Clark Gable and Carole Lombard's home

As I learned after zig-zagging around the (often treacherous) Hollywood hills, most stars of today and yesterday aren’t that different when it comes to where they lay their head. Some locations are desirable only so you can write a certain street and a certain zip code as your address. No doubt this is the reasoning behind people who bought residences such as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks’ Pickfair and Jimmy Stewart’s beloved Beverly Hills home only to wreck them down and build something ultra-modern and ultra-vulgar.

Both having spent several years residing under the shining lights of Hollywood, Clark and Carole chose the quieter suburb of Encino to set up their new life together.  

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

Clark and Carole had both visited director Raoul Walsh’s home in the San Fernando Valley and were admirers of it. A twenty acre property removed from bustling Hollywood, it had a small main house, garage, stable, barn, fields brimming with alfalfa and oats, and an orchard with orange, lemon and grapefruit trees. In late 1938, Carole got wind that Raoul was looking to sell and sell quickly. Clark and Carole both jumped on the idea, but Clark being cash poor, anticipating a huge settlement looming to divorce Ria, Carole ponyed up and wrote the check for $50,000 and began the renovating and decorating process while she patiently waited for that divorce decree.

It came the following March and they were married. By summer they had moved from Carole’s house in Bel Air and settled into domestic bliss on their ranch.

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

Clark and Carole with chickens on their ranch

 If Carole had lived, it seems the ranch would not have been their long-standing home. News reports in 1941 state that they were looking for even more land to set up a big cattle ranch; the location anywhere from Northern California to Arizona or even Wyoming. Carole died before these dreams were realized.

Following Carole’s death, Clark couldn’t bear to stay at the ranch for a few weeks. No doubt when he did return it was with a heavy heart. Soon afterwards he put the ranch up for sale.

From a 1942 article:

[One night Clark Gable’s friend] Al Menasco went home to that Encino house with him.

“I’ve got to get out of here,” Clark said. “Sunday I’ll go look for a new place.”

“You bet,” said Al. “I’ll help you.” He did help too. On Sunday, he drove Clark all over the San Fernando Valley and every place they looked at, he’d point out the advantages. He told Clark that there would never be a thing on any of these ranches to remind him of Carole, never a stable where they hung up their tack after their long rides, never a barn where he’d remember the first cow he bought, which hadn’t given enough milk, and how, when he’d sent the animal back to its original owner, Carole had said it must be the most humiliated cow in all of California. He kept pointing out these advantages. Gable finally gave him a look from beneath those brows of his.

“So ok,” he said very sharply. “So turn around and I’m not leaving the old house.”

His trusted caretaker, together with his few house servants and his faithful secretary, Jean Garceau, kept the ranch running while he was in Europe during World War II. Upon his return in 1944, he again put the ranch up for sale. But again took it off the market.

 In the late 1940’s, Clark traveled around, spending time in New York, Florida and on hunting trips. He spent nearly two years in Europe and Africa in the early 1950’s (filming Mogombo, Never Let Me Go and Betrayed), not returning to the ranch once.

But eventually he did return home to Encino. The ranch to him was a place that I think pained him, but perhaps it was more painful to think of letting it go.

Fourth wife Sylvia Ashley moved in in 1949 and swiftly out in 1951.

Clark Gable and Sylvia Ashley

Clark and Sylvia on the steps of the ranch house

1955 brought the arrival of fifth wife Kay Williams, her two children and their nanny. And while Clark and Kay did buy a vacation house in Palm Springs, the ranch remined their home address.

Clark left the ranch for the last time via ambulance on November 6, 1960, of course not knowing it would be the last time.

Kay sold the ranch property to developers in the 1970’s and moved to Beverly Hills. The property was divided up and mansions were placed all over what had once been Clark’s farmland, but the original house remained standing.

There are several articles in The Article Archive about the ranch. Two particularly good ones are this one and this one. It was also featured in Architectual Digest in 1990.

From a June 1940 article:

It’s out in the Valley, the Gable ranch, about a forty-minute drive from Beverly Hills. You turn off the Boulevard on a narrow dirt road and travel until you come to a white hanging gate. The brown earth is turned up to the sun. A tractor stands idle while a farmer eats his lunch. Farther along, the whitewashed tree trunks of a citrus orchard are luminous in the sunshine. And finally you come to the old stables, now a garage, where the driveway turns around a big tree that has flowers growing at its base.

No longer off dirt paths, for us Encino was a short trip up the interstate from Hollywood. Clark and Carole’s former address was Petit Avenue, which is now the main street with million dollar homes nestled on either side, each resting on the Gables’ former property.

This neighborhood being known as ‘Clark Gable Estates”, I looked for a sign stating so but didn’t find one.

 Not by accident, the street the former ranch home is now on is named Tara Drive.

This being the original home and all the surrounding houses being built on the former acreage of their property, the former ranch house is the only one way off the street, tucked away behind a gate. The driveway leads up to a roundabout that goes in front of the main house and guest house.

 The house being way off the street and pretty inaccessible, my picture isn’t spectacular, but here is Clark’s home:

The gate and fence looks exactly the same, I was happy to notice.

Clark Gable

Clark at the gate in the 1950's

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

Clark and Carole at the fence in 1940

Clark Gable and Sylvia Ashley

Clark and Sylvia at the gate in 1950

Kay and Clark Gable at the gate in 1956

The only part visible from the street. Based on the location, I am pretty sure this is the guest house that was built in the late 1940’s. Clark’s stepchildren Joan and Bunker lived here with their nanny.

The house is now blue, as you can see, as opposed to white. Clark and Carole’s once 20+ acre property is now reduced to a little over an acre and their quaint two-bedroom ranch home is now over 6,700sqft and has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

Clark Gable

But it is fortunate that this house is still standing and although obviously modernized and expanded, well taken care of.