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The Cold War is on in Never Let Me Go (1953) with journalist Clark Gable trying to thwart post-war Moscow politics in order to get his Russian bride (Gene Tierney) out of the country. Despite the setting, the movie was filmed at MGM's Boreham Wood Studios in England by director Delmer Daves with location shooting in Cornwall. While Gable abhorred the English weather, calling the countryside "as grim as place as he'd ever seen," he enjoyed working with Tierney and Daves, who also had fond memories of the Never Let Me Go set.
Prior to filming Never Let Me Go, Gable set sail for Europe several weeks early for a holiday in Paris. There he met and romanced a model named Suzanne Dadolle. The affair would continue during the filming of Never Let Me Go with Gable escaping the English filming location for Paris on numerous weekends. Another diversion while shooting Never Let Me Go was Gable's preparation for the upcoming Mogambo (1953). He'd read the script (a remake of the 1932 Gable-Harlow film Red Dust) while in Paris, and forgoing his usual post-picture vacation, would go directly to Africa to shoot Mogambo when Never Let Me Go wrapped. So between shoots on Never Let Me Go Gable was being fitted for his Mogambo costumes.
Gable handpicked Daves to direct Never Let Me Go. The two knew each other but had never worked together. According to Daves, Gable apologized for asking him to work on such "a crummy story." The actor explained that he needed to do the movie because he was still in debt from taxes on wife Carole Lombard's estate. There was also the recent (and rather costly) divorce from wife number four, Sylvia Ashley. The working relationship between Daves and Gable had a father-son dynamic, according to the director (in Long Live the King: A Biography of Clark Gable by Lyn Tornabene). "I never had a conflict with him of any kind. He was more like my son in the relationship; more son than friend." But Daves also remembers that Gable "needed a great deal of reassurance about work. He would constantly refer to his stage background. It was - I don't know - his security blanket."
On location for Never Let Me Go, Daves describes a highly gregarious Gable, "who could communicate beautifully We shot some scenes in Cornwall where they didn't know who Gable was. But he would sit down and ask some fellow how he built his boat, whether he started with the keel or a total design. Cornishmen talk up hill and down hill, so Clark would would talk up hill and down hill." He also hated to be alone. When Gable was given a private cottage in Cornwall he found it too quiet. He couldn't sleep and traded his cottage for Daves' room at the inn. Another Gable story told by Daves involves a brand new Jaguar. Apparently Gable had ordered a custom Jaguar that he planned to ship home to the States. One day, his shiny, new toy arrived on set. Despite the fact that stars in that day were not allowed to drive themselves, Daves sensed Gable's eagerness for a test drive, called a lunch break and went with Gable for a ride. Of this trip around the block, Daves jokingly commented, "..I got in that car and for the next hour Clark and I took every curve in Cornwall - Vroooom, vroooom. He was a kid. That was the real joy of Clark, that he was a child, and a man."
Gable made a strong impression on co-star Gene Tierney as well. The two dined out one evening in Cornwall and she recalled (in Gable's Women by Jane Ellen Wayne) that "he told me how much he loved and missed Carole Lombard..He and I laughed about our beginnings in Hollywood. We both had physical drawbacks that might have kept us off the screen - my teeth and his ears...He was a thoughtful man. My feet were blistered from extensive ballet lessons [for the film], and he remembered to bring back some salve from Paris that helped a lot."
Tierney, unlike some of Gable's co-stars did not pursue a relationship with him - she was romantically involved with Prince Aly Khan at the time - writing in her autobiography, Self-Portrait: "I had no romantic interest in Gable. I considered him an older man" but he definitely charmed her: "I saw him as sweet and gentle, a hard crust with a soft center. I thought that quality was what came across on the screen and made him adored by so many." Tierney was later offered a part opposite Gable in Mogambo but declined, not wanting to be away from her daughter (with ex-husband Oleg Cassini) for such an extended period. The role went to Grace Kelly instead who, ironically enough, was dating Tierney's ex-husband at the time.
Producer: Clarence Brown
Director: Delmer Daves
Screenplay: George Froeschel, Ronald Millar, Roger Bax (novel)
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Film Editing: Frank Clarke
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Music: Hans May
Cast: Clark Gable (Philip Sutherland), Gene Tierney (Marva Lamarkins), Bernard Miles (Joe Brooks), Richard Haydn (Christoper Denny), Belita (Valentina Alexandrovna), Kenneth More (Steve Quillan).
by Stephanie Thames