From October 1936:
Did you ever hear Clark Gable’s grand crack, after he’d lectured before a class at Vassar? Asked how he’d enjoyed the experience, Clark grimaced, replied: “I’d rather talk a thousand times to one girl, than one time to a thousand girls!”
Clark Gable’s relationship with Jean Harlow was adorable. It wasn’t some great love affair like some people like to claim; it was a buddy-buddy, brother-sister relationship. He was always looking out after her, teasing her, and while everyone else called her “Baby,” he called her “Sis.” I like to point to his relationship with Jean when people say that he was some kind of predatory womanizer, like he bedded every co-star he had. Unfortunately, Jean was also one of the many women in Clark’s life who were special to him and then left him far too soon.
This article is an interview conducted on the set of Wife vs. Secretary. While there aren’t any grand revelations here, it is still sweet to hear Jean and Clark banter!
I said to Jean and Clark, “What I want to know is this—what dreams did you two dream when you were making your first picture together back in the Neolithic age? Did you dream that it would come to…this?”
And I indicated, comprehensively, the small deluxe dressing room. Jean’s maid hovering in readiness, Clark’s man proffering him a gold cigarette case, the stand-ins standing at attention—the whole luxurious frame of stardom…
And before the question was out of my mouth they answered in union, “We didn’t!”
“Nope,” said Clark, “I can answer for both of us and if I’m wrong Jean can stop me. We didn’t have a dream in our heads. We didn’t even think about a tomorrow but only of the day itself. We never thought about being stars. We knew that there were such animals and we admired them, respectfully, but at a distance. For never once did we think of ourselves as potential stars, or any kind of stars at all. Fact is, we didn’t think about it all. While as for dreaming…well, dreams don’t sit so well on an empty stomach.”
“I still can’t think of myself as a star,” said Jean, “sounds silly but it’s a fact that I never think of me as a star. I find myself thinking of Garbo and Dietrich and Colbert and Crawford and others as big stars, and then the thought comes, ‘but you’re a star, too’—and it doesn’t ring the bell. It doesn’t see, to be real!”
“Doesn’t sound silly to me,” Clark said, “because I feel the same way myself. Always have and always will.”
“Clark hasn’t changed one mite,” Jean said, with an affectionate smile and her fellow star, “since his almost unparalleled success came to him. He’s just the same today as he was that first day in The Secret Six. My chief recollection of him then is the way he threw hard rolls at me in one of the scenes—and then between the scenes, ‘just for fun’…FUN! He got realism into those rolls, believe me. He aimed ‘em with deadly precision. He gets realism into falling on the ice, too, as my fair limbs will doubtless bear witness tomorrow. What I mean is, we fall—and fall again…”
“And Jean hasn’t changed either,” Clark said. “In the beginning she wouldn’t have thought of allowing anyone to take the blows for her. She doesn’t think today of having anyone take the falls for her…
“No, you see in the days of The Secret Six we just thought, Jean and I, that we had jobs and were darned lucky to have ‘em. Our only hope was that there would be another job for us when the current one was finished. We never got beyond that point…”
“At the risk of being called an Elsie Dinsmore or something,” Jean broke in, “I was really thinking only of my mother then…of the sacrifices she had made, of the family opposition she faced when we came to Hollywood. I was just hoping, from hour to hour, that I would be allowed to keep on working, for her sake. Just as I would have felt if I’d been a stenographer or had any other kind of a job. I also had the hope that after a good many years and a lot of hard work I might develop into the kind of an actress I’d like to be. But of stardom, of great success, of all the glamour that went with the Garbos and the Loys I never had a thought or a dream. I just didn’t place myself in their category at all. I didn’t have time to dream…”
“I was thinking of my tummy,” grinned Clark, “and what steady jobs could mean to it!”
“But it was fun,” Jean said, blue eyes wistful, almost wishful for the departed days when she and her mother shared a modest home and a very modest hopes; when Clark used shoe leather instead of a new Dusenberg for transportation.
“Well,” I commented, “I have picked two honies! If you don’t dream of stardom for yourselves, individually, didn’t you think of it for each other?”
“Whad’d you mean?” asked Clark, blankly.
“I mean, didn’t you, Clark, gaze upon the platinum blonde glory that was Jean and say to yourself, ‘Here is the next big box office Glamour Girl! Here is a rising star! Here is the studio’s next gift to the fans?’”
“I did NOT,” retorted Clark, with the ruthless and unprettified honesty which characterizes everything he says, “I thought she was a nice kid but a rotten actress and that was as far as I went in thinking about her at all.”
“And you?” I turned to her, “did you think when you looked at Clark that he was to be the biggest star sensation since Valentino? Did you know…?”
“Imagine my embarrassment,” grinned Jean (they reminded me, the two of them, of high school kids playing Truth), “but honestly—NO! I didn’t think about him at all. I mean, I thought that he was just another actor, and not such a hot one at that, with a job. I thought he was a lot of fun and I took his advice only because I always take advice from everyone…”
“It wasn’t until we made Red Dust together,” Clark cut in, “that I realized Jean was an actress to be reckoned with, a comer, a star…she had improved so vastly by that time that even a blind man could get a glimmer of the glamour…a glamour of the glimmer…y’know.”
Clark and Jean were very similar in that the public’s perception of them, as they were in films, was way off. Jean was this painted-up floozy on the screen, while in real life she threw on sailor pants, a t-shirt and no makeup to go golfing. Clark appeared to be the epitome of the elegant man on the screen, while in real life he couldn’t wait to throw on khakis, hop in a station wagon and head out fishing.
You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.
From December 1935:
Clark Gable lost a dog. It had an identification tag on his collar. Quite soon, Clark received a letter from a Beverly Hills boy named Johnny Marks.
“Dear Mr. Gable,” wrote Johnny, “I found your dog and I’d like to keep him.” He offered the best of care. Whether Clark decided such gall deserved a reward, the fact remains that he sent a message, telling Johnny to keep the dog.
This month, Clark Gable is a womanizin’ oil chaser, Spencer Tracy is his long-suffering best pal, Claudette Colbert is his best girl, and Hedy Lamarr is his sidedish in Boom Town.
Gable is “Big John” McMasters and Tracy is “Square John” Sand, or as Big John calls him right from the beginning, “Shorty”. They are two wildcatters out west trying to strike oil. They pool their money and smarts and soon hit it big. Putting a snag in their festivities is the arrival of Elizabeth or “Betsy” (Colbert), Shorty’s sweetheart from back home. She arrives to see him but falls in love with Big John instead, and they are married the night they met.
A year passes and when Shorty thinks that Big John is not treating Betsy right, the two men come to blows and flip a coin to decide who gets the oil rigs. Shorty wins and Big John and Betsy hit the road. The film follows them through the years as Big John and Betsy have a son and strike it rich, first in Oklahoma, then in New York. Shorty also strikes it rich but soon loses it all. When the two men meet again and decide to let bygones be bygones, their friendship and working relationship is tested again when Shorty discovers Big John is having an affair with the elegant Karen VanMeer (Lamarr).
The film is rather melodramatic, but the cast is fantastic and it keeps your interest even if oil drilling isn’t exactly your idea of a thrilling topic.
The film has all the ingredients for the perfect Clark Gable stew: he gets dirty, he throws punches, he juggles two gorgeous girls, and he’s kind of a cad through it all but in the end it all works out a-ok for Clark.
Clark and Claudette, the Oscar-winning duo from 1934′s It Happened One Night, are re-teamed here for the second (and last) time. The chemistry hasn’t faded for these two–they still fell easily into the roles of two people very much in love.
One of my all-time favorite Clark Gable scenes is in this film. Claudette, torn between her obligation to her childhood beau Spencer and her newfound love for Clark, runs up the stairs to her hotel room and away from his embrace.
Clark at first seems confused but then says softly–but firmly, and with an almost pleading look in his eyes, “Hey! Come down here.” When Claudette obliges, he informs her, “I make up my mind quick. I made it up when I first saw you I guess. You aren’t ever going to leave.” Just try and resist that!
Spencer Tracy is again playing Clark’s conscience, much as he did in San Francisco. He is left to be the one shaking his head at Clark’s actions and trying to steer him down the right path. Clark and Spencer were “frenemies” of sorts–considered themselves very close friends but at the same time envied each other. Clark was jealous that Spencer was so highly regarded as an actor, and Spencer was jealous of Clark’s popularity and hearthrob status.
In this film, Clark and Spencer get to beat each other up in a rather hokey fight scene. Throwing fake punches and breaking furniture right and left, Spencer throttles Clark for cheating on Claudette with Hedy. Hokey and makes some amusing screenshots!
While filming the fight scene, Spencer’s stand-in accidently smacked Clark square in the mouth, breaking his dentures and cutting his lip–causing a delay in filming.
Hedy Lamarr is pure window dressing in this film. But if anyone could be good looking window dressing, it was Hedy! She was very nervous about the role and apparently Clark often had to reassure her. Their scenes together were steamy enough that MGM quickly reteamed them in Comrade X.
Boom Town was filmed during what was probably the happiest time of Clark Gable’s life. Riding high on the recent success of Gone with the Wind and in a newlywed bliss with Carole Lombard, Clark had never looked better.
From October 1933:
Clark Gable returned from a “recuperative vacation” in the Northwest only to enter the Cedars if Lebanon Hospital for a tonsil operation! Though he plans to return to MGM for one, and possibly two pictures immediately, the truth of the matter is that Clark is far from being a perfectly well young man and really needs a real rest and a long vacation. If it can be arranged he hopes to leave for a six months tour of Europe with Mrs. Gable sometime this Fall.
Gable’s remarks, when he saw the alleged engagement announced in London papers, were unprintable.I spoke to MGM’s London publicity manager, Mr. Paul Mills, by telephone last night.He was with gable at the Hotel Amstel in Amsterdam, their base while filming “The True and The Brave” in Holland with Lana Turner.Speaking for Gable, Mills said: “Talk of Clark’s engagement is absolute nonsense. Neither Gable nor I knew anything about it until we saw papers carrying Miss Dadolle’s story.”Mills admitted that Gable possibly gave Miss Dadolle the ring she was wearing.“Gable is a sophisticated man of the world,” he said. “He sometimes gives ladies presents, we all do.”According to Mills, Gable met Miss Dadolle last year.“It is true they travelled in France and Italy together,” he said. “But he will not be seeing her in London after our Dutch location work. I doubt if he will ever see her again.”In an exclusive interview with the “Sun-Herald” in Paris Miss Dadolle described her meeting with Gable two years ago.“It was at a cocktail party given by mutual friends,” she said. “Clark fell in love with me at first sight and told me so almost immediately.“He asked me to dine with him the next night. I did not take him seriously and refused. He insisted, and we had dinner together two or three times, then every night. Now I am terribly in love with him, and said ‘yes’ when he asked me to marry him.Miss Dadolle, whose real name is d’Adole, claimed that Gable telephoned her in Paris every night. She is wearing a large topaz ring on her engagement finger.Gable, 52, has been married four times.
To date, The King and Suzanne have encountered each other only twice. Once on the set at 20th Century Fox where Gable was doing a luncheon scene in a Hong King restaurant with Susan Hayward (late that day he drove Hayward home) and once in La Rue’s restaurant. Gable was dining there with Kay Spreckels when Suzanne came in with contractor Hal Hayes.
Since Hayes used to date Kay, and Gable used to date Dadolle, there might have been some embarrassment. But Kay handled the situation tactfully. She walked over to Hayes’ table and was introduced to Suzanne. Gable nodded pleasantly, and the encounter came off without incident.
From August 1935:
Clark Gable stated on the set of China Seas, a few days ago, that on May 1st, 1940, he firmly intends to turn in the key to his dressing room and leave pictures forever.
“Even if I am still in demand at that time, I shall quit,” says Clark.
Actors have said that before but Clark has been fed up with the picture business for some time, according to his own statements and everyone believes HE MEANS IT! SERIOUSLY!
From March 1932:
The height of swank was reached the other day when a Hollywood florist started delivering flowers in a Rolls Royce. At the other extreme, Clark Gable and Wallace Beery, two of the town’s brightest celebrities, drive Fords.
Clark Gable, by the way, never spends a weekend in Hollywood if he can help it. His latest hobby is jack-rabbit hunting, which is pursued far up in the hills at night, with an old car and a powerful searchlight.
From December 1940:
Clark Gable says he hopes he’ll never, NEVER have to play the role of a garbage-collector. Not that garbage-collectors aren’t very nice people, in their place–but look a what happened to Gable for playing that oil-man role in Boom Town-
From his fans, since the picture, Clark has gotten a slough of gifts reflecting the oil-fields role. Among the presents are miniature oil derricks, nearly 500 pictures of old gushers and old boom towns, samples of crude oil in every conceivable type of bottle and flask and container, books about oil, souvenirs from famed oil fields and wells, nearly tons of oil shale, paper-weights and other gadgets made from old oil-well machinery, bales of fancy oil stock, watch charms, newspapers and such things.
The flood is so huge that Gable is thinking of setting aside in his house a room for the oil-role trophies, like his horse-trophy room.
BUT–as we’ve said–he sure hopes he’ll never have to play that garbage-collector role.
Or even the role of Don Juan. He fears Carole wouldn’t like him having a roomful of conquests for trophies…
This month, Clark Gable is a straight-laced minister and Marion Davies is his sassy acrobat love interest in Polly of the Circus.
Clark is Father John Hartley, a small town minister living a peaceful life. The circus
comes to town, with its star attraction: trapeze artist Polly Fisher (Davies). She is
enraged when her risqué posters are covered up and confronts Hartley, who admits that her posters aren’t appropriate in the town. The crowd mocks her at her next performance, causing her to fall. She recuperates at Hartley’s house at his insistence since he feels guilty. Soon they fall in love. But his parish and bishop uncle (Aubrey Smith) don’t support him marrying a circus girl. When the church turns its back on him, the newlyweds struggle as he refuses to let her return to the circus and she doesn’t understand his devotion to the church.
Clark is completely wasted here. As a minister, they took away all of his gruffness, roughness and raw sex appeal. Here, his hair is lacquered to his head, his eyebrows heavily pencilled in and he walks around as the perfect boy scout. This is not the Clark Gable of A Free Soul and No Man of Her Own.
He is left to be the butt of Marion’s smirky acrobat, with Marion joking that if he got married he’d give his wife a great big kiss every Ash Wednesday and make her sleep out in a shed during Lent.
It is rather silly to see him in the white collar and being stoic and virtuious. Clark was not a religious man at all, barely ever attended church, so him preaching Bible verses is a bit much.
Marion and Clark do have chemistry though, and the love story is quite sweet.
I suppose it is not surprising that they have chemistry as during the filming of Polly of the Circus they had a brief affair. Marion was notoriously the mistress of newspaper magnante William Randolph Hearst but often strayed when someone exciting walked past her. Clark was unhappily married to Ria and still seeing Joan Crawford on occaison. Unlike many brief flings, theirs ended when the cameras stopped and they remained lifelong friends. Marion was one of the few of Clark’s leading ladies that attended his funeral.
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