Monday, July 17, 2006

Gable vs. Gable

I received my Gable box set right on time, and I've been working my way through the movies since then. Some of them I had already seen: Dancing Lady, China Seas, and Wife vs. Secretary (now I can sell my VHS tapes on eBay). The other weekend was an action double feature with Boom Town and San Francisco. Last night was Mogambo, which of course I had to compare with its previos incarnation, Red Dust.

Mary Astor vs. Grace Kelly? Eh, I could take or leave either of them. Grace was a little too uptightly British, I thought. Mary Astor did the shooting scene better. It was easier to believe her outraged emotions. Grace just screamed and twirled around and hid her face in her hands in a cliched bit of overacting.

Jean Harlow vs. Ava Gardner? This one was closer, but I'm going to have to give it to Jean here, because I just adore her. Her character, as a prostitute, was tougher and in a way, more interesting, and therefore more of a contrast to the other woman (Grace/Mary) than Ava's society lady character was.

Gene Raymond vs. Donald Sinden? I guess we'll call this one a tie. I like Gene as an actor better mainly due to his role in Sadie McKee, but Donald did a good job as the husband. He seemed alittle less clueless than Gene Raymond sometimes. But only a little.

Philip Stainton was quite likeable as Gable's sidekick, Brownie. I don't remember the equivalent character in Red Dust, if there even was one (it's been a few years since I saw it) so Stainton wins by default. He was jolly and fun but also serious about his job and the dangers of the jungle.

As far as the love story goes, I'm about even with both versions of Gable pining away after the saintly English wife. Even though I prefer Harlow to Gardner, I did like Gable's relationship with the latter better. There seemed to be more fondness between the two. In RD I got the impression Gable thought of Harlow as little more than a warm body. He's so mean to her sometimes, you wonder how she can go on loving him. There was more genuine liking and tenderness between Gable and Gardner.

As it stands, the box set is an excellent one. I stand by my earlier thought that I would have substituted one of the Gable action movies with Spencer Tracy for the great gangster film Manhattan Melodrama. Since Jeanette MacDonald doesn't do much for me, I would have pulled San Francisco for MM.

So many of Jean Harlow's movies have now been released on DVD on their own and as part of other people's box sets, that there aren't a whole lot left (she only made 41, and that's generously including the bit parts) for a "signature collection" set of her own (and she absolutely should have one). Here's what I would include in her set:

The Girl From Missouri
Hold Your Man
Red-Headed Woman
Reckless (well, maybe not; not such a great film)
Suzy (I'm kind of lukewarm about this one; her undying love for cad Cary Grant kind of annoyed me)

A lot of her other movies I have never seen, so I can't really say for sure which ones I would include. Additional options include:

Personal Property

I'm only counting movies that aren't on DVD already (and there's more than I thought). Of course some could be rereleased, like they did with Mildred Pierce when they made the Joan Crawford box set.

Again I ask: Ted Turner, are you listening? ;)