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Clark Gable And His Girls

There never will be another Mrs. Clark Gable! “I never marry again,” Clark told me, quietly. And then he smiled, “But I shall always enjoy the company of lovely ladies.”

As disheartening as this news will be to the femmes who consider The King the most attractive man on the screen and the dozens of beauties all over the world who would love to become Mrs. Gable Number Five, the statement was made by Mr. G. himself with almost cheerful finality on the unseasonably hot day in February when he came a visitin’.

Seemingly completely oblivious of the death-knell he was sounding to millions of feminine daydreams, he went on, “Oh, yes, frequently I am lonely. But as my life lines up today, as I see my future, I never expect to marry again.”

I looked at Clark as he is today. He might have been a ruddy Englishman dropped in for a spot of tea. He had arrived at my house correctly garbed for the afternoon in a sports coat of brown-checked tweed (heat and all), with a deep tan and looking the picture of health and vigor.

It had been at least two years since we had seen each other. And yet, so deep is our friendship and of such long standing, that it might have been just yesterday that I had seen Clark or interviewed him for a Sunday story or just chatted as we frequently did when he dropped in for a social call.

I’ve known The King the full twenty-four years he has been in California. It would be silly to say that he has not changed greatly—particularly in the past few years when he has added a high continental polish to the basic he-man appeal he has always had.

Clark has spent the last twenty-four months working and traveling in Europe. He now speaks French like a native. He talks interestingly of the many countries he has visited and the great experiences he has had.

But I was of a mind to concentrate particularly on his highly publicized experiences with the beautiful ladies.

The King laughed when I persisted in asking about beautiful blonde Grace Kelly (the new Hollywood sensation) with whom Clark was supposed to have been very much in love while they were making Mogambo;and of Suzanne Dadolle, the French charmer of the odd name, with whom his name was later linked all over Europe.

Grace is supposed to have pined so deeply for Clark after their romance cooled that, ’tis said, she threw herself headlong into an unfortunate romance with another handsome actor after she returned to Hollywood.

“Grace is only a kid,” Clark said, “but what a nice one! I used to go on safaris with two white hunters and the natives while we were working in Africa. One day Grace asked if she could go along. After that she made many trips with us.

“I said to her one day, ‘Why do you do this? These natives smell to high heaven; they’ve never had a bath. The safari is dangerous and uncomfortable for a girl raised in a city as you were with all the luxuries and conveniences.’

“And Grace would answer me impishly, ‘I expect to get married some day and have children and I want to tell my children—and later my grandchildren—Mommy went on a safari with Clark Gable! How can I know what such an adventure is like if I don’t have the actual experience? It’s purely an adventure in research,’ she’d laugh.”

Clark went on, “You know Grace comes of a very fine family. Sometimes I was surprised that her parents let her travel so many miles to Africa without someone to look after her. But in many ways she’s a rugged individualist, a girl determined to lead her own life and a good actress.”

“Did you and Grace ever bring back any game from your trips?” I asked.

“Only small game,” Clark said, and I smiled at what could have been a quip.

“We saw many lions and elephants, majestic and beautiful in their own realm, and well, I never had the heart to shoot one of the magnificent beasts.

“One day we came on a herd of twelve elephants and we were so close it would have been easy to kill one or two. But it would have been too easy, just wanton destruction with all the element of sport left out. So we left them alone.”

“Clark, these sound like exciting adventures to share with a woman,” I pressed. “Were you in love with Grace?”

He threw up his hands. “Oh, Louella—you’ll never change! Don’t you know that I am incurably romantic, that I love all the beautiful women who cross my path? Grace is a wonderful, wonderful girl and the man who gets her will be very lucky indeed.”

It was pretty obvious, however, that King Gable won’t be this lucky man.

“Then you left Africa and went to Paris and all the papers started hinting that you were going to marry the beautiful French model, Suzanne Dadolle,” I prompted, beginning to feel, I’ll admit, a bit like a district attorney.

At the mention of Suzanne’s name, Clark spoke briskly. “There was never any engagement,” he said. “Miss Dadolle and I never spoke of marriage. We dined together, went to the nightclubs and theatres, had fun. She is very beautiful. I enjoyed being with her—and I got a kick out of the way she made me speak French. Improved my French greatly!”

This charming rogue! How can the lovely ladies resist him? The answer is, most of them don’t.

You may have noticed that Clark had far less to say about Suzanne than about Grace—which could be because he resents the interviews given out by Mlle. Dadolle to the French press saying that she and Clark were to be married. The gal even talked about how much she was going to love living on his ranch in Encino with “all the cows and chickens.”

It isn’t any secret around Paris that if Clark had ever asked, “Will you marry me?” Suzanne would have said yes so fast and loudly it would have been heard all the way from Gay Paree to Hollywood.

No, everything considered, Mr. Gable is not of a mind to discuss Mlle. Dadolle at any great length. She put him in the uncomfortable position any man hates of having to deny a lady’s word.

Although I am well aware that Clark is making frequent trips to Arizona (’tis said (a) to look over ranch property, (b) to settle a lawsuit), I’m sure that there is a far stronger attraction there. Not a ranch. A widow.

I mean the wealthy heiress to the Jones sausage fortune, Mrs. Betty Chisholm, a charming woman in her late thirties and one of Arizona’s most delightful hostesses.

Her husband was killed in an automobile accident three years ago and since that time Mrs. Chisholm has divided her time between her large ranch where she loves the outdoor life and her beautiful town home near Tucson.

Not exactly the type of exotic beauty who has always intrigued Clark in the past, she is a woman of great charm and tact and understanding.

Methinks Clark believes few people are aware of his interest in the Arizona lady. As of the moment, I decided to switch our talk from the femmes to Clark’s plans for now and the future.

I’d really given him a bit of a going over about his romances and I didn’t want to frighten him off—for the moment.

“Why did you decide to end your long contract with MGM so suddenly?” I asked. It was a sudden change of subject but a topic I was really curious about.

My guest stretched his long legs, shrugged his shoulders.

He said, “It wasn’t the sudden decision it might appear. I gave it much thought. And what I thought is—twenty-three years is a long time to spend in one place.

“I think you know, Louella, that I haven’t liked some of the stories I was getting.

“And, to be even more frank, there is a more personal reason. I’m fifty-four years old. I’ve worked hard, very hard, for almost a quarter of a century. I’m in a financial position where it’s time for me to stop and think things over and perhaps let many of my life’s experiences sink in.

“I suppose you might say the time has come to slow down, take inventory, and see where I’m going.

“I don’t mean for a minute that I’m planning to give up acting. I’m an actor and I’m going to make other pictures. But I’m going to make the ones I want where I want to make them, and when.

“Let’s put it this way about me,” he went on, “I’m a little tired. As of the moment, I don’t want to do anything except what I want to do. That means travel here or there, or remain put. It means playing golf, seeing old friends. And it also means dashing off somewhere if I want to—without explanations. It means thinking not too seriously about anything—and thinking seriously about everything. Maybe that sounds mixed up. But it’s the way I feel.”

To me, who has known him so well, it’s perfectly understandable.

The King has dwelt on the heights for so long under the constant high pressure of perhaps the greatest career ever enjoyed by a male star that it is a vital and a necessary thing for him to pause temporarily, to slow down for the moment from the dizzy pace of the great fame that has been his for so many spinning years.

Clark’s present frame of mind recalls the beginning of a poem by Robert Service which I once read: 

An angel was tired of Heaven

As he lounged in the Golden Street,

His halo was tilted sideways

And his harp lay mute at his feet.”

The King has never pretended to wear a halo. But as of right now his crown is tilted sideways and his career is quiet at his feet.

It is a long road from the Olympian heights he has dwelt on for twenty-five years back to The Last Mile on the Los Angeles stage where I first saw the tall, thin fellow with the too-big ears.

It was the play that first brought him to the attention of the movie scouts and set him on the road to stardom—but it wasn’t as easy as it reads here.

Gable created one riot in his first picture, The Painted Desert. He wasn’t the pretty-boy type of hero popular in those days. And he took an awful beating about his ears.

But the young Gable was not easily discouraged. When he left his home town in Cadiz, Ohio, and joined a stock company he had made up his mind that nothing was going to stand in the way of his being an actor. He always had this goal even when he was forced to take jobs on the waterfronts or in the oil fields to help finance himself.

But everybody knows the life story of Clark Gable. It’s as well known, perhaps even better known, than the life of the President of the United States.

And his love life down through the years has been equally exposed to the public gaze, even the great tragedy of losing the woman he loved with all his heart, Carole Lombard.

Clark had mentioned during our conversation that he is not selling his ranch in Encino, saying, “My roots are there and the happiest days of my life were spent in the house where Carole and I lived for three wonderfully happy years.”

Clark never feels any hesitancy in mentioning Carole to me for in the old days we had been a happy foursome—Carole and Clark and Dr. Harry Martin and I. Our ranch was close to the Gables’ and the memory of those happy days we had shared came back to both of us as we talked.

As I have said many times, Carole was the one real love of Clark’s life. She spent all her time planning little surprises for him. She was a girl who would rather give than receive.

She was high-hearted and gay and very beautiful and luxury-loving. Yet when she gave her heart to Clark she went all the way, even to changing her way of life to share the things that interested him, outdoor life, hunting trips, skeet shooting, ranching, roughing it.

Clark was her man. If they had little arguments they made them up quickly and the fun of kissing and making up and forgiving and forgetting was what helped make their marriage a good one.

No matter what Clark did, it was all right with Carole. She, too, had had other loves in her life—she had been married, not too long nor too happily to William. Powell, and there had been her much publicized romance with the tragic Russ Colombo.

But Clark was Carole’s world.

I mention in detail their happy life together because I firmly believe that it was the memory of the great love he bore Carole that made impossible Clark’s chances of happiness with Lady Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks (to give most of her names), his last attempt at matrimony.

Where Carole had given, Sylvia, very spoiled by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., before his death, asked or demanded. And they made the fatal mistake of living in the same house where Clark had known such happiness with Carole.

Sylvia, pampered and petted by Fairbanks and other husbands and loves in her life, expected the same attention from Clark. Her attitude was a great contrast to Carole’s constant thought of him and everything he wanted.

The last (and he says final) Mrs. Gable started redecorating the ranch house and changing it to her taste and her taste was very expensive. When the big bills started coming in, plus the fact that Gable hated Sylvia’s ultra-feminine changes, the storms which eventually blew up their marriage began.

That the English beauty was desperately in love with Clark cannot be denied. But she didn’t know how to handle him from the very moment of their elopement to Alisal Ranch in Santa Barbara (which really electrified Hollywood) to the moment he ordered her belongings moved from his ranch.

Sylvia grieved deeply when she lost Gable. All the women who have lost him have grieved—and have never forgotten him. She literally went into retirement for weeks, sobbing her heart out and refusing to see any of her friends.

The same thing happened when Clark and his first wife, drama coach Josephine Dillon (a woman years older than he) parted; and again when his marriage with wealthy Texas heiress Rita Hangham came to an end. Rita, too, was older than Clark, but she was an attractive woman with social graces and she taught Gable much about gracious living.

Rita, like Carole later, worshipped Clark and her home was run to please him although she had a grown son and daughter. I knew Rita and Clark well in those days—and though it may surprise you—I think Clark really tried to make a go of this marriage.

Perhaps the real trouble was that he was too young a man to be married to a woman much older and too young to be the step-parent of an adult son and daughter.

When they both realized their marriage could not go on, Rita was disconsolate and Clark was blue.

I was the first person he told that he and Rita would separate as soon as a financial settlement could be made.

Despite her devotion, Rita was a tough bargainer and some months went by after he left his home before the divorce was arranged.

After Rita’s divorce, Clark married Carole, and I repeat, it is the memory of this one complete and whole love in his life that has colored Clark’s reaction to all women ever since. Carole set an almost impossible standard.

Not that there haven’t been “romances.” There have been interludes, I believe, when Clark has imagined that he had found true love again, but the interludes did not last long.

His most serious love affair after Carole’s death was with glittering, sophisticated woman of the world, Dolly O’Brien, the fabulous blonde and wealthy darling of continental café society who completely charmed Clark with her wit, her life, her clothes and jewels.

There was a time when he might have married Dolly. That’s how seriously he fell. She was the first to realize it would never work out for them.

“His world is not my world,” Dolly once said. “Clark could not be happy for long in my world any more than I could be happy in his.”

Even before Dolly there was a girl in his life who became a celebrity of sorts as “the girl Gable always comes back to”—lovely, appealing, sympathetic Virginia Grey. The young actress loved The King very much. To this day she speaks from the heart when she talks about Clark. “He is the finest and most wonderful man I have ever known,” Virginia will tell you without hesitation.

Still another interesting “thrill” in Gable’s life was gay, vivid, blue-eyed Kay Williams with whom Clark shared many laughs and had lots of fun. Kay amused him as perhaps no other belle has ever done. She used to put on the most outré outfits to spend a day roughing it with him—bathing suits or cocktail dresses or anything silly—to make Clark laugh.

Perhaps they had too many laughs for the serious job of building a foundation for a steady life together. They parted with a laugh and perhaps a bit of the song, “Thanks For The Memories” about the whole adventure.

Heaven knows Kay had little to laugh about in her subsequent marriage to and parting from millionaire Adolph Spreckels. After a stormy marriage of several years and with two lovely children to bless their union, the headlines were recently black with Kay’s charges that Adolph had beaten her unmercifully.

Once during a violent spat in their married life, Adolph said, “She never got Clark Gable out of her system,” but Kay heatedly denied that a chance meeting with The King at a social affair had meant anything to her other than saying hello to an old friend.

With the exception of Josephine Dillon, who was almost grey, and Rita Langham, who was a brunette, almost all the women in Clark’s life have been fascinating blondes.

“Clark,” I prodded us back to the present (we were now sipping ice cold drinks—it was so very hot for a day in February), “seems to me you’re always falling for blondes. I think it can safely be said that you’re a gentleman who prefers blondes.”

He laughed. “Thanks for the gentleman. But I could just as easily fall for a brunette or a redhead. I think it’s just accidental that many of the women I have most admired have been on the blonde side. I can assure you, however, my mind is open about the color of a lovely lady’s hair. Seems I have a talent for admiring charming women.”

“And whether you get married again or not,” I predicted, “if I know you, you will continue to exercise that talent in the future.”

“I hope so,” he laughed. “I hope the time never comes when I fail to admire a beautiful woman.”

P.S. My butler of twenty-two years, Collins, who is a friend of The King from way back, met me in the hall after Clark’s departure.

“I think he looks a little heavier, don’t you?” I asked.

“No, absolutely not!” protested one of Clark’s greatest fans. “He looks thinner and better all the time. That’s one gentleman men admire just as much as the ladies do,” he philosophized.

Thought you’d like to know, Clark.



(Clark Gable can now be seen with Lana Turner in MGM’s Betrayed.)



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