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Cain and Mabel (1936)

A talented boxer and a gifted dancer hope to increase their waning popularity by inventing a fictitious love affair for the benefit of the tabloids.


Lloyd Bacon


Laird Doyle (screen play), H.C. Witwer (story)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marion Davies ... Mabel O'Dare
Clark Gable ... Larry Cain
Allen Jenkins ... Dodo
Roscoe Karns ... Reilly
Walter Catlett ... Jake Sherman
Robert Paige ... Ronny Cauldwell (as David Carlyle)
Hobart Cavanaugh ... Milo
Ruth Donnelly ... Aunt Mimi
Pert Kelton ... Toddy
William Collier Sr. ... Pop Walters
Sammy White Sammy White ... Specialty - Coney Island Number
E.E. Clive ... Charles Fendwick
Allen Pomeroy Allen Pomeroy ... Tom Reed
Robert Middlemass ... Cafe Proprietor
Joseph Crehan ... Reed's Manager


The managers of heavyweight champion Larry Cain and Broadway musical star Mabel O'Dare scheme up a romance to give the celebrities more glamour. But the two don't hit it off, having started on the wrong foot. Written by Diana Hamilton <hamilton@alumni.umbc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's the Romantic Battle of the Century with a World championship Cast! See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

26 September 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Caim e Mabel See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Marion Davies suffered a cracked rib during the filming of one of the dance numbers. See more »


During the bout where Gable is knocked out, the camera shows the lighted round indicator. Indicating round 2, the counter changes to 8, denoting progression of time. Back on the fight, the film shows the indicator at round 7 when he is KO'ed. Never got to round 8. See more »


Mabel O'Dare: Listen, the safest thing that can happen to you right now is a case of lock jaw.
See more »


Featured in Behind the Scenes of Cain and Mabel (1936) See more »


Bridal Chorus
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Music by Richard Wagner
Sung by the chorus during the grand production number
See more »

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User Reviews

Pleasant and Forgettable
4 January 2007 | by beyondtheforestSee all my reviews

In what would be her second to last film, Marion Davies stars as a waitress who lands a job as a lead dancer in an expensive Broadway show. The only problem is she is not an established star and cannot draw many people to see the show. Her managers concoct a plan to keep her name in the papers by linking her romantically with a famous prize fighter, thereby creating publicity for the show, but unfortunately they can't stand each other. However, when the fighter (Clark Gable) learns she is really down to earth, and was once a waitress, his opinion of her changes and they decide to be married (quite abruptly). The publicity people keep getting in the way and end up turning them against each other for the sake of publicity, until in the end both decide to throw their big careers in the bucket and get married.

The plot is sort of silly, but not entirely phony. I sort of like the idea of presenting two famous, successful people who both willingly give up their careers for love (and not just the woman giving up her career). It was a novel approach. It a rare example of equality between the sexes for its time.

The publicity angle is also good. Here we have two people torn apart and brought back together by media lies. It happened then, and is still relevant today, when "don't believe everything you read" is as true as ever.

Ultimately, the movie is not completely successful, although it satisfies to an extent. The casting of Marion Davies, who was by all means a huge star of the day, in a leading role of this nature seems all wrong. Her strong points are her charm and comedic abilities, neither of which is shown much to her advantage in CAIN AND MABEL. She is pretty and likable throughout, but she is never an authentic film presence, nor does she display any genuine or deep emotion. It is all surface, but the surface is where she excels, and she would have shone in any number of supporting roles as a character actress, or in a stronger comedy as a lead. Here, she is not given much to do besides pose, whimper, and smile, which she does charmingly but not convincingly. She might have fared better if given more to do.

Her role, and the film in general, was reminiscent of DANCING LADY, another story of a showgirl who makes it big and has man trouble. Where that film was perhaps more formulaic in its conclusion, it was also twice as convincing, perhaps because the lead was played by the dynamic Joan Crawford. This is not to say Davies is a lesser actress than Crawford, but each had their strengths, and this type of role was more suited to the emotionally available Crawford.

The whole film feels somewhat dated, as if it was filmed in 1932, not 1936. The story you have seen before, and in superior films. Both the lead actors have given better performances. Gable's performance was adequate and likable, but it felt like one of his earlier performances, and not a performance drawing from his experience. It's hard to believe, while watching the film that it is a product of so much talent, or of movie stars at the height of their careers. With so much going into it, not limited to an expensive budget rivaling any number of Shearer or Garbo films, but also fantastic musical numbers, how could the result be so utterly underwhelming?

The film should have been a comeback for Davies. It should have been a very modern vehicle to showcase Gable at the top of his game, and reintroduce Davies as a formidable rival to the other screen queens of the era. Instead, we end up wondering what Clark Gable is doing in a Marion Davies movie, and by then Davies' image was dated and she would have benefited more by starring in a Clark Gable film.

CAIN AND MABEL could have been an important, ground-breaking film starring two great stars. Instead it is an empty vanity project, in which Gable is used for window dressing, Davies is not allowed to exercise any of her talents, and the plot was a formulaic re-hash of something from five years earlier (done better the first time).

It is a curiosity piece, though, and a must for fans of the stars, or for people who enjoy pleasant entertainment which demands little from the viewer.

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