US Release Date: 12-30-1932
Directed by: Wesley Ruggles
- Clark Gable, as
- Jerry 'Babe' Stewart
- Carole Lombard, as
- Connie Randall
- Dorothy Mackaill, as
- Kay Everly
- Grant Mitchell, as
- Charlie Vane
- George Barbier, as
- Mr. Randall
- Elizabeth Patterson, as
- Mrs. Randall
- J. Farrell MacDonald, as
- 'Dickie' Collins
- Tommy Conlon, as
- Willie Randall
- Walter Walker, as
- Mr Morton
- Paul Ellis, as
- Lillian Harmer, as
- Mattie - The Librarian
- Charley Grapewin as
- George - The Clerk
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable
No Man of Her Own is the one and only pairing of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and it almost did not happen. Paramount loaned Bing Crosby to MGM for a one picture deal for Clark Gable. MGM agreed if their newest star got top billing. This upset the original leading lady and she backed out of the film, making way for Lombard to star with her future husband. Both Gable and Lombard were married to other people at the time and no gossip of any romance ever surfaced. They did not get married until seven years later.
Gable plays a gambler who has a racket with some friends. They set up phoney poker games with a rich sucker. They do not care who wins as long as it is not their target. Afterwards they split the take. After a policeman makes it clear he is on to him, Gable decides to get out of town for awhile.
He goes to a small town and meets a librarian, Lombard. He figures to pass the time by seducing her. "Do your eyes bother you?" "No. Why?" "They bother me!" He basically spends the week trying to get her into bed. He meets her parents, and even goes to church with them. It eventually gets to the point where he flips a coin, "Heads we do." he says, "Tails we get married." she quickly adds. They have great chemistry together.
The two end up getting married and move back to New York City. Gable keeps his gambling scheme going while he lets Lombard think he works on Wall Street. She eventually discovers the truth and she begs him to quit. The carefree Gable does not like feeling the emotional pressure and informs her that he is taking a trip to South America. In truth, he is impressed by her devotion and has decided to make a deal with the police.
No Man of Her Own is about truth and honor. Both Gable and Lombard keep a secret from the other, but it is out of respect and pride. They love each other and know that some things are better left unsaid. Movies like this do not get made anymore, and couples like Gable and Lombard are likewise as rare.
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own.
Allow me to elaborate a bit on how fate brought Gable and Lombard together for this one and only picture. As Eric wrote, MGM traded Gable's services to Paramount for Bing Crosby. What he didn't mention was that Marion Davies was responsible for this trade in the first place, as she wanted Crosby for her next picture, Going Hollywood. As anyone who's seen That's Entertainment knows this was Crosby's only picture at MGM until High Society some 23 years later.
Meanwhile, over at Paramount, Gable chose a script called No Man of Her Own which was slated to star George Raft opposite Miriam Hopkins. As Eric said, Hopkins balked at the idea of receiving second billing to the relative newcomer Gable and walked out on the project. Thus is the role of star egos in history.
Lombard was happily married to William Powell at the time while Gable was on wife number two. According to reports they were entirely indifferent to each other during filming. Apparently he found her sense of humor to be a bit too bawdy and she thought him conceited. At the end of the shoot they each got the other a parting gift. Gable gave Lombard a pair of ballerina slippers with a note saying, “To a true primadonna.” Lombard presented Gable with a large ham with a photo of him stuck to it. Sounds like true love.
The story No Man of Her Own (an odd little title) was originally based on a Val Lewton novel called No Bed of Her Own. It ended up being closer in plot to a story called “Here Is My Heart” by Benjamin Glazer and Edmund Goulding.
I agree with Eric. Their scintillating chemistry is obvious in every frame of the picture they share together. They may not have realized they were made for each other at the time but the camera sure as hell did. The tragic ending to their real life love affair gives the movie a poignancy it would otherwise lack.
Carole Lombard certainly doesn't look like any small town librarian I've ever seen. She transitions to big city glamor girl in a heartbeat but thanks to her innate talent she maintains an appealing down to earth quality throughout the movie. Gable is his usual rakish, cocky self. He conveys Jerry's inner struggle between his old womanizing, gambling ways and the love he feels for Connie brilliantly. He wears a tuxedo like he was to the manor born.
Grant Mitchell and Dorothy Mackaill give good support as Jerry's dissolute partner in crime, and his former bed mate, respectively. But make no mistake, No Man of Her Own is really only remembered as the one and only screen pairing of classic Hollywood's most glamorous and tragic couple.
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own.
Although my brothers are right that this movie is mainly remembered because it stars Lombard and Gable together for the only time, it's actually quite an enjoyable little movie in its own right. It's a lighthearted little Pre-Code comedy that zips right along from beginning to end. Sure, it's almost completely predictable, but, thanks in large part to its leads, it's charming just the same.
Patrick has long maintained, and scholars of the period agree with him, that the Golden Age of Hollywood reached its apex in 1939. I wouldn't presume to disagree with him on the subject, but I've always preferred the films of the early 1930s. Some of the greatest comedies ever produced came out during that period, often helped by the lax nature of the Hay's Censorship Office prior to 1934. Certainly the screwball comedies reached their peak in that glamorous decade. It was amidst the Great Depression that Hollywood produced some of the greatest escapist entertainment ever put on film. No Man of Her Own may not be a complete classic, but it's certainly a delightful representation of the era.
The fact that it's a Pre-Code film, isn't essential to the film, but there are small details that make it obvious that it is one. Dorothy Mackaill plays Kay, Gable's ex-girlfriend in the film and it's obvious that they are meant to have slept together. Lombard slips in and out of clothes (often without a bra) in a manner that would never have been allowed just a few years later. Likewise, the joke Eric referenced, where Gable tosses the coin to see if they "do" or if they get married, would certainly have never made it past the censors.
Given how good Gable and Lombard are together, it's a shame this was the only time they ever got to star in the same movie. They share a terrific chemistry and to see their first meeting in the library is to see effortless movie magic. Gable is his usual likeable rogue (even without his mustache). Lombard is beautiful and charming, and she proves that even in this rather minor role that she was one of the most adept comediennes of the age.
This is a slight film in the individual careers of its two stars, but as the only film to star both of them, it's a gem.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (1932)