Adventure (1945): Gable’s Back and Garson Got Him!

Clark Gable’s first film after three years of active duty in World War II was Adventure, in which he starred opposite Greer Grason, and guided by his favorite director, Victor Fleming–but all to disastrous effects.

Grade: D+ (* out of *****)

Adventure FilmPoster.jpeg

Theatrical release poster

MGM advertised the film heavily as Gable’s big comeback–Gable’s Back and Garson Got Him! Little did they know that it would be a disastrous flop.

Gable plays Harry Patterson, the bosun mate on a merchant marine vessel, a tough sailor and a charming womanizer.  Adrift on a raft after his ship is torpedoed by the Japanese, Mudgin (the always reliable Thomas Mitchell), an eccentric old sailor, promises God that he will reform if He will save him and his shipmates.  Shortly afterward Mudgin and his companions, including Harry Patterson, a hard-boiled guy who likes the old Irish sailor, are rescued and taken to San Francisco.

Within a short time, Mudgin breaks his promises to God, and to his horror, his soul drifts off into the fog.  Reluctantly, Harry agrees to help his heartbroken friend search for his soul.

While in a San Francisco library, searching for a book on the human soul for Mudgin, Harry meets librarian Emily Sears (Greer Garson).  In spite of Harry’s arrogance, Emily is attracted by his charm and to the amazement of her roommate, Helen (Joan Blondell), Emily runs off with him to Reno, where they get married.

When Harry leaves to sail off on another freighter, Emily realizes that for Harry it was all a lark, that she was just another dame before returning to sea, confident that she will be waiting when he returns.  Bitterly disillusioned, Emily sues for divorce.

At sea, Harry and Mudgin quarrel over the value of Emily’s love.  Heartbroken when he learns that Harry intends to quit the ship, Mudgin deliberately suffers a serious injury, which brings Harry back.

When Mudgin dies, Harry returns to Emily to discover that she lives in a farm, awaiting the birth of their child.  The child is apparently born dead, but Harry prays for the first time in his life and his son breathes.  Harry finally finds the reason for living.

Gable’s part in “Adventure” was tailor-made to his specifications: it was another masculine part of a virile, lusty, swashbuckling adventurer who needs to be tamed by the “right” woman and settle down into domesticity.

Garson might have been miscast, and Joan Blondell, as Emily’s outspoken and giddy friend, gives the only good performance.  However, the plot is contrived and unbelievable, and, what’s worse, there is not chemistry between Garson and Gable.

The critic of Time magazine represented many of his colleagues when he wrote: “Adventure was clearly carpentered to fit the old Gable formula–an ex-aerial-gunner-photographer Gable himself fits the formula as smoothly and as agreeably as ever.  If he is a little chubbier around the jowls, he is still able to sling his weight around–and in his bright eye is the same old wicked fire.”


Clark Gable

Greer Garson

Joan Blondell

Thomas Mitchell

Tom Tully

John Qualen

Richard Haydn

Lina Romay

Philip Merivale

Harry Davenport

Tito Renaldo




Produced by Sam Zimbalist.

Directed by Victor Fleming.

Screenplay: Frederick Hazlitt Brennan and Vincent Lawrence, based on the novel by Clyde Brion Davis, adapted to the screen by Anthony Veiller and William H. Wright.

Camera: Joseph Ruttenberg.

Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary.

Score by Herbert Stothart.

Special effects by Warren Newcombe.

Editor: Frank Sullivan.

Release date: December 28, 1945.

Running time: 135 minutes; also 125 minutes
Budget $3.5 million
Box office $6.1 million