Gable and Lombard

Gable and Lombard

Gable and Lombard is a 1976 American biographical film directed by Sidney J. Furie. The screenplay by Barry Sandler is based on the romance and consequent marriage of legendary screen stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.


The pair meet at a Hollywood party, where rugged leading man Gable eschews evening wear and screwball comedienne Lombard arrives in an ambulance that wrecks his car. They argue. He threatens to spank her. She punches him on the jaw. The two clearly dislike each other, and intensely so, but as fate conspires to bring them together again and again, they begin to admire each other and fall in love.

The fly in the ointment is Gable's second wife Ria. MGM executive Louis B. Mayer fears any publicity about his affair with Lombard will jeopardize Gable's career, and since he's the studio's most valuable player, Mayer becomes protective of his star. Gable and Lombard fish, play practical jokes on each other, laugh, fight, and have fun making up. His wife finally grants him a divorce, and the two wed. As the viewer knows from the very start, living happily ever after is not to be their fate, and Lombard is killed in a plane crash while promoting the purchase of defense bonds during World War II.

Principal cast

Principal production credits

Critical reception

In his review in the New York Times, Vincent Canby called the film "a fan-magazine movie with the emotional zap of a long-lost Louella Parsons column" and added, "As written by Barry Sandler and directed by Sidney J. Furie, Gable and Lombard recalls not Gone With the Wind, Honky Tonk, Twentieth Century, Nothing Sacred or To Be or Not to Be, but clichés culled from the worst movies of that period. The actors don't help . . . Of the two, Miss Clayburgh comes off better. She appears to be creating a character whenever the fearfully bad screenplay allows it. Mr. Brolin doesn't act. He gives an impersonation of the sort that makes you wonder if he can also do James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Miss Clayburgh could be an interesting actress, but she's not a great one, nor is she a star, and there are always problems when small performers try to portray the kind of giant legends that Gable and Lombard were. Because both Gable and Lombard are still very much alive in their films on television and in repertory theaters, there is difficulty in responding to Mr. Brolin and Miss Clayburgh in any serious way. They are stand-ins."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described the film as a "mushy, old-fashioned extravaganza" and added, "there are so many dumb practical jokes and would-be risque innuendoes that any concern for [Gable and Lombard's] real thoughts and feelings is lost. So we don't get a notion of their private lives, and we don't even remotely learn from this movie what made them great stars and personalities."

Variety called it "a film with many major assets, not the least of which is the stunning and smashing performance of Jill Clayburgh as Carole Lombard. James Brolin manages excellently to project the necessary Clark Gable attributes while adding his own individuality to the characterization . . . [the film] is candid without being prurient; delightful without being superficially glossy; heart-warming without being corny."

Time Out London says, "The film seems as insulated and remote from the real Hollywood as Hollywood vehicles of the time were from the real world. Allen Garfield does a reasonable turn as Louis Mayer, but Brolin is a wax dummy and Clayburgh produces a very modern version of the Lombard larkishness."

TV Guide awarded it one out of a possible four stars, calling it "a cardboard retelling of the Clark Gable-Carol Lombard romance and marriage . . . Clayburgh as Lombard is adequate, but Brolin has none of the charisma that made Gable a premier screen idol. The major problem is the superficial script."


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