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Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are so inextricably linked as a couple in film history that many people may be surprised to find they were never paired in a picture during their marriage and, in fact, only co-starred on screen together once, a few years before they were romantically involved, in No Man of Her Own . (For the record, both were actually uncredited extras with no scenes together prior to this in a silent picture directed by Wesley Ruggles, The Plastic Age ). A winning mix of comedy, romance, and crime, No Man of Her Own tells the story of a professional card sharp on the lam who meets and marries a frustrated small-town librarian. Although produced outside his home studio, it followed the successful formula that made many of Gable's 1930s pictures so popular, casting him as an irresistible rogue whose wicked ways are redeemed by the love of either a good woman (in this case) or a best friend (often played by Spencer Tracy).
One of the reasons Gable and Lombard didn't appear together again after No Man of Her Own is that both were stars at their respective studios, he at MGM, she at Paramount, and their popularity made executives reluctant to lend them out. It was only by chance that they were teamed up for this 1932 movie. At the time, William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies's production company was still connected to MGM, and Davies wanted Paramount contractee Bing Crosby for her next picture, Going Hollywood (1933). To please his mistress, the ever-devoted Hearst talked Louis B. Mayer into trading Gable's services for Crosby's. Convinced No Man of Her Own was of little importance and Paramount wouldn't be able to profit from the loan of his fast-rising male star, Mayer let Gable go...and was sorry when the movie turned out to be a hit.
Originally No Man of Her Own was slated for George Raft, but the role fit Gable to a tee, and Paramount jumped at the chance to capitalize on the successful image he had built at MGM. His co-star was to be Miriam Hopkins, who soon begged off the picture (one of the rumored reasons was because she did not want to be billed below Gable as MGM demanded in the loan-out deal). Director Wesley Ruggles, an old friend of Gable's, wanted Lombard, but the studio didn't think she was a big enough star; that would come later, with her breakthrough comic performance in Howard Hawks's Twentieth Century, 1934. Ruggles and Lombard connived, however, and she was soon in front of the camera with the man she would one day marry.
The two got along well; Lombard even presented him with her trademark prank gift at the wrap party, a ham with Gable's picture on it. But each was married to someone else at the time, Lombard to actor William Powell and Gable to socialite Rhea Langham, seventeen years his senior. It would be four years before romantic sparks began to fly. They were married in 1939 and were by most accounts one of Hollywood's happiest couples until her death in a plane crash in 1942 at the age of 33.
According to published reports at the time, the title was borrowed from the best-selling novel No Bed of Her Own by Val Lewton, who later helmed the legendary RKO horror unit in the 1940s. The book's title was also used as the film's working title in the early stages of production. As the title would suggest, the script initially ran into some censorship problems, resulting in a memo found in the Paramount files defending the story as "essentially a brutal one a sock on the nose and we are going to sacrifice its best values if we try to soften it, make it nice, or whitewash it."
Gable was a bit player in three other Ruggles silents, and the two worked together one more time in Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). Ruggles directed Lombard twice more after this: Bolero (1934) and True Confession (1937). An Oscar® nominee for the big budget Western Cimarron (1931), Ruggles was better known for sparkling romantic comedies, among them The Bride Comes Home (1935) with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, Too Many Husbands (1940) with MacMurray and Jean Arthur, and Slightly Dangerous (1943) with Lana Turner and Robert Young. He also directed the racy Mae West comedy I'm No Angel (1933), one of the movies that supposedly ushered in a much stricter Production Code.
No Man of Her Own is not to be confused with another movie of the same name made in 1950, a mystery melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck with a completely different storyline.
Producer: Albert Lewis
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Screenplay: Milton Herbert Gropper, Maurine Dallas Watkins; Benjamin Glazer, Edmund Goulding (both story)
Cinematography: Leo Tover
Music: W. Franke Harling (uncredited)
Cast: Clark Gable (Babe Stewart), Carole Lombard (Connie Randall), Dorothy Mackaill (Kay Everly), Grant Mitchell (Vane), George Barbier (Mr. Randall), Elizabeth Patterson (Mrs. Randall), J. Farrell MacDonald ('Dickie' Collins), Tommy Conlon (Willie Randall), Walter Walker (Mr. Morton), Paul Ellis (Vargas), Lillian Harmer (Mattie).
by Rob Nixon