Thursday, October 16, 2014

Did Bob Mutiny? Or Did Thalberg Make Him Walk the Plank?

Books on the golden age of movies, for the most part, should be categorized as fiction.  It is quite understandable considering that studio publicity departments and the fan magazines existed to create a fantasy world where the men were all gallant and trustworthy and the women chaste and happy homemakers at heart.  Stars were valuable commodities for the studios, their images carefully crafted and highly protected.

There are times when I wish that was still the case.  We know way too much about today's stars.  Actors are simply different than the rest of us, it's part of what makes them good at what they do.  It does not, however, necessarily make them interesting or likeable.  Oh, where was Eddie Mannix when Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam and palled around with the enemy?!  That should never have been made public ... my dislike of Fonda has made it so very difficult to enjoy the good movies in which she has appeared.

Anyway, getting way off the track here .... writing Tuesday's entry, I was reminded of the numerous versions of why Bob did not appear in Mutiny on the Bounty.  You would think there would be a straightforward explanation available for something so basic.  Nah.  Let's see, there's the somewhat common story of Bob getting sick and having to drop out of the project.  And there's the one I accepted for a while as the most plausible, wherein Bob decides he wants out of the movie because his role would be too secondary to Gable's.  Made sense.

A third version is from a 1953 interview with Bob, mentioned in Mark Viera's biography of Irving Thalberg.   According to Bob, he had requested a vacation between No More Ladies and Mutiny and refused to work.  Thalberg denied him the vacation and used the work refusal as an excuse to replace Bob in the movie with Franchot Tone.  Now that makes more sense.  As it turned out, Bob would be away from the studio from May, 1935 to January 20, 1936 when filming of Petticoat Fever began.  Now that's a good vacation.

                                 Wardrobe test for Mutiny


Debbie said...

I'm inclined to believe it was Thalberg too. I have that book on him and also read that explanation. I've also read some quotes from Bob describing Thalberg as vicious. The funny part is I've seen so many photos of the Thalbergs out socializing with the Mongomerys. I've often wondered if that was all Norma. Norma seemed to be VERY fond of Bob.

Kathy said...

Perhaps Bob was Norma's "Boy Toy!"