Clark Gable’s Mystery Romance
What does an actor do between pictures? Especially if he’s single, wealthy, handsome, and his name is Clark Gable?
In California when he had finished a film, the 52-year-old star used to go fishing and hunting in Oregon or speed down to La Quinta, a desert resort south of Palm Springs. When he was married to Lady Sylvia Ashley, he’d come home to his house in Encino, inspect Sylvia’s latest improvements in décor and blow his top.
Only Gable hasn’t been working in the U.S.A. for more than a year now. He’s been in Africa and Europe, making films there in order to take advantage of the Federal income tax exemption. And life in Europe, to say the least, gives actors the opportunity to be infinitely more expansive than they can be at home.
Ever since April of this year, for example, when Grace Kelly, the beautiful young blonde with whom he starred in Mogambo, left London for New York, Gable has been touring the Continent with a tall, dark-haired, statuesque French model named Susan Dadolle Dabadie.
For a time, Gable was under the erroneous impression that he might keep this romance a dark secret.
In Venice he told his hotel manager that under no circumstances was his girl’s name to be released. Newspapermen quickly jumped to the conclusion that Susan was a wealthy American widow. They had Gable and the girl followed by photographers who snapped them touring the Grand Canal in gondolas, feeding the pigeons in front of St. Mark’s, walking hand-in-hand across the hundreds of picturesque little bridges that dot the city.
When asked about his traveling partner, all Gable would say was, “She’s just a friend.”
Once photographs of Clark’s “mystery friend” were released, however, her identity was no longer a secret.
In Paris, one Schiaparelli model, picking up the afternoon paper, turned to a friend and pointing to Susan’s picture, asked, “Who does this look like?”
The second model grinned. “It is Susan Dadolle,” she said. “Who else? Don’t you know about her?” An explanation was forthcoming immediately. “A few weeks ago when Clark Gable came here to Paris he got in touch with Susan. I think they have known each other a long time or something. Anyway, she went to Madame Schiaparelli and said, ‘I would like to have some time off.’ And she is very understanding about these things, so she said, ‘But, of course, Susan.’ So she went away with Monsieur Gable, and now they are traveling all over Europe, and since his divorce from his fourth wife—I think she was his fourth wife, that blonde English one—I guess Susan is hoping to marry him. She has always been in love with him, you know. Susan would make him a very good wife.”
While such talk was making the rounds of Paris, Gable and his new love were sunning themselves on the beach at Capri. And in Italy, of course, no one interfered with the privacy of the lovers.
Occasionally, someone would ask a professional question such as, “What’s your next picture, Mr. Gable?” and Clark would prop himself up on his elbows and say, “Really don’t know. Everytime I call Hollywood from here I can’t understand what they say. They can hear me but I can’t hear them. I guess the studio will rope up something for me.”
In Capri, Gable lived in the hotel suite formerly occupied by Egypt’s ex-King Farouk which prompted him to quip, “Even I can be a king for a few bucks.”
Natives who saw Susan and Clark said, “There is no doubt about it. They are both deeply in love. They are together always. They are always smiling. I am sure they have already married. I say this because what you see in their eyes is the light of honeymooners.”
Gable has insisted ever since his divorce from Sylvia Ashley that “I’m not against marriage. I’ve believed in marriage for years, only the next time I’m going to be very careful.”
Gable usually gravitates to mature, successful women. Susan has neither age nor a very large bank account. She is a brunette in her middle thirties who has a slavish devotion to Gable, a Gallic wit, a sophisticated outlook on life, a respect for thrift—a quality very close to Gable’s heart—and an acquaintance with the actor which goes back to 1950.
In December of 1950, Frank Burd, president of Prestige Hosiery of New York, flew to Paris. “I had an idea,” Burd says, “that if I could make a tie-up between Prestige Hosiery and the leading dress designers in France, it would be a very good thing for everyone concerned. My company would sell more hosiery, and the French dress designers would sell more dresses.
“I spoke to Jean Patou, Jean Desses, Jacques Fath, Jacques Griffe, Robert Piguet and Marcel Rochas. They all agreed to go ahead with the scheme. We would get six gorgeous models, dress them to the teeth, then fly them to New York.
“Our next problem was getting the girls. Well, each of these dress designers had a favorite model. Unfortunately, some of these girls weren’t equipped with great legs; so for our purposes that let them out. We managed to get hold of three or four swell girls—they were beautifully proportioned everywhere—and then I got in touch with a model agency.
“This agency sent over to my place a girl named Susan Dadolle. She’s the young woman currently going around with Clark Gable. I looked her over—very attractive, nice figure, good legs—and said, ‘Okay, Miss Dadolle, you’ve got the job.’ ”
In January, 1951, six French models, Catherine Fath, Michele Tevnard, Danielle Chevron, Nicolle Tuchard, Josette Farges, and Susan Dadolle arrived in New York.
Now, of these six girls, two were dying to get to Hollywood. One was Susan Dadolle who kept telling the other models that she simply had to meet Clark Gable, and the other was Danielle Chevron.
Unfortunately, neither Hollywood nor Los Angeles was on the itinerary for the Prestige Hosiery Fashion Show. The models played Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, even went as far west as Chicago, but no farther.
Susan and Danielle decided the time had come for a little independent action. The following day they caught a plane to the west coast, and in Hollywood, through the intervention of French friends in the movie colony, Susan Dadolle finally met her hero, Clark Gable.
Reportedly, Gable was not immediately smitten by the model’s beauty. He exchanged pleasantries, showed her around town, then bade her adieu. Susan, however, was unforgettably thrilled. “If you ever come to Paris,” she told the actor, “you must look me up.”
There are friends of Gable who doubt the above version of the first Susan-Clark meeting.
“I was in Paris,” one of the actor’s intimates explains, “when he first met this woman. I spoke to her, and she told me that she’d never been west of Chicago. I think maybe Gable first ran into her in the lobby of the Crillon Hotel. Anyway, he moves around in fancy circles. I guess he met her at some French salon. Who cares anyway?
“Gable was burned pretty badly by Sylvia, and he’s playing it very cagey. You read a lot about him and Susan Dadolle in Paris, in Capri, in Como, in Venice, in Naples, on the French Riviera. But I can tell you there have been other girls, too.
“In England he saw Joan Harrison—that’s no secret, and in Paris, well. there was a lovely American girl he was dating, and then at Como, it was another babe, an Italian with Turkish blood. Maybe he has fallen for Susan, but I don’t think she’s got him all wrapped up and ready for a trip down the aisle like they say.
“To tell you the truth, Grace Kelly seems more like his type than this Dadolle babe. My own feeling is that he’s afraid of foreign women. I mean he likes them but he doesn’t want to marry them. Grace is a lot like Carole Lombard, fresh and well-bred. I’d bet on the success of a Kelly-Gable marriage but with Dadolle, I don’t know.
“Of course, Susan was very sweet, very diplomatic, gave The King his head all the time, but I’ll give you dollars to doughnuts that he drops her within a month or two. Of course, I could be wrong. I said the same thing about Sylvia Ashley, and look what happened there.”
Gable has always been known to concentrate on one woman at a time, but in many European capitals it is currently being said that it is Susan Dadolle who is concentrating on him.
In Paris, however, they are saying that Susan is definitely Gable’s romance and that he doesn’t care who knows. Certainly he no longer objects to being photographed with the tall French model although he insists, “There’s nothing to this mystery romance business. What’s mysterious about it? You meet an attractive woman and take her out. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to marry her. Susan is an acquaintance. I’ve got a lot of acquaintances.”
The basic reason Gable is always being connected with one woman or another is that he prefers the society of females to males. Not that he isn’t a man’s man, but except for a few friends such as Al Menasco and Wayne Griffin, he likes to spend a lot of time with the girls. All of his really close friends have been women, usually older women in whom he confides.
It may well be, of course, that Gable has now reached the point in life where he needs young blood to maintain the illusion of perpetual youth. This is why actresses in their forties frequently marry younger men; and it may be why lately Clark has chosen Grace Kelly, a blonde in her early twenties, and Susan Dadolle, a brunette in her early thirties. But friends insist this isn’t true.
One MGM director who probably knows the actor as well as any other man, says, “There are some men. who, when they have nothing to do, read a book. There are others who go hunting or fishing. Clark Gable is tired of these pursuits. The one thing he will never tire of is girls—all sizes, all shapes, all ages. It makes no difference to the guy. He’s very democratic where women are concerned. The minute a film is over he likes to relax. Right now he’s relaxing with this French girl, Susan Dadolle. How long she can hold him nobody knows.
“At least she has the opportunity to try out her charms. A million girls would give anything, well, almost anything, to have the same opportunity.”
—BY ALICE HOFFMAN
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1953