Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Man of Her Own (1932)

It is a film that became more interesting as time went on, with backstory to the production that seems to be more fascinating than the story the movie shares. No Man of Her Own is a Paramount Picture that stars one of their rival’s, MGM, biggest rising actors released in late 1932. Clark Gable would be loaned out to the competing production studio for the use of Bing Crosby by MGM in a film that would be released in 1933. Here we see the handsome, young Gable grab hold of the screen as he always seemed to do, in a film that co-starred an even younger actress who in the years to come would be his wife. A modest comedy, the picture would be a more intriguing feature as time went by and the two stars eventually became romantically linked, which was far from the attitudes they shared while on set of the production.

No Man of Her Own is a comedy of a gambler/con-artist who meets and marries a small town girl and in doing so changes how he wants to live his life. “Babe” Steward (Clark Gable), a gambler who lives off fixed games of poker, gets in trouble with the law and decides to lay low in a small town until he can return. He meets the bored small town librarian Connie (Carole Lombard) whom he tries to seduce and by flip of the coin comes to marry. He returns to the big city with wife Connie in hand who once is made aware of how Babe makes his money becomes disillusioned of her husband. Babe though begins to truly love Connie and when he says he will go on a long trip to Rio de Janeiro with plans of winning more money gambling, he actually goes to the police to turn himself in and serve a short sentence to make himself clean, that he may be able to continue a normal married life away from the unlawful deeds of his past. It is a shocking piece of news to Connie to learn what Babe had done, but finds it to be noble and she keeps the foreknowledge of Babe’s white lie to herself, leaving Babe with his pride as he returns to her side from his “trip.”

It is a fun, quick film whose success lies completely is in the hands of the pictures primary star, Gable. He captures your attention from the moment he first graces the screen and charms you with his swagger and confident suave. Not much in action really happens in the picture other than the seduction and relationship of Babe to Connie. In fact the ending is rather slow towards reaching a conclusion, a finish that we see coming from a mile away, because it is set up so cleanly that it is almost non-confrontational. In all it is a story of two people that did not know at first, but end up needing each other, sacrificing their former selves. Production-wise the film is crisp and clean, keeping tightly to the main story. The most interesting scene of the film is that Babe confronting the young librarian that is Connie, and trying to get her to spend an evening with him. It is fun to see how Babe gets so “fresh” with Connie, making her so uncomfortable, yet so drawn in at the same time.

To steer the ship of this film was the director of the Academy Award western winning Cimarron, Wesley Ruggles. It was an interesting run for this rather unknown director, coming off the success of such a large and lavish picture such as Cimarron then go on to direct one of the industry’s best known leading men in Clark Gable. No Man of Her Own was a finely made picture with no frills or anything marvelous to note, nor would the production call for anything special as such. It was a simple film, directed by a simple filmmaker. Ruggles just happened to be that man.

If there is one man there is to truly thank for making of this film, it would be newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst’s love interest, actress Marion Davies, wanted badly to star in an upcoming film with Paramount star Bing Crosby, but she was under contract with MGM. Hearst pull strings with MGM head Louis B. Mayer and the one picture trade was made with Crosby for Gable. Crosby would go on to star in Gone Hollywood, and here we see Gable in a Paramount production.

Originally the role of Connie was slated for Miriam Hopkins, the blonde beauty from such films as The Smiling Lieutenant and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When Gable came aboard on the project, it was made clear that Gable was to be the headline star with top billing over Hopkins, a fact that lead the Paramount star to leave the film. To fill the role was the young actress, wife of actor William Powell, Carole Lombard, a well-seasoned player for her age, cutting her teeth in the days of silent features, but was still trying to find her niche as she matured as a woman. Gable and Lombard had an interesting relationship on set, one of indifference towards one another. They were both slightly critical of each other’s being, but professional on screen. Gable would come to nickname Carole “Ma” during to production, while Lombard would reward Gable with a ham donned with his pictured at the end of production. That gives a clue into the relationship the two had during that time.

In the years to come the film become more interesting for the relationship the two stars after the production. While filming the both Gable and Lombard were married to other people and shared absolutely no romantic notions towards each other. It was not until years after Lombard’s divorce to Powell in 1933 that the two would start to become intertwined romantically, and not until Gable’s divorce that the two would marry in 1939. No Man of Her Own would be the only film the Hollywood couple would make together and it was when they were not remotely interested in each other. The Hollywood couple would remain married until the untimely death of Lombard in 1942 in a tragic plane crash.

The picture is a fun piece of celluloid to watch and the story of the two stars years after the release that adds to the specialty of the feature. The movie is a fun, little 90 minute picture with some laughs and looks into two of the ages stars still on the rise. No Man of Her Own would be a footnote if it were not for the stars connect years later, even with the fine acting job both Gable and Lombard would share in the film. Is the film specifically important? No, but it is worth watching for the entertainment value, besides its tinsel town significance.

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