindle, while it seems Roz is ready to play it straight, get married and have little Rozes.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Clark then gets the idea to impersonate a member of the British military to score a few extra bucks and then gets roped into fighting the Japanese. This, of course, makes an honest man out of him, after he is awarded a medal for bravery.

clark gable they met in bombay They Met 7

For me the film starts to go downhill once he joins the military ranks. It stops being a spy caper and becomes something else entirely. But you know that 1941 audiences ate this kind of thing up–exotic locations, military strategy and all!

clark gable they met in bombay

1941 was the last year of what I’d consider the golden era of Clark’s life–married to Carole, fresh off Gone with the Wind–career going great, home life couldn’t be better. So it’s hard not to watch the film and think that, just over a year later, a heartbroken Clark would be saluting for real.

This film for me is just ok. It’s not without its charms, it’s just the wide swing from fancy debonair caper to military man on a mission is rather jostling. Roz and Clark’s chemistry is plausible, but not white hot.

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

They Met in Bombay is available on DVD.

Read more about the film here and see pictures from the film in the gallery.

In a Nutshell: Comrade X (1940)

clark gable hedy lamarr comrade x

Directed by: King Vidor

Co-stars: Hedy Lamarr, Felix Bressart, Oskar Homolka, Eve Arden

Synopsis: Gable is McKinley Thompson, an American reporter living in Russia who is secretly sending news out of the country as the elusive “Comrade X”. His bumbling valet, Igor (Bressart) discovers who he is and blackmails him to take his headstrong Communist daughter (Lamarr) out of Russia to protect her from prosecution. Everything doesn’t go as planned and soon the three of them are racing out of Russia with the Russian army on their tails.

Best Gable Quote: “I don’t talk to ladies that start yelling. It’s a rule I’ve got.”

Fun Fact: This film was made to hurriedly reteam Clark with rising star Hedy Lamarr, since audiences responded so well to their chemistry in Boom Town. When the screenplay was originally accepted, Greta Garbo was in mind for Lamarr’s role, but it was thought it was too close to her recent role in Ninotchka.

My Verdict: At times very funny, it’s best taken at face value as a comedy rather than rolling one’s eyes at the obvious Russian stereotypes displayed here. Clark is at his wisecrackin’ best and Lamarr is pretty to look at although I find their chemistry is not exactly earth shattering. Bressart and Eve Arden are a hoot.

mustachemustachemustache

It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

It was Movie of the Month in October 2013.

In a Nutshell: They Met in Bombay (1941)

clark gable rosalind russell they met in bombay

Directed by: Clarence Brown

Co-stars: Rosalind Russell, Peter Lorre

Synopsis: Gable is Gerald Meldrick, a jewel thief who has trailed a British duchess to India to steal her antique diamond necklace. He encounters Anya Von Duren (Russell), a rival thief out for the same score. She succeeds in stealing the necklace, but he fools her into believing he is a detective and gets the necklace from her. She figures him out and he proposes they be partners. They hop on a Chinese ship headed for Hong Kong but the crooked captain (Lorre) tries to turn them in for ransom. Paddling their way to shore, they hide out in Hong Kong. Gerald disguises himself as a British officer in hopes of getting them out of there, but he is soon sent to the front to fight against the Japanese.

Best Gable Quote: “When a man’s a dreamer, a woman wants him to be practical. When he’s practical, she wants him to be a dreamer. That’s the story of my whole life.”

Fun Fact: Gable, tired of being cast with the same leading ladies over and over again, was pleased with the casting of Rosalind Russell. She had had supporting roles in two other films with him a  few years prior, but this was her first (and only) as his leading lady.

My Verdict: It’s a joy to watch Clark onscreen with Rosalind Russell, even if her character here is more tame than her eventual zany comedies. While I wouldn’t call their chemistry white hot, it is comfortable and believable. The film really loses its way halfway through and the spy caper storyline feels stale. It’s kind of a cross between Comrade X and Love on the Run. I think both Gable and Russell deserved a better vehicle.

mustachemustache

It’s on DVD.

Read more here.

Ratings

 

This post is part of Bette Classic Movie Blog’s Moustaches for Movember Blogathon. Movember is a campaign in which men grow moustaches over the month of November to raise funds for prostate cancer.  You can learn more about the cause here.

You think of Clark Gable and you think of that familiar moustache (well, that and maybe the ears…) It’s funny that the mustache has become so synonomous with the image of Clark Gable, considering he didn’t want one to begin with.

Clark was a clean freak, the kind who took showers multiple times a day and who reportedly shaved his chest hair because he considered all that extra hair “un-clean.” So it seems unlikely he would willingly sport a moustache. And he wasn’t willing…at first.

The first time Clark grew a moustache was in 1930 in the play Love, Honor and Betray with Alice Brady. He was playing a French gigolo and the part called for some upper lip adornment. He tried a fake one at first but it would often come off during romantic scenes so he was forced to grow a real one. He shaved it off as soon as the play closed.

Clark Gable Alice Brady

Clark and Alice Brady in Love Honor and Betray

A clean shaven  Clark emerged on the Hollywood scene in 1931, playing mostly gangster roles and fitting the part nicely.

Clark Gable A Free Soul

Clark in A Free Soul

In 1932, Clark appeared with his very on screen first moustache, although it was a fake. In Strange Interlude, Clark’s character ages 20 years and a fake mustache was applied halfway through the film to show him aging. He hated it.

Clark aging not-so-gracefully in Strange Interlude:

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

Starting out baby-faced...

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

A little older, here's the fake moustache's appearance...

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

Older and getting grayer...

Clark Gable Strange Interlude

And looking like Colonel Sanders.

His next role as Giovanni in The White Sister also called for a moustache, just as Ronald Colman had had in the previous 1923 version.

Clark Gable

Clark in The White Sister

I am not sure if he actually grew one for the role or if it was fake, but it appears to be real in his next picture, Night Flight.

Clark Gable Night Flight

Clark in Night Flight

The moustache was real in Clark’s next role as a Broadway producer in Dancing Lady. I think by this time he was becoming used to it. Clark was absent from the set for several weeks due to a high fever. He had to have his teeth extracted and because of the surgery, his moustache was shaved off. So, when he finally returned to the set, he was again sporting a fake.

Clark Gable

Clark in Dancing Lady

I think Clark changed his mind about the moustache around the time he won the Oscar for It Happened One Night.  Popular before the film, his fame now soared and his moustache was copied by millions of fans.

Clark Gable It Happened One Night

Clark in It Happened One Night

As it was now a part of his film popularity, Clark’s  feathers were ruffled when he had to shave the moustache off for historical accuracy to portray Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty.

Clark Gable Mutiny on the Bounty

Clark in Mutiny on the Bounty

He wasted no time growing it back and there it was in his following two films, Wife vs. Secretary and San Francisco.

Clark Gable

Clark in Wife vs. Secretary

Clark Gable

Clark in San Francisco

But Marion Davies, his costar in his next film, Cain and Mabel, claimed to be “allergic to moustaches” so he had to shave it off to play Larry Cain.

Clark Gable

Clark in Cain and Mabel

During the shooting of Cain and Mabel, he was called back to do some retakes from San Francisco and had to sport another fake!

The moustache is back in Love on the Run.

Clark Gable

Clark in Love on The Run

In 1937, Clark was set to play nineteenth century Irish politician Charles Parnell in the biographical drama Parnell. The real Parnell had a full beard. For whatever reason, despite the fact that in between shooting films Clark often grew a full beard while out on hunting trips, Clark refused to grow a beard for the role. The compromise was some very unflattering long sideburns, or “mutton chops”.  Why Clark thought that was better than a beard is beyond me! And the film was famously a flop.

The real Charles Parnell

Clark Gable Parnell

Clark as Parnell

Myrna Loy Clark Gable

Clark and Myrna Loy in Parnell

 Clark’s moustache was of course one of the components in making him the perfect Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, as Margaret Mitchell describes Scarlett’s first view of him:

He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eyes caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth beneath a close-clipped black moustache.

Clark Gable Gone with the Wind

Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

Cammie King (Bonnie Blue) famously said that one of her few memories of the set is that Clark’s moustache tickled.

Clark Gable Cammie King Gone with the Wind

Cammie King and Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

The moustache was here to stay through the late 1930’s to the early 1940’s. The skinny, sculptured mustache had given way to a thicker, more modern look.

Clark Gable They Met in Bombay

Clark in They Met in Bombay

But in 1942, Clark enlisted in the Army Air Corps and only commanding officers could have facial hair. And so, with much publicity, Clark shaved off his famous moustache.

Clark Gable

Clark shaving off his moustache after joining the Army

Clark Gable

A moustache-less Clark receiving his shots after joining the Army

Once he graduated from officer’s school, the moustache was back. But this time, it was thicker and more of a “man’s moustache.” Probably the lack of time and utensils to do a proper trimming while stationed overseas…

Clark Gable

Officer Gable

Clark Gable

Officer Gable

 

Post war, the moustache was here to stay, becoming grayer, but staying put.

Clark Gable Command Decision

Clark in Command Decision

He did make one moustache-less appearance in Homecoming, during a flashback sequence. I’m not sure if the scene was shot last so he could shave off the moustache or what, but it is definitely gone.

Clark Gable Homecoming

Moustache-less in one scene of Homecoming

By the twilight of his career, his moustache was a security blanket that he knew fans expected. I don’t think any producer would have requested a bare-faced Clark at this point.

Clark Gable Teacher's Pet

Clark in Teacher's Pet

When you look at The Misfits, it would be hard to imagine Gay Langland without a moustache…it’s just something an aging Reno cowboy is expected to have.

Clark Gable The Misfits

Clark in The Misfits

Visit Bette’s Classic Film Blog to view all of the Moustache for Movember posts and visit here to donate to the cause.