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Love Conquers All
LOVE'S KITCHEN (2011) is a by-the-numbers romantic comedy about a chef who is reamed by a food critic, loses his job (and, coincidentally, his wife, in a car accident), and begins a new life as chef of a remote country kitchen. Directed by James Hacking and starring Dougray Scott, Claire Forlani, Michelle Ryan, the movie features celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in his first acting role. Hacking also wrote the script for the film, and it was the director's first feature length film. It was also a major bomb, taking £121 on its opening weekend from five screens in London. That said, it's not as bad as some of the stuff out there, and is enjoyable on a sitcom level.
CHAINED (1934) finds Clark Gable in yet another love triangle with Joan Crawford, who suffers (as in long-suffering) almost as well as Greta Garbo. Crawford plays Diane Lovering, the mistress of Richard Field (Otto Kruger). It is a dignified love but it is stymied by Field's wife, won't agree to a divorce because she likes her position in society. Diane says she'll stand by her man, scandalous as that may be, but Feld persuades her to go on a cruise to Buenos Aires to see if their love survives a separation (this happened a lot in 1930s tear-jerkers like this). While on the cruise, Diane meets Mike Bradley, a rich rancher from Argentina (Clark Gable), and the two definitely have a spark that, eventually, despite Diane's best intentions, bursts into a passionate flame (and who wouldn't prefer man's man Gable to the courtly Kruger?). Complications ensue when Field actually gets a divorce from his wife... It's engrossing, romantic nonsense, served on an elegant platter as only MGM could.
DANCING LADY (1933) is an odd one. Clark Gable plays a tough, no-nonsense theatrical stage director named Patch Gallagher who crosses paths with Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford), a young dancer who is reduced to stripping in a burlesque show. Arrested for indecent exposure, she's bailed out by millionaire playboy Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). When she tries to get a part in a Broadway musical, Tod intercedes with Gallagher to get her the job. Janie proves her worth (even though her actual dancing is fairly rudimentary), going toe-to-toe and cheek-to-cheek with none other than Fred Astaire, who made his film debut here ("I was cast as myself," Astaire said in his autobiography. "To have Clark Gable call me out by my own name and to play a scene with him and Joan Crawford was, I thought, a great way to be presented to the vast movie public"). Astaire does a few steps in rehearsal with her and then returns for a big Busby Berkeley-style number at the climax, "The Gang's All Here." Patch had earlier made a speech about wanting to make a tough, hard-hitting human drama, but what we see of the show is mindless fluff; oh well, he and Diane are in a romantic triangle (the third point is Tone), and even though you know how it's going to turn out, it's very satisfying. The movie also features he first credited film appearance of Nelson Eddy, and an early feature film appearance of the Three Stooges – Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine – in support of the leader of their act at the time, Ted Healy (the quartet is billed as "Ted Healy and His Stooges"). Cultured Algonquin Round Table humorist Robert Benchley plays a supporting role.
THE HUCKSTERS (1947) A great cast – Sydney Greenstreet, Adolphe Menjou, Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold and Ava Gardner co-star with Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr in this engaging film version of the novel The Hucksters by Frederic Wakeman. Gable plays Victor Norman, a radio advertising executive back from World War II and looking for a job in his old field. He is the same no-nonsense Gable we've come to expect, and although he says he is unscrupulous, we know better. The 26-year-old Kerr is the love interest for the aging King of Hollywood (who still looks great), though you'd think he'd be better matched with Gardner, who has an easy, sassy rapport with the actor that is nowhere present with Kerr.
October 7, 2012