A classic, forgotten gem starring a great Clark Gable
The King and Four Queens is a delightful Clark Gable film from his more mature years. The 1956 film is smoothly directed by one of old Hollywood’s great action directors, Raoul Walsh, but isn’t a real Western. It also features a fine score by legendary composer Alex North. Clark Gable has fun as a gallant, smooth-talking con man that woos four widows into revealing the location of buried gold. The King and Four Queens is a charming piece of 50’s entertainment that is funny and filled with plenty of witty, romantic repartee.
The great Clark Gable stars as Dan Kehoe. Once Hollywood’s biggest star, Gable was still a huge presence at MGM when this film was made. Seeking the spoils of a bank robbery stolen by the supposedly dead McDade brothers, Kehoe starts romancing each of their widows (Eleanor Parker, The Sound of Music; Jean Willes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Barbara Nichols, Pal Joey; and Sara Shane, Magnificent Obsession) in hopes that one of them knows where the gold is hidden on their property. The four sisters-in-law all live under the watchful eye of their suspicious mother-in-law Ma McDade (Jo Van Fleet) at Wagon Mound.
The four widows having been sitting around for two years at Wagon Mound, waiting to see if one of their husbands will return and claim the buried gold on the property. Tired of waiting, the widows have turned their thoughts away from the gold and towards the handsome newcomer. Kehoe smoothly inserts himself into their household, breaking down any resistance they might have with his charm and suave demeanor.
It’s a perfect set-up for funny romantic hi-jinks as Kehoe goes about seducing each woman while plotting for the gold himself. There is the sultry Ruby, the sweet Oralie, Birdie the blonde bombshell, and Sabina (Eleanor Parker), clearly the sharpest of the bunch. As Kehoe works the group, it’s clear Sabina has plans of her own.
… its fun storytelling and charm are second to none.
… its fun storytelling and charm are second to none.
The King and Four Queens is lively, snappy entertainment from a different era. Clark Gable is perfect as the smooth leading man and its four actresses play off him with rare chemistry. The tight script runs a lean 84 minutes, almost entirely filled with quick banter and light humor. While the story of four, man-starved widows fighting over a single man will seem alien to modern audiences, its fun storytelling and charm are second to none. Everyone can relate to these characters with surprisingly honest motivations. This is classic Hollywood filmmaking made by superbly talented people with a sure hand and purpose.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, The King and Four Queens is one of those older films that doesn’t seem like much on the surface but is a pure joy to catch with its great cast and fun script. It is one of the most entertaining Clark Gable movies.
The 1956 movie was shot in lush CinemaScope by Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch). I was blown away by the quality of this Blu-ray presentation by Olive Films, which has licensed the film from MGM’s vaults. The high-quality film transfer looks similar in pedigree to a number of other CinemaScope transfers struck by Fox on Blu-ray and it’s possible that Fox had a hand in this wonderful transfer. The film could hardly look better, receiving a faithful transfer with marvelous detail.
The 84-minute main feature is shown at its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio, preserving Ballard’s scenic cinematography. The 1080P video is encoded in a great AVC video encode on a BD-25. The encoding shows no artifacts, artfully reproducing the classic grain structure in crisp color and definition. The film elements are generally in excellent shape, showing only mild signs of detritus or wear.
The vintage stock features perfect black levels and lovely color saturation, showing off pleasing fine detail. A few signs of optical ringing are just about the only noticeable discrepancy from its perfect, film-like texture. This is a newer film scan done at 2K resolution from the negative. Classic movie lovers should expect a real treat.
The included audio is a fine-sounding 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The audio elements are in great shape as well, reproducing the original monaural mix made by the Westrex recording system. The score by composer Alex North is heard on the thin side, lacking that big, smooth quality from the best Hollywood scores of this era.
Nevertheless, dialogue is clean and the recording shows no obvious signs of deterioration. There is a decent amount of dynamic range and clarity, providing just a touch of impact and presence when gun shots are heard.
Optional English subtitles display in a white font, remaining inside the scope framing at all times.
The King and Four Queens Trailer (02:47 in HD)
A wonderful Clark Gable vehicle from the 50s with humor and romance.
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