Clark Gable hated taking publicity photos. He often said it made him feel like a ham. Gone with the Wind was no exception and after hours working on set he was subjected to several more hours of sitting under hot lights in heavy Civil-War era suits, grinning (or scowling) for the camera over and over.
Let’s take a look at some of the solitary shots of Clark Gable (suffering) as Rhett Butler.
From June 1937:
During the preparation for the last three pictures he’s appeared in, Clark Gable has been sitting in on all story conferences. Studio executives feel he is a real help in working out details for baffling situations and more than welcome his presence. In fact, Anita Loos, who has been working on “Saratoga,” insists Clark has one of the best story minds in Hollywood.
A short little interview with Vivien Leigh from November 1939:
When David O’ Selznick shortly releases Margaret Mitchell’s famous story, “Gone with the Wind,” a little English girl, born in India, will be under the guns of Hollywood. For the comparative newcomer, Vivien Leigh, landed the role every actress in the movie colony longed to play. Is Miss Leigh, the Scarlett O’Hara of the film, afraid?
“Why afraid?” returns Miss Leigh coolly. “All that talk of hundreds of actresses trying for the part was publicity, a lot of it on the part of other studios. Actually less than a dozen made tests. Norma Shearer, who had considered the part, sent me a swell letter of congratulation after I was chosen.
“I got the role by chance. I came over from London to spend a single week in the Hollywood colony. One nighty I went to a party at Myron Selznick’s home. He suggested that we go over to his brother’s studio to watch the mimic burning of Richmond. Although they had not cast the principal roles, they were shooting some of the spectacular scenes. While we stood by, Myron Selznick said jokingly, “’How about a test for Scarlett?’ I took the test next day and got the part. I started in January, worked twenty-two weeks straight with only five free days. I hardly saw anything of Hollywood. I was too tired after work to go about, and I slept through the free days.
The film carries Scarlett from the age of sixteen to twenty-eight. It was easy to look the part until about June. I’m twenty-two but even so the strain began to show then. I felt a million years old. I’d say to myself, ‘Now, can I look twenty-eight?’ and worry.
“It isn’t as hard as you would think for an English girl to play a Dixie heroine. We English often drop our r’s and we talk in a lackadaisical way. The dialect came easy. Indeed, the director would tell me every now and then, ‘Not too Southern, Viven!’ And those rumored quarrels with Clark Gable who played Rhett Butler. We finally came to joke about the reports. We’d say when we’d meet in the morning, ‘What’ll we quarrel about today?’”
Still, in spite of all her confidence, Miss Leigh is on the firing line—or will be, now that “Gone with the Wind” is to be released. The part will make or break her.
Although she has the most coveted role in years, Miss Leigh still is unknown. She went about New York recently unrecognized, even toured the World’s Fair unobserved. It will be different after the release of the picture. She will be a name and a face then, I trust.
Sometimes, when I find a new article for the site, I sit down and read it, jot down some notes, and then put it in the pile to type. Other times (often when I’m backlogged!), I don’t read the article until I am actually typing it up. This article is one of those and I must say that while I was typing it I had to stop several times and re-read what I typed, shaking my head, “What the heck is the point of this article?!” I’m still not sure.
Kay Gable ignored the advice of her doctor. “Your own heart’s not in such great shape, you know,” he’d said. She ignored the advice of her friends. “It will be too much of a strain for you, Kay—with the baby only four weeks away,” they’d said. But it was February 1, 1961. And Clark Gable—her husband of five years, till the night of his death six weeks earlier—would have been sixty this day. And she was going to celebrate his birthday, her way, exactly the way she wanted to celebrate it. Just her. And him. And their unborn child. Together. In a little building somewhere between heaven and earth…She awoke early that morning. She had a light breakfast. She kissed her children good-bye—Bunker, ten, and Joan, eight—children by a former marriage. And then she got into her car and began to drive away from the house…As she drove, she remembered his words, among the last he’d ever spoken to her. Clark had never much of a man to talk about prayer, or church. So the words mighthave come as a surprise to some. But Kay had understood them.”When I’m gone,” he’d said, “when I’m there, on the other side of eternity say a prayer for me once in a while, go to church for me once in a while…” She pulled up to the church now, a small Catholic church. The priest stood outside to meet her. “I’m sorry, Father,” she said, “that I haven’t been able to get here since the funeral. But the pills, the sedatives—“ “I understand,” the priest cut in, softly. “Do you feel better now?” “I feel better,” she said. “Are you sure you can go through with this?” “Yes,” she said. She got out of the car. She stood there a moment and looked up into the blueness of the sky above her and smiled a small, secret smile. And she and the priest began to walk into the church.
It might have seemed a strange sort of Mass to some, with Kay there, in a rear pew, kneeling, her eyes closed—alone, completely alone in the church; only Kay and the sound of an organ playing softly from somewhere above her and the sound of the priest’s voice, coming from the altar, praying softly. But Kay had wanted it this way—to be alone with him, her husband, in a place such as this; cool, dark, quiet, sacred, distant, far from the world they had known together—yet, somehow, a link to things as they were now.
First of all, Clark’s funeral was not in a Catholic Church. It was at the Church of the Recessional in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. So, if she was indeed going back to the church where his funeral was held, she would have been in that little church at Forest Lawn, so there would not have been a priest conducting Mass. I have read in several places that Kay was on bedrest for the last two months of her pregnancy and left only for her baby shower and doctor’s appointments, so hearing she was driving herself to the church is contradictory.
The whole article is her on her knees talking to Clark and talking to God while the priest recites things in Latin.
Kay barely heard what the priest was saying now.
Because she, too, was speaking now—softly, so softly that only one person on earth or in heaven could have heard her. “Clark,” she was saying, “oh, Clark. Are you worrying about me? Don’t. Please don’t…I know you. The way you could worry sometimes. But don’t. Please don’t worry. Not now. Not ever…I will get through the days ahead all right. And the nights. You said to me once ‘You are not weak, Kay. You are strength to me, Kay”…So I will get by. And I will feel as I do now. That you are still with me. I know that you are still with me. And I will get by. And take care of myself. Myself. And your child…You’re going to have a big son, I think. A strong son. And he’s going to be such a lucky son, too, my love..To have had you for a father. The kindest, the best of men…There are others who will weep for him. Let them weep. But I, I will not weep. I will think of you, his father, and I will not weep…”
Who gave an account of this? Did Kay call a reporter immediately afterwards and tell them everything she just murmured to her dead husband? Or did the reporter sit in the pew behind and take notes? What an odd piece of journalism.
“…and I keep speaking as if I am certain the child will be a boy,” Kay was saying. “I don’t know, love. Nor do I care. Just as I know that you did not—do not—really care…If it is a boy it will be named, as we planned, either John Clark or Charles Clark. If it is a girl it will be named Gretchen, as we planned…But whichever, it will be our child. My child, and your child. And all I hope is that it comes to me soon, this child. So that, in a way, when I hold it, I will be holding you again. So that when I place my cheek against its cheek—as I will do for hour after hour after hour after hour—I will feel a part of you again, a part of your warmth…”
It’s funny, it seems that since the day Clark announced to the press that he and Kay were expecting, that there were quotes from Clark about the big strong son he would have and Kay talking about their impending son. I’ve always thought how it would have been wretched if the baby had been a girl since apparently that would have been such a big disappointment to them all! This is the first time I have heard that they picked out a girl name–and I can’t help but laugh a bit at the name, as Gretchen was Loretta Young’s real first name. Odd coincidence.
You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.
From August 1936:
All of a sudden like, the little stenographers in the upstairs executive officers at Warner studios started bringing their lunch. No one could quite understand the sudden love for office routine, until the reason leaked out. Below the windows is a tennis court where the stars sometimes play. temporarily it has been surrounded by canvas. Clark Gable is using it to train for his role of the prize fighter in the next Marion Davies picture. Well, girls, how would you like to sit up in a window for sixty minutes and gaze down upon Clark Gable, wearing little more than a smile?
This article is an interesting piece, since in the majority of interviews with Clark after the abrupt end of his marriage with Sylvia have him stating he will never marry again ever, that perhaps him and marriage weren’t compatible.
There are some interesting quotes from Clark littered throughout:
“That was unfortunate. The faults weren’t all on one side, you know. It might have lasted, I suppose. I don’t ever go into marriage thinking ahead to divorce.” (on the split from Sylvia)
“Sure, I’ve been unhappy, too, at times. After marriage has failed, for example. But you can’t go on being miserable. Some people may say I’m crusty,but I take life easily. I like to get way and relax with a few of the boys and fish and ride.”
“Just don’t ask me for advice on staying married. I wouldn’t know the secret. I must have learned something about marriage since I went into it the first time—that was in 1924—but I couldn’t tell you just what.”
“I’m happy if I have a jacket and a clean pair of trousers; some people worry about clothes or money or how the next race is going to finish. If I do bet on a race, I consider the money’s spent before the race is run.”
The article also touches on the rampant rumors that Clark and Gene Tierney were getting romantic on the set of Never Let Me Go–rumors both denied and I have always doubted as well.
I love this description of him:
I captured the impression of an intensely alive, magnetic, attractive man—healthy, hearty, high-humored, and with a zest for living that makes him a very exciting companion. There’s nothing detached or vague about Clark. His penetrating blue eyes engaged mine and sparkled as his inimitable husky voice recounted some of his many adventures.
An interesting little anecdote from this article that made me raise an eyebrow:
I happened to ask when he’d first travelled to Europe, supposing it had been during his war service as head of a combat photography unit. “No,” he corrected, “my first time over was in 1928, when I got a sudden yearning to see Holland.” He interrupted himself to mention, “I’m half-Dutch, you know, and I had a hankering to see where part of my roots grew. Anyway, I got to Holland, didn’t speak the language or know what to look for and I was so darned green that I stayed only a few days and headed right back for the United States like a bewildered hick.”
I found that particularly interesting because one of the things that made him win his court case in 1937–against a British woman who claimed he had fathered her child in 1922–was that he had not been issued a United States passport at all before 1935. I suppose he could have been a stowaway, as he was not exactly riding in first class at that point, but there was a big deal made about the fact that Clark had never left the country before his South American PR trip in 1935. Hmmm.
You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.
Since Olivia de Havilland’s 98th birthday was yesterday (and yes, she is still alive and kicking in Paris!) here’s a snippet Olivia told a fan magazine in November 1939:
Clark Gable is just an old softie. Olivia de Havilland made that discovery when she was working on “Gone with the Wind” with him. According to Olivia, (whose “Melanie,” they say, is something out of this world it’s so wonderful) there was an old worn-out horse, called “Marse Lee,” used in the flight-from-Atlanta sequence. The horse was so skinny it’s bones rattled, but everyone at the studio had definite instructions not to feed it as they had to keep him starved looking for the picture. Clark just had fits every time he had to look at the poor hungry old nag. So, as soon as the picture was finished Mr. Gable ups and buys “Marse Lee” and turns him loose out on the Gable-Lombard pastures to eat his stomach full for the rest of his days.
Horrifying. I know they wouldn’t get away with that nowadays!
Today marks the fifth anniversary of DearMrGable.com!
I can hardly believe that myself. It seems like only yesterday I was just a Clark Gable fan on the internet, sharing information here and there, until people started saying, “He doesn’t have a decent website! YOU should do it!” I went from “Nah, no way I could I do that.” to hand-coding and dealing with the trials and tribulations of WordPress and Coppermine. Five years later and there are over 10,000 pictures in the photo gallery and over 160 articles in the Article Archive.
I’ve been told a few times that I should write a book. Now THAT idea frightens me! For now, I am satisfied being a solid Clark Gable archive for fans.
A very special thank you to all the Gable fans who have helped me and supported me, on here, through email and on the site Facebook page!
I’ve got lots of new stuff planned for this month in celebration so stay tuned…
This month, Joan Crawford is a plucky newspaper reporter and Clark Gable is a loathsome gangster in Dance Fools Dance.
Crawford is Bonnie Jordan, a rich girl suddenly thrown into the real world after her father dies and she finds out all his money is gone. She goes to work as a writer for the local newspaper. One of her assignments is to go undercover and get a story on a gangster, Jake (Gable). As Jake pursues her romantically, Bonnie finds out that her unscrupulous brother Rodney (William Bakewell) has hooked up with Jake’s gang and is in deep trouble.
Joan and Clark were steaming things up behind the scenes at this point and it definitely shows. Their chemistry is crackling. But Clark is the baddie here so Joan is supposed to resist his charms!
Clark does not get much character development here–his character is bad, that’s all. Much like Night Nurse, the one dimensional baddie is rather stale, but to be expected in this kind of quickie pre-code. Clark was still the newcomer here and was billed way behind big star Joan.
He gets to mutter these typical mobster lines:
“Now listen, kid. Money talks. And remember, in this business it’s the only thing that talks.”
“If we take you on, there’s certain rules of the game you’ve got to learn. Keeping your mouth shut’s one of them. But first, no matter what happens, don’t talk.”
“Now listen close. ‘Cause I don’t repeat myself! You got us into this jam and you’re going to get us out!”
“If you don’t come through, they’ll be a double murder!”
And of course he’s got some sly lines for Joan:
“You’ve got me glowing, sister.”
“You’re going to have a little supper with me tonight. Upstairs in my room. We’ve got to get better acquainted.”
“It’s hard to believe a girl like you ever came from Missouri.”
Clark is only in a handful of scenes. The film is all Joan’s, as she struggles in her usual shopgirl-makes-good way. But she’s pretty darn good at it, after all.
One piece of notoriety to the film is that (SPOILER!) it is one of the few Gable films in which he dies. Meets his end by gunshot–in true early 1930′s fashion, with a puff of smoke and no blood!
Joan once said of the film, “It was a disaster! I gave a lousy performance; that overacting thing again.” While I wouldn’t call it a disaster by any means, it is rather a play-by-numbers pre-code gangster film. A review in a fan magazine at the time states it is “a rehash of half a dozen racketeer films with a touch of a newspaper influence so popular. It is as synthetic a picture as you will find in all Hollywood’s desperate stenciling.”
The film is definitely not a milestone on Clark’s career bu any means, but it is an interesting little stepstone of a film for him. I’ve always liked to watch these little beginner films of his; it’s such a dramatic change from brutish, one-dimensional gangster roles to rogue leading man just a few short years later.
Read more here and see pictures from the film in the gallery.
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