This is one heartwarming story from the set of Gone with the Wind. Lenny Bluett, a young black man playing an extra in the film, was distraught over discovering that the port-a-potties on the set were labeled for White and Colored. He brought to the attention of Clark Gable, who had a few choice words for Vic Fleming and the property manager…

 

I just love that video.

Clark was far from perfect (who is?) but it ruffles my feathers when I have heard people call him racist (don’t even get me started on Marcella Rabwin’s book!!!). I have no idea where that came from, but he was in no way racist. He and Hattie McDaniel were very fond of each other; in fact one of the reasons he didn’t want to attend the premiere of GWTW in Atlanta was that Hattie couldn’t go because of segregation.

Lenny is still with us, at 95 years of age!

clark gable
From November 1937:
The lowdown on the Clark Gable disappearing act he pulled on his recent vacation was because Clark couldn’t even complete his bear hunt he started out to do without five million people tagging along. So he upped and turned his car the other way and vanished into thin air because he really needed a rest and even the studio didn’t know his whereabouts.
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clark gable mildred hartsfield gone with the wind

Many people over the years have seen the above photo of Clark clutching hands and beaming at this random brunette woman in Atlanta and wondered, WHO is that incredibly lucky girl?

The answer is…Mildred Hartsfield.

William B. Hartsfield was the 49th Mayor of the city of Atlanta (and yes, that airport you transfer in everytime you fly Delta is named after him). He was mayor from 1937-1962, the longest tenure of any Atlanta mayor. He was in full support of hosting the premiere of Gone with the Wind , seeing it as an oppurtunity to show off his fine city to the world and therefore pulled out all the stops. He declared the day of the premiere (December 15, 1939) a holiday and gave city workers the day off.  Hartsfield’s date to the three-day  extravaganza was his starstruck 20 year-old daughter, Mildred.

Mildred was the envy of millions of swooning fans when she was given the honor of sitting next to, and constantly conversing with, Clark Gable. I constantly see photos of her and Clark mislabeled as other women, but it is indeed lucky Mildred! She definitely seems enamoured with Clark! Who can blame her…

clark gable carole lombard william hartsfield mildred hartsfield gone with the wind atlanta

Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, William Hartsfield and Mildred Hartsfield outside the Atlanta Junior League Ball, 12/14/1939

clark gable carole lombard william hartsfield mildred hartsfield gone with the wind atlanta

Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, William Hartsfield and Mildred Hartsfield outside the Atlanta Junior League Ball, 12/14/1939

 

clark gable carole lombard gone with the wind mildred hartsfield

Mildred Hartsfield, Clark Gab le and Carole Lombard at the Atlanta Junior League Ball, 12/14/1939

clark gable mildred hartsfield gone with the wind atlanta

Mildred Hartsfield talks to Clark Gable at the Atlanta Junior League Ball, 12/14/1939

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Mildred Harstflield and Clark Gable at the Atlanta Junior League Ball, 12/14/1939

clark gable carole lombard william hartsfield mildred hartsfield margaret mitchell john marsh gone with the wind premiere atlanta

Left to Right: Margaret Mitchell, John Marsh, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, William Hartsfield and Mildred Hartsfield at the premiere of “Gone with the Wind,” 12/15/1939

 

Mildred passed away on February 16, 2012, at the age of 92. As for what she was whispering to Clark, we can only guess…

clark gable
From December 1940:
Clark Gable is so afraid of even having it suggested that he is a softie that every day on the set of “Comrade X” when tea time rolled around and he was offered tiny cakes and tea he bellowed, “Gimme some food fit for a man to eat!” However, he was kidded out of being too disdainful of tea. The day I visited the set his director arranged a gag. As a total surprised a “sandwich” arrived for Clark at tea time. It was made of a loaf of bread cut in half with a two-inch steak between, and a quart of coffee as a chaser. The funniest part of the whole gag was that Clark couldn’t eat it. He was on a diet. Even a he-man in pictures has to watch his waist line.
 

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.

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clark gable script

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. 

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vivien leigh gone with the wind

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.

kay williams

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.

 

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clark gable cain and mabel

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? 

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clark gable sylvia ashley

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.

 

 

 

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