clark gable ria franklin

This short little article from 1931 is extremely tabloid-y but that is what makes it interesting! Published in the fall of 1931 when Clark was the newest heart throb, articles like this were the result of editors screaming at their writing staff, “I need pieces on Clark Gable NOW!” So, they grasp at whatever straws they have, which, back in the days before internet and uh, actual fact checking, were largely rumors.

“No,” Clark Gable’s friends quote him as saying last summer. “I’m not married now. My wife just got a divorce in April.”

“Yes,” Clark Gable admitted six months later to inquiring interviewers. “I’m married. But I’d rather not discuss that, please.”

Then, a few weeks ago, came a hasty trip to Santa Ana, where a license was secured for William C. Gable and Mrs. Rita Langham to wed. The license indicated, it was reported, that this was the lady’s third marriage, and Clark Gable’s second. Maybe his first marriage to Mrs. Langham did not count.

How many times has Clark Gable really said, “I do”? Let us see! The newest “great lover” of the screen labors under the misfortune of being a local boy who hung around Los Angeles casting offices for years. There are altogether too many people here who “knew him when”!

Friends warned Clark that if he wanted to keep his remarriage to Rita Langham a secret, he had better not go to Santa Ana, whose courthouse has been the scene of so many headline romances that reporters watch it like hawks. But Clark is apparently sincere in his declaration, “Why, I’m nobody! I’m not important! I’m just an actor working at his job!”

If he really thought that no notice would be taken of his wedding, he was very much mistaken—as mistaken as Rudolph Valentino when he thought that no one would find out that he had married Natacha Rambova in Mexico before his California divorce was final. For an exactly similar reason Clark Gable says he remarried the lady whom he first wed “somewhere back East,” a trifle too soon after he and Josephine Dillon were divorced. Though he does not declare dramatically, like Rudy, “My love could not be kept waiting!”—a line that thrilled a million women.

Clark was saying he wasn’t married last summer because HE WASN’T. The “trip to Santa Ana” was the first and only marriage ceremony between Ria and Clark, a fact that MGM publicity would never allow to be released. You see, Clark and Ria had been living together for a few years and after Clark arrived in Hollywood and started to make a name for himself, Ria wanted to get married and Clark wanted to dump her. So Ria ran straight to MGM executives and threatened to bring down their newest star, to tell everyone that he had been living with a woman he was not married to. (You can read more about this whole situation here. ) Doesn’t seem at all scandalous today, I know, but in those days it would have been career suicide. So, Clark was forced to marry her in June of 1931 and to say that it was a remarriage because of a legal loophole. What’s ridiculous is that he always is quoted as saying  that the first time they got married it was “last year” and “somewhere in the East” with no specifics. Who says that about their marriage ceremony?! And Clark was purposely sent to Santa Ana for the ceremony, where MGM knew there would be photographers to document the occaison.

While he was living here humbly several years ago, often going hungry, one of the women who saw him making his endless rounds of the theaters, agencies, and casting offices was Josephine Dillon, a well-known vocal teacher. She took pity on this ambitious, poorly-prepared boy and worked with him tirelessly, coaching him, improving his delivery of dramatic lines. At length they were married. Though they separated not long after, it was not until April, 1930, that the lady obtained a divorce from her young husband. Her age was given as forty-two.

But according to one of Clark’s closest friends, a young screen actor, even this was not Gable’s first marriage! For good measure this friend’s story mentions a young son also, and swears that he has often seen telegrams from the boy to Clark. Which, if true, would make four marriages for the newest screen sheik, counting two to Mrs. Langham?

I have read this rumor so many times—that when he made it big in Hollywood he already had a son in boarding school. It’s appeared in so many blurbs from the early 1930′s that is smells of MGM publicity, but I scratch my head as to why they would think that would be a beneficial rumor to circulate. Is it more romantic to be married four times by the time you are 31 and have a ten year old son? Not sure of the motivation. But, needless to say, that is a rumor and nothing more.

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

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2 Responses to {New Article} 1931: How Many Marriages for Clark Gable?

  1. Coco B says:

    I had never read anywhere that Clark was rumored to have a son. Having said that the vast majority of articles about Clark I have found here thanks to your lovely work. However there may be a good reason for spreading that rumor. If one recalls Carole and Clarke went to the Mayo clinic together supposedly to check out why no Prince was born to the King. No one knows what the result was but whatever problem there was was deemed Carole’s fault expressly to quell rumors that the legendary Gable virility wasn’t exactly so. It does seem odd that with all the women he enjoyed not much was produced in the way of offspring. I think there are a number of simple reasons for that mainly that despite the Image MGM created of a healthy tough man my he man sort of guy Gable really wasn’t that healthy. The rumor of a son conveniently tucked away at boarding school can quell both the rumors of virility and of other less than stellar habits/preferences. With all things considered studios at the time spent an awful lot to protect images they created for their stars. Their profits depended on it.

  2. Coco B says:

    To clarify just a little in 1931 there were two things that could have ended Gable’s career. Rumors that he was not as virile as MGM needed him to be or the other horrid thought that he was gay. Having a son would put both rumors out of the way and discourage the gay community of the time from trying to influence the new kid on the block.

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