We pick up from our last installment and head into 1955, the year Clark and Kay married.
January 3, 1955:
Clark Gable Denies Kay Spreckels Romance
Hollywood–Actor Clark Gable today denied rumors circulating in Hollywood that he plans to marry Kay Williams Spreckels, former wife of sugar heir Adolph B. Spreckels II.
“There is absolutely nothing to it,” Gable said. “Kay and I have been friends for 15 years and that’s all.”
Mrs. Spreckels also denied the report.
Filmland Waits Gable’s Return To Find Out Whether He Eloped
Hollywood awaited Clark Gable’s return to work on his current picture “Soldier of Fortune” today to find out whether it is true that he eloped with Kay Williams over New Year’s holiday.
A rumor that Gable, married four times before, had eloped with the twice-married blonde beauty popped up in several quarters yesterday, but never was confirmed.
The general impression was that it wasn’t true, and the evidence tended to support the impression.
Gable’s agent, George Chasin, said the actor had given no indication he was planning another march to the altar.
A servant at the Gable home said: “As far as I know, there has been no marriage.”
The servant added that Gable and Miss Williams were spending the weekend at the Happy Valley ranch of Gable’s best friend, Al Menasco. Miss Williams, formerly an actress, is the ex-wife of two rich men, Argentine playboy Martin De Alzaga Unzue, known as Macoco for short, and sugar heir Adolph Spreckels. Spreckels served a 30-day jail term last year for beating her.
She and Gable are chums from away back. They ran around together before she married Spreckels and before he married the former Lady Sylvia Ashley.
January 20, 1955:
Clark Gable tells me he believes the elopement rumors were started by someone who is mad at either him or Kay Spreckles and wanted to put some pressure on them. Clark is back at work on “Soldier of Fortune.”
Who would want to put pressure on them….
It is not unlike Clark to not only deny the engagement but the relationship altogether. He was never one to sing his relationship’s praises to the press. With Carole Lombard he eventually did, but not early on in their relationship.
Oddly, the same date as the above piece:
Clark Gable and Kay Spreckels not so cozy.
Scared away by those engagement rumors again?
January 28, 1955:
Clark Gable Wants No More Publicity of Romantic Theme
Clark Gable finally flipped his lid and informed Fox press agents he wants no further publicity on his romance with Kay Spreckels. One drumbeater for the studio, where he’s working in “Soldier of Fortune,” noticed some Spreckels sugar cubes on a commissary table reserved for Gable and wailed: “Now we’re all going to be in trouble.”
February 11, 1955:
Kay Spreckels baked a birthday cake for Clark Gable.
March 4, 1955:
Clark Gable and Kay Spreckels were a happy pair of luncheon guests at the Tennis Club in Palm Springs.
March 19, 1955:
I still wouldn’t bet they’ll get married, but Clark Gable and Kay Spreckels are sure keeping steady company. They created a minor furor in Palm Springs, with Clark and Kay swinging along Canyon Drive in rhythmic stride, Clark clad in Bermuda shorts, and Kay dressed in an intriguing turquoise blue western outfit. Certainly had the town citizens and its visitors gawking. Clark was the closest thing to a big game hunter (in appearance) since he starred in “Mogambo.”
March 24, 1955:
They keep saying not to be amazed if Clark Gable (who keeps denying mergers) and Kay Spreckels elope and make it a Paris honeymoon.
March 25, 1955:
Clark Gable joined Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs (Gable laughs off rumors that he and Kay Spreckels are secretly married).
April 23, 1955:
Clark Gable was lunching on cottage cheese and fruit at the Twentieth Century Fox commissary so apparently he is on the diet bit. I don’t know why. It’s been years since I’ve seen him looking so good. He is lean and tanned.
“We had nice weather at Palm Springs,” he said. “Kay (Spreckels) and I rode horseback in the mornings, played golf in the afternoon.”
I asked if he expects Kay to visit him on the six-week location of “The Tall Men” in Durango, Mex.
With a grin, he replied, “I doubt if I can get her to go down there.”
I’m betting she does.
May 1, 1955 (Louella Parsons):
Gable Keeps Line Hot Calling Kay Spreckels
While Kay Williams Spreckels has not been in Durango, Mexico, where Clark Gable is emoting in “The Tall Men,” the king has written or telephoned her every day and according to one of my friends on the set he has not said more than “Buenos Dias” to any girl since he arrived in Mexico.
He is down 187 pounds, which is less than he has weighed in a long time. When I asked him of he intends to retire he said he has three pictures lined up, which will keep him busy far into 1956, then he plans to go on an African safari.
May 9, 1955:
Kay Spreckels’ daily wires from Clark Gable (he’s on location in Mexico) are signed “Pa.”
May 19, 1955:
Kay Spreckels, connected romantically in recent months with Clark Gable, says she is planning to attend the opening of the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul. “I’m going,” she says, “because it will be a lot of fun.”
May 20, 1955:
My Palm Springs scout tells me that Clark Gable and Ray Hommes bought adjoining lots when they were there last Sunday. They’ll build houses, and there’s little doubt that Kay Spreckels will occupy Clark’s as Mrs. Gable.
True and true.
June 2, 1955:
Kay Spreckels met Clark Gable at the airport, and they were going to dine somewhere on the way back.
I queried Kay again on the many reports that she and Clark either already are wed or plan to wed when he finishes “The Tall Men.”
“No,” she insisted, “it’s just as I have told you before, no wedding plans. Ours is just an adult friendship.”
June 16, 1955:
Clark Gable has made it clear he’ll make no movie commitments for the next few months. He wants some uncomplicated time for himself and allows as how he might marry. Says he’s going steady with Kay Spreckels and she’s the most.
We all know what happened next:
July 18, 1955:
Kay Captured Clark Gable By Playing ‘Hard To Get’
Kay Williams captured Clark Gable, their friends decided today, because, for one thing, she corrected an old mistake and played “hard to get.”
Gable and his vivacious blonde had an earlier fling at love when the actor returned to MGM after World War II.
“But you know what happens when the girl wants to marry and the man doesn’t want to be rushed,” one close pal of Gable’s says.
“This time, 10 years later, she’s independently wealthy and wasn’t interested in marriage after her unhappiness with sugar heir Adolph Spreckels II. Gable talked her into marriage. He hesitated before because she was young and an actress, but now she is mature.”
Kay has been described as an “ex-actress.” Actually she came from a well-to-do Erie, Pa. family. The intelligent, beautiful girl landed a coveted job on a New York fashion magazine when she was only 23. She also was a top New York fashion model. When she married a boy back home, a big picture magazine covered the event.
After that first marriage failed, Kay moved to Hollywood for an MGM career. Her second conquest was Argentine sportsman Martin De Alzaga Unzue. She left him in three days on a charge he was “cruel.” Three years later he claimed he gave her $30,000 in cash and gifts because she promised to re-marry him–but eloped with the richer Adolph Spreckels.
Her marriage with Spreckels was a stormy one, but friends say Kay “tried her best to make it work.” At their divorce, Spreckels charge she once tried to romance Gable at their swimming pool (which she denied).
The new Mrs. Gable is a combination of Carole Lombard, Gable’s third wife, and Lady Sylvia Ashley, his fourth. Kay is a cheerful, witty, “good Joe” type who can also put on a simple black dress and pearls and be a charming, perfect hostess.
She is a good mother to her two children, and Gable brags to friends about “the great way she handles her kids.” Her pre-Gable home had tasteful, traditional furniture.
Kay is honest, forthright, and “doesn’t like phonies.” She is a natural beauty who wears little make-up and simple, expensive clothes. Most of her evening dresses are black and white sheath gowns. She golfs with Gable in a skirt, tailored blouse and cashmere sweater.
Will it last?
‘Clark loves to sit back and laugh at her conversation,” one friend says. “He seems vastly entertained by Kay. they are very comfortable with each other. They go on hunting trips together–and Lady Sylvia never would do that.”
Some Hollywood observers point out both are thrice-divorced and Kay has a record of violent marriages. But their friends think the two “are so companionable.”
“Why, he calls her ‘Ma’ and Kay calls him ‘Pa.’ That’s real love,” one friend says.
July 20, 1955:
Gables Home After Honeymoon Jaunt
Mr. and Mrs. Clark gable returned from a week’s honeymoon in northern California Tuesday and the bride announced, “I’m quite excited and happy.”
The former Kay Williams Spreckels revealed she and the movie idol honeymooned at the St. Helena, Calif., ranch of friend Al Menasco.
Reporters had searched for the pair around Lake Tahoe after a resort hotel on the lake said the Gables had made reservations.
But Mrs. Gable said the couple flew in a private plane to St. Helena following their marriage July 11 in Minden, Nev.
“And I wore a blue-gray Irene suit, not a tan one, like the judge told everyone,” she added.
The newlyweds are “very busy, opening wires and letters.” They will live at Gable’s suburban Encino home and weekend at their new house in Palm Springs.
There is a lot of press around their surprise wedding, but I’ll leave it at those two snippets as they all pretty much say the same thing anyway.
In mid September, the newlyweds attended the premiere of his film The Tall Men. I would like to draw your attention to Mrs. Gable’s mid-section, that she is trying to cover with her purse:
Here is the Associated Press back of one of the photos from the event, proving it took place in September:
I do believe Mrs. Gable has a bun in the oven. And not a little bun either. I know you show faster after your first pregnancy, but there is no way that she is only two months along. Kay later stated she got pregnant “shortly after our wedding.”
Despite the evidence:
October 11, 1955:
Rumors that Clark Gable was about to become a father were squelched Monday by the person in the best position to know–the screen star’s wife.
Mrs. Gable, the former Kay Spreckels, laughed off the rumors and said: “No, it isn’t true, and I ought to know. Anyway, we already have two children.”
October 12, 1955:
Gable Says He, Wife Would Like Children
Hollywood–Film star Clark Gable said Tuesday he and his wife, Kay Williams, would like to have children but she is not expecting a baby.
“Unhappily, it’s not true,” Gable said of rumors that his wife, the former Kay Williams Spreckels, is pregnant. “Kay has a friend who is quite ill and she has been visiting at the hospital, which is probably the explanation of how the rumors started.”
Mrs. Gable has two children by a previous marriage.
I think her obvious belly is sparking the rumors, not some hospital visit “to a friend,” Clark. And this all really seems like wasted breath to deny it completely when five days later:
October 17, 1955:
Film star Clark Gable, childless in four marriages, expects to be a father next May.
A week ago the 54-year-old actor, for two decades one of the nation’s top matinee idols, denied that his wife was pregnant. Mrs. Gable, the former Kay Williams Spreckels, said they learned from her doctor on Friday that she is expecting a baby. The child will be delivered by caesarian section in late May, she said.
She has a son Adolph, 5, and a daughter, Joan, 4, by her third husband, sugar heir Adolph Spreckels.
A baby due late May would have to be conceived around September…again I call your attention to the photos above, with her visible bump. I’m sure the plan was to say the baby “came early” when it arrived in March rather than May–certainly not the first Hollywood pair to play that game. But so silly, “we just found out Friday.” Funny, one of the pictures I posted above from The Tall Men premiere is in the book Kay wrote after Clark’s death, “Clark Gable: A Personal Portrait” and she admitted she was pregnant at the premiere, captioning it:
“The reason for the radiant glow on our faces here at the premiere of The Tall Men in 1955 was that I was expecting. One month later we were grief stricken over the loss of our little one.”
So doesn’t that mean you knew you were pregnant in September, when the pictures were taken at the premiere? And how many weeks until a pregnancy test shows up positive? At least six? Hmmm….
Well, regardless, it wasn’t meant to be:
November 4, 1955:
Clark Gables Lose Baby
Actor and His Wife Are Upset by the Blow
Clark Gable’s wife, the former Kay Williams Spreckels, today lost a baby she was expecting about May 1.
It was a sad blow to Gable, who recently had announced the expected child, his first, at a Hollywood party. Dr. Richard Clark, who attended Mrs. Gable, said both the actor and his wife were “pretty upset” about the loss but that Mrs. Gable was doing well and would go home from Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital sometime this weekend.
The physician said Mrs. Gable had a fairly bad case of the flu three weeks ago and was in a weakened condition. She entered the hospital last night.
Gable and Mrs. Spreckels were married July 12 [sic]. He is 54, Mrs. Gable, 37. The marriage was his fifth, her fourth. She has two children, Adolph Spreckels III, 6, and Joan Spreckels, 4.
Unfortunate. Wouldn’t we all have loved seeing Clark cuddling his baby.
June 20, 1956:
Gable’s Wife Ill
Actor Clark Gable’s wife, the former Kay Spreckels, was reportedly “resting comfortably” today in the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital where she is under observation for a possible heart condition.
June 21, 1956:
Mrs. Clark Gable Still Hospitialized
Kay Spreckels Gable, wife of actor Clark Gable, is suffering from a heart condition and will remain hospitialized at Cedars of Lebanon throughout the week,
Mrs. Gable, 38, entered the hospital a week ago to undergo laboratory tests. Her condition is reported as “good.”
Her 56-year-old husband took a room at the hospital Saturday to be near his wife. He said he will return there every day after work on a Hollywood movie set.
The Gables were married in Minden, Nev., July 11, 1955.
June 24, 1956:
Doctors have ordered Kay Spreckels Gable, wife of actor Clark Gable, to remain in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Hollywood for another week or 10 days, even though her recovery from a heart ailment was reported “satisfactory” Saturday. Mrs. Gable, 38, was admitted June 13.
Kay suffered from angina and had attacks off and on for years.
July 22, 1956:
On he fifth try, he finds marriage better than ever
One year ago, after telling newsmen that he was heading for Alaska to hunt bear, Clark Gable eloped to Nevada with blonde Kay Williams. He was 54; she, 37. They were married in a simple double-ring ceremony–Gable’s fifth trip to the altar, his bride’s fourth.
Today their first anniversary is behind them, and the king of Hollywood’s leading men is ecstatically happy.
“My marriage to Kathleen,” he exclaims, “is something! For the first time in my life I’m really living. For me it’s happy days in Dixie. My only regret is that I didn’t have this kind of setup years ago.”
The reason for Gable’s rare enthusiasm (he usually underplays his expression of personal feeling) is children: 7-year-old Bunker and 5-year-old Joan, respectively Kay’s son and daughter by her previous marriage to eccentric sugar heir Adolph Spreckels.
“I’ve never lived with kids before,”Gable says, “and, frankly, the idea petrified me at first. But every day Joan and Bunker keep showing me how much I’ve missed by not having children around the house. They’ve made a new man of me.
“I was an only child myself, never had any brothers or sisters. My mother died when I was a kid. I always played a lone hand. Even after I made a success of it in the movie game, I was alone for long periods of time. Before Kathleen and I got married, my routine was pretty deadly. I’d finish work at the studio and hang around bulling with the boys. There was no reason to hurry home. (Gable lives on a 20-acre ranch in Encino, 20 miles north of Hollywood.)
“I got so fed up with the routine that I went off to Europe for a couple of years. But you can’t run away from loneliness. I found that out.
“When Kathleen and I decided to get married, all the time I was scared about the children. Where would they live? What would I do with them? How would we get along?
“I’d let the ranch run down. There really wasn’t enough room for them. Kathleen had a house in Beverly Hills, but she knew I liked it out on the ranch, and she wanted to live there, too. We finally decided to move the kids into the caretaker’s house on the ranch. Then I hired a builder to add a bath and a couple of bedrooms to the guest house, and that’s where the kids sleep now. But they take their meals with us, and I spend as much time with them as I possibly can.
“Nowadays I’m in a big rush to get home. On this last picture of mine, I kept needling Raoul Walsh, the director. ‘Let’s speed it up,’ I’d say. ‘I gotta get home to the wife and kids.’ Raoul would howl.
“It sounds strange, but I’m eating dinner these days as early as 6 o’clock. The television is going full blast, and the kids are yakking about the Mickey Mouse Club and all the rest of it. They’ve never seen me on TV, so as an actor I don’t rate with them at all. But only a few weeks ago I bought them a couple of Mexican burros, the cutest little animals you’ve ever seen. Well, we’re having a ball with them.
“After dinner I used to flop down with a drink and a newspaper. now I sit down–I wouldn’t call it sitting down, now I’m playing with two wonderful children and it makes all the difference in the world. A family is what a man really needs to come home to.”
Last year, three months after his marriage, Gable proudly told friends that Kay was pregnant. Shortly after that, she lost the child. So that she might forget and recuperate, gable took her on a fishing cruise off South America with friends.
When they returned, he began preparing for his third independent production, “The King and Four Queens”–a Western adventure yarn which should be finished any day now. As in the other such deals he’s made since leaving MGM two years ago, Gable receives ten percent of the film’s gross or 50 percent of the net, whichever is larger. “The Tall Men,” which he did with Jane Russell last year, currently boasts an estimate worldwide gross of $8,000,000–meaning $800,00 for Gable.
Discussing this with him, I remarked that on $800,000 a man should be able to raise a lot of kids.
Clark Gable smiled in agreement. “My problem,” he said, “is not making money. What I’m working on now is making a family.”
That really is heartwarming to read. It is truly wonderful that at the end of his life Clark wasn’t lonely and had someone to come home to.
Often, people say that Clark and Carole Lombard would have divorced because of his philandering ways and inability to settle down. I’ve always said maybe, but definitely not if they had succeeded in having children. Clark would have settled down and into being a father and loved every minute of being a family man, as the above excerpt shows. It just took way too long for him to achieve it.
August 16, 1956:
Lovely Kay Spreckels Gable up and around for the first time since her heart attack with Clark and the Lew Wassermans at the Eldorado. Kay’s blonde hair is so short she calls it her crew cut. Mighty nice to have her back in circulation.
January 15, 1957:
Clark Gable is pleased by the fact that doctors will permit his wife, Kay Spreckels, to accompany him on the New Orleans location of Warners “Band of Angels.” She can go, but, for extra precautions, will be accompanied by a nurse.
One thing new for Clark on this picture. He’ll portray a plantation owner and former slave runner, and, for the first time on the screen, he’ll have to spend a little extra time in the make-up department every morning to have a fake tattoo applied to his arm.
There isn’t a lot to report that’s terribly interesting marriage-wise in 1957-1959. They traveled, she accompanied him on film sets, etc. Nothing of note.
So we move on to 1960, while filming The Misfits in Nevada:
October 1, 1960:
Reno–Actor Clark Gable announced Friday that he will become a father for the first time.
The 59-year-old “King of the Movies” and his fifth wife, the former Kay Spreckels, said they expect the baby next spring.
Gable and his 42-year-old wife are here for the filming of “The Misfits,” in which the actor co-stars with Marilyn Monroe. They eloped and were married bya justice of the peace in July, 1955.
Gable previously was married to drama coach Josephine Dillon, Maria Langham, Carole Lombard and Lady Sylvia Ashley.
And the following month he would be dead. So sad.
In our next installment, I pick up in January 1961, after Clark has died.