Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1936. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, Manuel Seff, Gladys Hurlbut, from the story by Alan Green, Julian Brodie. Cinematography by Oliver T. Marsh. Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Music by Franz Waxman. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Frank Sullivan.
Shamelessly stealing plot elements from It Happened One Night while trying to one-up them with an incongruous (though diverting) subplot involving dangerous spies, this one features Clark Gable once again as a shady reporter chasing a runaway bride. He and fellow newspaper man Franchot Tone are frenemies always looking to outdo each other on the job, so after Gable espies American society heiress Joan Crawford stealing away from her impending wedding to a European prince, he gets in good with her by lying about his actual profession. The two of them manage to escape incognito from her hotel by taking the identities (and eventually the airplane) of two German(ish) tourists that they don’t realize are in possession of stolen government documents. If you can believe the preposterous notion that someone can just teach themselves to fly a plane that quickly, and then survives a devastating crash landing with barely a scratch, you’ll enjoy the caper as this romantic twosome make it to France and cross the country on train and foot, outrunning the enemy while Gable has to constantly keep Tone from getting the scoop on him. Not surprisingly, the pair find a mutual affection while pulling off such capers, but their realistic, sweaty chemistry is somewhat odds with the flavour of cartoon comedy that the film is selling, including such antics as looking out the airplane window to see if the ground matches the colour on their map, or sneaking into the museum of Marie Antoinette’s boudoir to have a dance party before catching forty winks. As a result its more excessive come off more as implausible than imaginative, even by the standards of Hollywood screwball romances of the time, but at its most shallow this is still an undeniably diverting film that makes a great case for Crawford’s possible alternate career in comedies.