The well-known story of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard is set against two battle fronts: one personal and one public. During Gable’s three-year affair with Ms. Lombard, he struggled to define his true feelings for her. His second wife’s financial conditions for a divorce weighted heavily upon him. The movie succeeds in portraying this inner conflict as well as the beneficial changes that came over both Gable and Lombard as a result of their romance. He began to shed some of his subservience to the macho image and she, having cultivated a sassy and outrageous manner in order to draw attention to herself, loosened up under the nurturance of his love.On the public front, they faced censure from all sides. Both of their studios bowed to the pressure of various groups who were angered by the couple’s disregard for community standards of propriety (after all, Gabel was still married). A paternity suit against him further threatened their affair and their careers. But societal opposition served to fuel their passion and reliance upon each other.
Although Jill Clayburgh’s Lombard is not very convincing as a loudmouth zany, her depiction of the lady as a determined lover and a fighter against society’s Victorianism is radiant. James Brolin has done an excellent job in affecting Gable’s appearance, voice, and manner. He is best in revealing the occasional gentleness of the King of the Movies. Allen Garfield is very good as the MGM mogul who tries to please the public and keep his star.
Love stories are the dumbest of all American movies. So goes the argument of critics who feel that directors are incapable of handling the subject without dribbling on about the sacred mysteries of love. Sidney Furie’s Gable and Lombard is unabashedly glossy entertainment.