Gable and Lombard (1976) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|I guess I should start off by saying that I don't really know anything about the lives of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and this is essentially a joint biopic of those two great stars, focusing in on the portion of their lives when they were Hollywood's most notorious non-couple. (Gable was unable to get a divorce from his wife, and that was a puritanical time, so Gable and Lombard saw each other only in private.)||
I can't tell you if the actors nailed
the real characters, but I can say that Jill Clayburgh seemed to
capture Carole Lombard's screen persona perfectly, so if Carole was
the same off screen, it was a great impersonation. I have a feeling
that the brassy, sassy, wisecrackin' tomboy was only a small portion
of Lombard's personality, and by keeping everything on that level,
Clayburgh and the screenwriter essentially made this a
feature-length sitcom special like those extra-length shows that
Lucy and Desi used to do once in a while. As for Brolin, well, I
think he missed it. He got Gable's cockiness just fine, but the
essence of Gable, as I see it, is that underneath the cockiness was
a man's man - an unpretentious, deferential, chivalrous,
down-to-earth guy who would be happier hunting and playing poker
with his pals than being a movie star. In fact, he probably
preferred fishing to seducing women. The word was that he was one of the worst lays ever.
This film got sort of close to that, but the way Brolin played it, underneath the cockiness was a complete rube, a backwoods maroon who would have worn his pants five inches above his socks unless somebody told him not to. I have a feeling that Gable wasn't the cartoon fool that is occasionally portrayed here. There is no avoiding a central tenet of casting. In order to portray a charismatic star, one must be a charismatic star. If you want to make a film about Welles or Chaplin or Belushi, you need a comparable genius to portray your subject. James Brolin has none of Gable's magic. He's just a good looking TV actor doing the sort of impersonation you'd see on SNL or SCTV. James Brolin as Clark Gable? Oh, puh-leez!
If you ignore the fact that this actually seems to be a movie about the romance between Gable and Lombard's onscreen personae, rather than between real people, further tainted a bit by Brolin's excessive dose of "aw shucksiness", it isn't a bad watch. The minimal ratings from TV Guide and the IMDb voters are somewhat too harsh, in my opinion.
If you forget about the names of
the characters, it's kind of a sweet movie about two people who
really loved one another, and had to hide it from the world. It is
superficial and slapstick, but it has a good heart and a few small
laughs, and it
adds a little depth by dealing with the hypocrisy of the society of
the 30s that wanted its stars chaste offscreen, or at least that's
what the Hays Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency believed, and
it was their view which prevailed for three decades.
I might actually have liked the film if it hadn't overstayed its welcome at 132 minutes!
Return to the Movie House home page