vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Very nearly an 'Idiot'?

Carole Lombard and Clark Gable made only one film together, "No Man Of Her Own" in 1932, long before either had any romantic interest in each other. Were there opportunities for both to co-star again? Very possibly, as G.D. Hamann's splendid Golden Age research makes evident.

Here's a report from Elizabeth Yeoman of the Hollywood Citizen-News from Jan. 13, 1937:

"Clark Gable, now putting the finishing touches on 'Parnell' at MGM, will next have the opportunity to emulate Alfred Lunt in 'Idiot's Delight,' for that great stage hit with Lunt and Fontanne is scheduled as the next Gable picture. The Lunts, as you know, will wind up their road tour in the play on this coast, so we shall have the opportunity to compare stage and screen performances. Officially the studio has no feminine star to play opposite Gable. But it is easy to be convinced that Carole Lombard will win the Lynn Fontanne role, and I understand it is one well suited to her personality. Carole's new Paramount contract, which she signed about six weeks ago, permits her to make an outside picture deal each year, and aside from the personal pleasure of working with Gable, any star in town would seize the role in 'Idiot's Delight' if the opportunity was offered. Miss Fontanne, you probably have read, definitely imitated Garbo in her portrayal, and hence Garbo is not interested in the role. Besides, Garbo will shortly embark upon 'Marie Walewska.' "

(Perhaps the Hollywood Citizen-News would have lasted longer if it had hired copy editors to break up such long paragraphs. Just sayin'.)

"Idiot's Delight" was made, but it wasn't Gable's next picture. It didn't shoot until the fall of 1938, while Clark was waiting for "Gone With The Wind" over at Selznick to finally begin production. And his co-star wasn't Lombard (whom Louis B. Mayer and others at MGM were reluctant to cast opposite Gable), but longtime MGM mainstay Norma Shearer, who had starred in Clark's 1931 breakthrough film, "A Free Soul." This would be the final time they co-starred.

Carole may not have appeared in the film, but her presence was nevertheless felt. She dropped by regularly to check on Clark, perhaps fearful one of the chorus girls he was working with might steal him away. (One of them was going to be Lana Turner, who eventually left the production; she may have had health problems, according to the studio, or was fired after an ultimatum from Lombard.) Gable sang and danced in the film, and comes off reasonably well. In fact, after his dancework was done, Carole -- who had guided him through the work away from the set -- gave him a bouquet for a job well done:

"Idiot's Delight" ranks among Gable's more unorthodox films. Robert Sherwood, who wrote the famed play, adapted it for the screen, and both the Hays Code and MGM's own internal censorship deprived the film version of much of its anti-war feel and punch.

Nevertheless, it works if only because of star power. Would it have shone even brighter if Lombard had filled in for Shearer? It's an interesting "what if."

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