If you know anything about classic Hollywood, then you know that on set romances are as common as chain smoking.
People made up, broke up and repeated the process all over again.
In the case of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, they did all of things – and then some.
Perhaps the most infamous couple is Hollywood history (besides Brad and Angelina) Joan and Clark had a long history of lust filled glances, late night phone conversations, and on set dalliances.
It first started all the way back in 1931 with Dance, Fools, Dance. Crawford‘s star was quickly rising in Hollywood and Gable was struggling to find his footing on the silver screen. It wasn’t until Crawford specifically chose Gable to star alongside her that his career really started to kick into gear.
“it was like an electric current went through my body…my knees buckled…if he hadn’t held me by the shoulders, I’d have dropped.”
– Crawford on meeting Gable for the first time
The production of this movie went pretty swiftly, and after filming ended, Crawford wanted to work with Gable again.
The next project they worked on was 1931’s Laughing Sinners. It wasn’t a memorable film, but Gable and Crawford continued to get to know one another. I will say that it is an enjoyable film and I hope I get to watch it again someday.
For all the flirtatious looks they had on set with this movie, it doesn’t compare to the blazing fire that they sent into overdrive on their next movie, Possessed.
This is where Hollywood lore was made.
By this point, Gable‘s star was rising and he was a hot commodity. Crawford was a bonafide star, at this point she was dubbed the ‘Queen of Hollywood.’
So, what happens when you combine a handsome young actor with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars?
Well…, let’s just say that many things were exchanged between the two, in more ways than one.
Here’s a quote from Crawford on how she felt about Gable during this time:
“In the picture, we were madly in love. When the scenes ended, the emotion didn’t–we were each playing characters very close to our own.”
– Joan Crawford, from Clark Gable by Chrystopher J. Spicer
While filming Possessed their affair become public knowledge, and naturally the MGM studio higher ups weren’t too pleased with this. Gable and Joan‘s affair nearly turned Hollywood on its head
It got to the point where Louis B Mayer requested that the two stop their romance. Of course, they didn’t comply and Mayer then threatened to destroy their careers.
Eventually they did separate after enough pressing from studio heads, but they didn’t quit seeing each other.
According to some sources, they continued to fool around even while they were married to other people.
Not my cup of tea, but I digress.
In the end, the couple never stopped loving each other, and it shows when Joan talked about him after Gable‘s death.
“Lovemaking never felt with anyone like what it did with Clark.”
– Joan Crawford, from Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence J. Quirk & William Schoell
There have been many movies over the years that exemplify this precious sentiment. What there hasn’t been, however, is a film that makes sticking to what you believe in a matter of life or death.
Manhattan Melodrama is a film about convictions, love, and how far one is willing to go to keep them together.
Director W.S Van Dyke tells the story of two boys who grow up together, and how time and different circumstances lead them to live different lives.
Clark Gable and William Powell star as ‘Blackie’ Gallagher and Jim Wade, the two boys whose friendship is thicker than blood. Their friendship goes through countless ups and downs, through several trials and tribulations, but despite those hardships, Wade and ‘Blackie’ were inseparable.
Their misfortunes begin at the beginning of the film when the cruise liner they were traveling on catches fire, leaving everyone to fend for themselves.
This unlucky accident has both of their parents die in the frenzied blaze, leaving both of the boys parentless. As the boys and other survivors swim to safety, they run into a homely man named Poppa Rosen (played by George Sidney.) It’s shown that he also lost a family member, a son, the same age as ‘Blackie’ and Wade.
As the trio grieve together, Rosen offers to become their guardian. With nowhere else to go, the boys jump at the opportunity.
A couple of years pass by and everything seems to be going well for the boys (well, at least for one of them.) Wade is studying to become a district attorney and ‘Blackie’ is dipping his toes into the grimy world of petty crime.
After living comfortably with Rosen for a few years, he’s accidentally trampled to death by a policeman’s horse at a pro-Communism rally.
The movie skips ahead to the year 1920, where Wade has triumphantly become District Attorney and ‘Blackie’ runs an illegal gambling ‘joint’.
Both boys have found success in very, very different lines of work.
The law is the only thing that keeps them separated.
The two boys – now men – run into each other one night at a boxing match. They laugh, and joke around like old pals, prompting ‘Blackie’ to invite Jim out for drinks. Jim declines citing work as his excuse. That doesn’t deter ‘Blackie’ though. If he couldn’t be there he’ll send the next best thing, Eleanor – his mistress girlfriend (played by Myrna Loy.)
When Eleanor and Jim meet, she’s immediately impressed by the class and charms that oozes out of Wade, the polar opposite of ‘Blackie’s’ brash and coarse demeanor.
Eleanor returns from her impromptu ‘date’ and she realizes that she doesn’t want to live the “gangster” lifestyle anymore and ends her romance with ‘Blackie,’ eventually marrying Jim.
Her decision proves to be the correct one when a couple of days later a man who owed ‘Blackie’ money is mysteriously shot in his hotel room.
The man behind the crime?
Edward J. ‘Blackie’ Gallagher.
But, Wade doesn’t know that.
Run he starts his campaign for governor later that year, his assistant Richard Snow essentially harasses him into looking deeper into the murder case. If Jim doesn’t comply with his wishes, Snow would expose his close friendship to ‘Blackie’ thus ruining his chances of winning the race.
Coincidentally, Eleanor and ‘Blackie’ reunite at a horse track, where Eleanor explains the predicament that Wade has got himself into.
‘Blackie’ being an all-around “bad guy” tells her that she shouldn’t worry and that he’ll “take care of this, himself.”
We all know what this means.
Lo and behold, ‘Blackie’ shoots Wade’s assistant point blank in a restroom during a hockey game in Madison Square Garden. Because, why not?
What ‘Blackie’ thought to be a blind man sitting outside the restroom when he committed the crime turned out to be a concerned citizen who quickly reports the crime to the police.
Jim is now forced to choose between two of the things that he loves the most: his career or persecuting ‘Blackie.’ He wins his gubernatorial race, but his mind can’t shake the obvious conflict of interests.
Ultimately, his conscience takes over, as much as it pains him to do so and against the objections of his wife, he prosecutes ‘Blackie’ for both murders sentencing him to death by electric chair.
He almost retracts his sentencing, however, when Jim visits ‘Blackie’ in prison, he reiterates to him that he’s proud that he stuck to his conscience and didn’t relent in his charges. Agreeing, Wade gives up and lets ‘Blackie’ have a peaceful death.
The movie ends with Jim tendering his resignation from his governor seat, stating that a murder influenced the result of his election, therefore, making it invalid.
When you combine the genius of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the directorial magic of W.S Van Dyke, you’re bound to get magic on the silver screen.
That’s exactly what makes Manhattan Melodrama a film that deserves more recognition. This movie has it all: excellent writing (absolutely incredible, I can’t stress that enough), outstanding acting, and exceptional directing – the trifecta.
W.S Van Dyke has quickly become one of my favorite directors because of pictures like this. He has the magic touch when it comes to movies where you need to have that delicate balance of drama and comedy (e.g The Thin Man.) Though ‘MMD’ isn’t necessarily a comedy, there were several moments in the film where the witty banter between Powell and Gable flowed organically, like they’ve known each other all their life.
For that, we have Mr. Mankiewicz to thank.
Manhattan Melodrama is a film that will make you reflect on what you truly believe and whether or not you can stand for it when the going gets tough. Not only is the film visually stunning and terrifically written, it also has an underlying message of morality and virtue.
There are not many movies that could do this, but ‘Melodrama’ is one of the few that does it so well.
If you wish to read the rest of the entries in the blogathon, click here.
Starring a wicked cast of Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and Clark “The King of Hollywood“ Gable, Wife vs Secretary‘s title is pretty self-explanatory.
Loy and Gable play Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope, a couple who are very much in love. In fact, as the movie begins, we see the two about to celebrate their third wedding anniversary with breakfast.
However, Linda Stanhope (played by Myrna Loy) notices that her publisher husband Van (played by Clark Gable) forgot to give her a gift to celebrate their anniversary. Rather perturbed by the whole ordeal, Linda proceeds to give Van the cold shoulder as they sit down to eat together.
After of few moments of bickering, Linda believes her day is ruined. The problem is only resolved when she takes a knife and fork to her plate, revealing that Van had actually hidden her gift (a bracelet) in the belly of the fish she was about to devour. Surprised, all of the fighting they did a few seconds ago flies out the window.
Ohh, Van, you’re always three steps ahead!
What a great husband!
The only person who is actively looking for kinks in this marriage is Van’s mother, Mimi Stanhope (played by May Robson.)
You see, Mimi thinks that her son’s secretary, Helen ‘Whitey’ Wilson (played by Jean Harlow) is too attractive to be working for her son up to no good. She believes that Ms. Wilson is a serious threat to her son’s marriage, despite Helen having absolutely no interest in him. Mimi even tells Linda about the potential incoming danger, but thankfully, she pays no mind to the baseless rumor about her husband.
Unfortunately, the rumors only intensify when Linda’s friends happen to have the same opinion as her mother- in- law.
Faced with a barrage of accusations, Linda stands by her man.
You go, girl!
Even though we’ve seen multiple people confirm that there’s no truth to the rumor – including ‘Whitey’ and Van – there’s always that one person to take it personally; this time, that person is Helen’s fiancé, Joe (played by James Stewart.) Joe doesn’t like how his bride-to-be is spending so much time with a man who isn’t him. This time disparity makes him feel very insecure about his relationship with her.
Hoping to, possibly, tie her down for good, Joe proposes marriage. Helen declines, citing her devotion to work with Van on a ‘secret’ plan to buy a rival newspaper. Van fears that the news of the ‘takeover’ might leak to the press, so, he hides it from everybody- except his lovely secretary, ‘Whitey.’
*RED FLAG ALERT*
The secrecy surrounding the project only deepens the divide between Linda and Van. It isn’t until an office get-together celebrating her husband’s business: Stanhope Publishing, that Linda goes off the deep end. At an ice skating party nonetheless, Linda witnesses Helen getting a little too cozy with her husband.
For Linda, this is the last straw.
She asks Van to transfer ‘Whitey’ to another office, which leads to an argument between the two. Fortunately, the Stanhopes make up later that same night.
Fast-forward a few days, and Van books a trip to Havana with the hope that Linda forgives him for not firing ‘Whitey.’ Everything seems to be looking up for the Stanhopes, right?
Quickly after Van books the flight to Cuba, he finds out that the man who runs the magazine that he’s trying to buy is, coincidentally, also in Havana. Trying to stay ahead of game, Van uninvites his wife and switches ticket name to Helen. For some reason, Linda doesn’t seem to mind, at this point of the film, she accepts the fact that her husband is having an affair. The two travel to Havana and manage to close the deal.
While Linda is back at home, heartbroken, ‘Whitey’ and Van drunkenly celebrate closing the deal in Havana. Obviously, with alcohol comes wandering hands. Van and Helen, for a moment, become strongly attracted to each other.
Checking in on her husband, as a loving wife would do, Linda calls Van’s hotel room from New York. The phone rings and ‘Whitey’ promptly picks up the phone.
Linda hears her voice, hangs up the phone, and assumes the worst. A few days later, Van returns to New York and attempts to explain what happened. Linda doesn’t want to hear it and begins filing for divorce. Lonely and devasted, Van decides to go sailing to Bermuda and invites ‘Whitey’ to help ease his loneliness. By this point, Helen has fallen in love with Van, so of course, she isn’t going to say no.
After spending a few moments together, Helen realizes that Van will never love her as much as he loves his wife. Hoping to get the couple back together, Helen visits Linda on a cruise about to set sail for Europe, a few days before she and Van take off for Bermuda.
Figuring out that this is her last chance to convince Linda to go back to Van, Helen pleads to her claiming that, she would be a “fool” to let a man like Van go. After thinking it over, Linda, finally, goes back to Van. Luckily, they both forgive each other. ‘Whitey’ goes back to Joe and Linda and Van make up, for good.
I really wish more people would watch this movie. It really is a sweet film, and the trio of Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, and Jean Harlow work very well. There were many moments in the picture where I genuinely felt terrible for Myrna Loy‘s character. Particularly the scene where she calls her husband and it’s ‘Whitey’ that picks up the phone. I can feel her disappointment and anguish through the screen, it was palpable.
As for Jean Harlow, this was one of the many roles of Jean‘s that I really enjoyed. Her character of Helen played the perfect ‘foil’ to Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope’s relationship. It made it very bittersweet when Van did get back with his wife at the end because she seemed like such a nice girl, but, hey what can you do?
Finally, we can’t talk about this movie without discussing Clark Gable. Clark is everyone’s dream husband in this. He loves Linda with such devotion, it’s hard not to root for the guy. Even though I was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t run away with Helen at the end of the film, I still very much enjoyed the chemistry between himself and Myrna Loy.
All in all, Wife vs Secretary is a fantastic movie, and it most certainly does this blogathon justice. If you haven’t seen it, please do! It really is an incredible movie and you definitely won’t regret it, I certainly didn’t.
If you ever wanted to roam the savannas of Kenya with two gorgeous women and a very gray Clark Gable, then Mogambo may be the movie for you.
Directed by John Ford and filmed on location in Tanzania and Kenya, Mogambo isno one’s favorite movie, unless you ask me.
Kelly. Gable. Ford. Gardner in Africa
I can’t think of anything better.
The film starts off with Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (played by Ava Gardner) taking a shower to cool off from the hot African sun. It appears that Eloise is in Africa hoping to meet up with a rich maharajah who promised her that he takes care of her for the rest of her life. True to classic Hollywood form that doesn’t happen, so, Eloise is stuck in the middle of Kenya, with no money and no man.
Right after we get introduced to the raven-haired beauty, we meet a very gray-looking Clark Gable who’s playing a big game hunter named Victor Marswell.
Victor Marswell is your typical 1950s male. Big, strong, brash, and attracted to women half his age. These characteristics are the most apparent in the scene where Victor stumbles upon Eloise scantily clad in a robe, just inches away from stepping out of the shower. The two trade jabs for a few moments until Eloise tells him why she’s really here.
Amused, but slightly annoyed, Victor, begrudgingly agrees to let Eloise stay on the reservation until the next boat to the airport swings by. During those few days, Victor and Eloise develop feelings for each other.
Here’s where things get a bit tricky.
Off to the horizon, a boat gets docked. In it brings a lovely pair named the Nordleys – Donald (played by Donald Sinden) and Linda (played by Grace Kelly.) The Nordleys are wealthy English couple who came to this Kenyan reservation with the hope of being able to go into gorilla country.
Victor, being the grumpy old man that he is, flat out refuses to re-adjust his schedule just to play tour guide to a couple of privileged Brits. Meanwhile, when all of this is happening, Eloise returns to the reservation due to a malfunction on the passenger boat that she intended to take out of Africa.
The next morning, Eloise and Linda convene for some breakfast. For some reason, Eloise takes the liberty to tell Linda about all of her past sexual escapades. This, understandably, makes Linda uncomfortable, but, this interaction is a good indicator of what their relationship will look like as the film progresses.
Those brief exchange of words prompts Linda to take a stroll around the reservation to get her thoughts in order. While out on this walk, she stumbles upon a black leopard ready to pounce.
Unbeknownst to Linda, Victor was behind her the entire time, making sure that she doesn’t get killed. If it wasn’t for his heroics, Linda would’ve been a dead woman, and we couldn’t have that, can we? On their way back to the base, an unnatural wind-storm stirs up around them, which forces Victor too, literally, sweep Linda off her feet and carry her to safety.
This intense moment, obviously, causes Linda to see Victor in a different light – a romantic light.
Well, “oh, no!” you say, “Linda’s married!”
The conflict arises.
Later that night at dinner, Eloise notices that things are a little bit tense between Linda and Victor. She quickly catches the drift and starts subtly teasing the two during the entire meal. In order to ease tensions (or in my opinion, escalate them) Victor announces that he’s had a change of heart and will take the Nordleys to see the gorillas, albeit resentfully.
Eloise, pretty much sick of Africa, tags along on the trek so she could leave the group halfway to catch (another) flight back to the States. So, the group leaves the reservation in search of some gorillas, but, as everyone else is trying to enjoy the scenery (mainly Linda’s husband) Eloise, Linda and Victor are stuck in a love triangle.
How about that?
Poor Donald Nordley, all he wanted to see were some gorillas, and all he got was his wife falling in love with a man who looks like Clark Gable.
It’s a pity.
On their way to gorilla country, the group takes a ‘pit stop’ at a mission run by a priest named Father Josef (played by Denis O’Dea) who agrees to lend Victor a few canoes so that he could, safely, cross a rather aggressive river. While Victor is retrieving those canoes, Eloise takes this opportunity to confess to Father Josef about the things that have been weighing heavily on her heart (aka let me tell someone that this lady has been cheating on her husband of 7 years.)
The Father suggests that Eloise should go and attempt to make a friend out of Mrs. Nordley. She takes him up on that offer and apologizes for everything she’s done, while simultaneously extending a hand of friendship. Linda rebuffs her advances, creating an even deeper divide between the two women.
After getting the canoes, the group continues on into the jungles of Kenya. They finally reach a checkpoint where Eloise would be dropped off.
Upon landing on this territory, they find the station manager badly injured from what appears to be a native uprising the night before. This setback causes Eloise to miss her flight (again) and now, she’s stuck on this tour until they head back to the reservation.
As they’re escorting the man out they get attacked by the same tribe that injured him in the first place. Luckily, they manage to escape unscathed.
That night, the group finally reaches gorilla country. After a long day of traveling, everyone comfortably settles down into their campsites. Eloise is busy talking to a tour guide about her late ex-husband, Mr. Nordley is blissfully unaware of what’s happening to his wife, and Victor and Linda are nowhere to be found.
Actually, they’re out taking a moonlight stroll together, but, her husband doesn’t care! He’s out here to see some gorillas.
While out on their midnight walk, Victor and Linda fall into a very passionate embrace. We all knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when; I suppose under the moon in an African jungle sounds like the perfect time to do it.
Realizing what she’s done, Linda sprints back to base camp where she finds her husband fast asleep. He wakes up when she enters their tent and Mr. Nordley proceeds to embrace his wife. Ashamed and on the verge of tears she refuses his affections and promptly goes to bed.
The next morning, Victor takes the Nordleys to see the gorillas.
The guilt of having kissed another man’s wife is weighing heavily on Victor, and he confronts Linda about it. He tells her that he’s going to tell her husband about their affair. Linda is not to content with this idea, but, Victor is going to do it anyway. While his helping hands are setting up the gorilla traps, Victor steps up to Mr. Nordley’s tent and is about to, basically, ruin the life a very decent man in Donald Nordley.
Donald greets him and begins to gush about how much he loves Linda and how he was pretty disappointed that she forgot their anniversary that happened the night before- the same night Victor and Linda were out frolicking in the African jungle.
Overcome with guilt and anger, Victor storms back to his tent understanding that he can’t tell Mr. Nordley about his affair with Linda.
That evening, while the group is sitting around a campfire, an aide to Victor makes insinuations about his relationship with Mrs. Nordley. Donald takes offense to those remarks and leaves the outpost in a fit of rage.
Fast forward a couple of hours, Eloise saunters into Victor’s tent and realizes he’s drunk. She assumes that he went to confront Donald Nordley about his “extracurricular activities” with his wife but ultimately failed.
Eloise then sits down on Victor’s lap, throws caution to the wind, and joins him for a nightcap. About a few moments after this happens Linda walks into to the tent.
Victor thinks quick, and plays up his ‘drunken’ attitude, seeing it as a way to end his fling with Linda. He drinks, he laughs, he pulls Eloise a little bit closer than he normally would, and all of this makes Linda hysterical to the point where she shoots Victor. Thanks to her horrible aim, she misses his chest and hits him in the arm. Funny enough, just as Linda was doing this, her husband returns to camp just in time to see this trainwreck.
Eloise, being the slick-tongued woman that she is, improvises an excuse, claiming that Victor was making a pass at Linda, and she shot him in self defense.
The next morning, the Nordleys depart, leaving behind a flurry of emotions for both Eloise and Victor. The pair are left behind where they, finally, admit their feelings for each other which concludes with Victor proposing to Eloise.
Conclusion and The Crazy ‘Behind the Scenes’ Stories
Mogambo is a good movie, not a great one. It has a great plot, an astonishing location shoot in Nairobi, and a great director in John Ford, but sometimes the acting was lackluster. As a matter of fact, even the lovely Grace Kelly is overshadowed by the remarkable acting performance that Ava Gardner puts on in this movie.
While most Kelly fans (including myself) went into this movie, hoping for another Kelly masterclass in acting, we actually got to see the acting talents of Gardner flourish a bit. Apparently, I’m not the only one to believe this. The Academy Awards also thought Ava put in a good performance and eventually awarded her with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1954.
Ava may have gotten nominated for an Academy Award, but it was Grace who took home some silverware in 1954, with a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
For whatever the film lacked in acting, certainly made up for the behind the scenes stories.
It all started when John Ford requested that the main cast spend a few weeks in the sun to make sure they got that “African suntan look.” Well, his plan backfired when the pasty white skins of Gable, Kelly, and Gardner got a little too dark, which was later lightened up by the makeup department.
This incident was only a sign of what was yet to come.
The real ‘fun’ started when Ava brought her then-husband Frank Sinatra to the set in Kenya. At the time, their marriage was having a bit of trouble. Something, apparently, happened back in LA at a house party, which caused Frank to freak out in a fit of anger. We don’t know exactly what happened, but whatever did seem to carry over into their flight over to Africa.
According to a letter written by Grace Kelly to a friend back in the States, she proclaims that Frank and Ava were constantly fighting, making up and breaking up, and that it particularly disturbed her because she had a tent right next to them and could hear everything.
The skirmishes only disappeared when Frank was able to rest easy about his faltering career when he landed the coveted part of ‘Maggio’ in the WWII epic From Here to Eternity in 1953.
Speaking of Grace Kelly, she had her fair share of problems while working on this movie as well; and by problems, I mean Clark Gable. Gable being an ardent outdoorsman, was absolutely ecstatic about living in Africa for a couple of months. Conveniently enough, Grace also happened to be a huge fan of hunting.
Just like their characters on screen, Clark and Grace spent most of their time walking around Africa, just getting to know each other. Eventually, they end up falling into a May-December romance.
Grace would call him, “Ba”, which means father in Swahili, while Clark would be there just enjoying the company of a woman who was young enough to be his daughter.
Even actor Donald Sinden, who played Mr. Nordley, has claimed to have seen Grace and Clark having a *ahem* “afternoon swim” together, hell she confirmed herself.
Heck! When the on-location shoots in Nairobi were over, Kelly and Gable continued their romance in London where Clark rented out a hotel room specifically fitted with an ‘in and out way’ where they could discreetly have access to each other’s rooms without the rest of the cast knowing.
Unfortunately, the affair came to an end when Grace‘s mother, Margaret, came to stay with her 23-year-old daughter in London.
Being your typical overbearing mother, Mama Kelly gave her daughter the ‘okay’ to marry Gable. This, naturally, scared off Gable who clearly didn’t want to. Consequently, Gable refused Grace‘s calls, stopped talking to her on re-shoot days, and basically ‘ghosted’ her. This left Grace heartbroken and she inevitably quit trying to reconcile with Gable.
Based on what happened on screen and off screen, Mogambo is certainly worth your time. If it isn’t for the actual movie, then it must definitely be for the crazy behind the scenes stories. It isn’t the best movie, but, it’s sure as heck one of my favorite movies.