In a rusting can, deep in they ‘dead film’ vaults of the MGM archives in Burbank, California, is a motion picture that has never been shown to the public, and never will be.

Artistically, it’s no great shakes – a hurriedly-made melodrama called ‘Stolen Hours’ produced in 1947 to cash in on the post-War popularity of screen-heart-throb Clark Gable. Only one thing makes ‘Stolen Hours’ a picture to remember.

It contained a courtroom scene in which Gable, playing a lawyer, pleads for the life of a client. In the background, among the extras playing courtroom onlookers, was a blonde woman in a dark dress.
Her presence and her beauty made her stand out among the dozens of extras, which is hardly surprising. She was a star. She had also, in 1947, been dead five years.

In those first few years after the war, Clark Gable was the most famous film star in the world. In Hollywood they called him “The King”. Although approaching fifty, he was still the screen’s Great Lover, and the studio had ten films lined up for him.

It was hardly surprising that a day after finishing ‘Stolen Hours’ he was in Mexico doing preliminary work on his next movie. Stolen Hours was forgotten. Gable, as was his custom during those busy years, left cutting and editing to the studio.

A month after the final footage had been shot, MGM editors began sorting through the hundreds of yards of film, clipping and pruning each scene. One day a senior editor went into the studio manager’s office and asked if he would come into the cutting room and see “a helluva strange thing we’ve found”.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own