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Honky Tonk

Theatrical poster
Directed by Jack Conway
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Marguerite Roberts
John Sanford
Annalee Whitmore
Starring Clark Gable
Lana Turner
Claire Trevor
Frank Morgan
Editing by Blanche Sewell
Release date(s) 1941
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Honky Tonk is a 1941 black-and-white western film starring Clark Gable and Lana Turner.

Contents

Plot

Con man Candy Johnson (Gable) and his friend, Sniper (Chill Wills), flee town using quick wits and magic tricks. He catches a train to Nevada where he meets Elizabeth Cotton (Turner), the daughter of Judge Cotton (Frank Morgan). Later that night Candy goes to a bar with Judge Cotton and meets an old friend of his, "Gold Dust" Nelson (Claire Trevor) who points out that Candy the sheriff, Brazos Hearn (Albert Dekker), is also the owner of the saloon.

Later that night Candy takes the side of a man who says that the saloon is crooked in a dispute against Hearn. Candy challenges Hearn to a game of Russian Roulette, wagering that if Hearn, for any reason cannot pull the trigger, he will pay Candy $5,000. The sheriff gives up before the fourth bullet and gives Candy the money. Candy later reveals that the gun had no bullets and he pulled a cheap illusion. He takes the judge home and has another encounter with Elizabeth, during which she accosts him for getting her father drunk and being a bad influence. Candy also meets the Cotton's maid, Mrs. Varner (Marjorie Main), who says there is no church in the town. Candy gives her $1,500 to build a mission. Hearing of Candy's generosity, Elizabeth kisses him.

Candy opens another saloon which becomes more popular than Hearn's and speaks at Mrs. Varner's mission stating that he eats candy in preference to liquor and as he has realized that he cannot keep other men from drinking, has built a saloon so men can get good liquor. Later that night, Elizabeth cons Candy into marrying her after getting him drunk and Candy tells an annoyed Gold Dust the news of his marriage. When he tells Judge Cotton, however, Cotton vows that he will forever hate Candy. He also reveals to Elizabeth that he and Candy are both cheap crooks, and there is no hope of reforming either one. Elizabeth disregards his statement. Later, she locks Candy out of her bedroom to have a "proper courtship," infuriating him.

Candy leaves for the saloon and has a "private" dinner with Gold Dust. Elizabeth interrupts the dinner and sends Gold Dust away. She and Candy reconcile, and the next morning she convinces him to leave his guns at home. As they walk, one of Hearn's men pulls a gun on Candy and attempts to shoot him. Candy, instead, shoots the man and is elected by the people as sheriff. He soon controls the town, amassing a huge fortune for himself. When Elizabeth announces that she is pregnant, a joyous Candy tells the judge that he will name the baby after him. The judge, angry in his belief that Candy has changed Elizabeth, tells Candy that he is moving out.

Candy's henchmen, now including Hearn, tell Candy that the judge is creating a firestorm in town and helping to bolster increasing resentment toward Candy. Candy sends the judge on a train out of town, but the judge returns and is shot in the back. During the commotion, Elizabeth stands on a wagon and falls, triggering a miscarriage. Following an operation on Elizabeth and an assurance by Gold Dust that Elizabeth will be all right, Candy leaves, but finds Sniper being held at gunpoint by Hearn. Candy shoots Hearn and talks his own way out of being shot by Hearn's men by saying that the governor has sent troops to attack the group. Hearn's men leave by the back door while Candy and Sniper walk out the front, confronted by the angry townspeople. Sometime later Candy and Sniper are back to their simplified conning at a hotel. Elizabeth comes and she and Candy resolve their problems.

Cast

Production

This was the first of four pairings of Clark Gable and Lana Turner. When cast, Turner was only twenty and her star was flying high, having just starred in the successful films Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Ziegfeld Girl. MGM was looking to make Turner its replacement for the deceased platinum beauty Jean Harlow and therefore cast her alongside the "King of Hollywood" himself, Clark Gable.

Turner was thrilled at the opportunity of working with Gable, but he was not, as she was twenty years his junior and quite green to the world of Hollywood. When reading lines with her idol, Turner was flustered and blundered quite often. Gable said, "She couldn't read lines. She didn't make them mean anything; it was obvious she was an amateur."

Nevertheless, the pairing proved successful and their steamy scenes together were unnerving to almost everyone, including Mrs. Clark Gable, Carole Lombard. She knew that Gable had an affinity for blondes and upon hearing of Turner's casting, went to production head Louis B. Mayer and told him to specifically tell Turner that Gable was entirely off-limits. Lombard also had a habit of making surprise visits to the sets and was noticeably present during the bedroom scene with Turner and Gable. Turner was so intimidated by Lombard's presence that she went into her dressing room and refused to come out. When she did, Lombard was nowhere to be found. While Turner always vehemently denied rumors that she and Gable were involved in an affair, only going as far as to say she was quite smitten with him but looked up to him as more of a father-figure than anything else, it has always been speculated that a Turner and Gable affair had something to with Lombard's last minute decision to take a plane back to Los Angeles rather than a train, resulting in the crash which took her life. Turner claimed that the only time she and Gable ever saw each other outside of a professional environment was in the months following Lombard's death. Louis B. Mayer ordered her to have dinner with Gable at his home that he had shared with Lombard. Turner found him a lonely, broken man and a ghost of his former self.

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