clark gable

This article from 1957 focuses on a Clark Gable film that’s not often mentioned, The King and Four Queens. The main reason that it is not often mentioned is that it is quite bad. It was Clark’s first and only attempt at producing and it was a flop, therefore he retreated back into his happy rabbit hole of acting only.

Kay accompanied Clark to Utah for the location shoot of the film.

“Well,” the slim, blonde, suntanned woman asked Barbara Nichols, “what do you think of my old man?”

“Do you really want me to tell you?” asked Barbara.

The woman before her stiffened. Her blue eyes frosted over. “Why, yes,” she said, “of course I do.”

Barbara Nichols grinned at Clark Gable’s wife, Kay. “It’s a good thing you’re not a jealous woman, because to tell you the truth, I’m mad about the man. I think he’s the handsomest, the kindest, the nicest—“

Kay laughingly put up a protesting hand. “All right, all right. I know the rest of it. As a matter of fact,” she confided, putting a light, friendly arm about Barbara’s shoulders, “I’m afraid I have to agree with you. I feel that way, too. I always have and I always will. I’ve got it bad—real bad.”

It was easy for Barbara Nichols to understand why. After two weeks of working with Gable on location for “A King and Four Queens,” Barbara had written home to say that henceforth when she thought about marriage, Gable was her idea of just what a husband should be. And, she added, the Gable-Spreckels marriage was her idea of what a marriage should be.

“Clark calls Kay ‘Mom’ or ‘Ma,’ and she calls him ‘My old man’ or ‘Pappy,’” Barbara wrote. “But the way she says it—or maybe it’s the way she looks at him when she says it—makes it sound like the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard. I don’t mind admitting I’m in love with him—in a nice, polite, respectful way, of course. But Kay doesn’t need to be jealous—I never saw two people more in love.”

Not that Mr. and Mrs. Gable show a lot of sentiment in public, but you know it from the way they look at each other, the way Clark puts his arms around her, the way Kay touches his cheek. They laugh a lot together over all kinds of foolish little things, and you can see them look at each other knowingly when they’re amused, or when they are touched my something that happens.

 I must admit that I found Barbara  rather annoying in this film. High, chirpy voice, constantly singing the same bars of the same song over and over again. In the article, Kay assures her one day she will find a husband to love of her own. I was saddened to find out that Barbara never did marry and died at 48.

The article ventures then into the synopsis of Clark and Carole Lombard’s relationship, rather odd since this is supposed to be about The King and Four Queens and his current wife, Kay.

Inevitably, the comparison is made between Kay and Carole Lombard. Like Carole, Kay is beautiful, witty, charming, sophisticated. As did Carole, she calls Clark “Pappy.” Kay is also a homebody and a sportswoman—as well as a good sport, which is of prime importance to Gable. She willingly goes along with him on anything, and her deep love for him is reflected in all her actions, big and small.

Despite that she claimed otherwise, it HAD to bother Kay that not a single article could be published about her husband or even her marriage without mention of Carole.

Barbara discovered that while he is sometimes shy about his own talents, Clark always strives to give others confidence. “I had done a great deal of television in New York,” she said, “and had learned to appreciate helpful friendliness from most fellow actors and directors, but I really didn’t expect that kind of help from a star like Mr. Gable. When one particular scene bothered me, he took me aside and sat down with me, discussed the scene and rehearsed all the lines with me. It was a difficult bit, in which little nuances, conveyed in only a few words and gestures, were all-important.”

Everyone said he was giving Barbara all the breaks in their scenes together, and she could see it. Clark coached her on where to look, showed her where her key light was. The crew can spot a phony a mile off, and their respect for Gable impressed Barbara, confirming her own first impressions of him.

“How old are you?” he had asked at their first meeting in the studio office. “How old do you want me to be?” Barbara had replied, and everybody laughed, Clark the hardest of all. “I was off the ice then,” Barbara said.

She kept thinking, “How sweet he is,” knowing it was a word he would not like, but the only one she could think of to describe him. She didn’t know then the kind of part for which she was being considered or how old she was supposed to be. She just kept hoping she was the right age and the right type, because by that time she wanted that part more than she had ever wanted anything else.

Clark began to explain the kind of girl Barbara would play in “The King and Four Queens.” “He made her so real to me,” Barbara recalled, “that I began to feel like that girl. He asked what other things I had done. I told him about the role of the burlesque dancer in ‘Miracle in the Rain,’ and my bigger and more recent part in ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,’ with Dana Andrews and Joan Fonatine. Mr. Gable listened attentively. Then he asked if I would mind making a test with him. Would I mind?”

An often repeated tale of how courteous and respectful Clark was on set, with no ego and an unfailing ability to make anyone comfortable.

You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.