clark gable lana turner

Clark Gable has been linked to a lot of women. Pretty much every co-star he ever had in the 1930’s was labeled as his off-screen romance too. Sometimes, in the case of Joan Crawford or Elizabeth Allan, it was true. Other times, in the case of Myrna Loy or Jean Harlow, it was not. But there’s one costar of his that seems to be a point of contention: Lana Turner.

Lana, Clark’s pretty blonde co-star in Honky Tonk, Somewhere I’ll Find You, Homecoming and Betrayed, was known for dating her co-stars. Married seven times, she also reportedly had a flirtation with Robert Taylor, had an affair with Tyrone Power, hit the nightclubs with Tony Martin and was doted on by Howard Hughes, to name a few of her male companions. But was Clark on that list?

clark gable lana turner

Clark and Lana on the set of "Honky Tonk"

The rumors are that they had a torrid love affair during the filming of Honky Tonk, all behind Carole Lombard’s back. The affair continued while they began filming Somewhere I’ll Find You and supposedly that Carole found out about it before she left on her ill-fated bond tour and they fought about Lana the night before she left. The rumor even goes so far as to say that Carole took that plane to rush home to catch Clark with Lana and that Clark was in bed with Lana when he found out Carole’s plane had gone down. This all seems very melodramatic and rather ridiculous. How do these rumors get started? By trashy authors out to make a buck.

There are several things wrong with this report of an affair with Lana.  Lana was twenty years younger than Clark—he was older than her mother. I know that’s hardly going to stand in the way but also she was hardly his type; rather prim and not very confident, she was in awe of him more than anything else. This becomes quite apparent if you read Lana’s autobiography.While some stars’ autobiographies seem fluffy and self-indulgent, I personally thought that Lana’s, Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth, seemed very honest and down to earth. She cops to an affair with the married Tyrone Power and even admits aborting his child. Why would she completely deny an affair with Clark? I’ve heard many a Gable-detractor sqawk that she would deny it because she felt guilty that she was sleeping with Clark when his wife died. I just don’t buy that she would admit to sleeping with several married men and go into excruciating detail about back alley abortions but then leave out sleeping with Clark out of some sort of guilt. Lana says this about working on Honky Tonk:

I revered Gable, who by then could almost write his own ticket at the studio.He could even choose his directors. Luckily we developed a close working relationship, though not a close friendship. He had married Carole Lombard not many months before, after a long love affair and a divorce from his previous wife. I doubt that Carole believed the rampant press speculations about “fireworks” on the set between the two “powerful sex symbols” Gable and I were supposed to be. But one day I was playing a scene with Clark, and when I turned to look toward Jack Conway, the director, what I saw instead was the beautiful face of Mrs. Gable. Why, I’m not sure, but my knees went watery and I became so flustered that I excused myself and fled to my dressing trailer. I stayed there, trying to collect myself, until a knock came on the door.

“They’re ready to shoot, Miss Turner,” a voice said. When I peeked out, there was no sign of Carole Lombard. I assume that Gable must have asked her to leave, saying that the kid was nervous. When I apologized to him, pretending that I’d forgotten something and had to run to the trailer for it, that famous smile lit up his face. He said simply,”I understand.”

MGM had made much of Clark and Lana being paired together, calling them “the team that makes steam” but were careful with their publicity, knowing that if they hinted that there was some off screen affair (which MGM liked to do to boost ticket sales sometimes, even if it wasn’t true), there would be serious backlash as Clark and Carole were such a beloved Hollywood twosome.

As for Clark being in bed with Lana when he found out Carole’s plane went down, that is a complete and utter fabriction and there were several witnesses to the fact that he was at his home in Encino when he got the call that something happened to Carole’s plane. Jean Garceau recalled it in her book and also for example, see this article.

Lana spoke of that troubling period on the set of Somewhere I’ll Find You in her book as well:

We had been working for only a few weeks when production was suddenly halted. Carole Lombard, Gable’s wife, was dead.

She was on her way home from a war-bond selling tour and her plane had crashed outside Las Vegas. Afterward I heard a dreadful rumor that she had been scheduled to take the train, but decided to fly instead–the reason, the story had it, was her uneasiness over my working with Clark.

Clark was devastated by her death. The whole studio was in a state of shock. A pall settled over everyone connected with the picture. For all we knew, the filming had been shut down for good; we hardly expected him to come back at all.

At the studio I found a message that Mr. Mayer wished to see me. When I went to his office he told me that things were going to be very trying for Clark and for everyone else. “Now, Lana,” he said, “here’s where you come in. You’re going to be very patient with him. If his mind should wander, don’t be upset, you just be ready at all times. If he wants to come in earlier, you come in before him. If he wants to work through lunch, do it. A lot of the pressure of this picture will be riding on your shoulders. We’re trying to arrange for people to go home with him for dinner. If he should ask you, go. Agreed?”

“But I don’t know him that well,” I said.

“Never mind. Just do as I say.”

“I’ll try with all my heart,” I promised him.

One night Clark did invite me for dinner. A studio limousine delivered me to the house he had shared with Carole. His male servant served the meal. As we ate I chattered brightly, trying to ease the sorrow that lined his handsome face. But he never mentioned it. He was courtly, and cordial, and far too private for that.

After dinner Clark showed me his gun collection. He had been polishing some of the pieces–a cherished hobby, I thought, that gave him comfort now. Then the studio limousine arrived to take me home.

After that evening my esteem for him grew even greater. That was the first and only social occaison I ever shared with him, though we made two more pictures together and got along well. His willingness to finish the film at all showed his decency. And although some say they could see a difference in the way he performed before and after the tragedy, I for one was not able to detect it. He was the consummate professional. No wonder they called him the King.

That description of the dinner is just heartbreaking. I find it hard to believe she made that whole tale up. Why would she? And it sounds exactly how he would have handled the situation. Privately grieving, but still cordial.

Another point is if Lana and Clark were having some big affair, how come they never dated when both were single in the 1940’s or 1950’s? I have never come across an account of them out socializing other than on a movie set. They were both single during the making of Homecoming, but yet no rumors of an affair? Maybe because they were both single then and it wouldn’t be a salicious tale?

clark gable lana turner

Clark and Lana in "Homecoming"

Was Clark completely faithful to Carole Lombard? I don’t know. But I just can’t see him having some love affair behind Carole’s back with a co-star like that. He was very much in love with Carole, as anyone around them could attest. If he was carrying on behind Carole’s back with Lana, that would be horribly embarrassing for Carole and of course word would be get back to her. Joan Crawford, whom he did have an affair with in the early 1930’s, even admitted that she was surprised that he wasn’t flirty with her while he was married to Carole.  Carole might have been jealous of Lana, might have thought something was going on, but I really don’t think it fits. I haven’t found real evidence to support it.

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13 Responses to {Rumor Mill} Clark Gable and Lana Turner

  1. KimWilson says:

    Lana Turner sometimes gets a bad rap for her off-screen behavior, but at least she was decent in this regard. I do ind it funny, however, that she had a slight meltdown when Lombard showed up on set–any normal woman would know that running to your trailer would make you look more guilty!

  2. Coco B says:

    We will never know what the supposed argument was about. We will never know if Clark was having an affair. And in the end if you really think about the events that occured there can be no doubt about who Clark Gable loved until the day he died. That goes without question.

    He loved Kay dearly but it was still different than the way he loved Carole.

    Maybe Lana had her sights set on Clark but Carole scared her to the point that she didn’t dare. I also don’t think Clark wanted to be in a homewrecking situation. He didn’t like that sort of thing, from what impressions I have.

    And lastly, Carole really was diffrent that all the other women he ever knew. She was the only one who figured out what made him tick. I doubt Lana had that wisdom then nor the patience later to keep Gable.

  3. lovegable says:

    I hate Lana Turner,but I want to see the film Hony tonk.

  4. Lara says:

    Like you, I have a really hard time believing that Clark would cheat on Carole. He was so devoted to her. Any other man–for Lana Turner? Sure. But knowing how much he adored Carole, not Clark. Thanks for this great and honest post!

  5. Lauren says:

    This is a great post and one I totally agree with. If their were stressors in their marriage (and is there a marriage on the planet without them?!) I think it was infertility much more so than infideltity. I think cheating is the thing people jump to because 1. He’s Clark Gable and 2. Scandel sells a lot more than health issues. I’ve heard people mention chorus girls and script girls…who exactly are these women? You’d think if there were so many of them at some point one of them would have wanted to make a quick buck and sell her story. I also really just don’t see Carole as the “look the other way” type.

  6. admin says:

    I agree, Lauren. Clark gets a bad rap in many ways–one of which being that everyone assumes he was this cad who slept with every woman who walked in front of him. It simply isn’t true. While Clark and Joan Crawford were together, there were numerous people that saw them together and told their story later. Joan admitted it later too. NOBODY has ever said they saw Clark and Lana together romantically. It’s such a horrible rumor because it makes it look like he was being cruel to Carole when she died and it is just not true.

  7. DeeLee says:

    Of all the things I love about Clark Gable, he never “dignified” gossip with an explanation or comment of any sort. Why should he? He did what real men do: he ignored it and went on living his life his own way, knowing that’s the greatest dignity any man can give himself. He loved Carole and was devoted to her–period. Rhea and Josephine were convenient arrangements. I get no sense at all he loved either and that both of those women understood the arrangement going in to it and coming out of it.
    Carole was his greatest love.

  8. Janet says:

    I believe that Lana and Clark did have an affair during the making of Honky Tonk and the guilt he felt after his wife died stayed with him for the rest of his life. I believe he blamed himself for her death. Lana was a maneater and Clark was fair game. The affair ended when Carole died and I don’t think she would have admitted to it even in her book because it would have caused a backlash -and Lana was nothing if not savvy about things like that.

  9. ctgirl says:

    Excuse me. I think fan loyalty is a wonderful thing but rose colored glasses annoy me. Clark Gable was well known as the horniest toad in Hollywood and the Armed Forces. Even though Mayer offered to suspend shooting on Somewhere I’ll Find You, Gable refused to do the bond tour and insisted Carole go in his place. While the search for Carole Lombard’s remains was going on, Gable spent his time in a local bar. He never went up the mountain himself regardless of Howard Strickling’s excellent pr stories. I think his grief was real, based on guilt for his actions during their marriage and while she was on tour in his place.

  10. admin says:

    No rose colored glasses here. The point of this post was that I have done extensive research and there is no evidence of the rumor that Clark slept with Lana Turner, ever. I didn’t say in here that the man was a saint. Clark was a shy man at the core of it and hated crowds and making speeches, that is why he didn’t want to go on a bond tour of his own or accompany Carole. And he did spend some of his time in a bar while they brought Carole’s body down. That proves what? The man was an alcoholic most of his life, you don’t think his wife being slammed into a mountain would drive him to drink? You are completely and utterly wrong about him not going up the mountain because he didn’t want to. They had to practically restrain him from doing so.

  11. Chris says:

    Funny. Esther Williams – who recently passed- knew Lana and Gable. She, in her memoirs, stated that there was an affair between Gable and Turner. Another thing to point out, Mickey Rooney stated that he had an affair with Lana, which she denied. Ava Gardner, however, backed Mickey Rooney and went as far as saying Lana aborted Mickey’s baby.

    Simply put, they had an affair. Gable would not have passed her up and I definitely don’t believe she would have passed on him.

  12. Berdi Price says:

    I think we are all kidding ourselves if we believe Lana and Clark didnt have an affair. I just finished reading Fireball which is an excellent book about Carole and the tragic crash. She was very aware of his continuous affairs throughout their marriage. And she did rush home because she knew he and Turner were sleeping together. They had a huge fight the night before she left. Never properly said goodbye. And she had trouble reaching him on the phone, after hours. Her brothers were “seething ” at her funeral, because they knew.

  13. Trisha says:

    I’m in the middle of reading ‘Fireball Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3′ and it claims to be an incredibly researched recount of those event….and it talks about the affair of Lana and Gable very matter of factly. I hope for Carole’s sake it never happened. He was waiting at the airport for Carole when they told him it was delayed to go home and he learned about the “downed” plane sitting next to his best friends wife, his best friend was also on the plane. He was definitely not in bed with Lana at that moment. The whole house was prepped for gags for Carole.

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