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First up chronologically is Dancing Lady, which pairs Gable with Joan Crawford; he's a gruff Broadway director, she's a plucky young dancer who moves up from burlesque to the legit theater thanks to wealthy suitor Franchot Tone. It's not a great movie, but the formula is pleasing, and there's a young fellow named Fred Astaire (his film debut) in a couple of scenes. Some surreal comedy is provided by Ted Healy and His Stooges (whose names happen to be Moe, Larry and Curly). Tay Garnett's China Seas, from 1935, was a reunion with Jean Harlow, with whom Gable had struck gold in Red Dust. The script by James Kevin McGuinness and the gifted Jules Furthman might have a preposterous plot--cribbed from Red Dust--but the dialogue is deliciously vulgar and the actors perfectly cast. Gable is the captain of a boat on the Hong Kong-Singapore run, carrying secret gold and fending off pirates and a typhoon. His real problem, however is that the classy woman (Rosalind Russell) he has long pined for has come aboard at the exact moment his bawdy mistress (Harlow) has also tagged along. Clarence Brown's Wife vs. Secretary (1936) brings Harlow back, this time as the executive assistant to Gable's wealthy tycoon. Their relationship is strictly professional, although wife Myrna Loy eventually has suspicions. Gable and Loy are cute together, and the film is a reminder of how playful he could be outside the manly-man world of many of his films. The blockbuster San Francisco, also 1936, gives a pretty good blueprint of what audiences craved at the time. Gable is the rakish owner of a wild Barbary Coast club, Jeannette MacDonald the opera-ready songbird who performs for him, Spencer Tracy the no-nonsense priest and childhood friend who would love to reform Gable. Director W.S. Van Dyke keeps it all cracking along (well, except when MacDonald sings and Cultcha comes in) and the special effects for the San Francisco earthquake are really rather awesome. Boom Town (1940) was another box-office smash, with Gable and Tracy as Texas oil wildcatters who team up, split, team up, split, etc. Claudette Colbert is the woman loved by both, although the male bonding is the most engaging thing about this entertaining spectacle. Mogambo is an official remake of Red Dust, with Gable returning, this time as an African safari leader. Even with gray hair, his masculinity is enough to entice good-time girl Ava Gardner and ladylike Grace Kelly. John Ford directed, which means the location exteriors and studio interiors alike are alive with Ford's expressive compositional eye. Included on the San Francisco disc is a TNT documentary profile of Gable.

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WA67994 Clark Gable Signature Collection DVD (Boom Town/China Seas/Dancing Lady/Mogambo/San Francisco/Wife vs. Secretary/Spencer Tracy/Joan Crawford/Ava Gardner/Jean Harlow) $59.98 $49.99