China Seas (1935)
Hollywood King Clark Gable and stunning Jean Harlow join forces here under the MGM banner where one can find more stars then there are in the heavens. Gable stars as a no nonsense ship’s captain in Hong Kong and Harlow the tough talking woman from the wrong side of the tracks that he can’t seem to shake. Joining them on there current voyage is the third actor with above the title billing, Wallace Beery.
Gable gets more than he bargained for with Harlow sailing on this venture. It turns out that a previous flame Rosalind Russell has tracked him down and is on the journey as well. There’s a major clash of culture at the captain’s dinner table as the refined Russell meets up with the rugged hard drinking Harlow. Both trying to get Gable’s attention in their own way. There’s a great line here from Russell directed at Harlow. “You must love him very much to humiliate yourself like this.” Jean then takes up with the brutish Beery hoping to get Gable back in her corner and one would assume bed as well.
During the voyage we get a rousing scene of the ship being hit by a typhoon and Gable going into action with a runaway steam roller on the deck causing havoc and death for those unfortunate extras who get in the way. Chipping in here as a crew member we have Lewis Stone who gets a heroic scene towards the pictures end as he looks for self redemption. The plot kicks into high gear when the ship is raided by pirates in search of treasure and Gable and crew fighting them off to protect the passengers and the ship which is owned by C. Aubrey Smith. Down the stretch we are treated to all kinds of fireworks and tough talk from both Gable and Harlow as their romance plays out for our benefit.
There’s plenty of fun to be had here with Gable “nobody can be that tough” being tortured and Harlow looking absolutely stunning in a tight slinky silk evening gown. It’s no wonder Beery is pawing at her!
Aboard ship we have a cast of very familiar faces with Hattie McDaniel, Edward Brophy and Akim Tamiroff along for the ride. Tay Garnett who was still starting out as a director would have a long and successful career giving us the classic The Postman Always Rings Twice among others. Essentially what we have here is 86 minutes of fun and a chance to see Gable and Harlow give us that star power that shines.