The King and Four Queens (1956)
If ever there was a gimmick film to match a MOVIE STAR”S presence and charisma, this may be near the top of the list. The title alone is a play on words as Clark Gable was “The King” of Hollywood.
While this film isn’t mentioned in the same breath as many of Gable’s classics it shouldn’t be avoided. The script is tailored to having him play off the Gable image or product if you prefer and Gable delivers. Much to the delight of his female costars other than Jo Van Fleet.
It’s a tall tale of four women living on a ranch with their mother-in-law Jo Van Fleet and a buried treasure in gold worth a 100 grand. It seems that their hubbies were a gang of bank robbers and three of the four got themselves killed in an explosion. They were burnt beyond recognition and the four women along with Van Fleet are hoping the remaining son returns for the loot and to claim his woman. Van Fleet has taken it upon herself to keep the women pure while waiting. It’s been a long two years. Enter Gable.
Gable plays a conman who Van Fleet reluctantly lets stay on the property till a wound mends. While Gable is there he has to fend off while at the same time encourage the advances of three love starved women in the figures of Jean Willes who makes her presence felt and her intentions clear. Barbara Nichols who is a Marilyn Monroe wanna be. Sara Shane who pretends to be the girl next door and lastly the woman who is smart enough to meet Gable head to head. The gorgeous Eleanor Parker.
Parker : “If I were you Mr. Kehoe I wouldn’t lie to her (Van Fleet) or try to play any games with me either.
Gable : “There’s a few I’d like to try Miss.”
Gable is in his element here fencing and flirting with the four queens of the title. He just has to figure out how to play Van Fleet and find where the money is buried. He’ll also have to figure out which woman he can hopefully take into his confidence and gain her trust as well. Paging Eleanor Parker please.
This Raoul Walsh directed film is pure entertainment. It’s setting is the west but that doesn’t make it a typical western. The script is geared towards giving both Gable a fun role that he seems to be truly enjoying and audiences of the day what they expect when shelling out their cash at the box office for a Gable picture.
Eleanor Parker is one of the fifties best treasures on camera. She’s beautiful, sexy and I can’t help but love her husky voice either. Like Maureen O’Hara she paired well with physical leading men sparring on screen with the likes of Gable, Granger and Taylor quite successfully. Not to mention Charlton Heston………. cameo time.
Along with legendary director Walsh behind the camera was Lucien Ballard as the credited photographer. His name jumps out at me for his work on countless westerns including The Wild Bunch and True Grit.
While mainly Gable and the ladies appear on screen we do get a couple of well known character actors for a few minutes screen time. Arthur Shields and Jay C. Flippen.
If this Gable film has eluded you over the years go find a copy and admire the man’s on screen appeal and movie star magnetism.