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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 Unknown 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  
Blogger StevensScope said...

Aside from his early 30's classics, I NEVER liked ANY of the CRUDDY 1940's product MGM put out to begin with, and here MAYER had the GREATEST actor on his payroll and yet he NEVER, EVER put GABLE in ONE FILM LENSED IN TECHNICOLOR! Gable did much better after MAYER left, with "MOGOMBO", "BETRAYED", etc. His 2 for 20th century fox were winners in my book; and they WERE BETTER than ALL of that MINDLESS b&w home-studio JUNK they put him in made after "GWTW"(WHICH WASN'T MGM!). His post- MGM period was proof of his box office draw. I only wish that CLARK GABLE could have made a few more westerns. He LOOKED SO GOOD in the saddle in "THE TALL MEN"('55), one wishes there had been a sequel! If "THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS"('56) failed(?), most likely it was because they( w/ director RAOUL WALSH) were both pretty exhausted after "THE TALL MEN" shoot; and WHO ELSE could have playing HANK LEE IN EDWARD DYMTRKS' "SOLDIER OF FORTUNE"('55) with more class than GABLE!? Unlike FLYNN and BOGART who were LOST after leaving WARNER BROS, GABLE SCORED MUCH BETTER here... and left us after making JOHN HUSTONS'CLASSIC,"THE MISFITS"('60).It was tragic he didn't live to see it's release.

3:23 PM  

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