Interview with Author Chrystopher J. Spicer

Chrystopher Spicer’s new book “Clark Gable in Pictures” is more than a series of photographs as the title may suggest. What the author gives us is an engaging and fascinating opportunity to peak into what seems like part family album and part behind the scenes look at the man who was known as the “King of Hollywood.”  Many are published here for the first time giving us a rare inside look into the private life of a public figure and iconic golden age movie star. On its own the book is an informative read and look at different  phases of Gable’s life; it is also a nice supplement to Spicer’s full length 2002 book, “Clark Gable: Biography, Filmography, Bibliography,” also published by McFarland Books.

Many of the photographs are extremely rare, including the only known photograph of Gable’s mother, Addie. The photos are divided into sections reflecting different periods of the actor’s life. His Early Life, Acting Life, Military Life, Social Life, Recreation Life and Married Life are all given a separate chapter. Each photo is followed by detailed background information that makes even some of the seemingly mundane photos come to life and make us take a second look in a new light.

The author provides a personal and candid look at Gable’s childhood, growing up, his early days as an actor, his love of race cars, fishing, hunting with friends, his time in the military, hanging out with other stars and his family life with wives and children. Many of the photos, in fact most, are not professionally shot but snapshots taken by friends and family. It all adds up to an absorbing portrait in pictures and words of one of Hollywood’s greatest legends.

The book is published by McFarland Books and is available via their website, just click here or call 800-253-2187.

Below is my recent interview with the author. Continue reading

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Born to be Bad (1934) Lowell Sherman

This late entry in the pre-code movie book, it opened in New York City on May 30th 1934 at the Rivoli Theater, stars the gorgeous Loretta Young as Letty Strong. Letty is a prostitute and con artist, and by the clothes she wears a successful one in both trades. She became pregnant at the age of 15, was helped by no one except for a kind old man who owns a local store where he let her live in the back.  Since then, Letty has taught her son Mickey (Jackie Kelk), now a school age seven or eight years old, how to con everyone; cheat, lie and steal  is her motto. Letty is hard as nails having built years of resentment into her short life.

Young’s co-star is an up and coming actor by the name of Cary Grant  who as Malcolm Trevot portrays a rich diary company owner whose wife Alyce (Marion Burns) cannot conceive the child he so desperately wants. Their worlds will collide when the young boy, roller skating while holding on to the back of a truck, swinging back and forth, runs into the path of a milk truck driven by Malcolm (early version of Undercover Boss?).  Letty and the kid lie about the accident. Faking a severe injury, they take the case to court. However, once inside the courtroom, Mal and his lawyers prove the young boy was faking the injuries with film taken by investigators of Mickey running and jumping only a few days after the accident. As a result the court decides the boy should be taken from Mom’s custody and sent to a child services facility. Continue reading

Short Takes: Bogart, Bacall and Widmark Times Two

This week’s short takes are not a particularly great bunch. Like most bloggers I tend to write about the films I love, or at least like. I decided that’s not fair; makes every film that is considered “classic” sound great. They are not. This group is not necessarily horrible, except for one; another is mediocre and another is just decent. Now mediocrity can be enjoyable on some levels, recently I have been watching some low budget Boston Blackie films from Columbia Pictures which have been on TCM every weekend. They are light hearted, a bit corny, but enjoyable pieces of detective fluff. Blackie, as played by Chester Morris, is the only one with any brains, and in every film has to prove his innocence to the two dumb and dumber detectives who see him as a one man crime wave. You see, Blackie was a former jewel thief, now gone straight. At best, these films are fair, lightweight entertainment. Classic? Well, I guess it all goes down to your definition of classic, which by the way, has been discussed recently by some members of CMBA and there is a particularly good posting on the subject by Gilby of  Random Ramblings of a Broadway, Film and TV Fan.  Anyway below are this week’s short takes. classics or not. Continue reading

China Seas (1935) Tay Garnett

Gable and Harlow battle it out on the high seas. A typhoon, marauding pirates and hidden gold are no competition for the fiery heat generated between two of MGM’s biggest stars. Gable is the hard drinking Allan Gaskell, Captain of a freighter heading from Hong Kong to Singapore. He wants to change his lifestyle, turn over a new leaf, after meeting upper class British lass Sybil Barclay, surprisingly played by Rosalind Russell. He plans to marry Sybil, and forget about the sassy  talky dame Dolly Partland, aka China Doll (Jean Harlow), who he has had an on again, and off again, love affair with.  Dolly still has a thing for the Captain and arranges to get herself on board the freighter for the trip in an attempt to win back him back from the upper crust Sybil. Also on board is Jamesy McArdle (Wallace Beery), a conniving worm who is in cahoots with Malaysian pirates to attack the ship seeking the stash of gold being transported. Losing out to Sybil in the Gable love triangle, Dolly licks her wounded heart by teaming up with the slimy McArdle in a revengeful attempt to steal the gold. Continue reading

Blast From the Past: No Man of Her Own

Recently Olive Films released “No Man of Her Own” on DVD. This is the first time it is appearing on home video in any format.

My original review linked below was from a bootleg copy back in 2008.

https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/no-man-of-her-own-1950-leisen/?preview=true&preview_id=685&preview_nonce=f3314a84c3

Call Northside 777 (1948) Henry Hathaway

20th Century Fox produced a series of semi-documentary film noirs in the late 1940’s including “Boomerang!,” “Kiss of Death,” “House on 92nd Street” and “Call Northside 777,” the last three directed by perennial hard ass Henry Hathaway. Hathaway was a studio director, a craftsman whose work was devoid of complexity, straightforward and took no crap from anyone (see my interview with Dennis Hopper biographer Peter L. Winkler who talks about Hathaway’s battle with young know it all Hopper and how he single handedly blackballed Hopper from Hollywood films.). Despite any lack of pretension in his work Hathaway directed some fine film noirs. In addition to those previously mentioned he made “The Dark Corner” and “Niagara.”

Based on a true story, “Call Northside 777” tells the tale of Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte), a Polish-American falsely accused of murdering a police officer. (1) After spending 11 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, his story is assigned to Chicago Times news reporter Mickey McNeal (Jimmy Stewart) when it comes to the attention of his editor Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb). Kelly had spotted a notice in the classified ad column, a $5,000 reward for information leading to the killer of a police officer back in 1932, 11 years ago, during the height of the prohibition era. McNeal follows up on the story and discovers it is Frank Wiecek’s mother, Tillie (Kasia Orzazeski) a scrub woman in a office building who put up the reward saving her paltry salary ever since her son’s conviction. McNeal follows up with a visit to the Illinois State Pen where he talks to Frank only to find his story full of dead ends that cannot be proven. Frank though seems resigned to his fate, he will be spending the rest of his life in prison. Frank even told his wife Helen (Joanne De Berg) to divorce him and marry someone else so their son will have a full and happy family and not be haunted by his father’s past. After McNeal writes about the family, exposing their current lives, an incensed Frank demands they be left alone and wants the entire investigation stopped accusing McNeal of writing his story only for the newspapers’ circulation gains. He rather spend the rest of his life in prison than subject his kid and ex-wife to public scrutiny. Continue reading

Blast From The Past: Gold Diggers of 1933

As of many of you know old postings get buried, lost and forgotten in blogging hell. This new mid-week series will  attempt to revive some of my older postings. I have went over the review and corrected some details but the original article remains intact along with all the comments. I am providing a link that will bring you directly to the review. This series will appear occasionally on Tuesdays as part of my new mid-week postings which includes my “Short Takes” series which appeared last week.

Below are few photos and the link…

https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/gold-diggers-of-1933-1933-leroy/?preview=true&preview_id=1516&preview_nonce=e96343489e