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By the mid-1930's, both Joan Crawford and Clark Gable had been in movies for a decade, and top stars for half that time. Gable, a potent box office attraction as a sexy tough guy, had helped kick off the enormously successful screwball comedy genre with It Happened One Night (1934), which had boosted his career and won him an Oscar.
Screwball comedy had also given new life to the careers of dramatic actresses like Irene Dunne and Claudette Colbert, and every drama queen in Hollywood was trying her hand at it, whether she had a talent for it or not. Joan Crawford's turn came with Love on the Run (1936), and MGM provided her favorite co-star for added marquee power. Gable and Crawford had proven to be a winning romantic team in six previous films, so re-teaming them in a screwball farce was a shrewd move.
Love on the Run takes off from the It Happened One Night premise of a runaway heiress in a love-hate relationship with a dashing reporter. But with typical MGM grandiosity, Love on the Run is set in Europe rather than the East Coast; the vehicle of escape is a plane, not a bus; and for good measure, there are two dashing reporters, Gable and Franchot Tone, competing for madcap heiress Crawford. There's also some international espionage, a top-notch supporting cast including Reginald Owen, Donald Meek and William Demarest, and the fast-paced direction of W.S. Van Dyke.
Gable and Crawford's off-screen affair had lasted almost as long as their onscreen one, through his first two marriages and hers to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Crawford recalled later that she and Gable had been drawn together by their working-class backgrounds, and by similar fears and insecurities. But by the time they made Love on the Run, Gable was involved with the love of his life Carole Lombard, and Crawford was still in the early days of her second marriage to Franchot Tone, who was also in the film. Gable and Crawford's passion had mellowed into a lasting friendship.
Crawford, fresh from being colossally miscast (at her own insistence) in her one and only period drama, The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), was happy to escape into the comedy of Love on the Run. "I enjoyed the hell out of it," she would say later. "Not a big picture, but everyone I know who saw it seemed to love the thing." That included the critics. "Clever direction, sophisticated dialogue, novel setting and ludicrous situations combined with excellent casting spell 'reel' entertainment," wrote John Mosher in the New Yorker. Crawford may not have had the gossamer-light touch of Colbert, but critics found her more than adequate. "Miss Crawford, of the big eyes and flowing hair, turns in a surprisingly volatile and amusing performance," according to Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune.
At the time she made Love on the Run, Joan Crawford was still a top box-office draw, as she had been every year since 1932. But her career had peaked, and a few years later, she'd be labeled box office poison. Her marriage to Tone ended in 1939, and her MGM contract ended a few years later. But Crawford, the ultimate survivor, bounced back, finally winning her Oscar for Mildred Pierce (1945). Clark Gable also had his greatest role ahead of him, as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939). He would remain a top star until his death in 1960.
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, Manuel Seff, Gladys Hurlbut, based on the story by Alan Green & Julian Brodie
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Editor: Frank Sullivan
Costume Design: Adrian
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Franz Waxman
Principal Cast: Joan Crawford (Sally Parker), Clark Gable (Michael Anthony), Franchot Tone (Barnabas Pells), Reginald Owen (Baron Spandermann), Mona Barrie (Baroness), Ivan Lebedeff (Prince Igor), William Demarest (Editor), Donald Meek (Caretaker).
BW-81m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri