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Cain and Mabel (1936)

Approved | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | 26 September 1936 (USA)
A talented boxer and a gifted dancer hope to increase their waning popularity by inventing a fictitious love affair for the benefit of the tabloids.



(screen play), (story)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Mabel O'Dare
... Larry Cain
... Dodo
... Reilly
... Jake Sherman
... Ronny Cauldwell (as David Carlyle)
... Milo
... Aunt Mimi
... Toddy
... Pop Walters
Sammy White ... Specialty - Coney Island Number
... Charles Fendwick
Allen Pomeroy ... Tom Reed
... Cafe Proprietor
... Reed's Manager


The managers of heavyweight champion Larry Cain and Broadway musical star Mabel O'Dare scheme up a romance to give the celebrities more glamour. But the two don't hit it off, having started on the wrong foot. Written by Diana Hamilton <hamilton@alumni.umbc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's the Romantic Battle of the Century with a World championship Cast! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 September 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Caim e Mabel  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


A lengthy 4:39 trailer, "Behind the Scenes of Cain and Mabel," was narrated by Addison Richards. See more »


During the gargantuan MGM-style "I'll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs" production number, a stage hand can be clearly seen walking behind a white horse and carriage. See more »


Aloysius K. Reilly: Put down the skull, Hamlet. Everything's gonna be all right.
See more »


Featured in Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome (1996) See more »


Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms
Lyrics by Thomas Moore (1808)
Sung by Dick Dennis during the grand production number
See more »

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User Reviews

The Lady and the Champ
21 January 2008 | by See all my reviews

CAIN AND MABEL (Warner Brothers, 1936), directed by Lloyd Bacon, sounds like a clever title for a Biblical tale dealing with Cain, and his sister, Mabel, instead of his brother, Abel. Though not quite the Old Testament, it's an overly familiar story about two people, a heavyweight boxing champion and his feuding relationship with a Broadway dancer. In a product starring MGM performers Marion Davies (a Warners resident since 1935, with another year to go before her retirement) and Clark Gable (on loan from that studio), this reunion, their first since POLLY OF THE CIRCUS (MGM, 1932), is a disappointment regardless of its high production values in the MGM tradition.

The script, set in New York City's Broadway district, introduces Mabel O'Dare (Marion Davies), a waitress of two years employed at Champs, a very busy luncheonette. She encounters Aloyisus K. Reilly (Roscoe Karns), an unemployed reporter who, following Mabel's advise on becoming a publicity man, decides to promote her after being responsible for getting her fired from her job. Roaming around casting offices, Mabel gets her first break auditioning for producer Jake Sherman's (Walter Catlett) upcoming show, "Words and Music" after Toddy Williams (Pert Kelton), a temperamental star, walks out during rehearsals. With Ronny Caldwell (David Carlyle) her leading man, and Milo (Hobart Cavanaugh) as her dance director, Mabel works long and hard, rehearsing through the night in her room at the Ardington Hotel. The constant tapping on the floor creates a disturbance for Larry Cain (Clark Gable), a prizefighter in the room below trying to rest up for the upcoming fight at Madison Square Garden. Cain goes to her room to ask her to stop, but all he gets is a door slam on his face. His lack of sleep causes Cain to lose the fight and the feud between dancer and boxer. Because Cain and Mabel are faltering in their work, as a publicity stunt, Reilly, knowing that they can't stand each other, promotes the "greatest love story in America." When Cain and Mabel do fall in love and make plans to get married, with he giving up the fighting game to work as a garage mechanic and she quitting show business altogether, Reilly does all he can to break up the match through vicious schemes and with the help of Cain's assistants, Dodo (Allen Jenkins) and "Pop" Walters (William Collier Sr.), and Mabel's Aunt Mimi (Ruth Donnelly), thus stirring up confusion.

With all the feuding and fussing, CAIN AND MABEL takes time for two lavish scale production numbers choreographed by Bobby Connelly and score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. The first, "Coney Island" sung and performed by Sammy White and Marion Davies, is played for laughs. White and Davies (the latter dressed in slacks and hat that has her resembling a female Buster Brown) go through costume changes at a blink of an eye as they encounter legendary figures as Napoleon, the Smith Brothers, Julius Caesar and Popeye the Sailor in a wax museum. Although a lively tune, it's not as classic as other Warren and Dubin's New York related tunes as "42nd Street" or "Lullaby of Broadway." The second, "I Sing You a Thousand Love Songs" sung by David Carlyle (voice dubbed), the film's best song, is mixed in with French tune, "L'Amour, Toujours, L'Amour," "Those Endearing Young Charms," "The Rose in Her Hair" and "The Shadow Waltz" before reverting to its original song. This number is given a real lavish scale treatment with dancers waltzing about and Davies in a Cinderella-type wedding gown surrounded by giant human pipe organs playing to "Here Comes the Bride." This number might have succeeded had it not been overblown to extreme measures. "Here Comes Chiquita," the third production number of the evening, coming late in the story, is sung by male chorus waiting for its star principle, Mabel. Due to some merry mix-up, it's never performed or heard in its entirety.

In spite of a fine cast with a story with possibilities, CAIN AND MABEL, which was filmed before in the silent era as THE GREAT WHITE WAY (1923), comes across as weak and contrived, especially in its final half hour. During its 90 minutes, it makes every effort to become a classic backstage story but with nothing new to offer. It tries to make due with amusing situations, but few good one-liners and having the lead players pouring water at one another doesn't make it a great comedy. Even when going so far as being a tender love story, it almost works thanks to the chemistry of Gable and Davies, but without a well developed script, everything falls flat. While Davies is a fine comedienne when good material allows, Gable, minus his famous mustache this time around, appears uneasy at times, looking as though he'd like to throw in the towel. Roscoe Karns, in a sort of role excelled by Pat O'Brien many times over, seems miscast in this one, turning out his obnoxious character into a truly unlikable one. Maybe Karns and Jenkins should have switched parts here. Although mediocre, it gets by due to its principle players.

Having never been distributed on video cassette, CAIN AND MABEL turns up occasionally on cable's television's all-movie channel, Turner Classic Movies. (**)

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