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San Francisco / Hold Your Man

Jean Harlow and Clark Gable cheek to cheek.
April 15, 2022 - 7:30 pm

San Francisco

U.S., 1936

A musical disaster film based on the devastation of the April 18, 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the story for W.S. Van Dyke’s MGM production was originally submitted for consideration by Herman Mankiewitz in early 1935. Loos took the next several passes at this period piece and got the script into shape for shooting in the spring of 1936. Always an admirer of Clark Gable for “his lack of vanity,” Loos wrote the lead role of saloon owner Blackie Norton with Gable in mind, perhaps inspired by his turn as another character named “Blackie” two years prior in another MGM film from Van Dyke, Manhattan Melodrama (1934); the character was loosely inspired by Wilson Mizner, the co-owner of The Brown Derby in Los Angeles, a spot frequented by Golden Age heavy hitters. With Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director for Van Dyke and Best Actor for Spencer Tracy, the film might be one of the most widely acclaimed in Loos’ career, though her unique contribution was not what received attention: the film also received a Best Original Story nod at the 1936 Academy Awards, which went only to Loos’ co-writer Robert E. Hopkins. While tragic that her contribution was overlooked, the film was considered one of the top 10 pictures of 1936 and has been remembered decades later for its spectacular effects, most notably during the earthquake montage and the lavish New Year’s Eve party sequence that opens the film.

35mm, b&w, 115 min. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Screenwriter: Anita Loos, Robert E. Hopkins. With: Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy.

Print courtesy of Constellation Film Collection at the Academy Film Archive.

Hold Your Man

U.S., 1933

Miss Ruby Adams (Jean Harlow), a woman not above a con, falls in love with a small-time crook Eddie Hall (Clark Gable); when he accidentally kills a man, she takes the fall for him in this film that just skirts Hays’ full-blown enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code. The third of six films to team Jean Harlow and Clark Gable was Loos’ first time writing for the King of Hollywood, who was on the cusp of breaking through to household name status with his star-making turn in It Happened One Night just one year later. Loos delivers another of her signature witty, screwball scripts, particularly evident in the pointed exchanges between Harlow and her co-star, Dorothy Burgess. Despite the obvious bowing Loos had to do to the censors by including a few moralistic turns for our depraved leads, the film was still a box office smash and grossed over one million dollars worldwide, the equivalent of over $23 million today.

16mm, b&w, 87 min. Director: Sam Wood. Screenwriters: Anita Loos, Howard Emmett Rogers. With: Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Stuart Erwin.

Print courtesy of the Constellation Film Collection at the Academy Film Archive.