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One of several films in which Clark Gable played a newspaperman, After Office Hours (1935) featured MGM's emerging superstar as a managing editor who crashes the world of high society to get a lead on a murder mystery. Constance Bennett costars as a wealthy socialite who finds a job at Gable's newspaper, only to be fired by him -- then quickly rehired when he needs to investigate her high-toned friends. It seems that one of the men-about-town (Harvey Stephens) has designs on another pretty socialite (Katharine Alexander) that include betrayal and murder.
The film's screenplay was by the redoubtable Herman J. Mankiewicz, who later would share an Oscar® with Orson Welles for the screenplay of Citizen Kane (1941). According to an MGM history, "the biting wit of the Mankiewicz dialogue got the rosiest bouquets tossed by the critics" at After Office Hours. The Hollywood Reporter considered that "the dialogue is crisp and the action creates an atmosphere of bustle and to-do." Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter's even more celebrated brother, contributed some uncredited bits of that dialogue.
Apparently impressed by Gable's recent Best Actor Oscar® for his snappy comic performance in It Happened One Night (1934), After Office Hours director Robert Z. Leonard encouraged his star to play his role broadly - almost, in the opinion of a critic for the London Film Weekly, to the point of burlesque. Reconsidering Gable's image that same year, MGM returned him to dramatic roles in The Call of the Wild and Mutiny on the Bounty (both 1935).
After Office Hours marked the first time that Gable and Bennett costarred in a film, although he had played a supporting role -- that of a milkman! -- four years earlier in her melodramatic vehicle The Easiest Way (1931). It had been his first film as an MGM contract player, and, despite being billed last, he made a strong impression. Bennett was among the actresses who had turned down the leading role opposite Gable in It Happened One Night, which won an Oscar® for Claudette Colbert.
Producer: Bernard H. Hyman, Robert Z. Leonard
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: Herman J. Mankiewicz, from story by Laurence Stallings and Dale Van Every
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Editing: Tom Held
Costume Design: Adrian
Cast: Constance Bennett (Sharon Norwood), Clark Gable (James "Jim" Branch), Stuart Erwin (Hank Parr), Billie Burke (Mrs. Norwood), Harvey Stephens (Tommy Bannister), Katharine Alexander (Julia Patterson).
by Roger Fristoe