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.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85

  • pretty good transfer

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!

The Critics Vote ...

  • TV Guide 1/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 3.4/10. This film is not Citizen Kane, but a score about a point higher would be more indicative of its caliber.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Basically the quality of a made-for-TV movie, but not as awful as others contend. I found it mildly amusing, and I might actually have liked it if it hadn't overstayed its welcome at 132 minutes!

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