From September 1931:
Clark Gable and James Cagney are the two lads you want to keep your eyes on. They’re the sensations of 1931. (And doesn’t it seem like old times to have sensations again?) Their reputations have grown like Jack’s beanstalk. Each is slated for stardom in the fall.
Women–even the hard-to-please Hollywood kind–are calling Clark Gable the greatest lover since Valentino. And Gable’s career, in part, is suprisingly like Valentino’s. After considerable banging around the world, he finally drifted to Hollywood. After much struggle, he became an extra, finally graduationg to “heavy” parts. But here their records differ. No single picture has pushed Gable ahead the way “The Four Horsemen” pushed Valentino. Despite the handicap, Gable has become the most romantic figure on the screen today.
Cagney is a different stamp. He excites the admiration a great actor always excites. His type is also rare. There was little that was likable about his character in “The Public Enemy.” He deliberately set out to show you how weak and despicable a gangster could be–and he accomplished his feat. He was different, intensely different. He didn’t pose, he didn’t look love-sick. With the roles built to fit his youth, he is made to do the sort of thing that Jannings used to do.
In a Nutshell: Comrade X (1940)
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.
In a Nutshell: They Met in Bombay (1941)
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.
Clark Gable didn’t want to play Rhett Butler–mainly because everyone else wanted him to. He often described how, even before he himself had read the book, people would call him “Rhett” and ask him when he was signing on for the film. He thought it was a great role, certainly, but the pressure was too great. In the end, it wasn’t really his decision, as he was traded like cattle to Selznick for MGM to have the distribution rights.
Clark remained nonchalant about the film for years afterward. He had done his work, gotten his paycheck, that was the end of it to him. I’ve had people say to me at Gone with the Wind events in recent years, how wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Clark was alive to attend such events? My answer is always that there is no way in God’s green earth he ever would. I imagine he would be amazed at how much people still love the film to this day.
It’s interesting to hear him talk about Gone with the Wind when he was older, as he reflected back on it.
From an interview in 1957:
“I don’t see how you could have avoided playing Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind,” I said. “The whole country cast you in it long before the cameras began to roll.”
“That was exactly the trouble,” Gable said. “Not only that, but it seemed to me that the public’s casting was being guided by an elaborate publicity campaign.”
I disagreed. “That casting was a natural thing,” I said. “No studio or producer controlled it. I sat in any number of bull sessions in friends’ homes while we cast that picture. Nobody said we ought to cast it, we just did. And the way we non-movie employees cast it was the way it was eventually cast on the screen. Almost everybody agreed on you as Rhett Butler, Leslie Howard as Ashley, and Olivia de Havilland as Melanie.”
“My thinking about it was this,” Gable told me; “that novel was one of the all-time best sellers. People didn’t just read it, they lived it. They visualized its characters, and they formed passionate convictions about them. You say a lot of people thought I ought to play Rhett Butler, but I didn’t know how many had formed that opinion.”
“Enough,” I said.
“There are never enough,” he told me. “But one thing was certain: they had a preconceived idea of the kind of Rhett Butler they were going to see, and suppose I came up empty?”
I’d never head that phrase before, so he explained, “I thought, all of them have already played Rhett in their minds; suppose I don’t come up with what they already have me doing. Then I’m in trouble. If they saw one little thing I did that didn’t agree with their remembrance of the books, they’d howl. I’d done the same thing myself when I’d wanted to be a Shakespearean actor. I’d taken a copy of ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Richard II’ or ‘Othello’ to the theater with me and I’d sat in the balcony—I couldn’t afford to sit anyplace else—and I’d checked on the Shakespearean actors. I’d say, ‘Why that—missed an ‘and’ or he left out a ‘but.’ He can’t do that.’”
“I’ve seen Gone with the Wind three times,” I told him, “and I had the feeling you enjoyed it.”
“It was a challenge,” he said, “I enjoyed it from that point of view. But my chin was out to there. I knew what people expected of me and suppose I didn’t produce?”
“But you did produce,” I said.
“Maybe so,” he said noncommittally.
“When did you finally get it through your head you’d done all right?”
He said, “The night we opened in Atlanta, I said, ‘I guess this movie is in.’”
“How did you figure that?” I asked. “Did you enjoy it yourself or did you gauge it by other people’s reactions?”
“Other people’s reactions,” he told me.
I asked Gable what he thought of the continued success of GWTW.
“Those revivals are the only thing that keeps me a big star,” he said. “Every time that picture is re-released, a whole crop of young moviegoers get interested in me.”
“What do you remember about the film’s premiere in Atlanta?” I asked.
“You should have seen the way those Southern belles looked at Carole. She was so damn beautiful.”
“How did the audience react to that first screening?” I asked.
“You’da thought I’d won the second Civil War for the South. The Atlanta papers called it the biggest news event since Sherman.”
In a Nutshell: Strange Cargo (1940)
Directed by: Frank Bozarge
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Peter Lorre, Ian Hunter
Synopsis: Gable is Verne, a thief who has been imprisoned for years in a dirty jail on an island in New Guinea. Out on work duty one day, he comes across Julie (Crawford), a cafe singer. She turns him in when he breaks out to try and be with her. She is then banished from the island for harboring a criminal. When Verne manages to escape again along with fellow inmates, Julie joins them on their voyage to the mainland. Both are uneasy by the presence of Cambreau (Hunter), a mysterious Christ-like figure who recites scriptures and begs them to repent their ways. Julie struggles with her love for Verne and whether or not to continue on with him in a life of crime or to come clean. Lorre appears as the devious Monsieur Pig, who wants Julie all to himself.
Best Gable Quote: “You’ve got class, kid. Or is it because I haven’t seen any women lately?”
My Verdict: Acting is top notch, with fine performances by all the main cast. It’s rather refreshing to see Joan Crawford a bit dirtied up! That being said, I find the script rather preachy and tedious, but I suppose that’s rather the point? After it gets going, there isn’t a whole lot of excitement.
In a Nutshell: Boom Town (1940)
Directed by: Jack Conway
Co-stars: Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, Hedy Lamarr, Frank Morgan
Synopsis: Gable is “Big John” McMasters and Tracy is “Square John” Sand, or as Big John calls him right from the beginning, “Shorty”. They are two wildcatters out west trying to strike oil. They pool their money and smarts and soon hit it big. Putting a snag in their festivities is the arrival of Elizabeth or “Betsy” (Colbert), Shorty’s sweetheart from back home. She arrives to see him but falls in love with Big John instead, and they are married the night they met. A year passes and when Shorty thinks that Big John is not treating Betsy right, the two men come to blows and flip a coin to decide who gets the oil rigs. Shorty wins and Big John and Betsy hit the road. The film follows them through the years as Big John and Betsy have a son and strike it rich, first in Oklahoma, then in New York. Shorty also strikes it rich but soon loses it all. When the two men meet again and decide to let bygones be bygones, their friendship and working relationship is tested again when Shorty discovers Big John is having an affair with the elegant Karen VanMeer (Lamarr).
Best Gable Quote: “You’re not getting away from me. You know that, don’t you? I’m not blaming you, baby, but you aren’t walking out with him or anybody else, understand? Sand! He told me all about it. I had to give him a licking to show him that’s out! You’re my girl, see, and you always will be. Even if I have to lick you to prove it!”
Fun Fact: When filming the fight scene between Gable and Tracy, Tracy’s stunt double accidently punched him square in the jaw, breaking his false teeth and cutting up his lips. He was out for three weeks to heal and the film was shot around him until he returned.
My Verdict: You can’t beat this cast. Excellence all around: Clark is in his element, perfect as the skirt chasin’ wildcatter, and Tracy is always perfect as Clark’s conscience and constant foil. Lamarr is the perfect window dressing (and here that’s about all she is) and the sparks between Claudette and Clark have not faded since It Happened One Night.
In a Nutshell: Gone with the Wind (1939)
Directed by: Victor Fleming (and George Cukor and Sam Wood)
Co-stars: Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel
Synopsis: Still seventy five years later heralded “the greatest movie ever made”, Gone with the Wind singlehandedly guaranteed Gable’s immortality to movie goers for decades to come. He is the dashing and ruthless Rhett Butler, a blockade runner from Charleston, who falls in love with headstrong southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh) at first sight. Scarlett only has eyes for her childhood crush, Ashley Wilkes (Howard) despite that he is engaged to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (De Havilland).Through the Civil War and Sherman’s march through Atlanta, through the Reconstruction period and the tribulations that follow, Rhett and Scarlett never seem to be on the same page at the same time. It is too late when Scarlett finally realizes she has loved Rhett all along, and she is left alone, having been told that frankly, he doesn’t give a damn.
Best Gable Quote: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Duh.) Although, Rhett has so many great lines. I have been highlighting them, and will continue to do so all year, on the site Facebook page, in celebration of the film’s 75th anniversary this year.
Fun Fact: Gable’s first film in color. And, at 238 minutes, the longest of all his films. Gable worked for a total of 21 days and received $120,000. In comparison, Vivien Leigh worked for 125 and received $25,000.
My Verdict: Is this even necessary to type? It is a masterpiece. The film turns 75 this year and still holds the record as being the biggest box office smash of all time. The story, the costumes, the elaborate sets, the tone, the characters—the film continues to resonate with people in a way that I don’t think can ever be duplicated. Clark said in 1957 that if it wasn’t for them constantly re-releasing it, nobody would care who he was anymore. I don’t know about that, but I do know that Gone with the Wind is, and has been, the gateway to not only Clark Gable, but classic films as a whole for generations. And I hope it continues to do so. It is in a class all its own.
Gone with the Wind will probably be the last film I make Movie of the Month, so it will be years still! But I did write a post on what Gone with the Wind means to me last December.
In a Nutshell: Saratoga (1937)
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.
In a Nutshell: Test Pilot (1938)
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.
In a Nutshell: Too Hot to Handle (1938)
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.
In a Nutshell: Idiot’s Delight (1939)
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.
From August 1934:
A fist fight almost marred Sam Goldwyn’s bridge party when Gilbert Roland misunderstood a remark made to his escort, charming Constance Bennett, by Clark Gable.
Connie and Clark were playing at the same table when the latter uttered the words that so aroused Gilbert, seated nearby, and caused him to leap from his chair, remove his coat, and shout at Gable, “You quit picking on her and pick on me!”
But all’s well that ends well!
Directed by: Lloyd Bacon
Co-stars: Marion Davies
Synopsis: Gable is Larry Cain, a small time boxer, whose publicity team cooks up a fake romance with Mabel O’Dare (Davies), an aspiring musical star, for publicity. The two loathe each other but begrudgingly agree to play along to help both of their careers. Of course along the way they actually do fall in love and decide to quit boxing and show business to be together. Their publicists won’t hear of it however and set to break them up.
Best Gable Quote: “I’m supposed to be a fighter and what am I doing–playing post office all over the front page with a dame!”
Fun Fact: William Randolph Hearst (producer, publishing magnate and Davies’ paramour) spent $35,000 on the carousel for the musical number “Coney Island”. After filming was completed, the carousel was installed in the backyard of Davies’ Santa Monica home, near her pool and tennis courts.
My Verdict: This is Marion Davies’ picture and Clark is window dressing. His character is a one-dimensional brutish boxer, who softens like butter after Marion bats her eyelashes at him a few times. This film is definitely one of those that I wouldn’t say is a bad film as a whole, but it’s not a great Gable film. Marion shows she can sing and dance, and Clark shows he still looked good with his shirt off.
In a Nutshell: Love on the Run (1936)
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone
Synopsis: Gable is Mike Anthony, a newspaper reporter always in competition with his college buddy, Barnabus Pell (Tone) who works for a rival paper. When Mike attends the wedding of socialite Sally Parker (Crawford) to a European prince, he becomes her confidante and helps her escape the nuptials. With Barnabus hot on their trail, Mike and Sally steal a spy’s plane and head across Europe. The spy wants his plane back (and his secret plans) and Barnabus wants his piece of the story, keeping them on the run, of course falling in love along the way.
Best Gable Quote: “You’re the only girl this side of the moon.”
Fun Fact: Gable and Franchot Tone had become friends during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty and would play cards between takes. This irritated Crawford. Her and husband Tone spent most of their time between scenes fighting. During the course of filming, Tone moved out of their Hollywood home.
My Verdict: It is a rather silly film, full of madcap hijinks. Clark and Joan always do have chemistry, but here I find it watered down. I enjoy his competitive banter with Franchot much better. As a spy story and a sweet romance, it’s rather flat. Not Clark and Joan at their best.
In a Nutshell: Parnell (1937)
Directed by: John M. Stahl
Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Donald Crisp, Edna May Oliver, Billie Burke
Synopsis: In this historical melodrama, Gable is Charles Parnell, an 1880′s Irish politician dubbed “The Uncrowned King of Ireland” for fighting for Irish freedom from British rule. The British trump up false charges against him to try and keep his efforts down but are unsuccessful. But then Parnell falls in love with Katie O’Shea (Loy), the estranged wife of a British Parliament member. When her husband finds out, he files for divorce and names Parnell as co-respondent, resulting in political and social ruin for Parnell. Just as he begins to fight back for his position, he is taken ill with a sick heart.
Best Gable Quote: “Haven’t you ever felt that there might be someone somewhere who, if you could only find them, is the person that you were always meant to meet?” (How romantic is that line! I have always loved it)
Fun Fact: Gable’s least favorite of all his films and the biggest flop of his and Myrna Loy’s careers. It lost a total of $637,000 at the box office. Gable accepted the role of Charles Parnell because he saw an opportunity to prove himself as a versatile dramatic actor. When the film flopped so horribly, he shunned all historical dramas. The flop of this picture is the main reason he was reluctant to do Gone with the Wind; he feared another historical flop. Because of the criticism of his Irish accent in this film, he refused to do a Southern accent for GWTW.
My Verdict: I stand by my long-voiced opinion that Parnell isn’t really that bad. There are some Clark Gable films (see anything thus far voted one mustache) that if it’s on TCM I flip right past it. Not this one. Clark’s performance isn’t bad, neither is Myrna’s. The script is tedious and the plot is boring. There just isn’t enough to hold interest. The love story is very sweet (although completely different than it was in reality) and Clark has some very romantic lines. I adore Myrna Loy and their chemistry is top notch as always. A fantastic film? No. But a horrible, wretched film that should be held up as the worst of Clark’s career? Still No.
Last month, we posted Photoplay magazine’s sketch of Clark Gable as Rhett, from 1937. The following month, Photoplay upped the ante by publishing a sketch of Clark as Rhett with a woman that represented what they thought Scarlett should look like. Think Vivien Leigh fit the bill?
Again Vincentini scores–with this picture of Scarlett, as Photoplay conceived her. The prime requisite was, we told him, that Scarlett must be in Gable’s arms, for you see we still insist on Clark as Rhett. For the rest, she must have the fire of Paulette Goddard; the acting ability of Shearer; the voice of Alicia Rhett, Southern girl candidate, whose name is really identical with the hero’s. The artist, we believe, has endowed her with all these qualities, and a few identical charms of her own, for isn’t she still Scarlett O’Hara, Miss Unknown? Now turn the page and read her story
Funny they mention Alicia Rhett, who ended up being cast as India Wilkes! That story they mention coming up next week!
In a Nutshell: Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, James Stewart
Synopsis: Gable is Van, “Jake”, or “V.S.” Stanhope, a publishing executive happily married to the elegant Linda (Loy). Tongues start wagging about Van and his beautiful secretary, Helen “Whitey” Wilson (Harlow), whom he considers a close friend and confidante, but nothing more. While trying to secretly buy rights to a magazine from a rival publisher, he sneaks around town with Whitey, finalizing the deal. As his stories become inconsistent, Linda begins to suspect him and Whitey are having an affair. So does Whitey’s patient fiancé, Dave (a youthful Stewart). Dave grows irritated that Whitey refuses to quit her job, telling her that it isn’t natural for a woman not to want to stay home and be married and have children. She breaks up with him after he insinuates her relationship with Van is indecent. Linda’s suspicions finally bubble over when Van refuses to take her along on a business trip to Havana. An emergency occurs and Van calls Whitey to Havana to help him close the deal. When Whitey answers Van’s hotel room phone at 2:00am after a long night, Linda feels she needs no further evidence and begins divorce proceedings when Van returns to New York, refusing to believe his explanations.
Best Gable Quote: “You know, Linda, sometimes I just sit in the office and think about us. I try to be very fair about it and I am too. And I say to myself: who are you to think you are entitled to Linda? Are you good enough for her? And I say to myself: No. Then I say to myself: Well who is entitled to her? Is anyone good enough for her? And I say to myself: No. Then I say to myself: You’re as little entitled to her as anybody else so you hold right on. And I’m holding.”
Fun Fact: Gable and Loy became close friends on the set. She said he brought her coffee every morning and would read her Shakespeare and poetry in her trailer between takes.
My Verdict: I love this movie. The premise is silly and a common one form the 1930’s—a ridiculous stream of misunderstandings leads to marital strife—but this movie stands out because of the snappy script and the great cast. Clark Gable, Myrna Loy AND Jean Harlow! Plus throw in a young Jimmy Stewart as Harlow’s beau! Fabulous. Clark and Jean have their usual great chemistry, and Myrna and Clark’s scenes are adorably sweet. This one may not be one of his most dramatic parts or one of this pinnacle films, but it is a standout to show people in generations to come –“Hey, this is why Clark Gable was so popular.”
In a Nutshell: San Francisco (1936)
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Co-stars: Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy
Synopsis: Gable is Blackie Norton, a ruthless saloon-keeper in 1906 San Francisco, proud of his gambling ways. Despite their differences, he falls in love with Mary Blake (MacDonald), an aspiring opera singer who he hires to sing in his revue. His childhood pal, priest Tim Mullin (Tracy), objects to him putting Mary on display and stopping her from her opera aspirations. Realizing that Tim is right and that she should pursue her dreams instead of letting Blackie hold her back, Mary leaves him and becomes a successful opera star. It isn’t until the shattering earthquake that Blackie realizes his true feelings for Mary and sets out to find her among the rubble.
Best Gable Quote: “You know, I never tried to kid you, Mary. You take me as I am or you don’t take me. Tim doesn’t try to change me because he knows he can’t. And you can’t either. Nothing can. You know what I’ve been waiting for? I’ve been waiting to hear you say that I’m alright with you the way I am. Maybe you’re ready to say it now. Are you?”
Fun Fact: The film was one of the biggest hits of 1936, earning $5.3 million and a profit of $2.2 million. It became Gable’s highest grossing film after Gone with the Wind.
My Verdict: This is one of those films that has it all—drama, comedy, romance, action. It is difficult not to like this film! Although Gable did not like working with MacDonald, I don’t think it shows; they do have great chemistry. She may not be the sexiest of his leading ladies for sure, but she’s beautiful and her purity rubbed up against Clark’s ruggedness works. Gable and Tracy are always a great pairing and here is no exception. The special effects used for the earthquake are extremely impressive if you take in account that you are looking at a film made at a time when talkies hadn’t even been around 10 years yet. No CGI here, real effects and stunt people. The songs are great (although I must confess I always fast forward through MacDonald’s opera sequence…) and the costumes superb. An essential for sure, although I must say I think Clark should have nabbed an Oscar nomination for this one. Just sayin’.
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