Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Monday, September 14, 2015

Was The King Tottering On His Throne?

Metro Does Lone Star (1952) In Old-Fashioned Ways

Lon Chaney On Stage? --- What Do You Suppose He Did?
Clark Gable and Brod Crawford's doubles fight over Texas independence in a Metro said to represent the system on a slope and CG King-dom in decline (a Lone Star clip appears in the Dear Mr. Gable doc proposing just that). Actually this one's a pip, taken in right spirit. Give me old Hollywood in dotage any time. Gable had a deal for one outside pic per annum during his last MGM re-up, but never took it, Lone Star coming close (discussions were had), but kept on home lot for greater comforts accorded, or maybe sweetened terms for the star. Anyway, Vincent Sherman was tabbed to direct, not normally a Metro hire, having come up at Warners and now free-lance (he says in memoir Studio Affairs that he did Lone Star for $75K). Sherman recalled a bad script he was stuck with. Promises were made for a fix, but that never got done. Studio Affairs, a terrific Hollywood reveal, tells of pix hewed to schedules no matter a lack of prep time or proper story. In other words, go ahead and make your bad product and hope for the best.

Gable Confers with Creative Staff On MGM Backlot

Sherman was told of Gable developing Parkinson's, tremors a result of stress or tiring. It's not apparent in Lone Star, so measures worked. To Gable's otherwise appearance, there is echo of Rhett Butler in dress outfits wherein he romances Ava Gardner (and she sings to him, an awkward exchange). Gone With The Wind was a long shadow over the King's subsequent career. Every few years it would circulate to remind everyone how much more dynamic he'd once been. Lone Star seems to have worn dog tags from early on, to read Sherman's account. A man's honesty was tested by whether or not he said Lone Star had a "good" script. To say "yes" was to brand yourself a "whore," according to Sherman. The director had to go through rite of passage with vet cameraman Hal Rosson along these lines, Rosson having been around MGM since time (or movies) began. Sherman's book really gives insight as to what a resigned process formula moviemaking could be ...

Gable Squares Off with B. Crawford's Stuntman, Gil Perkins

Sherman recall of Lone Star, and the movie itself, are as vivid a record as could be of mediocrity's acceptance amidst a system in decline. I was more entertained by elements gone wrong than few got right. For an action story, there's precious little, and most of that saved for the end (Sherman said they used the backlot as economy measure). Reliance on doubles for Gable-B. Crawford is to a point where stuntmen should have got screen credit, Gable sitting a horse before process screens, but seemingly no place else. Lone Star was profitable despite deficiencies: a worldwide $4.1 million in rentals, which demonstrated how reliable action subjects still were, w/$1.1 million in profits ($1.6 million spent on the negative). Gable may have been perceived as slipping, but his vehicles still made money, and indeed only two for MGM after the war (Command Decision and Never Let Me Go) sustained loss. His popularity was too ingrained to ever really go away. Lone Star has played Warner Instant in HD, and is available from Warner Archive.


Blogger MikeD said...

Herb Jeffries, the Bronze Buckaroo, could sing. But what would Lon Chaney (Jr.) do during a personal appearance?

8:11 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

In 1943, Chaney appeared on stage at one of my home town theatres for a War Bond Rally.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks Jr said...

I will watch Gable when I see him on TCM, however whenever he is in a western I tune out. A 19th century cowboy movie character with a pencil thin mustache is ludicrous in the extreme. Gable could not change the brand. However I will watch this film when I can as it has Ava Gardner.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

That color photo is remarkable. Ava's been airbrushed down to the basement membrane, but every wrinkle, line and sag is unforgivingly on display on Gable's face. He's 52, but could easily pass for 70. A handsome 70, but 70 nonetheless.

It's always been my understanding that Gable's shakes were due to alcoholism. By then, his contract (supposedly) stated that he ended shooting at 5:00, even if he was in the middle of a scene, because his hands would start shaking. His main rival, Gary Cooper, was said to watch every Gable movie, just to spot it. Perhaps that Parkinson's warning was just a cover.

1:35 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

It was Vincent Sherman's impression that Gable had Parkinson's, based, I assume, on what others at MGM told him. I've always doubted that was the problem, however, and I'm not sure it was the drinking either. Gable did develop a tremor in the 50's, and it is visible in several of his films. I watched for it in "Lone Star," but didn't note anything. Others who are more observant might.

2:26 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts has some thoughts about the postwar Clark Gable:


I'll have to say Vincent Sherman didn;t know what in the hell he was
talking about, there is no way Clark Gable suffered from Parkinsons Disease, it
is a progressively debilitating disease that can be lived with by some for a
long time (with modern medical treatments), but he would still not have been
making movies in the early 60's and looking and acting as well as he did (just
before he died, of course) and been suffering from the disease for that long
with the few drugs they had even then to treat it.

That said, there are
hundreds of other maladys that can cause hand tremors, and they can become
common in older folk as they age. Gable had returned from WW2, and even though
he may have seen light duty, they could have been caused by just flying and
rattling around in too many B17's. Age and fatigue, especially coupled with
drinking, can be a darn good cause as well, and that makes more sense if Gable's
tremors only came on late in the day during a shoot. The Gary Cooper story is
funny, but his health was so damn rocky through most of the 50's, he aged faster
than any of the big time leading men, so I'm sure he had some competitive

I have always admired Gable as an actor, I just wish he had made
more movies for other studios, too damn much MGM product that feels like
standard MGM product: lame. It also doesn't help when I think GONE WITH THE WIND
is a torture to sit through. I like some of Gable's post-MGM product, but there
is a lot of lame moviemaking there too, though RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP is terrific,
and strangely enough, I like his late comedies like TEACHERS PET and BUT NOT FOR
ME, where at least he turns his post-war gruffness around for laughs. All in all
though, there are very few Gable movies I find as good as he is in them.

5:43 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard --- Yes, I never bought the notion that Gable had Parkinson's. He would indeed have been out of movies in short order if that had been the case. I agree that the war entered into it --- his enlisting was probably not a good idea, considering the fact he had to go through basic training, certainly a young man's ordeal, plus the missions that exposed him to real danger, and to little purpose beyond getting footage for a documentary that got less exposure than its considerable effort justified.

I actually like the postwar Gables because these are the ones (really, the ONLY ones) I had access to growing up. I find his the late ones you mentioned, "Teacher's Pet" and "But Not For Me," to be exceptionally good, two of my favorites of 50's comedies. I only regret that Paramount has not done a fresh HD transfer of "But Not For Me," although "Teacher's Pet" does look wonderful on RetroPlex, and streaming on Vudu and Amazon HD.


5:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016