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Clark Gable is one of my favourite actors, although he died before I was born.  Whenever I watch his films, I can always see just why he was so popular – women loved him, and men wanted to be like him.  He was the ultimate in masculinity, and was not known as King of Hollywood for nothing.

This book is a fairly decent biography, which seems pretty evenhanded throughout.  It does a good job of telling the facts – although there are a couple of errors regarding some of the films – so in a sense, it does do its job, but while I understand that it is impossible to include every single story from someone’s life, I felt that certain things were missed out, which should have been included.  For instance, the book acknowledges that Gable wanted to boycott the premiere of Gone With The Wind, out of solidarity with his  friend Victor Fleming, who was in dispute with producer David Selznick, over his (Fleming’s) directorial credit.  However, it did not even give mention to the well documented fact that Gable was furious that the black members of the cast would not be able to sit with the white members of the cast at the premiere due to Atlanta’s segregation laws, and that he wanted to boycott the premiere for this reason.  Such an occurrence reveals a lot about the measure of a man, and I was amazed that it wasn’t included.

However, the book does a fairly good job of describing Gable’s rise to movie star from very humble beginnings, and generally portrays him as an approachable and agreeable man, easy to work with, and courteous and kind by nature.  It goes into detail about his five marriages – one can’t help but wonder what would have happened had his very happy marriage to actress Carole Lombard not have been cut tragically short by her death in a plane crash.

I would recommend the book to fellow Gable fans – it might not be the most comprehensive biography available, but it’s certainly readable, and respectful without being fawning.

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This Clark Gable/Jean Harlow/Myrna Loy film is billed as a comedy, but I thought it was more of a drama, albeit with some funny moments.  Gable (at his most gorgeous – I swooned!) is Van Stanhope, successful publishing executive, who is happily married to Linda (Myrna Loy).  Van’s secretary Helen Wilson, known as Whitey, is played by Jean Harlow.  Linda (wrongly) begins to suspect that Van is cheating on her with Whitey, and her suspicions threaten to destroy their marriage.

All three leads were wonderful.  This was actually the first film I had seen Jean Harlow in, and it was not hard to see why she was so adored.  She was an original blonde bombshell, and I don’t think that most photos of her do her justice.  Gable was wonderful as Van, a devoted husband who was so shrewd in business, but so utterly incapable of recognising his tendency to place himself in situations that made him look guilty even when he wasn’t.  Myrna Loy was beautiful as the confused Linda, who started the film full of warmth and happiness, and became colder and more remote as her suspicions chipped away at her.  James Stewart also appeared in the film as Whitey’s boyfriend Dave, who has his own suspicions about her and Van.  It was a small role, the likes of which Stewart would not play again once his own star had risen in Hollywood, but as ever, he was endearing and sweet.

As mentioned earlier, there were fewer laughs than I had expected, but lots of emotion, and I really enjoyed this film.  I would recommend it to fans of any of the three main leads, or anyone who just enjoys good films.

Year of release: 1936

Director: Clarence Brown

Producers: Hunt Stromberg, Clarence Brown

Writers: Norman Krasna, John Lee Mahin, Alice Duer Miller, Faith Baldwin (story from Cosmopolitan magazine)

Main cast: Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow

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In 1939, one of the most popular films of all time – Gone With The Wind – was made, and of course as we all know now, it was a roaring success.  Although Clark Gable was cast pretty quickly (and somewhat reluctantly) as Rhett Butler, the casting of Scarlett O’Hara was a real problem for the producer David O Selznick.  Almost every star in Hollywood wanted the part, and – possibly to drum up publicity for the film – a nationwide search was launched to find the woman who would play Scarlett.  This film, which is adapted from Garson Kanin’s book, Moviola, is a dramatisation of the search for Scarlett, and features actors playing many famous stars of the time.

It’s a very entertaining film.  I cannot be certain how much of it is fictionalised (did Joan Crawford, who was already a star by the time of Gone With The Wind, really need to sleep with David Selznick in an attempt to secure a role?!  If so, she must have been REALLY angry when she didn’t even get the role.)

Apart from Tony Curtis, who headed the cast as Selznick, and Harold Gould, who was suitably sleazy and manipulative as Louis B Mayer, head of MGM and father-in-law of Selznick, the stand-put member of the cast was Edward Winter as Clark Gable.  Winter looked the part, and also captured Gable’s speech patterns perfectly.  There were a few amusing nods to other films being made at the time – Mayer mentions that he is making The Wizard of Oz, but doesn’t like one of the songs in it (Somewhere Over The Rainbow), beccause it’s basically not happy enough!  It is also mentioned that Charlie Chaplin is making a film about Hitler, which of course became The Great Dictator.

(I actually find it quite amusing that in the end, despite all the searching and all the huge stars in Hollywood wanting the role of Scarlett, it eventually went to a young British actress, who played the part to perfection!)

Being completely unable to find a trailer or a clip from this film online, I chose instead to use this picture of Sharon Gless and Edward Winter as Carole Lombard and Clark Gable.   It seems that The Scarlett O’Hara War is a little known film, which is a shame. I would definitely recommend it, both as a nod to the 1930s, when the film was being made, and especially to fans of Gone With The Wind.  There is lots of drama, plenty of laughs, and a peek inside the sordidness that could inhabit the movie industry.  Very enjoyable.

Year of release: 1980

Director: John Erman

Producers: David L. Wolper, Stan Margulies

Writers: Garson Kanin (book), William Hanley

Main cast: Tony Curtis, Bill Macy, Harold Gould, George Furth, Edward Winter, Sharon Gless, Barrie Youngfellow, Carrie Nye

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Click here for my review of Gone With The Wind (film)

Click here for my review of Gone With The Wind (novel)

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This 1955 film stars Clark Gable as Hank Lee, an American living in Hong Kong, who runs a successful smuggling business. Susan Hayward plays Jane Hoyt, a woman who comes to Hong Kong to search for her photographer husband, who has been kidnapped. The authorities can’t help her, but maybe Hank Lee can. However, the attraction between Jane and Hank complicates matters.

This is not one of Clark Gable’s better known films, which is a shame, because it’s really very good. Here, he is doing what he did best – being all sexy and bad-ass!!  Even as he got older, Gable still had that twinkle in his eye, and that quality of charming rascalliness (if that’s a word!). He is great here as Hank Lee – a man of dubious business dealings, but who certainly has some honour and integrity. He and Susan Hayward certainly have plenty of chemistry and the attraction between them was beautifully played – she reluctant to follow up on it, because after all, she is married and her husband may be in danger; he anxious to find her husband, because he feels that he can’t compete with a ghost. The relationship is real and believeable.

The story of Hank’s rescue attempt of Jane’s husband is also filled with tension, but for me the real enjoyment of this film came from the relationship between the two main characters. This was a film I had never heard of, but spotted it one day on television and decided to give it a try. I’m very glad I did, and this is certainly a film I would like to watch again.

Definitely recommended, especially for fans of Clark Gable.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Producer: Buddy Adler

Writer: Ernest K. Gann

Main cast: Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie, Alex D’Arcy

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This film is essentially a remake of 1932’s Red Dust – and the film-makers obviously thought that the only man who could reprise Clark Gable’s role from the original was Gable himself – because he is the star of both films. Gable plays Victor Marswell, a big game hunter in Kenya. When earthy, sexy Eloise Kelly (Ava Gardner) arrives, the couple have a brief relationship. Things change when Donald and Linda Nordley (Donald Sinden and Grace Kelly) come to stay, Victor falls for Linda – and the feeling seems mutual…

I haven’t seen the film of which this is apparently a remake, but most reviews say that the earlier film is the better one. However, I really enjoyed Mogambo. Clark Gable is always worth watching, and although he looks older here, he still has that sex appeal that he is known for. He is well matched with Ava Gardner, who is simply stunning. Beautiful, sexy and funny, a large part of what made this film so enjoyable, was Ava’s performance (she more or less steals the show). I’ve always thought that Grace Kelly was over-rated as an actress, and although her performance here is fine, she pales in comparison to her two co-stars.

The adventure aspect of the story takes a back seat to the romance/love triangle aspect, but this is still an exciting and engaging film. I particularly loved the scenes were Eloise Kelly was feeding the animals.

If there was anything about this film that I didn’t like, it was probably the ending. I won’t spoil it by saying what happens, but I was surprised and slightly disappointed. Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable film, which held my attention throughout. Definitely recommended.

Year of release: 1953

Director: John Ford

Writers: Wilson Collison (play), John Lee Mahin

Main cast: Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden

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It Started in Naples is a 1960 romantic comedy, starring Clark Gable (it was his penultimate film, and the last of his films to be released during his lifetime) and a young Sophia Loren. Gable is Mike Hamilton, a lawyer from Philadelphia who has come to Naples to settle the estate of his deceased brother, who deserted his family ten years earlier. Upon arriving in Naples, Mike is stunned to discover that his brother had an eight year old son, who is currently being brought up by an aunt named Lucia (Loren). Mike dissaproves of Lucia’s bohemian upbringing of the boy Nando and thinks the boy would be better off brought up in America. However, he soon begins to fall for the beauty of the country, and the charms of Lucia…

I really enjoyed this film. Gable is terrific as Mike – some reviewers have said that the age difference between him and Loren spoiled the film, but as far as I could see, he definitely still had that twinkle in his eye, and I thought there was definite chemistry between them (although they did not get on terribly well off-screen).

Sophia Loren was – well! Talk about va-va-voom! She looked absolutely stunning, and played the part of Lucia brilliantly. Although she was flirty and fun-loving, it was easy to see that she genuinely cared about Nando.

The little boy himself was utterly charming – it’s no wonder that Mike also grows to love him.

The setting of the film is perfect – it was filmed on location in Italy, and is mainly set on the Isle of Capri, which looked beautiful, and definitely made me want to visit there (I wonder if it is as breath-taking over 50 years later?).

Plenty of humour is to be found in this film; the scenes that Gable played for laughs worked very well indeed, and it is really a perfect film to kick back and relax with. Definitely recommended.

Year of release: 1960

Director: Melville Shavelson

Writers: Michael Pertwee, Jack Davies, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Main cast: Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, Marietto

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This is one of the most famous films of all time, and probably needs no introduction!  It is the lavish and ambitious adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s epic, telling the story of the manipulative Scarlett O’Hara and the roguish Rhett Butler, during and after the war.

Some adaptations are disastrous, but I felt that this certainly did the novel justice; having recently read the book I wanted to see the film while the story was fresh in my mind.  There are some slight changes (for instance Scarlett’s first two children Wade and Ella are not in the film at all), but overall the film remains faithful to the original story.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh are perfect in the two main roles (maybe I think this because they are forever associated with the characters and even when reading the book – having not seen the film at that time – I pictured them as Rhett and Scarlett).  It is certainly difficult to imagine Basil Rathbone – Mitchell’s original choice for the role – as Rhett.  Over 1400 actresses read for the part of Scarlett and 400 of those were given screen tests – but it’s hard to imagine that they could have picked a better actress for the part than Leigh.  However, the best performances in the film came from Hattie McDaniel as Mammy, one of the house servants at Scarlett’s home; and Olivia de Havilland as Ashley’s wife Melanie (McDaniel and Leigh received Oscars for their roles, while de Havilland and Gable were nominated for their parts).

I did lose myself in the movie – it’s very long at almost 4 hours, but it didn’t feel like it – but there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a a movie with a lot of sadness and tragedy – my emotions were certainly put through the wringer!  As when reading the book, I veered from dislike of Scarlett to a begrudging respect for her, and I found myself liking Rhett despite myself – but the real heroine of this story is surely Melanie – who was full of grace, kindness and forgiveness.

The cinematography is lush and vivid, considering that the film was made in 1939 – it simply looks fantastic and certainly immerses the viewer right into the story.

Well worth watching – but you need to put a whole evening aside for it, and it may be as well to keep something cheerful put by for afterwards!

Year of release: 1939

Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited), Sam Wood (uncredited)

Writers: Margaret Mitchell (book), Sidney Howard, Oliver H.P. Garrett, Ben Hecht, Jo Swerling, John Van Druten

Main cast: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Leslie Howard

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the film ‘Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War’.

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