They Met In Bombay (1941)
This colorful heist film from MGM features Clark Gable in fine form that somehow morphs itself into an adventurous war film that features Clark Gable in …………… fine form. In both halves of the film he’s matched by Rosalind Russell playing a jewel thief herself who lets her heart get tangled up with “The King” and she too follows him off to war.
Fans really do get two movies for the price of one here under Clarence Brown’s direction. The film begins with Gable prepping a fake necklace with custom designer Jay Novello to take the place of the real Star of Asia that is to be worn around the neck of an aging Duchess played with plenty of spunk by Jessie Ralph. “I carried my children like a lady and I carry my liquor like a gentleman.” Gable is off to Bombay under disguise. He’s posing as a Lloyds of London detective claiming to be on hand in case any foul play is in the air where the duchess and her jewels are concerned.
Just as Gable checks into the swank MGM hotel of Bombay, Rosalind walks in and when manager Eduardo Ciannelli asks, “What is it?” Gable coyly responds with his famous cocksure grin, “A miracle.” Gable sets his sights firmly on both acquiring the jewel and Roz as well. Roz looks dazzling in a variety of costume designs befitting a star from the MGM lot. So much so I wish this had been a color production to give her and her clothing a proper platform. The courtship scenes are rather fun as Gable goes into action only to be shocked that he has a competitor to steal the jewel and in no time at all Russell does just that. Gable however isn’t about to let his victory slip away that easy and sticks to his detective guise and has her hand it over. It’s all played for comedy and does so quite successfully till the story takes a turn for more serious plot devices.
Due to the circumstances of their teaming up to stay one step ahead of the legal authorities, they pay their way onto a ship bound for Hong Kong captained by a swarthy Peter Lorre in Asian make-up. Think of Mr. Moto’s long lost brother gone bad. Of course in today’s overly sensitive political arena, there is no way Lorre would ever be asked to portray a role like this and in hindsight really shouldn’t have to considering the likes of Victor Sen Yung, Richard Loo and Philip Ahn are all in here once we get to Hong Kong.
Gable’s charm works overtime for the pair as they lay low hiding from authorities but backfires when he dons a military officer’s uniform which finds him enlisted into the British army as it faces a deadly skirmish with the Japanese army. Not necessarily a propaganda film, it does take sides in the battle leaving little doubt as to who the bad guys are. Gable roars into action and due to that damned Hays code even sees the errors of his way.
Only in Hollywood!
I’ve always liked this film and while I can’t be sure after all these years, it might be the first Gable film I took the time to watch as a youngster. Gable did nothing for me as a kid and that was mainly because he was the leading man in that 4 hour romantic trifle Mom loved to watch on TV every chance she got. So this was quite a shocker. I liked what I was seeing and did so once again though the film is uneven thanks to the dual story line. Let’s face the facts, Gable had star power and Rosalind matches him well in this third film they appeared in together though it is the first time she plays his leading lady.
I had to double check my Films of Alan Ladd book after watching this. The book states he’s in here though I didn’t see him and the IMDB does not have him listed in their line of appearances so I’m just not sure who to believe. All I know is I didn’t see him.
Fun film that is worth a look. More so for fans of the stars and I include Lorre in that comment. It might also serve as a good film to use should you want to introduce a newbie to the actors within. You can catch this on TCM from time to time or grab a copy via the Warner Archive line as I did.