Chained (1934): Clarence Brown’s Melodrama, Starring Gable and Crawford

Clarence Brown’s melodrama, “Chained,” based on Edgar Selwyn’s story adapted to the screen by the pro scribe John Lee Mahin, was designed as a star vehicle for Joan Crawford at the height of her MGM career.

Crawford gets top billing, followed by Clark Gable, who, nonetheless in a year would become a bigger star, after winning the Oscar for Frank Capra’s comedy, It Happened One Night.


1934 lobby card

Crawford plays Diane Lovering, the mistress of Richard Field (Otto Kruger). She respects the dignified, quiet love the rich, elderly man sows for her as his former secretary.  When Field confides in his wife (Marjorie Gateson), she refuses to give him a divorce using the children as an excuse.

What’s a guy to do? He proposes a trip to Buenos Aires with the frustrated Diane until “things can be worked out.”

Aboard ship, Diane meets Mike Bradley (Clark Gable), a wealthy Argentinean rancher, and predictably, by the end of the voyage, she realizes she is in love with him. Upon returning to New York, she learns that Field’s wife has consented to divorce, and Field has already disclosed his wedding plans. She writes Mike a note, hoping he will hate and discard her. Instead, concealing his pain and hurt, Mike deems the whole affair a result of his own poor judgment.

When on a business trip to New York, quite by accident, Mike reencounters Diane, who breaks down, telling him that she loves him but can never be disloyal to her husband. Convinced he is right, Mike follows Diane and Field to their placid lodge where he confronts Field with the truth. After considering the facts, Field decides to set Diane free so that she can seek happiness with Mike.

The Motion Picture Herald critic summed the appeal of the film by noting, “Crawford and Gable are among the foremost exponents of this type of romantic theme, which is its motivation.”  But in New York Herald Tribune, Richard Watts Jr. criticized the film as “a snappy serial in one of the dressier sex magazines,” and that the two stars “wisely decide to pass their time tossing charm and personality all over the place, which is obviously what the film requires for audience appeal.”

You can spot the very young Mickey Rooney in a scene set at a swimming pool.


Joan Crawford

Clark Gable

Otto Kruger

Stuart Erwin

Una O’Connor

Marjorie Gateson

Akim Tamiroff

William Deggar


Produced by Hunt Stromberg.

Directed by Clarence Brown.

Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, Albert Hackett Frances Goodrich, based on an original story by Edgar Selwyn.

Photography by George Folsey.

Costumes by Adrian.

Art direction by Cedric Gibbons.

Editor: Robert J. Kern.

Music by Herbert Stothart

Release date: August 31, 1934.

Running time: 74 Minutes.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Budget $544,000
Box office $1,988,000