Musical Monday: Cain and Mabel (1936)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Cain and Mabel (1936) – Musical #459

Warner Brothers

Lloyd Bacon

Marion Davies, Clark Gable, Allen Jenkins, Roscoe Karns, Ruth Donnelly, Walter Catlett, Hobart Cavanaugh, Pert Kelton, Robert Paige, E.E. Clive, Sammy White, Marie Provost (uncredited)

After Mabel O’Dare (Davies) loses her job as a waitress, she ends up working her way up to be a musical star. Larry Cain (Gable) is a prizefighter, who is kept awake all night before a fight due to Mabel’s tap dance practice in a hotel suite above him. Mabel’s press agent (Karns) creates a romance between Mabel and Larry, unbeknownst to them, for publicity.

-The number “I’ll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs” was filmed on Warner Brothers Stage 7, which was recently built. The stage, which was 31,388 square feet, was not large enough for the musical number’s set and choreography. The ceilings were 67 feet tall and needed to be 30 feet higher. Rather than building a higher roof, Cosmopolitan Productions chose to dig under the base of the stage, insert hand jacks and have workers crank the building up while building a new bottom half to the stage, according to the book Warner Bros.: Hollywood’s Ultimate Backlot by Steven Bingen. At 98 feet, it became the tallest sound stage in the world.

-Clark Gable was on loan to Warner Brothers from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for this film.

-Remake of The Great White Way (1924) starring Anita Stewart, Tom Lewis and T. Roy Barnes

-To prepare for the role of a prizefighter, Clark Gable worked with professional trainer, Allen Pomeroy, according to Clark Gable: A Biography by Warren G. Harris.

-Songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

-The carousel used in the Coney Island scene was $35,000 to build and was moved to Marion Davies’s Santa Monica home after filming was complete, according to Clark Gable: A Biography by Warren G. Harris.

-The film was A Cosmopolitan Production, which was William Randolph Hearst’s production company

Awards and Nominations:
-Bobby Connolly was nominated for Best Dance Direction for the number “1,000 Love Songs.”

-“I’ll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs” number

Notable Songs:
-“Coney Island” performed by Marion Davies and Sammy White
-“I’ll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs” performed by Robert Paige
-“The Dance of the Feathers”

My review:
There are some movies that aren’t out-and-out a musical, but you don’t feel comfortable calling it simply a “musical.” One of those would be Irene (1940), and another example is “Cain and Mable.”

“Cain and Mable” is more a comedy with music added in, but the music is significant enough to be considered a “musical.” I would especially say call this a musical after all the trouble workers went to in order to build Stage 7 higher to accommodate for the “Thousand Love Songs” number. I’m sure those people hand cranking the jacks would appreciate that.

With a title that I will always think is clever and witty, “Cain and Mable” is an entertaining and humorous film. The film apparently fell flat at the box office, but I find it rather charming. Marion Davies and Clark Gable are always wonderful in their films, and they work well together as co-stars.

Filming the musical number “I’ll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs,” which caused the soundstage to need to be increased in height.

The musical numbers are extremely lavish, though they don’t appear until at least 20 to 30 minutes into the film. “Coney Island” has a cute feature where Davies and White dance through historical wax figures who sing back to the couple.

“I’ll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs” is so lavish it almost gives “A Pretty Girl is a Melody” number to shame from “The Great Ziegfeld,” which was released by MGM the same year. Hundreds of dancers are around a platform that seems to go up into the sky, and on top is Davies in an elaborate costume. In these types of films, I always have to wonder “This is a stage play, how is this changing so quickly for the audience and how do they see it?”

“Cain and Mable” is a fun film. If you love musicals, tune in for the Harry Warren and Al Dubin numbers. If you don’t musicals, this isn’t overbearing with songs and has a great leading cast and comedic supporting cast.

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