Saturday, February 01, 2014

Call of the Wild

One vintage film I always wanted to see was the 1935 version of Call of the Wild, which had virtually nothing to do with the book by Jack London outside of the title and a few little details. The movie centered mostly around a horndog prospector (Clark Gable) and the horndog dog (Buck, supposedly a Saint Bernard/wolf mix but looked like a purebred Saint Bernard to me) he acquired for $200. Both of them had to constantly make decisions on whether to behave in a civilized manner or go out and do things they weren't supposed to be doing.

In Gable's case, he and fellow prospector Jack Oakie came across a woman lying around in the snow seemingly alone, but her husband was supposed to be getting help or something to rescue them both. Of course this woman was played by a very young Loretta Young (she was around 22 years old at the time). She was immaculately groomed even in the Klondike or Yukon or wherever the hell the story took place (I haven't read the book in probably 45 years). She assumed her husband was gone forever, so she followed Gable and Oakie back to town and then eventually she followed Gable to where the gold was. They ended up shacking up together and having an affair, since both were presumed to be single. Meanwhile, her husband wasn't dead after all, but he was damned near killed by villains right before reaching the Gable cabin. The villains confronted Gable and made off with all of the gold and his canoe, but the idiots capsized it in the rapids and drowned.

Later on Gable found Young's husband, still alive, which put a damper on his affair with Young's character. The husband recovered, and he and Young took Gable's canoe down the river, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, Buck left Gable to carry on with one of the female wolves and had a cute little brood of puppies. He answered his call of the wild while Gable would remain unfulfilled. All was not lost, however. Jack Oakie and a cook arrived at the cabin and kept him company at the end.

Anyway, there was a lot of location shooting for this movie. Location sequences were shot in Washington state, Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Lakes, among the places, and it was often cold. Also, as everybody knows, Gable and Young answered their real-life "call of the wild" and embarked on a torrid affair. Also, as everybody knows, Young got pregnant by the then-married Gable, and Young had to come up with some fake story about having to "retire from the screen for reasons of health," had daughter Judy Lewis, and then "adopted" her later on. The truth couldn't come out to the general public because of the "morals clauses" in actors' contracts during the studio era, and Gable's and Young's careers would have been ruined by the scandal. It was a fairly tragic story, for Lewis never really knew Gable at all, and I believe she met him only once.

I read Lewis's memoirs, and, as I recall, Gable was the great love of her mother's life. Apparently this was the case with many women who knew Gable in the biblical sense. Joan Crawford maintained Gable was the great love of her life. Virginia Grey had a big romance with Gable following the death of his third wife Carole Lombard and apparently he was the great love of her life. She never married him or anybody else. Gable's first love, Franz Dorfler, regarded Gable as the great love of her life, and she, like Grey, never married. Gable's first wife, Josephine Dillon, never married again after divorcing Gable. Gable's second wife, Ria Langham, never married again after she and Gable divorced. Gable's widow, Kay Spreckles, never married again after his death. However, only the two women who loved him the most and he loved the most, Kay Spreckles Gable and Carole Lombard, are interred next to him at Forest Lawn, Glendale. There weren't enough empty crypts near him to accommodate all of the women who regarded Gable as their great love, so the spaces had to be limited to wives three and five.*

Getting back to Call of the Wild, it is on YouTube, though it is broken up into six parts. Here is part one:




*--As Gable buffs know, Gable's fourth wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, the widow of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., DID remarry after divorcing Gable. A fun fact about her next and last husband, Prince Dimitri Djordjadze, who survived her, is that he was the owner of top racehorse Princequillo, who was later the maternal grandsire of the greatest racehorse of the twentieth century, Secretariat.

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