From April 1937:
Just a little publicity story sent out about Clark Gable wearing a beard in “Parnell” caused more of a furare than anything of a similar nature with the single exception of Marlene Dietrich’s determination to wear trousers a few years ago.
Mail was received from all parts of the United States, a great deal from fans, but some from barbers’ associations advising that the idea be dropped for fear of a falling off in the tansarial trade.
Also, it seems there are various bearded organizations in the United States which strongly advocated the idea.
After the stage play, there was nothing in particular to suggest that Gable go bearded, and so he decided in favor of just a mustache.
Gable later is to play in “Idiot’s Delight,” the Pulitzer prize play, probably with Garbo.
The whole “Gable won’t grow a beard” thing was very overplayed for publicity. And, of course, Garbo didn’t star with Clark in Idiot’s Delight. Norma Shearer did instead…doing a rather bad Garbo impression.
In 1940, Photoplay magazine supplied its readers with facts on Gone with the Wind so that they could play their own GWTW trivia game…
Hollywood can talk of nothing these days but Gone with the Wind. It’s crept into every luncheon and dinner party until hostesses, in despair, have invented a Gone with the Wind game. Pencils and papers with questions to be answered concerning the mighty epic are passed around at every gathering. The one winning the highest score gets the prize. Why not try it at your parties, too? With [us] supplying all the answers to facts and figures, you can make up your own questions.
The Margaret Mitchell book was purchased by David Selznick for $50,000 on June 3, 1936. Garbo was rumored as Scarlett. Other Hollywood producers offered Selznick as high as $1,000,000 for the rights. They were refused.
Gable was signed om August 25, 1938 for Rhett Butler and Shearer was announced as Scarlett. The nation went crazy. Shearer withdrew.
There is no wind in the picture, but there were 4400 people employed directly by the studio for the picture. The largest number who worked at one time was 1, 730. In all, 2,400 extras were employed.
Leslie Howard, an Englishman, and Olivia de Havilland, born in Tokyo of English parents, were signed for Southern Ashley Wilkes and Melanie.
Three talent scouts were dispatched to the South to find a Scarlett. Twenty-eight actresses were tested for the role and a total of 149,000 feet of black and white film and 13,000 feet of Technicolor were filmed in the testing. Cost of testing was $92,000.
First scene shot without a Scarlett on December 10, 1938, was the burning of Atlanta. A visitor to the scene, Englishwoman Vivien Leigh, was signed as Scarlett, January 13, 1939. Official starting date of the picture was January 13, 1939. Final shot was made November 11, 1939.
Seven hundred mustaches, 500 pairs of sideburns and 300 yards of crepe hair were used. Scarlett used thirty-eight different hairdresses. The completed picture runs three hours and forty-five minutes.
On February 15, 1939, Director Cukor resigned in favor of Victor Fleming. Vivien Leigh worked a total of 125 days of actual shooting, Gable seventy-one, de Havilland fifty-nine, and Howard thirty-two.
Scarlett wore forty-four separate costumes. Gable thirty-six, Olivia twenty-one, Leslie eleven. The cleaning bill alone amounted to $10,000.
In use were 1,000 horses, 9,000 bit and extra people, 375 assorted animals and 450 vehicles.
One million man hours of labor went into the making. Exactly 475,000 feet of film were exposed and 675,000 lineal feet of Technicolor film printed.
And, finally, the money spent on the picture was $3,957,000.
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…
Time was when you could call a man a rat in Hollywood and get yourself a stiff poke in the nose. But now what you get is–”Rhett? Rhett Butler? Well–I don’t know about that ‘profile like an old coin’ stuff, but I’ve been told I am rather masterful and–” Yes and there was a day when you could call a woman scarlet in this town and find yourself looking into the business end of a male relative’s shotgun. But now it’s–”Scarlett? Scarlett O’Hara? Oh, do you really think so? Well, I wish you’d say that around Mr. Selznick. Of course, my eyes aren’t exactly green, but unless they use Technicolor–”
Ever since that very small but very un-Reconstructed Rebel, Mistress Peggy Mitchell, of the Atlanta Mitchells, wrote a book called “Gone with the Wind”, which went like a seventy-mile gale over the country and whipped up a grade-A tornado, a civil war, the like of which Jeff Davis never dreamed, has been raging uncontrolled way out in Hollywood.
Houses are divided, brother against brother, husband against wife, butler versus pantry maid.
“Why, Judge,” a woman told the court the other day, “this bum says the only man to play Rhett Butler is Warren William. How can I go on living with a cretin like that?”
“Yeah,” countered the defendant, “and, Your Honor, she embarrassed me before my friends plugging for Ronald Coleman. Ronald Coleman–imagine! My business dropped off.” “Divorce granted,” murmured the court, “although personally I’ve always thought Gary Cooper would be a natural for the part.”
Who will win? Well–here are the favorites, complete with clockings, handicaps, and pole positions. You pay your money and you take your choice:
Ladies first, which means Rhett Butler–
Clark Gable is the odds on favorite. He probably will play the part. If he doesn’t there may be a Revolution. The nationwide choice, by a wide margin, he runs neck-and-neck with Warner Baxter in the South, which, incidentally, will have plenty to say about the casting of this picture. Gable is also the big Hollywood favorite, although if you can’t see him you can’t see him at all. It’s that way. Letters have poured in threatening boycotts and reprisals (honest) if he’s cast as Rhett. The same if he isn’t.
Clark is the right age, the perfect build, the effective sex quotient. On a very touchy point–whether or not he can put on a Southern accent and wear it becomingly–he is doubtful. He would give a year of his life to play Rhett–why not? It would be the biggest money gland his career could conceivably manage.
But–Gable is among the most jealously hoarded of MGM stars. And Selznick International, not MGM, copped this prize story of the century. MGM turned it down! Selznick International means John Hay Whitney and David Oliver Selznick. But again–David Oliver Selznick is married to Louis B. Mayer’s daughter. Would Gable be available? What do you think?
Frederic March is the only actor so far officially tested for Rhett. Was the early choice, but seems to have faded in the back stretch. Would be available, eager and willing to play Rhett on a moment’s notice. Runs about third in the terrific straw balloting which increases every day. Is regarded by millions as a great actor–many others do not agree. Played the other great sensational best seller title part, “Anthony Adverse.” Consensus of opinion is that Frederic would be an adequate Rhett, but that’s all. Lacks the sinister sex considered absolutely essential to a great performance.
Warner Baxter has surprising support from Atlanta and the deep South. Is the best “sympathy” actor in the race. His recent sock hit in “To Mary–With love” is considered an apt build-up. Warner has the strong support of all who picture Rhett Butler as a man who suffered and suffered. Is keeping his fingers crossed day and night because if he landed it would be “In Old Arizona” all over again for him. His contract, of course, is with Twentieth Century Fox, which makes him eligible. Darryl Zanuck who is a borrower of stars in the talent market wouldn’t dare bite the hand that feeds him and keep him locked in the closet. Warner, too, is about the right age, a little on the oldish side. His weakness, too, is no powerful sex appeal.
Ronald Colman popped into the running through an erroneous press dispatch. But once in has remained a strong contender. Chief advantage is his spot as long term contract star with Selznick International, his decided romantic charm, suavity, age and sympathetic personality. Chief disadvantage is ever-lovin’ Britishness, hard for the folks down South to swallow when the story is almost a sectional issue.
Those are the favorites. But Cary Grant, Basil Rathbone, Edward Arnold haven’t given up yet.
Now gents–it’s your turn.
For Scarlett O’Hara–
Tallulah Bankhead–shared the same bum steer announcement that brought Ronald Coleman in. Was tested by Selznick twice, once in Hollywood while on the stage in “Reflected Glory.” It was a simple color test but it gave the newshawks ideas. Tested again in New York by Director George Cukor. Is a professional choice, being considered the best actress of all candidates. Would satisfy Dixie, hailing originally from Alabama. Her pappy represents the state as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington. Talu could probably recapture a sugar-lipped drawl, all right, buy the years and an aura of sophistication are against her. The part would be like long delayed manna from Heaven for her, bestowing the great screen break her rooters have long wailed has been denied a great artiste. Only a lukewarm choice in the popular response. But vigorously opposed by an opinionated minority.
Miriam Hopkins is the red hot choice of Atlanta and the South. Leads other actresses by a nice margin in the letter deluge. One reason, she hails from Bainbridge, Georgia, right close to home. Is a good subject for color, if it is used, except she’ll have to wear a wig. Played Becky Sharp, the character generally compared to Scarlett O’Hara, but that might work against her.
Bette Davis is the number one Hollywood selection. Just missed cinching the part by a matter of minutes. On her way to England, Bette was told by Warner’s New York story board they were buying a great story for her, “Gone with the Wind.” But by the time they wired Hollywood for an okay, the hammer had dropped. The day His Majesty’s courts decided that Bette was a “naughty girl” and “must go back to jail” her low spirits were lifted by a columnist’s clipping calling her the ideal Miss O’Hara. Answers to Scarlett now around the Warner lot. Bette is the only Yankee girl to score below that well-known line. Ranks third in the Cotton Belt. Is considered to be just the right age to handle the assignment and blessed with the right amount of–er–nastiness. No complaints from the home folks on her southern accent in “Cabin in the Cotton” or as Alabama Follansbee in “The Solid South” (stage).
But–Bette is in the doghouse chained and collared, and one of the main issues of her legal whipping was her loan out demand. Warners can–probably would keep her in the cooler. Selznick, in fact, is supposed to have said, “Bette Davis? Great–but could we get her?”
Margaret Sullavan holds the second spot in returns from down yonder. Is a Virginia girl, and knows what to do when a lady meets a gentleman down South. Handed brilliantly the lead in “So Red the Rose”, another Civil War picture. Fractious and fiery enough to make Scarlett a vivid character. Tagged next to Bette Davis in Hollywood.
And the Field–Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Jean Harlow.
Now as if puzzling about all this were not enough to set a body weaving baskets in the clink, Messrs. Selznick and Company announce that they want for Scarlett and Rhett not Hollywood stars at all. No–instead they have arranged to canvass all the finishing schools of Dixie, and ogle Junior Leaguers at the very lovely teas and discover and “unknown” Scarlett. A similar search, minus the tea, is hoped to dig up an indigenous Rhett.
Thus, they say, everything will not only be peaches and cream for professional Southerners, but what is much more important, two brand new stars will be born. Why take other studio’s stars and build them? Isn’t this going to be the greatest picture of all time?
Well–as to the first idea–it’s great if it works, is the opinion of the Hollywood wise ones. But it won’t work, they say. Whom are you going to find in the sticks to handle parts like those? Whom could you dare gamble on?
And that “greatest picture of all time” stuff. It smacks strongly, I grant you, of the old mahoskus. It’s press agent oil of the most ready viscosity and has flowed freely around every epic from “The Great Train Robbery” to Shirley Temple’s latest cutrick. But this time the answer that snaps right back out of your own skeptic brain is, “Why not?”
These gentlemen–Whitney and Selznick–have, and they know what they have, the greatest screen story of our day. If you don’t think so, here’s the cold cash proof: The day after they laid $50,000 on the line for the picture rights, another studio offered them $100,000. The next offer was boosted to $250,000. The last bid, not long ago, was $1,500,000 and an interest in the picture besides! Tie that.
They said “No” and they are still saying the same. Mr. Whitney and Mr. Selznick are not ribbon clerks. They shot $2,200,000 on “The Garden of Allah.” They will pinch no pennies on “Gone with the Wind”. If color will help it (and it probably will) they’ll shoot and extra million. Sidney Howard is writing the script. George Cukor will direct. Walter Plunkett is designing costumes. These men are all top flight.
So you can reasonably be sure of this–when you finally see “Gone with the Wind” you’ll see a picture dressed in the best trappings of modern production, primed with meticulous preparation, artistic thoroughness and as many millions as it can comfortably stand.
But as for who will be Scarlett and who will be Rhett–well, the riot squads are doing a nice business, thank you. And good citizens of Hollywood scowl across Cahuenga Pass at North Hollywood muttering. “Dam’ Yanks!” While out in Beverly Hills the South Side of the Tracks is threatening to secede if somebody will only fire on the Brown Derby.
It looks as if we’ll fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. Everybody’s welcome, and usually it doesn’t require a second invitation. Just casually mention the subject. You’ll see. Matter of the fact, the only person I can think of offhand who doesn’t seem to be at all upset about the matter is the lady who wrote the book.
Early in the fray, Margaret Mitchell allowed it would be nice if a Southern girl could play Scarlett. But the reaction was so violent that it must have surprised her. At any rate she announced the other day it was her one desire to remain only as the humble author, and to a close friend she confided:
“I don’t care what they do to ‘Gone with the Wind’ in Hollywood. Just so they don’t make General Lee win the war for a happy ending!”
These choices really crack me up. JEAN HARLOW?? CARY GRANT?? EDWARD ARNOLD?? CLAUDETTE COLBERT?? Really atrocious.
You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.
Mickey Rooney died yesterday at the age of 93.
A screen legend, his acting career boasts over 300 credits. The people he met, the places he saw, the film sets he walked on to…seriously it is mind boggling. To name just a few, Mickey shared the screen with the likes of: Judy Garland, Ann Rutherford, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Elizabeth Taylor, William Powell, Robert Young, Mary Astor, Warren William, Ginger Rogers, Robert Montgomery, Gloria deHaven, Maureen O’Sullivan, Rosalind Russell, Audrey Hepburn, Wallace Beery, Dolores Costello, Lionel Barrymore, Franchot Tone, Frank Morgan…the list goes on and on and ON.
Mickey and Judy Garland at their best, singing “Our Love Affair”
And yes–Clark Gable is one of Mickey’s many co-stars. Mickey was quite fond of Clark and looked up to him. One of Mickey’s early film roles was portraying Clark’s character as a child in Manhattan Melodrama. You can watch the opening scene with Mickey here.
Here’s a newspaper blurb from 1940:
When Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore heard Mickey Rooney was going to impersonate them in “Babes in Arms”, they went to the set to try and avert libel at the hands of the irrepressible Rooney.
In the scene in question, Mickey played two parts, those of “Cleopatra’s Uncle Lionel” and “Clark Anthony”. June Pressier was Cleopatra. Mickey laid it on thick. Then he turned to the two stars for their opinion.
“Not bad,”said Barrymore.
Gable remained silent. “What do you think, Clark?” urged Rooney.
“Well, Mickey, I’ll tell you,” said Gable, with his usual tact. “One of us must be rotten.”
Mickey also impersonated Clark in Thousands Cheer (1943) and apparently would also impersonate him sometimes in his road show. I tried to find a clip from either film but unfortunately I can’t.
So sad that we lost the two youngsters in the middle of this picture already this year…
Scenes from an amazing life….
Rest in peace, Mick. You’re among friends now….
From January 1935:
Clark Gable shoves his hands into his pockets at every oppurtunity. Close-ups frequently prevent the audience from noticing this, but it is quite apparent in long shots. Clark always gives the impression that acting is a silly business for a man and that he never feels quite at ease when engaged in it. And when a man is ill at ease it’s the most natural thing in the world for him to stick his hands in his pockets.
In a Nutshell: The Misfits (1961)
Directed by: John Huston
Co-stars: Marilyn Monroe, Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter
Synopsis: The last film of two icons of the screen, The Misfits is a poetic end to the careers of both Gable and Monroe. Gable is Gay Langland, an aging cowboy in Reno who avoids responsibility and anything tying him down. He and his buddy Guido (Wallach) run into Roslyn (Monroe), a depressed ex-dancer who is in Reno getting a divorce. She’s been staying with Isabelle (Ritter) to establish her residency requirement for the divorce. They all have nowhere to be and no one to answer to, so they decide to head out to Guido’s house in the Nevada desert. Although Guido actively pursues her, Roslyn falls quickly for Gay, and he for her. They decide to stay at Guido’s house alone and live there together. But Roslyn’s delicate sensitivity and Gay’s hard-headed masculinity don’t see eye to eye and their differences show themselves on everything from killing bunnies eating their garden to worrying about their friend Perce (Clift) getting hurt in the rodeo. The final straw is when Roslyn accompanies the men on a trip to round up wild mustangs, or “misfits” for dog food.
Best Gable Quote: “Just head for that big star straight on. The highway’s under it, it’ll take us right home.”
Not At All Fun Fact: Gable suffered a heart attack three days after completion of the film and was diagnosed with coronary thrombosis. He died just days later, on November 16, 1960, after suffering a second heart attack.
My Verdict: A poetic and fitting goodbye. The Misfits is far from a perfect film, but his performance is a divine send-off. “Look everyone, see, I can really act! I always could!” And in that same vein it feels like we were cheated out of more such performances. The film itself is preachy and talky, like a poem that goes on too long. It is a bit painful to see Clark looking so deteriorated. Decades and decades of heavy smoking and drinking and taken their toll and instead of looking like his actual age of 59, Clark looks more like 70. Marilyn’s ghosts were beginning to show and her performance is more because of it–the fluff and glitter were stripped away. Who would have ever guessed that this would be the last film for two legends.
Gable, Monroe and Clift were indeed perfectly cast as a band of wandering misfits.
And that does it, folks! All of Clark Gables films! Two months and all 66!
In a Nutshell: But Not For Me (1959)
Directed by: Walter Lang
Co-starring: Carroll Baker, Lilli Palmer
Synopsis: Gable is Russ Ward, an aging Broadway producer deep in debt and losing his touch. When he finally decides to throw in the towel, his much younger secretary, Ellie Brown (Baker), admits to being in love with him. Her speech to him gives him the idea for a great play and he sets to work on it, reviving his career, leading Ellie on in the process. She proves she can play the lead role and becomes a success. Russ starts to have feelings for Ellie but his ever-present meddling ex-wife, Kathryn (Palmer) interferes.
Best Gable Quote: “That’s one of the tragedies in life. People not believing what’s right in front of them.”
Fun Fact: The only time Gable worked with director Walter Lang, who was a longtime friend. Walter’s wife, “Fieldsie” Lang, was Carole Lombard’s close friend and Carole was godmother to their son, Richard.
My Verdict: A little known gem. The great part is that Clark gets to make fun of himself a bit in the film, as he is in the same boat as his character: having to constantly reaffirm his worth to his profession, being paired with women half his age. He seems at ease in the role; he’s having fun and it shows. Critics realized it too, as Clark received one of his only two Golden Globe nominations for the role. The script is snappy and although I think any handful of starlets could have done Baker’s role, Palmer is sheer delight as the jealous ex-wife.
It’s not on DVD but is available in Amazon Instant Video
In a Nutshell: It Started in Naples (1960)
Directed by: Michael Shavelson
Co-stars: Sophia Loren, Vittorio De Sica, Marrietto
Synopsis: Clark is Mike Hamilton, a Philadelphia lawyer who travels to Rome to settle the estate of his estranged brother who had drowned. He is shocked to learn that he has a nephew–an impressionable, unruly eight-year-old boy named Nando (Marietto), who is being cared for by his mother’s sister, Lucia (Loren). At first Mike tries to give Lucia some money and head back to America, but as he gets to know Lucia and Nando, he decides to stick around. Lucia works as a maid and cook during the day and as a nightclub singer at night. Nando doesn’t attend school and roams the streets barefoot, passing out nightclub flyers and smoking cigarettes. Mike decides Nando would be better off in America with him, a decision not welcomed by Lucia. After his lawyer suggests to both of them that they “make nice” to settle the matter out of court, they fall in love.
Best Gable Quote: “You have to approach a hamburger with assurance. If you show it that you’re frightened, you’ll wind up with a shirt full of mustard.”
Fun Fact: Clark was hesitant to take the role as he felt that he was far too old to be romancing the twenty-five-year-old Sophia Loren. The producers convinced him by showing him a film she had made with Cary Grant the year before, Houseboat. Clark liked the film and since Loren seemed to have chemistry with Grant, one of Clark’s contemporaries, he agreed to do It Started in Naples.
My Verdict: The scenery alone is worth watching the film, and it is actually an adorable little picture. Clark’s scenes with the little boy are sweet and even though I wouldn’t rank Sophia as one of my favorite of his leading ladies, their sparring and making up actually work in this romantic setting. Clark is looking rather bloated and old here, but those sparking eyes and comedic chops are shining through.
Clark’s description of the day himself:
It has been written since then that Carole and I had that wedding day planned out for months in advance, but that’s not true. It happened this way. On the afternoon of March 28, I was finished with my scenes [in "Gone with the Wind"] about three in the afternoon. While I was taking off my make-up, the assistant director came over and said I didn’t need to work the next day. I called Carole at once and with the aid of a close friend, we headed out that night to Kingman, Arizona. We took Otto [Winkler] along, not only to untangle any difficulties we might get into, but because he had a new car without license plates which meant we wouldn’t be spotted.
We were married at three-thirty that afternoon and left at five-thirty, getting home the next morning at three. Carole’s mother was there, all excited, which kept us up till five. Finally we got to sleep, only to be awakened at nine to discover forty cameramen, three newsreel men and twenty reporters waiting out in the front yard to interview us. Under the circumstances, David [Selznick] gave me another day off.
In love and clearly showing it, the photos from the press conference that took place the day afterwards just ooze with happiness. They were so full of love and hope for the future.
I’ve always loved this description of their lives together by their devoted secretary, Jean Garceau:
For Clark, [Carole] was fulfillment, a pal and partner in everything. She roamed the ranch with him in casual clothes during the day and her hair was frequently in pigtails, but in the evenings she was always sleek and lovely in a glamorous housecoat.
It was a household of gaiety, laughter, corny jokes and gag gifts. Everything centered around Clark, his likes and dislikes. Carole enjoyed and had fun at everything she did. If Clark was moody or silent, she clowned until he smiled again. He adored her, thought she was the mots exciting, amusing, desirable woman in the world.
Photoplay magazine editor Ruth Waterbury:
You, Clark and Carole, were married very quietly, very much in your characteristic way of doing things, at Kingman, Arizona, on March 29th. I’m sure that the whole world, having watched your romance, having seen how very well you conducted yourselves during two difficult years, felt very pleased that you were, at last, able to belong to each other. For, if ever two people seemed to be made for each other, you are the ones. You simply share each other’s every interest; you both love laughter and good food, sports and horses, people and your work. You are, both of you, of course, absolutely beautiful to look at together.
If you two can’t make a go of your marriage, then there is no meaning in the word compatibility. If in a year or two one of you gets a divorce saying those silly things like “He called me harsh names and was rude to my friends and therefore I don’t want to live with him any longer”…in other words, the usual flimsy excuses for Hollywood divorces, well, it is going to very disillusioning to us, it’s not going to leave us with much respect for Hollywood emotions.
Personally, I don’t expect that of you two, though. I’ll put my money on this Gable marriage lasting. I’ll certainly put it much more on this marriage lasting than almost any Hollywood marriage I’ve ever seen happen. And yet, this is Clark’s third marriage, this is Carole’s second. All statistics on love, not alone in Hollywood but throughout the world, reveal that often-wed people aren’t good matrimonial risks.
Even though they only had three short years of matrimonial bliss, I would call them lucky. What is that saying, “it’s better to have loved and lost…” well, Clark may have been broken apart by Carole’s tragic death, but he was a better man afterwards with the memory of that love in his heart.
Happy 75th Clark and Carole!
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