When Golden Era-films from the ’30s and ’40s are introduced on DVD for the first time, studio packagers usually try to include new making-of documentaries or commentaries by historians. No such luck with the Clark Gable: The Signature Collection DVD set. Only the disc for 1936’s San Francisco, with Gable as a nightclub owner chasing Jeannette MacDonald’s opera singer, alters from the trailer-and-shorts pattern by including a perfunctory, and previously aired, biographical documentary.
On a happier note, the chosen films—including six DVD debuts—would be valuable additions to any classic film lover’s library. Though none of the selections matches up to the dashing actor?s finest (It Happened One Night, Gone With the Wind, The Misfits), this “signature” set highlights what he did best: play a headstrong, woman-loving rogue. In the underrated Dancing Lady—better known today for being Fred Astaire’s first film—he’s the determined director to Joan Crawford’s tenacious dancer. In China Seas, he’s a steamboat captain to Jean Harlow’s trampy ex-flame passenger (Harlow then switches gears in the light Wife Vs. Secretary to play his faithful stenographer). And in the plodding oil epic Boom Town, he beats out rival Spencer Tracy for Claudette Colbert’s attentions.
But it’s in Mogambo, John Ford’s 1953 remake of the actor’s 1932 safari tale, Red Dust, that Gable is at his manliest—with the icy cool Grace Kelly on one arm and the lucious Ava Gardner on the other. The trio’s chemistry heats up the otherwise lukewarm film into a scorching adventure.