Clark Gable plays a self-centered society surgeon who discovers humanity & Lana Turner, not necessarily in that order, in an army field hospital during WWII. But he’s already married, to a sedate Anne Baxter, so he & Lana spend most of the film keeping their hands off each other. The story spends considerable time dealing with the changes servicemen brought home with them and, more delicately, the sliding rules of marital fidelity in wartime. Alas, the plushly smooth style Mervyn Leroy cultivated @ M-G-M makes sure that any possible ideas get the softest of landings, so nothing quite registers. It’s the difference between subtlety & muzzling. But it’s nice to watch Lana lay off the sex goddess routine and give such a natural, makeup-free perf. She’s a knock-out. And Leroy finally rouses himself to give his stars a big, fat shining swoon-worthy clinch in shadowy silhouette. Isn’t it romantic.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: No on-screen credit for lenser Harold Rosson, Gable’s regular cameraman at the time. Odd, no? And isn’t that Howard da Silva, again uncredited, who shouts a line at Gable from a moving truck in the Battle of the Bulge?
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Nunnanlly Johnson’s THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT/’56 brings an iconic resonance to many of the same issues touched on here. Hardly great, but solid, sturdy and surprisingly memorable. (Plus a great, neglected Bernard Herrmann score.)