French model Suzanne Dadolle doesn’t rank among Carole Lombard, Joan Crawford or Grace Kelly as one of Clark Gable’s great love affairs. But she was on Clark’s arm for over a year while he was overseas in the early 1950’s. That is, until she loused it up….
There isn’t much information about Suzanne out there. Google her and all you get are pictures of her with Clark, mentions of her in articles about Clark, and one lone uncredited movie role from 1963 on IMDB. I don’t even know if she is still alive. But she lived what was a lot of women’s fantasy for a while: Clark Gable’s constant companion for a whirlwind trip around Europe.
In May 1952, Clark, fresh off his divorce from Sylvia Ashley, boarded a ship to Europe to begin an 18 month tax exile in which he would make three films: Betrayed in Holland, Never Let Me Go in England, and Mogambo in Africa and England. He had a month before he was to start filming on Never Let Me Go and needed something–or someone–to occupy the time. 27-year-old model Suzanne fit the bill.
In her book Long Live the King, Lyn Tornabene described Suzanne as a “sculptured blonde who looked more like Lombard than any of the other women in his collection.” I honestly do not see that at all. In pictures, Suzanne looks much older than 27 to me and has a long face that looks nothing like Lombard. She was Turkish born, blonde and willowy, with a thick French accent and a flair for clothes and jewelry.
After attracting Clark’s attention, she reportedly gave up her modeling position with Elsa Schiaparelli to be at his beck and call. They cruised around Paris, dined alfresco at cafes, drank wine, walked arm in arm down the street like tourists. It all seemed romantic and idyllic.
Clark was notoriously tightlipped about the relationship, referring to her as a “friend” when the press inquired. When he traveled to London to begin Never Let Me Go, Suzanne stayed behind in Paris. His co-star Gene Tierney said that when they would dine together he would often speak of Carole Lombard. Despite set visits from former flames Betty Chisolm and Joan Harrison, he would usually back to Paris on weekends to be with Suzanne.
When filming wrapped, Clark and Suzanne zoomed across France, Switzerland and Italy in his new custom Jaguar, finally setting up camp at the luxurious Villa d’Este in Lake Como. There, Clark golfed, Suzanne sunbathed and every night they retired to their adjoining suites.
In November, Clark left for Africa to begin Mogambo and quickly began an affair with his young co-star, Grace Kelly. So whatever relationship him and Suzanne had, he wasn’t exactly pining for her while he was in the wilds of Africa!
When shooting on Mogambo wrapped, so did his fling with Grace. He hooked up with his great friends, Mr. and Mrs. Al Menasco, picked up Suzanne, and the four of them traveled through Paris and Rome. After the Menascos flew home, Clark and Suzanne set up camp at the swanky Hotel Raphael for the summer and the marriage rumors started swirling.
In October 1953, Suzanne singlehandly ended their relationship when she gave an exclusive interview to a French newspaper, saying that she had accepted Clark’s marriage proposal. She told of their great love for each other and showed off a large topaz ring on her left ring finger. She said Clark wanted them to be lifelong companions and travel the world together.
The next day the newspaper headline read “Gable Says He Is NOT Engaged.”
The October 11, 1953 the Sydney Sun Herald reported:
Gable’s remarks, when he saw the alleged engagement announced in London papers, were unprintable.I spoke to MGM’s London publicity manager, Mr. Paul Mills, by telephone last night.He was with gable at the Hotel Amstel in Amsterdam, their base while filming “The True and The Brave” in Holland with Lana Turner.Speaking for Gable, Mills said: “Talk of Clark’s engagement is absolute nonsense. Neither Gable nor I knew anything about it until we saw papers carrying Miss Dadolle’s story.”Mills admitted that Gable possibly gave Miss Dadolle the ring she was wearing.“Gable is a sophisticated man of the world,” he said. “He sometimes gives ladies presents, we all do.”According to Mills, Gable met Miss Dadolle last year.“It is true they travelled in France and Italy together,” he said. “But he will not be seeing her in London after our Dutch location work. I doubt if he will ever see her again.”In an exclusive interview with the “Sun-Herald” in Paris Miss Dadolle described her meeting with Gable two years ago.“It was at a cocktail party given by mutual friends,” she said. “Clark fell in love with me at first sight and told me so almost immediately.“He asked me to dine with him the next night. I did not take him seriously and refused. He insisted, and we had dinner together two or three times, then every night. Now I am terribly in love with him, and said ‘yes’ when he asked me to marry him.Miss Dadolle, whose real name is d’Adole, claimed that Gable telephoned her in Paris every night. She is wearing a large topaz ring on her engagement finger.Gable, 52, has been married four times.
Any woman dating Clark quickly learned to not speak to the press; he did not want his romantic laundry blowing in the breeze. Suzanne learned that too late and was apparently flabbergasted at his abrupt depatrure. With the three women he married while he was a star—Carole, Sylvia and Kay–there were no formal engagements announcements; all of them were sudden elopements. Clark was not a man who liked to publicize his every move to the eager press. I’ve always wondered if maybe Suzanne was telling the truth, maybe he did propose, but she ticked him off by announcing it to the press. But it’s not very likely, as he was pretty bitter on marriage after the failure of his union with Sylvia, and the ink was barely dry on that divorce decree. It also seems unlikely that the topaz ring Clark gave Suzanne was an engagement ring; Clark did not give out engagement rings to any of his wives, curiously.
In December 1953, Clark boarded a ship to return home. After arriving back in the states, Clark was asked if the rumors were true that Suzanne would soon be the fifth Mrs. Gable. As usual, his answer was curt. “No, we never discussed marriage. She just taught me to speak French.”
Soon, he was seen around town with a former flame, Kay Williams.
In 1955, Suzanne arrived in Hollywood to try her hand at acting and, according to the media, to try to woo Clark back.
From this 1955 article:
To date, The King and Suzanne have encountered each other only twice. Once on the set at 20th Century Fox where Gable was doing a luncheon scene in a Hong King restaurant with Susan Hayward (late that day he drove Hayward home) and once in La Rue’s restaurant. Gable was dining there with Kay Spreckels when Suzanne came in with contractor Hal Hayes.
Since Hayes used to date Kay, and Gable used to date Dadolle, there might have been some embarrassment. But Kay handled the situation tactfully. She walked over to Hayes’ table and was introduced to Suzanne. Gable nodded pleasantly, and the encounter came off without incident.
And we all know who became the fifth Mrs. Gable–Kay. But what we don’t know is what became of Clark’s European fling, Mademoiselle Suzanne Dadolle.
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