Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gable and Lombard -- Together at First

So much has been said on the Net about how amoral the 1932 film No Man of Her Own is that it's almost embarrassing to note how tame it is by modern standards. True, that “Lombard on a ladder” scene -- in which a young Clark Gable encourages librarian Carole Lombard to climb a ladder in hopes of sneaking a peek up her skirt -- must have seemed risqué back in the 1930s but nowadays it seems mild compared to the average sex scene in Boston Legal or Grey's Anatomy.

True, there is a shower scene involving the film's leading lady (Ms. Lombard) but we in the audience see little of her apart from her head and shoulders. True, there is a clothes-changing scene in which another actress pauses in the act of disrobing to give all the straight men in the audience a good long view of her bare legs, but then she puts on a black negligee and we never do get a glimpse of what her uncovered body looks like above the thighs.

Finally there is the plot. True, the movie makes little effort to deny the Gable character's sordid past as a gambler and a womanizer. But then it settles for one of the oldest plot twists in the book: the old “rogue who is redeemed by the love of a good woman” twist. Gable takes his time getting reformed, of course, but he doesn't exactly protest a lot when Lombard's character insists that they get married and he doesn't even protest when she insists he work for a living. In short, for a dangerous rogue, Gable makes one heck of a pussycat.

But then if I had an on-screen wife like Carole Lombard, I'd be inclined to make more than a few sacrifices in my life as well.

No Man of Her Own marked the first and last time Gable and Lombard were together on screen. Later they would marry and it's been argued that Lombard's early death in a plane crash would forever ruin Gable for all other women. It's not a bad movie -- just a bit more sedate (even by 1932 standards) than I expected.

To put this movie in perspective, consider this: In the 1942 film Casablanca, the Bogart character Rick Blaine shows no shame in admitting -- and showing the audience -- that he hasn't exactly lived like a monk since he last saw Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa -- the love of his life. He also shows no shame in alluding to the fact that he is familiar with whorehouses. Yet he is seen as a far nobler character than the one Gable plays in this movie.

Strange thing, that moral code of yesteryear. Very strange.

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Blogger VP81955 said...

Some intriguing perspectives on "No Man Of Her Own." Glad I came across it.

I run a blog on classic Hollywood in general and Carole Lombard in particular called, naturally, "Carole & Co." We've been up for more than 2 1/2 years, with over 1,000 entries and scores of photos. I think you'll enjoy it (and want to become a member; we currently have 140). Please check us out at


Take care.

7:34 PM  

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