Even before the invention of the Screwball Comedy icon that she would become, Carole Lombard sent sparks flying in an array of Pre-Code films, where she displayed vitality and wit that would help establish her legendary status a few years later.
One her most notable efforts from this period was in 1932 when she was cast in “No Man Of Her Own” alongside her future husband Clark Gable in their only onscreen pairing together.
“No Man Of Her Own” would not have came to fruition if it weren’t for Marion Davies, who championed MGM to make a trade of Clark Gable for Bing Crosby, Marion’s co-star in her next film “Going Hollywood”. With the help of William Randolph Hurst the deal went ahead and Gable was sent to Paramount to work on a project of his choice while the production with Davies and Crosby was taking place. The task of selecting assignments proved to be onerous, and after much consideration he decided on the script for “No Man Of Her Own”, which was originally scheduled to star George Raft.
Once preparation for the film begun several altercations ensued. Miriam Hopkins who was originally cast in the lead role balked at the idea of Gable receiving top billing and abandoned the project to canvas around for another vehicle. As a replacement for Hopkins, they chose Carole Lombard whose career was slowly ascending on the Paramount lot.
At the time of shooting, Carole Lombard was still married to William Powell. Even though they divorced a year later in 1933, Lombard maintained an affectionate relationship with Powell which resulted in a lifelong friendship. Since she was still very much in love with Powell, no romance between Lombard and Gable eventuated during filming. Clark Gable who was unhappily married to Rhea Langham certainly wasn’t interested in Lombard, but he respected her for her amiable aura, and because of that the famous Gable/ Lombard nickname of Ma & Pa was born.
On the last day of filming, Clark Gable presented Carole Lombard with a pair of ballerina slippers that was accompanied with a card that read “To a true primadonna”. In return, Carole presented Clark with a large ham with his picture on it. Straight after the films cessation, Gable and Lombard did not keep in touch. However four years later the romance between the two began to blossom, and in 1939, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable married.
Superbly directed by Wesley Ruggles, and based on the book by Val Lewton, the film serves as the perfect project for the only celluloid pairing of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard irradiate the screen in this Pre-Code romantic drama about the insidious gambler, Babe Stewart ( Clark Gable ) who is in trouble with the law and decides to lay low in the small town of Glendale, where he meets librarian, Connie Randall ( Carole Lombard ) and tries to seduce her.
disentranced with her lifestyle, Connie marries Babe on a flip of a coin, and they return to New York together, where Babe continues on with his errant gambling schemes. At first Connie is unaware of Babe’s conning ways, but soon she realizes he’s game and tries to transform him into an equitable and honest man.
“No Man Of Her Own” is a true example of Pre-Code at it’s greatest. Not only does the onscreen relationship of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard sizzle, the film is swarmed with an array of racy scenes that would have been prohibited once the Hays Code was rigorously enforced.
To add to the films masterful creativity is the astute and brisk dialogue, the class sophistication, an intelligent script abound with the undeniable chemistry of Gable and Lombard. Even though they were not yet a couple off screen, the affections that they displayed for each other onscreen were real.
While witnessing the chemistry between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, you come to question why they weren’t paired together more than once. It would have been great seeing them in a movie after their real life love affair had bloomed. You can’t help but wonder what would have happened further down the track if Carole Lombard had lived. Would she have been paired with her husband Clark Gable again or would they have become a legendary onscreen couple like Bogart and Bacall and Tracy and Hepburn? So much could have happened if it weren’t for that catastrophic plane crash that extinguished Carole’s light so early. I’m sure that’s a question that props to many people’s minds.
Although Carole Lombard and Clark Gable later became one of Hollywood’s most famous couples, they were completely indifferent to one another during the making of this film. It was not until several years later that they met again and fell in love.
The original treatment of Val Lewton‘s novel 1932 novel No Bed of Her Own, which was the early working title for the film as well, was written by Austin Parker, who also wrote the first screenplay. Because of concerns expressed by the censors at the Hays Office, Paramount purchased in August 1932 another story, “Here Is My Heart” (not the same as the 1934 Bing Crosby film, also released by Paramount), to use to soften the piece. The film was originally to have been directed by James Flood.
Connie: “Just a New York cowboy aren’t you? Passing through and giving a little small town girl her big moment.”
Babe Stewart: “Do your eyes bother you?”
Connie: “No. Why?”
Babe Stewart: “They bother me.”
Connie: “You’d be lovely to have around, just to sprinkle the flowers with your personality.”
Carole Lombard: Born Jane Alice Peters on October 6th, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Died: January 16th, 1942 on Mount Potosi, Nevada. Age 33. Cause of death: Airplane crash.
Clark Gable: Born William Clark Gable on February 1st, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio. Died: November 16th, 1960 in West Hollywood, California. Aged 59.