This article appeared in Photoplay magazine in January 1932, when Clark Gable was a new star and nobody knew much about him yet. It’s rather funny how nowadays a quick internet search provides anyone with information about virtually anybody, but 80 years ago the journalists were scrambling to separate fact from fiction in Clark’s history.
Has he been married twice, three times or four? What is his true background?
Every writer in Hollywood is trying to find answers to these questions. Some have printed stories without waiting to get the truth.
It’s a very old Hollywood custom.
But a custom which Clark, a newcomer, is incapable of understanding.
“Why don’t they come to me,” he demands, “and ask me? My stepdaughter is sixteen years old. My stepson twelve. They are the children of my present wife.
“No one has asked me about this, to date. I would have been glad to tell them. If I had any children of my own I would be proud to say so.”
It’s funny, for a short time MGM purposely left out the fact that Clark had teenage stepchildren–a fact they thought would make him seem old.
This isn’t the first time I have heard that in the very beginning of his career everyone thought he had already been married three times and had a small son who was in a boarding school somewhere. What a curious idea.
The majority of the article devotes itself to the same old story of Clark’s early life that has been told 100 times before: growing up on the farm, working on an oil field in Oklahoma, riding the rails to Oregon.
They were married in New York, before the first Mrs. Gable’s divorce was final in California. How little either realized then the complications which were to follow! They were legally wed in New York but not in California, where one cannot remarry until a year after a divorce. They figured that was all right since they had no intention of going to California.
But fate does not pause to remember America’s strange divorce laws. Just when Clark was closing in “Love, Honor and Betray,” with Alice Brady and the late Robert Williams, Macloon telegraphed him to come to California for “The Last Mile.” Gable took an airplane and paid his own expenses to make certain he would arrive in time to accept the engagement!
Gangsters had become the vogue in pictures. Clark was stalwart and he was suave; he was handsome, as producers visualized gangsters to be handsome. He made several tests and accepted the role of a cowboy heavy in “The Painted Desert,” at Pathe. While working on that he signed a contract with Warner Bros. to make “The Finger Points” and “Night Nurse.” It has been said that MGM loaned him for these parts before they knew the sensation he was to become. This is untrue. He signed for these roles before he went to MGM.
While waiting for these to go into production he played a bit in “The Easiest Way,” with Constance Bennett at MGM. Then in Joan Crawford’s “Dance, Fools, Dance.”
You know the rest of the story. No one, including Louis B. Mayer, head of the studio, and Clark Gable himself, could see what was to happen. The success of Garbo was an accident—so was that of Valentino. Millions have been spent on making Hollywood stars. But the greatest of them all have been created without forethought and without investment.
Almost overnight, this Gable boy from the little town of Cadiz became the great screen lover. Fame simply leapt up and claimed him.
Fame has its penalties. Right now Clark is trying to beat the sure law of compensation. If fame is to bring tribulations in excess of its rewards—he believes he is ready to sacrifice fame.
He had his first taste of fame’s demand when he had been in Hollywood only a short time. A newspaper man told him he was not legally married. He rushed to Santa Ana for a second ceremony as soon as the first Mrs. Gable’s divorce became final. MGM sent representatives along to see that all the details were according to the California laws governing matrimony.
That whole remarriage thing is complete MGM-coverup hogwash. Clark and Ria were never married in New York. They signed into hotels as “Mr. and Mrs. Gable” just to stay in the same room; nobody ever asked anything. Once they arrived in Hollywood, it was just the word on the street that they were already married. But Clark wanted to dump her and Ria took to blackmail–threatening MGM that if Clark didn’t make an honest woman out of her that she would go to the papers with the scandal. Scared that their new star would be finished if the word got out, those MGM publicity masterminds concocted the tale of the “accidently” illegal first marriage so that Clark and Ria could be married at the courthouse in June 1931. It’s funny, later in his career, everyone cites their marriage date as that day in 1931–nobody says how they were supposedly technically married before. Probably because most people knew the truth.
You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.