Archive for the ‘Eleanor Parker’ Category

A King And Four Queens

19 Apr

A King And Four Queens — directed by Raoul Walsh. Western. A handsome grifter works his charms on four lovelies and their mother-in-law for a boodle. 86 minutes Color 1956.


He drank a lot and screwed any lady who turned up in his dressing room. He could write his own ticket. He was Clark Gable, the sexiest man in Hollywood – and one of the things that made him sexy was his humor – the wry look, the brow furrowed with amusement at female goings-on, and the crackle in his voice that relished the game, its losses and its folly. All this is in full play with Gable in this well constructed and tightly written piece. He is given a first class actress to oppose his ambitions for her money. Jo Van Fleet is the mother of four wretched bank robbers three of whom have burned to death, while one escaped. She sits on their buried booty and she waits for a son to return – except she doesn’t know which son it is, for the bodies were unrecognizable – and their four wives wait with her, not knowing either. Van Fleet was a curious actress, powerful in dispute, but with the sensitivity of a barstool. And yet her scene with Gable shot in bed is really as brilliant a piece of subtext playing as you will ever see. She scorns Gable, wounded though he is, but she longs with unmentioned pain for news of one of her sons. She is, rare for her, touching. Gable admired her professionalism; he himself had his lines down pat first thing; he also asked her scenes to be edited down, because she was stealing the show; it couldn’t be done and still make sense. Somehow the two of them keep the story going, along with Eleanor Parker who entertains herself with common sense and a simple wardrobe. The first symptom of the demise of Hollywood studios in he ’50s was the failure of costuming, and this is a good example of it. Technicolored to death, the other three wives make plays for Gable, and it is a tribute to his gifts and his nature, weathered and real, that he can tell each of them off without shaming them or looking like a prig. Gable, a mountain of masculinity – but with a jocular eye. An actor who never fails us. An actor who loved acting. If you want to see what an actor who is perfectly confident in his craft looks like, look at Gable in this period of his work, in his 50s. It’s late Beethoven. It’s really something to behold. The direction by Raoul Walsh never falters, always tells the story hard and clear. The picture, aside from the spectacle of its opening ride through wild terrain, is an indoor Western. Alex North wrote a terrific score and the great Lucien Ballard filmed it.

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