Studio Affair--Lone Star
Excerpt from Studio Affairs by Vincent Sherman
I was told that months before, Gable and MGM had come to a parting of the ways. several directors on the lot had turned down Lone Star, feeling that Gable was washed up. ( His pictures since he got out of the army had been less than box-office smashes.) Lone Star was to be an independent production, with Gable as a partner. Griffin has been about to take it elsewhere when some executives at MGM, who felt a loyalty to Gable, decided to make and release the film through MGM.
Before we began shooting, Griffin cautioned me to be mindful of Gable's creeping Parkinson's disease. it caused his head to shake if a scene ran too long or if he became tense or tired. Whenever it did happen, which was not too often, I found a reason to cut the scene or change some bit of direction so that he would never become self-conscious about it.
I'm sure I'm not the first director to report that it was a distinct pleasure to work with Clark Gable. he had to be told only once by the assistant that we were ready for him. He appeared dressed and made up, knowing his lines, and ready to rehearse and shoot. he never once objected to any direction I gave him, whether it was when and where to move, or any piece of business that I gave him. Sometimes, during a rehearsal, I would sense that a certain line bothered him. "Clark," I'd ask, "if that line doesn't seem right, what do you feel like saying?" He reply was,"Could I say...?" And he almost always improve the line. As I think back on his behavior, asking "could I say...?" when he was referred to as the king at MGM, I realize how privileged I was to work with him. He was, like Errol Flynn, a much better actor than he was ever given credit for.
In addition to his gracious and charming modesty, he had a wonderful sense of humor. One morning as we finished shooting on the outside, and I returned from a quick lunch in my office, I found Clark sitting at the entrance to the stage, smoking a small Robert Burns panatela cigar, as was his habit after lunch.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"Oh, man, I'm beat," he replied.
"I don't understand, " I said. "When we work outside, I can go for hours. The fresh air is so invigorating. I get tired when we work indoors on the stages, where we have such lousy air."
"Well, you are still a young man," he observed.
"Aw, come on, there's not that much difference in our ages," I suggested.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"I'm past fifty," he replied. "They say life begins at forty, but they've got no fucking slogans for after fifty."