As Clark Gable and Carole Lombard fans know, they starred together in 1932’s No Man of Her Own, got into an altercation at Jock Whitney’s Nervous Breakdown Party in 1936 which ended in a game of tennis, then sparks flew at the Mayfair Ball a few weeks later. She infamously gave him a painted Model T that Valentine’s Day and so a legendary Hollywood romance was born.

They could only dodge the rumors for so long and in April, they were finally photographed out together as a couple. At a fancy premiere? A dazzling dinner party? Nope, these two were at the midget auto races at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles, on April 18, 1936.

clark gable carole lombard 1936

Fan magazine cameraman Jack Albin was apparently the one to take these first pictures, and he recalled in this article: “For a long time they dodged photographers. But once their romance was discovered, they were very nice, never tried to duck. I made the first photo of them together, at the midget auto races.”

midgetraces 4.18.1936

One of the captions proclaimed: “Frequent appearances together at Hollywood resorts has lent credence to reports that Carole Lombard, former wife of William Powell, and Clark Gable are going to middle-aisle it. Their romance started when Miss Lombard Gable with a a dilapidated automobile as a valentine joke.”

It strikes me as rather funny that the press was very quick to celebrate their romance and claim it the real thing. “Middle-aisle it” after a few months? Did the press know something we didn’t? It’d take a few years for that but nonetheless these photos are the beginning of a courtship in front of the flashbulbs.