Cast & Crew
Regina Forbes, a glib syndicated columnist known for her hard-hitting exposes and tantalizing high society gossip, is determined to write a profile on midget race car driver Mike Brannan. Mike, a former Marine, is despised by racecar driving fans because of his ruthless and dangerous tactics on the racetrack. After watching a televised broadcast of a midget race and a television interview with Mike, Regina goes to the race track to see Mike in person. She meets Mike just before his next race, but Mike shows little interest in Regina's story and the prospect of nationwide publicity. During the race, Mike displays the dirty tricks that made him famous, causing accidents and forcing other cars off the track at crucial moments. Mike wins the race but Joe Youghal, the driver of one of the cars he caused to crash, dies. Afterward, Regina asks Mike to explain the death of Youghal and another driver he forced off the track in an earlier race, but Mike dismisses both deaths as part of the profession and shows little remorse. Regina writes a scathing piece on the incident, and the following day, when her column appears in the newspapers, racetrack operators everywhere begin to worry that the bad publicity will mean the end of the races. To protect themselves, the owners ostracize Mike and bar him from future races. After being rejected at one speedway after another, Mike tries to race under an alias but is exposed by a local newspaper in the town of Bainsville. Mike becomes furious at Regina, whom he calls an "inky-fingered dame," for ruining his career, and is left with no alternative but to sell his race car and find a new line of work. Regina, meanwhile, has moved on to other stories, and is now publicizing the activities of Dwight Barrington, who is involved in a fraudulent pension insurance scheme. One day, Regina's manager, Gregg, tells her that Mike is now working as a "thrill driver" at a circus, performing crashes and other stunts. Her curiosity piqued, Regina attends one of the shows and learns that Mike is planning a comeback. After the show, Mike warns Regina to leave him alone, strikes her across the face and then plants a forceful kiss on her. Regina, however, maintains her unflappable composure throughout her encounter with Mike. She also begins to realize that she is in love with him. Just before his comeback race at the Greengrove racetrack, Mike "walks the track" to get a feel for it and finds Regina there waiting for him. As they stroll along the track, Regina breaks a heel, and Mike carries her to her car. Mike comes in second place in the race, but takes first prize in several subsequent races. At the end of the racing season, Mike telephones Regina and tells her that he wants to see her in New York. A romantic evening at a nightclub ends in a quarrel, however, when Regina brings up the topic of the drivers he ran off the track. Unimpressed by Mike's response to her questions, Regina decides to put an end to their romance. They part ways, and Mike prepares for his next big race. Regina watches part of the race on television but turns off her set before it ends, certain that Mike has won it. Immediately following the race, Mike goes to Regina's apartment and they rekindle their affair. The evening is spoiled, however, when Regina receives word that Barrington, who had been sentenced to twenty-five years in prison as a result of her story, has committed suicide. When Regina tells Mike that she feels responsible for Barrington's death, Mike tries to comfort her by telling her that she was only doing her job, just as he did when he drove aggressively on the racetrack. Regina disagrees with Mike's perspective, and they again part with bad feelings. A short time later, though, Regina tries to patch things up and shows up at Mike's big race at Indianapolis. During the race, Mike allows another car to pass him without incident, but the maneuver causes his car to spin out of control and flip. Mike is rushed to the hospital but his injuries are found to be minor. Regina, who is proud of his performance on the track, is now certain that he is the right man for her.
William C. Mcgaw
Richard W. Joy
Pee Wee Distarce
Raymond H. Brown
Hal K. Dawson
Marcel De La Brosse
Arthur Loew Jr.
A. Arnold Gillespie
Ralph S. Hurst
P. R. Keeler
Robert J. Kern
William J. Tuttle
Charles E. Wallace
Edwin B. Willis
To Please a Lady
The distinguished Clarence Brown (Anna Karenina , National Velvet ), directed To Please a Lady. It was the eighth and final film he worked on with Clark Gable, who was also his good friend. Brown manages to pull off some of the most thrilling racing sequences ever filmed in To Please a Lady. He captures the raw excitement of the speedway by throwing the viewer right into the middle of the action, capturing the energy of the pit crew in action, the zooming car engines, and the roar of the crowd.
To make the racing scenes as authentic as possible, director Brown used a good deal of actual professional racing footage. Gable did some of his own driving for close-ups, while a stunt driver took the wheel for the more dangerous shots. For the film's gripping climax at the Indianapolis 500, the cast and crew went on location to the famous Indiana speedway for three weeks. While there cinematographer Hal Rosson used up to six camera crews at a time to capture the action of actual races. The location shooting paid off in the film's nail-biting climax where car speeds averaged 100 miles an hour.
Being in Indianapolis was difficult for Clark Gable personally. The city had been the last stop on a war bond tour in 1942 for his second wife, actress Carole Lombard, before she was to fly back home to Los Angeles. Tragically, Lombard's plane never made it back. It crashed in Nevada killing everyone on board. Theirs had been a happy marriage, and it was a loss from which Gable never recovered. At the time of To Please a Lady Gable had finally remarried, this time to Douglas Fairbanks' widow, Lady Sylvia Ashley. During filming he seemed happier and healthier than he had in years according to friends. Even so, Gable remembered his beloved late wife while in Indianapolis. He quietly made a point to visit the downtown locations where Lombard had made her final public appearances before meeting her untimely death.
Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck are well matched as a romantic onscreen duo. They elicit an intense chemistry as their strong characters prove to be equal sparring partners. To Please a Lady was the second feature the pair made together. Their first, Night Nurse (1931), was made nearly 20 years earlier at Warner Bros. when Gable, who wasn't yet a movie star, played a small featured role as a nasty chauffeur who viciously slaps Barbara Stanwyck. To Please a Lady pays homage to that memorable moment by having Stanwyck take another smack across the kisser from Gable, though this time it's more suggestive than brutal.
Both stars were happy with their work in To Please a Lady though it fell short of major box office success due in part to the surge in household television sales, which was rapidly taking business away from studios and movie theaters. The film did, however, win plenty of critical praise. The New York Times acknowledged director Clarence Brown's handling of the film's exciting race sequences: "You can bet that Indianapolis never experienced a contest as hotly run as the race that Mr. Brown has staged." Variety proclaimed "(To Please a Lady) has excitement, thrills, with some of the greatest racing footage ever put on celluloid - It firmly returns Gable to the rugged lover, rugged character status."
Producer/Director: Clarence Brown
Screenplay: Marge Decker, Barre Lyndon
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Film Editing: Robert Kern
Art Direction: James Basevi, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Clark Gable (Mike Brannan), Barbara Stanwyck (Regina Forbes), Adolphe Menjou (Gregg), Will Greer (Jack Mackay), Roland Winters (Dwight Barrington), William C. McGaw (Joie Chitwood).
BW-92m. Closed captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume
To Please a Lady
According to a January 1951 article in the racing magazine Speed Age, Clark Gable informed M-G-M that he wanted to appear in an automobile racing picture a short time after he visited Indianapolis in 1947. The studio spent two years searching for the right script for Gable and eventually came up with a story written by Barré Lyndon and Marge Decker. According to a news item in Daily Variety, M-G-M paid $50,000 for the film rights to Lyndon and Decker's story. Various contemporary news items in Daily Variety relate the following information about the production: Robert Pirosh worked on the screenplay for several months before withdrawing from the assignment in December 1949. Pirosh reportedly left the picture because of a creative dispute with Dore Schary, Vice President in Charge of Production at M-G-M, and the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. The screenwriting assignment was eventually handed to Lyndon and Decker.
According to a June 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M originally planned the film as a starring vehicle for Gable and Lana Turner. Stanwyck was announced as Gable's co-star in a September 1949 Daily Variety news item. Director Clarence Brown was a former automobile test driver and had owned and managed a car sales agency before entering films in 1915. Several real-life race car drivers and racing officials appeared in the film, including drivers Duane Carter, Johnnie Parsons, Henry Banks and Walt Faulkner, and Indianapolis announcer Ted Husing. Daily Variety news items list Tim Ryan, and professional race car drivers Joie Chitwood, Cecil Green and Jack McGrath in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. William C. McGaw plays Chitwood in the picture. Cay Forester was announced for a featured role, but she did not appear in the final film.
According to an April 1950 Daily Variety news item, the film was the first to feature auto racing scenes photographed at actual speed. The news item notes that previous racing films were "undercranked" by cameramen to create the illusion of speed. The Daily Variety news item also notes that Indianapolis race car driver Manuel Ayulo was hired by M-G-M to drive the specially equipped camera car that traveled ahead of the race cars and filmed them at racing speed. Much of the film was shot on location at the Indianapolis Speedway in Indiana. Some background filming also took place in Syracuse, NY, and at the Culver City Stadium in Culver City, CA. Filming of the dirt track auto race took place on location in Arlington Downs, TX. Wilbur Shaw, the president of the Indianapolis Speedway Association and a former race car driver, served as a technical advisor on the film.
Production on the film was originally set to begin in December 1949 but was delayed until April 1950 to coincide with the Indianapolis Speedway Decoration Day [Memorial Day] auto race in May. The film opened to mixed reviews, with many critics dismissing the plot as insignificant while commending the racing sequences. The film was re-released as Red Hot Wheels. John Hodiak and Donna Reed played the starring roles in the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the story on November 26, 1951.