The One about Wesley Ruggles’ “No Man of Her Own”

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Before Clark Gable and Carole Lombard would become Hollywood’s super couple in real life, both worked on one film together back in 1932 titled “No Man of Her Own”.

Directed by Wesley Ruggles (“Too Many Husbands”, “Arizona”, “I’m No Angel”, “True Confessions”), the pre-code Hollywood film revolves around a gambler named Babe Stewart (portrayed by Clark Gable) and he and his men are being watched closely by an investigator.

Meanwhile, in a small town, we are introduced to a librarian named Connie Randall (portrayed by Carole Lombard).  She is tired of her regular life and her family is so proper that she wants more adventure in her life.

As Babe and his men decide to lie low, he goes to a small town and while at the local library, he starts to flirt with the Connie.  And not long after he meets her, he kisses her and goes so far to follow her to a retreat where the two become romantic.

Always the gambler, Connie asks Babe to take a risk and gamble that if he loses in a flip of a coin, he must marry her.  And sure enough, he loses and marries Connie.

But as the two are married, Babe tries to put on a facade that he is wealthy and works on Wall Street.  But the more Connie lives with Babe, she starts to learn more about him and realizes that he may not be the guy that she thought he was.  But for her, is that a good thing or bad thing?

“No Man of Her Own” may not be the best Gable film, nor the best Lombard film but in Hollywood cinema history, it is known as the film that would feature the future super couple together.

The film was rather interesting in how it was made as actress Marion Davies wanted to work with only Bing Crosby for her 1933 film “Going Hollywood”, so she convinced Louis B. Mayer to work out a trade in which Clark Gable and Bing Crosby could switch places.  And so Gable was sent to Paramount to work on a project as Bing worked on the Davies film.  And while at Paramount, the only film that he was interested in working on was “No Man of Her Own”.

For the female lead, the film was first offered to Miriam Hopkins but because she didn’t want Gable receiving top billing, she passed on the film which would later go to Carole Lombard, who was a bit sour because of her being on loan by United Artists.  And these two working together was no love at first sight.

Lombard was married to William Powell at the time, while Gable was married to Rhea Langham but both felt differently towards each other during the film as Gable thought of Lombard as a Primadonna (going so far to give her a final shooting gift of ballerina slippers with the note “To a true primadonna”, while Lombard gave him a ham with his picture on it) and she thought of Gable as conceited.

But after each divorced, four year later, the two would eventually marry each other.

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The film is a fun film when both are onscreen despite a storyline and lackadaisical ending, but for me, I suppose what caught my eye about the film is the pre-code screwball comedy.

One scene features Babe asking Connie to climb a ladder to retrieve a book, while he stands behind looking at her rear or her legs.  The film would also feature a shower scene with Connie showing her back and the two having a romantic tryst at a retreat.

It may be no big deal for today’s audiences but back then, there were worries about the Hays Office who were starting to outline their strict codes and guidelines for film censorship, but fortunately for this film, the sexual chemistry of the characters were not toned down.  But the ladder scene in itself, would cause some controversy.

But what makes “No Man of Her Own” entertaining is the witty dialogue between Babe and Connie, as the underlying theme of the film about the con job or the investigators pursuit of Babe is not really that interesting.  So, I wouldn’t call this film a classic but for the only film that would star Gable and Lombard, for fans of Hollywood cinema, the film is worth seeing because of the pairing, rather than its overall story.

A delightful screwball comedy at times, “No Man of Her Own” is an average comedy at best.


 

Dennis A. Amith