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Sidney J. Furie
Rebecca Dianna Smith
Movie star chronicle, half-spoof and half-soap...neither half especially a success
Slammed by critics in 1976 for playing loosely with the Hollywood facts (to put it mildly), this expensive, handsome-looking bio-pic regarding the romance between 1930s screen idols Clark Gable and Carole Lombard actually doesn't take the facts into consideration at all. Perhaps starting with the presumption that nobody knows the real dish, screenwriter Barry Sandler concocts a movie star yarn around personalities we mostly remember today through their pictures. Of course, film-historians were quick to point out all the inaccuracies, but I don't think Sandler nor director Sidney J. Furie was preoccupied with the truth. Sandler's Gable and Lombard appear to be based solely on his (and our) movie memories of them both, and leads James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh approach their roles in this precise spirit (particularly Clayburgh, who models her performance on Lombard's performance in "My Man Godfrey"). In a way, this was a novel concept considering that 1930s reality has now been permanently blurred via time and celluloid. Now for the bad news: Sandler's 'plot' spends far too much time on the loving couple having to sneak around since Gable was already married, and their meetings with Louis B. Mayer (Allen Garfield, playing Father Confessor) are pointless. In actuality, Clark and Carole brazenly showed up everywhere together, and the public ate it up. Sticking to the truth in this instance might've served Sandler better than the silly melodrama on display, which mitigates the screwball humor Furie stages at the beginning. This picture is a real mess from a narrative standpoint, and the acting isn't dynamic enough to hold interest. There's a terrible, shapeless sequence wherein Lombard barges into a Women's Press decency meeting yelling, "Cock-a-doodle-do!" and a limp bit in the courtroom with Carole getting blue on the stand (much to everyone's delight). Brolin has Gable's squint, mouth movements, and vocal inflection down pat, yet his King is made to be so downtrodden that it comes as a surprise when Lombard expresses rapture over their bedroom prowess (again, in reality, the comedienne once famously confessed she adored 'Pa' but that their sex life was lacking). Had Sandler gone full-throttle with a high-comedy approach, the movie may have been a hoot. However, the phony dramatics overshadow everything in the end--and since the film is useless as a biography, a good portion of "Gable and Lombard" is utterly without purpose. ** from ****
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