grace kelly clark gable mogambo

If you take one look at the Article Archive, you’ll note that the majority of the articles (we’re up to over 130! ) are from the 1930′s and 40′s. This being mainly because that is when Clark Gable was at the peak of stardom and of most interest to writers and the public. As he aged, the top headlines went to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis, Tony Curtis, etc. I can usually snap up any fan magazine from the 30′s and 40′s and find at least one Clark gossip item, article or photo. The 1950′s is hit or miss. Clark was in his fifties and, while still very much respected, was not hot gossip anymore. That is until he was caught out and about with a hot new starlet.

This is one of the first articles I have seen that details the brief romance of Clark and Grace Kelly. Both of them always denied the romance, but Ava Gardner called them out on it in her book and many others have admitted that it was indeed the real deal, albeit for a short time.

If he had not become an actor, and a darn good one, Clark Gable would have made a superb diplomat.

He is charming, tactful, smooth as nylon, and so sincere when denying an allegation, so altogether credible and downright that to doubt him seems like heresy.

You say to him, “What goes with you and Grace Kelly? I understand the two of you were virtually inseparable all through Africa and London? There’s even a rumor that you and Grace have some sort of understanding, maybe an engagement?”

Gable fixes you with a manly stare, shakes that handsome temple-gray head of his and says flatly, “That’s absurd. The whole story’s fantastic. Just because we’ve made one picture together and we’ve been out a few times. She’s a very lovely girl and a fine actress, but that’s all there is to it.”

If his history with women were not so replete with similar denials, one might accept Gable’s protestations and admit that his friendship with blonde, young, beautiful Grace Kelly is purely professional. Except that a few years ago when he was going with Lady Sylvia Ashley and was asked if he contemplated matrimony, he told reporters, “Now, look, boys, she’s a very fine woman and I enjoy her company. But insofar as anything serious is concerned, that’s out.”

Even when he was paying his second wife, Maria Langham close to half a million so that he could be free to marry Carole Lombard, Gable was still shy about admitting his love.

“Carole and I are good friends,” he said at the time, “but I’m in no position to discuss marriage or love or anything like that. Say we’re just good friends and leave it at that.”

On the basis of his established record, it is safe to say that when Gable insists his relationship with an attractive female is casual, it usually is not. For The King, as Spencer Tracy refers to him, has always been a one-woman man—that is, a one-woman-at-a-time man.

When he courts a girl, he concentrates on her. He gives her all his ardor, all his non-working time. No diversification for this gentleman. He makes a girl feel as if he is living for her, only for her.

In the case of Grace Kelly, members of the Mogambo crew insist that during the preparation and making of this film, “Gable had big eyes for Grace.”

I think perhaps Grace got her heart broken a bit by Clark.  I’m sure he was very fond of her, but it seemed to be only a location romance and nothing more. Clark was never going to marry a woman that much younger than him–and certainly not a budding actress. Grace was gorgeous, of course, but she was a bit too high society for Clark’s blood (yes I realize that is a bad pun at one of her movies…).  Grace had a habit with falling in love with co-stars, such as Bing Crosby and William Holden–Clark was the first in the line.  “He makes a girl feel as if he is living for her, only for her.” Whew….

Most of the article then goes into detail about Grace’s background, as she was relatively still an unknown at the time the article was written. After that, Clark is put on the hotspot:

Grace Kelly was flown to Europe, thence to Nairobi in British East Africa, and then 750 land miles out into the bush country. It was in this location that she and Gable became “fast friends.”

Ava and Grace were the only two white female stars on the trek, and at night Ava used to hang a lantern outside her tent to scare off the lions, and in this sort of potentially dangerous environment, Gable took on the halo of the protector.

Africa or no Africa, The King is a pretty romantic guy any way you look at him, and in the span of five weeks’ time, Grace Kelly was looking at him plenty.

By the time they hit London, the rumors coupling these two in a torrid romance were in full force. They were so prevalent that Gable became annoyed at them and refused to answer questions concerning his love life.

Reporters are adroit by profession, however, and would start their questioning along this line. “Are you really happy without a wife?” Gable’s answer to that one was a fast yes.

“How do you feel about marriage generally? That is, you’ve been burned a few times.”

“I’ve always believed in marriage as the best state for man and woman, and I believe in it now. If the right girl came along and I fell in love with her and she with me, I certainly would marry again.”

Mindful of the fact that each of his four wives had had money in her own right, one reporter asked the actor how he felt about a wife who had independent income.

“If a marriage is right,” Gable answered, “a husband will maintain his authority regardless of his wife’s income or wealth.”

“What qualities are you looking for in a wife, Mr. Gable?”

“I’m looking for a woman who has brains, beauty, breeding and a good sense of humor. I’d like her to know her way around both in and out of the home. I myself don’t go in for much entertaining but if entertaining makes her happy she can do all of it she has a hankering for.”

“After you finish Mogambo what are your plans?”

“I left my car back in Rome. I’m going to pick it up, drive through Spain and then settle down in a little house I’ve rented in Majorca. Did I mind the discomfort in Africa? Heck no. A lot of people were bellyaching about the conditions, but I loved the whole setup, sleeping on a cot, the mosquito netting, washing in a canvas basin, even hunting. I shot a crocodile and a python, and a few other animals, but I’m really more of a fisherman than a hunter. Basically, I’m a lazy man, and I guess all lazy men love to fish.”

“Just one more question, Mr. Gable. Is there any truth to the rumor that while you and Grace Kelly were on location you fell in love with her and that she is currently your girl?”

The King’s eyes flashed, his teeth came together, and he shook his head. “That’s absurd,” he said a moment later. “Right now I’ve got no girl.”

I love the description of his eyes flashing; that is just how I would imagine he would react to such a question. He was always such a private person but yet was usually accomodating to interviewers. He was jovial and easygoing, but there was this imaginary line (usually Carole and his romances) and if you crossed it, he shut down.  This is the first time in a few years he seems willing to admit maybe he would marry again. After the Sylvia marriage ended, he would often say he would never marry again. By now I suppose he was changing his tune. 

I don’t think many of us can blame Grace–what red-blooded female on earth would object to Clark Gable protecting you from lions?

You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive and read more about Clark’s romance with Grace here.

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