In the January 1935 issue of Hollywood magazine, they printed “Santa’s book” of good and bad points for film stars. So who’s getting what they wanted for Christmas and who is getting coal?
Good Points: For giving is It Happened One Night. Being always thoughtful of others. When a friend had no place to keep her dog, he gave it a home on his ranch.
Bad Points: Balks at picture assignments with women stars. Drives studio frantic by disappearing between pictures, when he is wanted for story conferences.
Gifts: More dogs to take care of
Good Points: Proved she could act in Twentieth Century. Came back to start Repeal like a good trouper, though still suffering from the shock of Russ Colombo’s death.
Bad Points: Still cusses when excited. But improving. Gets mad at stupid producers who want her to make stupid pictures, and makes one now and then in spite of herself. Put your foot down, Carole!
Gifts: A real vacation
Good Points: Kept her head and won respect by not rushing into another marriage. Has stuck by her career. Left off that extra splash of lipstick this year. Always gives us good pictures.
Bad Points: Suspicion that she has gone a bit coo-coo on cars. That big white limousine, and now that all white, satin upholstered roadster. Joan! How could you? And that horn can be be heard fully three miles!
Gifts: A plain Ford
Good Points: Well, you finally finished that book, Jean! I like you to stick to things that way. Add good point; not letting personal problems sour her. Made her mother happy with beautiful room in new home. Lifted Bill Powell out of the dumps.
Bad Points: O, hum, with 115 pounds distributed like that, what are Jean’s bad points? Hasn’t sent the editor a copy of “Today is Tonight,” her first book. Maybe he’ll find one in his stocking!
Gifts: A letter from every fan
Good Points: Refuses to be spoiled by compliments. Is Mrs. Santa Claus’ favorite actress. Can now spell her name and count. Invited all Hollywood (almost) to her birthday party.
Bad Points: Shirley, you mustn’t ask for so much gum–I heard you! After all, Mama isn’t made of gum! But I guess you’ve been a very good girl.
Gifts: Carton of gum
Good Points: When her studio make-up woman gave a little house-warming, Marlene came to the party and brought a gift. Keeps democratic; always lunches at Paramount cafe with common horde.
Bad Points: Caused great anguish and disappointment on return from Europe with trunks and trunks of gorgeous clothes–and then refused to appear in them, though all Hollywood waited in expectation, The meanie!
Gifts: Another director
Good Points: Now there is a fine lad; hope he continues to be a good boy, and gives us more like She Loves Me Not. Add two more good points–the twins. (Give Mrs. Crosby some credit there).
Bad Points: Got put in the doghouse during the making of We’re Not Dressing for keeping Director Taurog out all night. He and Carole Lombard tied a rope to the still man’s camera and hoisted it to the roof. Makes Paramount worry by putting on weight.
Good Points: The Thin Man–worth a dozen good marks. Got our favorite child, Jean Harlow, out of the dumps. Built a new home with a swimming pool for his nine-year-old boy.
Bad Points: Can’t find any black marks to chalk down against Bill. He has a good word for everybody, and everybody has a good word for him.
Gifts: Monogrammed hankies and scarf.
Good Points: For earning and keeping the admiration of all fans. Because her form has nothing but good points. For giving is her share of It Happened One Night.
Bad Points: Hates to take stills and is always trying to get out of it. Takes too many people’s advice and worries too much about meaningless criticisms if trivial matters.
Gifts: That long planned trip to Europe
Good Points: For never forgetting a friend.
Bad Points: That fist fight at the Brown Derby.
Gift: A night club
Good Points: Settling down to being a good husband. Never kicks about a picture role. Let Shirley steal one picture and gave her a present for it!
Bad Points: Has terrible memory or else a convienent forgetter. Spoiled one scene by putting on wrong tie and forgetting where the right one had been tossed.
Gift: A rifle
Good Points: For just being the most fascinating star in pictures. For doing The Painted Veil. For creeping out of her shell a bit.
Bad Points: That inhuman hermit complex. Refusing to sign a new contract and keeping Metro and all her fans in suspense.
Gifts: A husband
Letter to the editor, from December 1931:
I think Clark Gable is taking the movie world by storm! He’s marvelous! Handsome and everything a movie fan wants!
But–why on earth can’t he ever have a likable part in a picture? He was miscast in “Laughing Sinners;” imagine Gable in a Salvation Army garb!!! He was great in the “Secret Six” but he had a dislikable role. He was marvelous as the polished gambler in “A Free Soul” but imagine how the feminine hearts sank when he was shot after doing all that marvelous acting.
In the future let us see Clark taking the male lead. Then watch his rise to stardom!!!
~Sue, Pomona, Calif.
Sue, how right you were…
From December 1936:
YOU know, of course, that Clark Gable and his wife are merely separated—and that, until now at least, there’s been no move toward divorce. They’ve been living under a verbal agreement whereby they have arranged to live “peaceably apart.”
BUT—just the other day, Clark started legal proceedings in open court, asking the California Superior bench to “define, compute and compound” the agreement between himself and his wife—so that there may be no misunderstanding when and if a divorce move is started by either.
Wonder if that’s the curtain raiser?
This short little article from 1931 is extremely tabloid-y but that is what makes it interesting! Published in the fall of 1931 when Clark was the newest heart throb, articles like this were the result of editors screaming at their writing staff, “I need pieces on Clark Gable NOW!” So, they grasp at whatever straws they have, which, back in the days before internet and uh, actual fact checking, were largely rumors.
“No,” Clark Gable’s friends quote him as saying last summer. “I’m not married now. My wife just got a divorce in April.”
“Yes,” Clark Gable admitted six months later to inquiring interviewers. “I’m married. But I’d rather not discuss that, please.”
Then, a few weeks ago, came a hasty trip to Santa Ana, where a license was secured for William C. Gable and Mrs. Rita Langham to wed. The license indicated, it was reported, that this was the lady’s third marriage, and Clark Gable’s second. Maybe his first marriage to Mrs. Langham did not count.
How many times has Clark Gable really said, “I do”? Let us see! The newest “great lover” of the screen labors under the misfortune of being a local boy who hung around Los Angeles casting offices for years. There are altogether too many people here who “knew him when”!
Friends warned Clark that if he wanted to keep his remarriage to Rita Langham a secret, he had better not go to Santa Ana, whose courthouse has been the scene of so many headline romances that reporters watch it like hawks. But Clark is apparently sincere in his declaration, “Why, I’m nobody! I’m not important! I’m just an actor working at his job!”
If he really thought that no notice would be taken of his wedding, he was very much mistaken—as mistaken as Rudolph Valentino when he thought that no one would find out that he had married Natacha Rambova in Mexico before his California divorce was final. For an exactly similar reason Clark Gable says he remarried the lady whom he first wed “somewhere back East,” a trifle too soon after he and Josephine Dillon were divorced. Though he does not declare dramatically, like Rudy, “My love could not be kept waiting!”—a line that thrilled a million women.
Clark was saying he wasn’t married last summer because HE WASN’T. The “trip to Santa Ana” was the first and only marriage ceremony between Ria and Clark, a fact that MGM publicity would never allow to be released. You see, Clark and Ria had been living together for a few years and after Clark arrived in Hollywood and started to make a name for himself, Ria wanted to get married and Clark wanted to dump her. So Ria ran straight to MGM executives and threatened to bring down their newest star, to tell everyone that he had been living with a woman he was not married to. (You can read more about this whole situation here. ) Doesn’t seem at all scandalous today, I know, but in those days it would have been career suicide. So, Clark was forced to marry her in June of 1931 and to say that it was a remarriage because of a legal loophole. What’s ridiculous is that he always is quoted as saying that the first time they got married it was ”last year” and “somewhere in the East” with no specifics. Who says that about their marriage ceremony?! And Clark was purposely sent to Santa Ana for the ceremony, where MGM knew there would be photographers to document the occaison.
While he was living here humbly several years ago, often going hungry, one of the women who saw him making his endless rounds of the theaters, agencies, and casting offices was Josephine Dillon, a well-known vocal teacher. She took pity on this ambitious, poorly-prepared boy and worked with him tirelessly, coaching him, improving his delivery of dramatic lines. At length they were married. Though they separated not long after, it was not until April, 1930, that the lady obtained a divorce from her young husband. Her age was given as forty-two.
But according to one of Clark’s closest friends, a young screen actor, even this was not Gable’s first marriage! For good measure this friend’s story mentions a young son also, and swears that he has often seen telegrams from the boy to Clark. Which, if true, would make four marriages for the newest screen sheik, counting two to Mrs. Langham?
I have read this rumor so many times—that when he made it big in Hollywood he already had a son in boarding school. It’s appeared in so many blurbs from the early 1930′s that is smells of MGM publicity, but I scratch my head as to why they would think that would be a beneficial rumor to circulate. Is it more romantic to be married four times by the time you are 31 and have a ten year old son? Not sure of the motivation. But, needless to say, that is a rumor and nothing more.
You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.
This month, Clark is a rogue newspaper reporter (again) and Joan Crawford is a spoiled heiress (again) in Love on the Run.
Gable is Mike Anthony, a newspaper reporter always in competition with his college buddy, Barnabus Pell (Franchot Tone) who works for a rival paper. When Mike attends the wedding of socialite Sally Parker (Crawford) to a European prince, he becomes her confidante and helps her escape the nuptials. With Barnabus hot on their trail, Mike and Sally steal a spy’s plane and head across Europe. The spy wants his plane back (and his secret plans) and Barbabus wants his piece of the story, keeping them on the run, of course falling in love along the way.
Love on the Run is, in a word, silly. It starts out cute enough, with Clark and Franchot constantly trying to one up each other.
But the film meanders into ridiculous territory when Clark and Joan are “on the run” through Europe, being chased by spies whose plane their stole and with Franchot on their tail. There are definitely no plot twists in this one, but it is pretty much what the masses had come to expect from a Clark Gable rom com.
Joan and Clark always have chemistry, even in a silly plot like this. The best scene in the whole film is them meeting in the beginning, with him not telling her he’s a reporter out to scoop her story as she runs out on her wedding. Their banter is classic.
Later, while hiding out in a chateau and wearing antique duds, they share a sweet dance to a music box as they pretend to be ancient royalty. And soon after comes a typical Clark Gable pick-up line: “You’re the only girl this side of the moon.”
Clark is definitely in his element playing a wisecracking reporter. This role was not exactly a stretch for him and he was comfortable with the director, W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke.
Clark was recruited to star with Joan in the film because while Clark was riding high on the success of films like Call of the Wild and San Francisco, Joan’s past few films had failed miserably at the box office. So Clark was brought in as her leading man to boost her back up. My, my, how times had changed. In 1931, Joan was paired with newbie Clark in fare like Dance Fools Dance and Possessed to boost his star power.
Nobody would have been surprised to hear that Clark and Franchot did not get along on the set of this film. Back in 1933, both were costarring with Joan in Dancing Lady. Clark and Joan had been embroiled in a heavy off-and-on affair since 1931, and when Clark missed a lot of time on the set due to illness, Franchot and Joan fell in love. Clark, despite the fact that he was very much involved at the time with British actress Elizabeth Allan AND despite the fact that he was still married to second wife Ria, felt burned when he returned to the Dancing Lady set and saw that Franchot was a frequent vistor to Joan’s trailor.
Joan and Franchot eventually married in 1935 and so were married on the set of Love on the Run, although because Franchot was pretty much doomed to sidekick Siberia in the 1930′s he gets to watch Clark woo and win his wife.
Despite this, Clark and Franchot were actually good buddies. They had discovered they had joint loves of booze and cards while on location for their film Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935. Franchot and Joan were the two bickering on the set, actually. All was not bliss in the Tone household.
As for Clark and Joan offscreen, Love on the Run would be their last film together until 1940′s Strange Cargo. By then, Joan and Franchot were divorced and it was Joan’s turn to be jealous…of Clark’s matrimonial bliss with Carole Lombard. Reportedly their relationship was rather frosty during the making of that film.
Some of my very favorite publicity stills of Clark and Joan are from Love on the Run—Joan in a flowing dress that cascades out while they dance. I often see these photos online labeled incorrectly as being from Dancing Lady, but no, they are indeed from Love on the Run.
Read more about the film here and see over 200 pictures from the film in the gallery.
From October 1931:
Metro is letting its news about its new screen sheik, Clark Gable, trickle out slowly to a breathless world. The latest bulletin is this: Clark’s dressing-room is filled with books of poetry with many underlined passages.
From January 1932:
Clark Gable and his wife are pretty well reconciled to the fact that they are going to have to fight off divorce rumors from here on in. But just by way of keeping down the quantity, Clark has let it known that Mr. and Mrs. Gable “do not do any entertaining.”
In other words, there wll be no chance for curious “friends” to be present at a party and mistable an innocent little difference of opinion for what would later pass as a “first-hand” report of an argument between the Gables. Social affairs are a hotbed of Hollywood gossip. You know how the whisper goes: “So-and-So arrived alone, my dear…” without taking into consideration that the absent partner may have been detained by work or some other unavoidable circumstance. There isn’t going to be any of this free-and-easy reporting in the Gable home–of Clark has anything to say about it.
I always have found it interesting that Clark and Ria were never really portrayed as this happy and so-in-love couple. At the point this was written, they had been married less than a year and were constantly fighting off separation rumors. Also interesting to note that on the same page as the above blurb was one about Joan Crawford (Clark’s…um…”special” friend at the time) defending her marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and saying that maybe they will have a baby soon!
After a long and tedious shooting schedule for The Misfits, Clark Gable was ready for a rest. He was set on not doing another movie until after his child was born, in March. On November 6, 1960, he spent what would be his final day at his beloved ranch. He toiled away the day working with his hunting dog, playing with his step-children, and relaxing. He told his wife Kay he felt tired and went to bed early. He tossed and turned all night. At about 8:00am, Kay awakened to see Clark standing in the doorway, pale and sweating. “Ma, I have a terrible pain.” he said simply. He told her not to worry, he thought it was indigestion and that he didn’t need a doctor. Kay disagreed and sent for a doctor right away. The instant the doctor arrived and saw Clark, he called for an ambulance.
He was diagnosed with coronary thrombosis and was admitted to the hospital. Kay stayed in an adjoining room and rarely left his bedside. The doctors seemed confident he would recover but warned he would have to rest for a few months before he could resume his normal activities. Kay brought him books and read him the many telegrams and letters he received from people all over the world. Clark borrowed the doctor’s stethoscope and listened to his baby’s heartbeat. “You must have Mr. America in there,” he told Kay.
“The tenth day makes all the difference to a heart patient,” Kay was told by the doctor. She was becoming confident in Clark’s recovery on that tenth day, as he was in good spirits. The hospital barber came and gave him a shave. after which she and Clark had dinner together in his room. She felt her angina (Kay had ongoing heart problems) acting up and decided to lay down but told him she would be back to drink buttermilk with him before bed.
Next thing Kay knew she was being awakened by Dr. Robert Clark, her obstetrician, who was accompanied by a sobbing nurse. He was trying to tell her that Clark was gone. “What?….I must go to him,” Kay struggled to her feet. They tried to stop her and offer her sedatives but she pushed them aside and went to her husband’s room, where he lay, motionless. He was apparently joking with the nurse and then started reading a magazine. Suddenly he closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the pillow, and died, at 10:50pm on November 16, 1960.
Goodbye to My Dear Friend
by Louella Parsons
I still can’t believe he is gone, although reams and reams of copy have been written about his death, more than has appeared about many heads of State.
Since that heartbreaking moment, a few minutes after he died on the night of [November 16] at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, when I was awakened by the shocking message, “Clark is dead”–there has been an unshakable feeling of unreality about his loss I have seldom felt about any other actor, no matter how close the friendship.
In the first place, Clark was the healthiest person I have ever known. He never even caught colds. During the thirty years I knew him, I never knew of his entering a hospital–even for a check-up–except once when he had his appendix removed. Then, he recovered so fast the nurses almost had to chain him down to keep him in bed.
For all his fifty-nine years, Clark carried his vitality, strength, he-manliness, and radiant health right up to the last eleven days of his life. And his personality abounded with good humor, jokes, laughter.
You don’t think of a man like this as dead–perhaps I never shall.
After those first tears of shock and grief had been shed, I read and re-read reports of the last minutes of his life:
The hospital was quiet. Visitors had left the floor. His beautiful and devoted Kay, carrying his only child, had dined with him, sat and talked until she noticed Clark was drowsy, and then she tiptoed across the hall to her room to retire. Clark’s private nurse watched her safely inside, then turned to her patient who seemed to be recovering so rapdily from his heart attack of ten days previous. It was a bare second to 11:00pm.
“He just put his arms behind his head, slowly leaned back against his pillows, sighed gently–and died.”
The thought comes to me that Clark died much as he had lived–no fuss, no big production, no dramatics.
The King is dead–and there is no hailing another, because there will never be another career like his. Or a star like Clark Gable.
From December 1931:
Clark Gable almost had his coat and vest and golf knickers torn off at the preview of “Susan Lenox” in a small town near Hollywood. The only reason Clark didn’t come home in a barrel is because he managed to outrun the hysterical femmes who were waiting for him at the finish of the picture.
Poor Gable! He tried to smile and “be nice” to the crowd until the ladies began to tear and pull at his necktie and his shirt. When one of the small-town vamps began to shout, “Give us a kiss,” and all the other small-town vamps seemed bent on putting the suggestion into action, Clark made a run for his car, jumped on the running-board and drove to a dark corner a mile away where he was later joined by his wife.
Some folks call it Fame–but that isn’t what Clark calls it!
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