Friday, September 05, 2014

Test Pilot 1938

This pre-war popular M.G.M. glossy movie made my jaw drop. The jaw dropping had nothing to do with the special effects aerial scenes or with Clark Gable’s dimples, but with the tangled triangle love affair between Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. All three stars were at the top of their game, and Tracy would go on to win his 2nd Oscar for the sentimental “Boys Town” later that year. Gable who plays the test pilot of the title is a gung ho try anything flyer with the Gable persona in tact and Tracy plays his best friend and mechanic named Gunner. The two are inseparable even living together, but things start to get dicey when Gable has to force land his plane on Myrna Loy’s family farm in Kansas and they meet cute. Loy who looks no more like a farmer than Alf Landon looked like a president is soon swooning all over Gable’s profile, and falling madly in love with him. They get married, and that’s when the trouble with Tracy begins and that’s when I started picking up on what was going on underneath and between the spoken lines and action. Tracy is jealous of their relationship and is in love with Gable. This action picture, this boy’s Saturday matinee, this romantic jab at the movies is suddenly something else. I suppose one could see this film as a male bonding movie, with a romantic but sharp edge (Loy is having problems with Gable’s absences, his drinking and his death defying job). However the kisses that Tracy blows at Gable every time he takes off on a flight and those goo goo eyes of remorse and longing along with his moaning and groaning all over the place speak volumes and screams out repressed homosexual longing and love, yes even in 1938.  The three rent a nice apartment on 81st for $150.00 a month from the landlady played with elegant reserve by Marjorie Main (no stranger to homosexual longing herself) and it’s uncomfortable coziness for about 3 minutes.  In one-scene Gable showers Tracy with kisses all over his head, which Tracy looks like he’s enjoying very much even though he plays it rough. There is a somewhat happy ending except for Tracy who exits the film in the usual way for conflicted characters. Directed by the male butch masculine house director Victor Fleming in a no nonsense butch style which is what he was noted for. A good old boy who played hard and fast and is credited with directing two of the most loved movies in the history of film. Questions still arise over what actually he contributed to both The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind, especially so with GWTW that started filming with the gay George Cukor who left the film for reasons that are as smoky today as the burning of Atlanta.  Oscar nominated for a best picture Oscar in 1938.    


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