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The Woman Who Married Clark Gable

Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan


A pivotal film for O’Sullivan, Clark Gable was his first credit as the director of a screen drama. Based on a script by Andrew Pattman, adapted from a short story by Sean O’Faolain, it is set in Dublin and it tells of domestic union between a Catholic woman (Brenda Fricker) and a Methodist Englishman(Bob Hoskins) that has gone stale. It is temporarily revived through her screen-infatuation with Clark Gable, from the film San Francisco (1938) that the couple see at their local cinema. Lovingly shot on location in black-and-white 35mm, the film’s central conceit is to explore the power of the Church and of cinema, a theme picked up again in Stella Days (2012). The stark contrasts of monochrome imply the clear-cut moral dimension imposed on social behaviour and gender roles, and the cultural aesthetic enshrined in Ireland’s 1937 Constitution. The dilemma at the heart of the film is the woman’s childless marriage. Her underlying compulsion to try to convert her husband from his dissenting faith is transferred, albeit temporarily, to her Hollywood obsession. There is a wry humour and a lightness of touch to the direction that fully deserved its BAFTA nomination.

Notes by Lance Pettitt.

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