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The Brave Lovers—Clark Gable & Kay Williams

Clark Gable and his wife Kay have had more than their share of trouble in their lives. But fate waited until now, when they thought there was nothing but peace ahead, to deal them the hardest blow.

Their big test came, ironically enough, just a few weeks before their first wedding anniversary last July 11. It came suddenly, without warning.

The vivacious, beautiful woman Gable had chosen, who was sharing with him the outdoor, rough-hewn life he needs, was told she had a heart condition.

Kay, the witty, forthright blonde who used to boast she’d never had a sick day in her life, suffered several attacks of angina pectoris. She was rushed to a hospital. Clark called in a team of top specialists. They made every test in the medical book. But there was no getting around those two ominous Latin words.

However, the doctors were encouraging, if in a slightly negative way. “Don’t worry,” they told their beautiful patient and her famous husband. “We’re taking every precaution to ward off a coronary.”

Kay was given the same medicine that was administered to President Eisenhower following his heart attack. She was also given some firm instructions. She was told that she must follow them to the letter if she wanted to get well.

The instructions? Change her whole way of life. Just like that.

No more hunting trips with Clark. Not for a long, long time. No more location trips with him. No more swinging those golf clubs he bought her. No more dashing about with “The King” in that glistening white Thunderbird he loves to drive.

No more Sunday bicycle rides and picnics along the out-of-the-way roads in San Fernando Valley. No more airplane flights to Clark’s favorite fishing grounds up Oregon way. No more busy days working around their twenty-acre ranch home in Encino. No more riding beside her husband on that bright red tractor she’d surprised him with at Christmas.

In short, Mrs. Clark Gable would have to give up, at least for the present, all the activities that had helped to make her first year of marriage such a happy one.

Kay was ordered to remain in bed for several months after she went home from the hospital. She was allowed to get up for only a few moments each day. But she was forbidden to climb the stairs to the attractive bedroom she and Clark had shared before her illness.

A temporary bedroom was set up in the downstairs study, which Clark had been using as his office. Kay organized it while she was still in the hospital. “I’ve been lying here moving furniture in my mind all day. Boy, have I worked hard,” she joked to a close friend who was allowed to visit her.

But though Kay’s sense of humor remained as healthy as ever, she experienced some pretty low periods as she lay in that flower-filled hospital room.

Not that she complained much. She’s not that kind of a girl. “Kay’s always been one for keeping her troubles to herself,” one of her, best friends points out. “She’s not a cry-baby. Nor does she go in for self-pity.”

Still, Kay was worried and depressed those first weeks of her illness. But she did her best not to let her husband know it. You could hardly blame her if she brooded over the fate that threw up this last minute hurdle just when it appeared she’d won everything she’d ever wanted.

Kay must have asked herself the question that many in Hollywood started asking as soon as the news of her illness leaked out. What effect would it have on her marriage?

Kay fills the bill

It’s never been any secret that Gable is an outdoor man and that his last marriage to delicate Lady Sylvia Ashley went smash mainly because she preferred an indoor, social type of life. Gable could never bear a woman who demanded pampering, his pals have pointed out.

“Clark wants a ‘fun’ girl,” one friend explained it. “The woman who holds him will have to go fishing with him, play golf with him, rough it on camping trips, run his home smoothly, and look like a glamour girl while doing it. She must be intelligent, chic and poised. And above all, she must not be a phony.”

Until the day when she felt those frightful pains in her chest, Kay Williams Spreckels had more than filled the bill. In fact, when Clark slipped the simple gold band on her finger and planted a warm smack on her lips, all Hollywood approved.

“Shell be good for him and he’ll be good for her,” everyone chorused.

“It appears we deserve each other,” Kay quipped happily.

But many wondered how the couple would adjust to this unexpected obstacle—this medical verdict that would necessitate so many changes in the new life they were planning and building together.

“What a tough break for Kay,” commented one Hollywoodite. “First she loses the baby Clark wanted so badly. Then this heart trouble develops.

“Of course, he’s crazy about her now, but I wonder if her illness will lead to problems later on, After all, will he be content with sitting home all the time?”

But gossips like this one should have saved their breath, and their raised eyebrows. They couldn’t be more wrong.

It’s true that Clark Gable is a rugged, outdoor type. But he’s also a man of great compassion, understanding and loyalty. And his love for the girl he calls Kathleen is bigger than all outdoors, if you’ll excuse an appropriate cliche.

He meant what he said

When Clark stood with Kay before the Justice of the Peace in that obscure little Nevada town and recited the words “in sickness and in health,” he meant them. With all his heart.

“The only thing that matters is that we’re together,” he said shortly after Kay came home from the hospital. “I’m a lucky guy—I’ve got myself a wonderful girl and I’m going to do everything I can to keep her.

“Kathleen’s going to be all right,” Gable went on. “But she’ll have to be good and mind the doctor. And I’m going to stay right beside her to see that she does.”

However, Clark was forced to leave his wife for four days. He was winding up the picture The King And Four Queens, and some script changes made it necessary to fly back to Utah, to re-shoot.

“Those four days seemed like four months to me without Kay,” he said. “I got so lonesome for her, I cleared out of there the very minute we finished the last shot. I didn’t even wait around for the regular flight. I chartered a special plane.

“After this, there’ll be no more separations,” Gable added emphatically. “I’ve made a decision—I’m not going to take any more pictures where I’ll have to go on location. Life is too short. All I want to do is sit home with ‘Ma’ this summer. We have a wonderful life here on our little ranch. We’re going to take it easy together and be happy. Why, we’re just as relaxed and contented as two newborn babies.” Those are the words of The King.

Does this sound like a man who’s annoyed over giving up a few fishing trips?

Hard to believe

At first, Kay found it hard to believe there was anything serious the matter with her. In fact, she didn’t seek medical aid until after she had suffered several bad spells.

“I thought I just had a bad case of indigestion,” she explained later. “I didn’t say anything to Clark. He had so much to worry about with the picture. So I went on the first location with him, and one morning when I was cooking his breakfast I had one of those attacks. The pain in my chest and arms left me almost rigid. I couldn’t hide it from him then.”

Even when she was in the hospital and had been told of the findings of the cardiographs, Kay tried to carry on with her usual vigor.

Clark had taken a room down the hall in order to spend as much time as possible with her after the day’s shooting. Kay was more concerned about his comfort than her own. Though she’d been ordered to remain completely quiet, she insisted on getting up the first few days to personally check Clark’s room before he returned from the studio. She made sure there were flowers in it and a big basket of fresh fruit and a tray of snacks.

She called in their secretary, Jean Garceau, who’s worked for Gable since the days when he was married to Carole Lombard. Kay and Jean started working on thank-you notes for the mountain of flowers she’d received.

“Mrs. Gable just won’t give up and he sick,” one of the nurses pointed out. “But it’s so important for her to rest. I don’t know what we’re going to do with her.”

When the doctor heard about all this activity, he lowered the boom. But it was her worried husband who finally convinced Kay that she should let go of things for a while.

Clark didn’t make any dramatic speeches. He simply spoke a few sincere words as he sat by her bed one evening.

“Will you do me a favor?” Gable said. “Will you follow orders so you’ll get well—for me and the children?”

That was all it took. Kay was a model patient after that. But she countered with a request of her own.

“I promise to take it easy and do everything they say. But please don’t treat me like an invalid,” she said. “I don’t like being sick.”

When Kay returned home both she and Clark stuck to their little bargain. She stayed quietly in bed and cut down on her smoking. But her spirits were back up to normal.

The King and his Queen had cleared the hurdle with plenty of room to spare.

The old man’s so good

“Everything is going just fine,” Kay said recently. “I know I’ll be all right soon. How can I help but get better? My old man is so darn good to me. I’m a very lucky girl and I don’t forget it for a minute.”

Actually, there are few in Hollywood who know much about the private life of the Gables, either before or after her illness. Which is just peachy-keen with them. Though Gable’s always tried to be cooperative with the press, he’s a man who places great value on his privacy. And Kay, who has had her share of headlines in the past, wisely values whatever her guy does.

There are a few little things which are generally known. For instance, Clark and Kay call each other “Ma” and “Pa,” just as he and Carole Lombard did.

People perpetually point out that Kay seems to have so many of Carole’s qualities. Though the fifth Mrs. Gable has carefully refrained from commenting on these remarks, she’s no doubt getting a little weary of them.

When Kay and Clark eloped, the columnists couldn’t get to their typewriters fast enough to start comparing her with her predecessor.

“I noticed all the wedding stories pointed out I’d be good for Clark because I was such an ‘outdoor girl,’ ” Kay remarked to a close friend when they returned from their brief honeymoon. “That being the case, maybe I should tell my husband to pitch a tent and move the bedrolls outside,” she quipped.

She was also amused at the columnists who wrote about her “winning” Clark’s affections. “The way they phrase it, you’d think I won him in a crap game,” Kay cracked.

No need to prove a thing

Once they were settled down in the house that has been Clark’s home for so many years, Hollywood saw very little of the newlyweds. Only a few close friends, most of whom are not “movie names,” have been invited through the big electric gate that guards the entrance on Pettitt Avenue.

The Gables have been content to be happy without trying to prove it to anybody. Mostly, they bypass parties and premieres. After all these years, Clark’s still embarrassed when feminine fans drool over him in public.

However, Clark was mighty pleased to find he was a hit with two young fans—Kay’s children by her marriage to millionaire Adolph Spreckels II. Seven-year-old Bunker, (Adolph Spreckels III) and four-year-old Joan adore Clark. And he loves them.

“Clark spends a lot of time with the youngsters,” Kay says. “He got them each a pony and he’s taught them to ride. At night, we both sit with them while they have their dinner. You should see us all watching Howdy-Doodyand those other TV shows the kids are so crazy about.”

Clark’s proud of the children. “They’re well-behaved,” he said. ‘Their mother’s done a wonderful job with them. She makes them toe the mark. Of course, Old Kathleen has an awful lot of remarkable stuff in her—a lot of good, plain horse sense.”

She still keeps him laughing

Those who know Kay well agree with that last statement. “She’s an amazing girl,” says one friend. “It just wasn’t her beauty that captured Clark. She’s one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever known, and her sense of humor is just the greatest. She keeps Clark laughing all the time. He’s never been so happy. You can be sure this marriage will last. Kay’s illness won’t make a bit of difference. In fact, its only brought them closer together.”

Kay’s an extremely witty woman, quicker with the quip than Henry is with the Flit. But when she’s serious about something, you can count on her leveling with you. And more important, she always levels with herself.

“I think I can explain just why we’ve been so happy,” she says. “But I hope I don’t sound too trite or corny.

“Our marriage is going to last because, aside from being deeply in love with each other, we have such a nice companionship. It takes both, you know.

“We truly enjoy living together. Clark and I have an easy, harmonious relationship. There’s no nagging or fighting in this house. We’re always natural and comfortable. There’s no strain.

“Most important of all, there’s no living in the past. No throwing things up to each other. Whatever either of us did before doesn’t count now. We look ahead to all the happy things awaiting us.

“What more in the world can a woman ask? I have everything I want. I’m going to be all right. You can bet on that.”



Clark Gable will soon appear in U-A’s The King And Four Queens.



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