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’.
In a Nutshell: China Seas (1935)
Directed by: Tay Garnett
Co-stars: Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, Rosalind Russell, Lewis Stone
Synopsis: Gable is Alan Gaskell, a roguish captain of a ship that sails between Hong Kong and Shanghai. It’s established pretty early on that he’s been having some adult fun ashore with a Shanghai harlot, Dolly, who goes by the name China Doll (Harlow). So imagine his surprise when setting his ship off to sea that she is on board as a passenger! She confesses she is madly in love with him; he is weary of her and rejects her advances. She is green with jealousy upon the arrival onboard of Sybil,(Russell), a distinguished former paramour of Alan’s from England. Lily sets out to win her man back but ends up embarrassing herself in front of him and the lady by telling of Alan’s seedy behavior. Rejected by him once again, she decides to get even and is persuaded to be in cahoots with Jamesy (Beery), a crooked first mate who is collaborating with Malaysian pirates to loot the ship.
Best Gable Quote: “Let’s quit good friends instead of like a couple of cab drivers after a drunken brawl.”
Fun Fact: Gable and Beery did not get along during filming. During the scene where Beery hits Gable while he’s passed out, Beery reportedly smacked Gable hard instead of faking it. Gable jumped out of the chair and threatened to break his neck and the crew had to separate them and continue filming the scene the next day after they had cooled off.
My Verdict: This is one of those 1930’s films that set out to appeal to audiences because of its foreign, exotic setting. Put any story in the Orient, especially on a ship, and people will be mesmerized! I know many people that claim that this is their favorite Gable/Harlow pairing; not for me. It’s a good film, and the banter between Gable and Harlow is at its zingiest, but their characters are a bit too cut out of cardboard to let their spark shine. Gable is the stoic captain and Harlow the salty hooker–pretty much sums it up. I must also mention that Harlow’s cotton candy wigs in this film are downright atrocious! Russell fills the shoes of the prim and proper lady quite nicely, but she doesn’t have much to do at all. The storm scenes are impressive and there is action to spare.
In a Nutshell: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Directed by: Frank Lloyd
Co-stars: Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone
Synopsis: Gable is legendary historical figure Fletcher Christian in this adaption of the famous tale of mutiny on the high seas in 1787. He is first mate to the tyrannical Captain Bligh (Laughton) on a two year voyage from England to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit plants. Bligh beats and starves the sailors, all while Christian and fellow officer Bynum (Tone) stand and watch. Christian finally can’t stand it anymore and rallies the men to overthrow Bligh and take over the ship. They send Bligh and his supporters adrift at sea in a small boat and take the Bounty back to Tahiti. They live there peacefully, marrying native women and enjoying the island until Bligh and a new crew come searching for them.
Best Gable Quote: “I’m sick of blood! Bloody backs, bloody faces! Well, you’ve given your last command on this ship. We’ll be men again if we hang for it!”
Fun Fact: Gable received his second Academy Award nomination for the film. Laughton and Tone were also nominated, all for Best Actor. Noticing that it seemed odd that three actors from the same film were up for the same award, this prompted the Academy to start issuing awards for supporting actors and actresses. All three lost to the only Best Actor nominee not in the film, Victor McLaglen, for The Informer.
My Verdict: A wonderful film. This is one of a handful of films I always mention when people say (as they do often) that Clark Gable couldn’t act. He does a spectacular job in this, a difficult and tedious role, and is worthy of his Oscar nom. The whole cast is phenomenal, Tone and Laughton especially. I remember it took a couple of watches for me to truly appreciate what a wonderful film this is on many levels. Cinematically beautiful, wonderful dramatic performances. Not the most by-the-book adaptation of the novel, but it is still great.
In a Nutshell: After Office Hours (1935)
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Co-stars: Constance Bennett, Billie Burke, Harvey Stephens
Synopsis: Gable is fast-talking, take-no-prisoners-newspaper editor Jim Branch, who is determined to dig up a juicy story on a corrupt millionaire. He starts sucking up to the newspaper’s music reviewer, wealthy socialite Sharon Norwood (Bennett), when he discovers she is close to the impending story. After the millionaire’s wife turns up dead, Sharon and Jim disagree on the culprit. Jim becomes determined to crack the case and reunite with Sharon, whom he has now fallen in love with.
Best Gable Quote: “You mean I’ve got to get out and walk home–like a girl?” (That line always makes me laugh, it’s so absurd)
Fun Fact: Constance Bennett was quite flirty with Gable during filming. He ignored her for the most part, thinking her a prima donna. He had not forgotten how poorly she had treated him when he was a bit player and she was the star in The Easiest Way.
My Verdict: Rather humdrum, forced newspaper comedy that wants to be It Happened One Night but isn’t. Bennett and Gable have no sparks. The murder plot meanders so much and their romance is so forced that in the end the whole film seems run of the mill. This one is forgettable. Not awful, but forgettable.
In a Nutshell: Call of the Wild (1935)
Directed by: William Wellman
Co-stars: Loretta Young, Jack Oakie
Synopsis: Gable is Jack Thornton, on the hunt for a gold mine through the tundra with his sidekick Shorty (Oakie). As they struggle through the mountains in the bitter cold, they encounter Claire Blake (Young) who is stranded alone after her husband left her to search for food. They discover that Claire and her husband were after the same gold mine. Aided by their trusty dog Buck, they find the mine and along the way Claire and Jack fall in love. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as Claire’s husband reappears and a rival turns up to claim the mine as his own.
Best Gable Quote: “I wanted you. And I took you with us. Well, I’m keeping you.”
Fun Fact: Gable and Young had an affair during filming. Only the cast and crew of the film knew about it then and the affair ended after filming wrapped. Young became pregnant and had the baby, a girl named Judy, on November 6, 1935. Gable never admitted parentage and Young put the child in an orphanage and then “adopted” her months later. She only admitted the truth to Judy in the 1990′s, shortly before her death. Judy wrote a book about the experience being the secret love child of two classic stars, called Uncommon Knowledge. Read more about it here.
My Verdict: The scandal surrounding the filming of this movie is what draws people to it nowadays, I think. And with that Loretta Young romance being considered, it is definitely an essential for Gable fans to see. But all that aside, this atill stands as a really good film. The Washington location shoot and its bitter cold may have been less than ideal shooting conditions but they definitely add perfect ambiance, as too many times did the studios throw together a film like this on their backlot and the outcome is less than ideal. Loretta and Clark are so sweet together and their scenes together just sparkle. Being a dog lover myself, I like Clark scenes with Buck, as he is just a natural with animals and it shows. This is not the most faithful adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel, but it’s a delightful film and a must see.
In a Nutshell: Chained (1934)
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Otto Kruger
Synopsis: Gable is Mike Bradley, a South American rancher who falls for the glamorous Diana (Crawford) on a cruise ship. Diana falls for Mike too, despite the fact that she is romantically involved with a married Manhattan businessman, Richard (Kruger). She decides to leave Richard for Mike but, upon her return home, Richard tells her he has finally left his wife for her. Diana feels obligated to marry Richard and Mike is heartbroken.
Best Gable Quote: “I admit I was on the prowl until you dropped down from the sky.”
Fun Fact: The Crawford-Gable affair had cooled off by this time, as she was with Franchot Tone and he was seeing Elizabeth Allan as well as still being married to Ria. Joan claims however, that they still had some “alone moments” on the set.
My Verdict: Enjoyable little ship romance. The script is good and it’s actually a good little plot, although the conclusion seems a bit farfetched to me. I really like Clark and Joan’s chemistry in this film, mainly because it is at times silly and sweet, rather than sultry. This role was no stretch for Clark, but the film is a good example of early 1930’s romance and it’s a good one to start with if you’re interested in seeing why Clark and Joan were paired together so many times.
In a Nutshell: Forsaking All Others (1934)
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Co-stars: Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery
Synopsis: Clark is Jeffrey Williams, who still harbors a childhood crush on Mary Clay (Crawford). Upon returning from a two year jaunt in Spain, he has plans to finally propose to her until he learns that she is set to marry his best friend, Dillon “Dill” Todd (Montgomery), the next day. He swallows his feelings and agrees to give the bride away. Dill gets an unexpected visit from an old flame, Connie Barnes (Francis Drake), and ends up running off to marry her, sending Mary a telegram explaining and apologizing. Heartbroken, Mary retreats to a cabin to nurse her wounds. She decides to come back to town with encouragement from Jeff and after receiving an invitation from Connie to attend her and Dill’s dinner party. At the party, Dill realizes he is still in love with Mary and soon after they begin seeing each other again, behind Connie’s back. Jeff is Mary’s voice of reason, trying to tell her that Dill will only break her heart again and she is leaving herself vulnerable, all the while hiding his feelings.
Best Gable Quote: “You’re an idiot. A spoiled, silly brat that needs a hairbrush every now and then.” (How many people would dare say that to Joan Crawford?!)
Fun Fact: The screenplay was based on a 1933 play of the same name that starred Tallulah Bankhead. The play had much more of a sexual undertone which was watered down for the film version.
My Verdict: I love the script to this film; it really gives life to what would otherwise have been a rather tired and hokey premise. The film overall is rather silly but it’s great fun. The cast is phenomenal: Gable, Crawford, Montgomery, Billie Burke, even Rosalind Russell in a tiny part. Enjoyable, lovable 30’s romantic comedy fluff.
From September 1931:
Clark Gable is playing opposite Greta Garbo in her new picture. One day at lunch he was approached by an ambitious reporter. “How do you find Miss Garbo?” he was asked.
“I don’t,” said Clark. “She is always on the set ahead of me.”
And what’s more–they say Clark isn’t a bit “scared” of Greta like most of the other leading men who have played opposite her.
In a Nutshell: Men in White (1934)
Directed by: Richard Boleslawski
Co-stars: Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Allan, Otto Kruger
Synopsis: Gable is George Ferguson, a young doctor working hard to prove himself at a New York hospital. He puts medicine and his patients before all else, much to the chagrin of his heiress fiancé, Laura (Loy). He soon learns that all work and no play lead him open to temptation and he falls for Barbara (Allan), a nurse, with devastating consequences.
Best Gable Quote: “What good’s a profession that can’t give you bread and butter after you’ve wasted ten years of your life at it?”
Fun Fact: On the set of this film, Clark began a two-year romance with his married co-star Elizabeth Allan.
My Verdict: I’ve always thought this must have been a better play than a film. The restraints on what they could portray on film were too tight on this tale of sex and abortion. It is rather hard to follow when the main plot points are only hinted at. The Art Deco hospital set is gorgeous (and a bit ridiculous) and Myrna Loy had never looked more beautiful. Clark is showing eeks of dramatic chops here and it works, although his constant costume of what looks like a white Frankenstein costume completely with clunky white shoes isn’t at all flattering!
In a Nutshell: Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Co-stars: Myrna Loy, William Powell
Synopsis: Gable is Blackie Gallagher, a gambling, gun-slinging gangster, who remains best friends with his childhood pal, Jim Wade (Powell), an ambitious lawyer. Blackie’s girl, Eleanor (Loy) grows tired of the shady side of life and soon falls in love with Jim and marries him. Jim is promoted to district attorney and starts a campaign to become New York’s next governor. When a blackmailer threatens Jim’s campaign, Blackie decides to handle the situation himself and kills the man. On trial, Jim has no choice but to prosecute Blackie and he is sentenced to death. The conviction helps Jim win the election, but on the day of Blackie’s execution, Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie and reveals to him that Blackie killed the man to protect Jim. Jim rushes to the prison to commune Blackie’s sentence, but Blackie refuses to let Jim waver on his original decision. After Blackie is put to death, Jim resigns as governor and makes up with Eleanor at the fade out.
Best Gable Quote: “If I can’t live the way I want, at least let me die when I want.”
Fun Fact: The first film that costarred Myrna Loy and William Powell. They hadn’t even met before they began filming their first scene. Director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke noticed their onscreen chemistry and requested them both to star in his next feature, The Thin Man. They would go on to become one of classic film’s most popular onscreen duos, starring in fourteen films together.
My Verdict: The cast makes this one. Carole Lombard’s past husband and future husband are good sparring partners. Willam Powell is perfect as the straight-laced politician and of course Clark is at home as the gamblin’ shootin’ rogue. Myrna Loy is gorgeous and gives a fine performance as the woman caught between two men, one good for her and one not. The film is a nice mix of gangster, drama and romance.
It has some interesting quotes from Clark Gable about playing Rhett Butler:
“One critic’s going to cause me trouble. I feel it in my bones. He said I ought to retire because I could never top my performance as Rhett. I like to be patted on the back as well as the next guy, but, boy, that pat has the makings of a knockout blow. I don’t want people getting the idea that, from here on, I’ll be slipping. God forbid. And I don’t want people going to see Gable in Gone with the Wind and coming way disappointed because they expected to see a super-Gable. There just ain’t no such animal.”
“I tried to duck that Rhett assignment, you know. I didn’t want any part of it. I had my neck out far enough; acting characters that only script writers had ideas about in advance, without sticking it out where everybody could take a swipe at it. Everybody this side of Tibet had read the book, and everybody had different ideas about Rhett, and it was a cinch I couldn’t please everybody.”
“They tried to tell me I was ‘everybody’s choice for the role.’ They showed me carloads of letters to ‘prove’ it. The only way that made me feel good was that, in case I did play the role and there were any complaints”—he grinned again—“I could always say, ‘Folks, you asked for it!’”
“Then they tried to make out that Margaret Mitchell had had me in mind when she created the character. That didn’t go down with me. The book came out in 1936. She had been writing it for three solid years before that, and planning it for years before that. According to my figuring, she thought of Rhett Butler long before anybody, anywhere, thought of me twice.”
“I had an answer for all their arguments except one. That one floored me. It was: if I played Rhett, Selznick would release the picture through MGM, which would mean a lot to the home team.
“…But once I got into the spirit of the thing, I played my fool head off. And had a good time doing it—with Victor Fleming coaching and with running mates like Leigh and Howard and de Havilland. The only thing that bothers me is: I still don’t know what kind of showing I made.
“I like the picture; I think it’s a good one; but that doesn’t mean a thing. I got paid for making it. Besides, any ham likes any picture that gives him a meaty role. And what critics say doesn’t mean much, either. They see shows on passes. The opinion I’m waiting for is the opinion of the fellow who plunks down thirty-five cents of his own hard-earned dough to see it. Meanwhile, I’m not retiring.”
You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.
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