6 September 2005 | theowinthrop
Clark Gable's Twilight Quartet of Films
Between 1958 and 1961 Clark Gable appeared in four final movies that were somewhat unusual. Three of them were sex comedies, and the co-stars in them were far younger than he was. The fourth was a straight drama, which also had a female co-star who was far younger than him. These were BUT NOT FOR ME, TEACHER'S PET, IT STARTED IN NAPLES, and THE MISFITS. His co-stars were Carol Baker (and Lili Palmer), Doris Day, Sophia Loren, and Marilyn Monroe. The age difference was quite unusual (up to this time Gable's leading ladies were about ten to fifteen years within his age - in fact, Lili Palmer's appearance in BUT NOT FOR ME was to give his character a perfect mate to end up with. Most film lovers tend to only recall the last of this quartet because of it being Gable and Monroe's last movie (although Monroe did begin SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE soon after, but didn't complete it). THE MISFITS also has the added downer of being the only film either of them did with Montgomery Clift. But most of all, Gable's death so soon after the shooting of THE MISFITS ended is linked to his difficult scene where he helped to control a wild horse (the effect on the actor, immediately after the scene was shot, is evidence of his over-exertions). With so much of a downer atmosphere generated by this film his three previous comedies sort of pale in comparison.
This is unfair because they were good comedies. I have discussed BUT NOT FOR ME elsewhere. TEACHER'S PET is possibly the most satiric of the three films (although certain points about the entertainment industry and play production get spoofed in BUT NOT FOR ME, and Italian-American culture shock gets a zing in IT STARTED IN NAPLES).
TEACHER'S PET is set in New York City, where Gable (James Gannon) is the city editor of a major newspaper. Some of the comments on this thread suggest Gannon is a hack. He's not, but just a very smart newsman who has spent a lifetime learning how a newspaper functions. At the start of the film, he is involved with Vivian Nathan (Mrs. Kovacs, the newspaper building's cleaning lady) and Nick Adams (her son, Barney), in trying to settle the issue of whether or not Barney should be given a chance to be a reporter on the paper. Mrs. Nathan does not want him to leave school, but Barney is anxious to begin. It is from this that Gannon discovers that modern news reporters don't learn the business from the bottom up, but go to journalism classes. He is recommended to go to see the classes of Doris Day (Erica Stone), because she has been making some critical comments about how Gannon runs his paper.
Pretending to be a person who just wants to better himself, Gannon signs in on Stone's classes, and rapidly rises to the top of her students. She thinks she has found a truly brilliant amateur. He is enjoying her being totally fooled, as he originally intends to reveal his real identity to her class at the right time. But he gradually falls in love with Stone (and she finds herself, typically, fighting this). His only rival is a psychiatrist friend of Stone, Gig Young (Dr. Hugo Pine), whom he finds almost indestructible to larger and larger amounts of alcohol when the three are out at a night spot.
The situation can't last too long, for Erica discovers his identity. At the same time, Gannon discovers Erica's secret: Her love of journalism is due to her family, as her father was a famous newspaper editor named Joel Barlow Stone. Gannon finds Erica considers him stupid, and it is only when he talks to Pine about it that he realizes that his accumulated knowledge of the newspaper world is as impressive as the knowledge that Erica brings to her students from her books. But he still is in the doghouse with Erica - possibly more so when he studies old copies of her father's Midwestern newspaper, and questions how good a newspaper editor he really was!
How they resolve the film I leave to the viewers (whom I urge watch it). I just to want to discuss one point: who is the original for Joel Barlow Stone? Firstly, the name "Joel Barlow" is one of those forgotten figures of early American Literatrue. Joel Barlow was one of the "Hartford Wits" of the period from 1780 - 1800. They wrote satiric verses and pieces, most of which nobody ever reads anymore. This happens to be part of the irony about her father that Erica is taught (surprisingly) by Gannon. This editor father is obviously based on William Allan White, the famous Midwestern editor of the EMPORIA GAZETTE (from Kansas), who flourished as a major figure in literary and political America from 1890 to 1947 (when he died). White (like Joel Barlow Stone) is best remembered for his editorials, several of which won national awards. He was also an author of several memoirs and historical works (such as his popular biography of President Calvin Coolidge, A PURITAN IN BABYLON). But the resemblance is only skin deep. White was an astute newspaperman, and his newspaper was deeply involved with current events and political trends in the U.S. Gannon discovers that as an editor White's fictional opposite number Joel Barlow Stone left a lot to be desired.