clark gable

This 1936 article isn’t earth-shattering by any means, but does contain a few interesting little tidbits:

Any time you can get Clark to taking about himself, you can depend on it that he’s kidding himself thoroughly, relentlessly, fiercely,

You know that typical Clark Gable expression that’s always on his face? A sort of grinning bewilderment? Mixed with a certain surprise and incredulity? Plus a dash of secret ridicule? Well, that “Clark Gable look” is perfectly indicative of what he thinks of himself. He’s constantly mystified at all the fame and good luck and popularity that stays with him, and he’s laughing at himself for it. He can’t take himself seriously.

He can’t ever forget the days he was so broke that he rode the brake-rods on freight cars, and starved. “I could have lost my sense of humor then,” he admits, “and I’d have stopped being Clark Gable and might have landed in the gutter or become a radical or something like that. But my sense of humor was all I had. And I clung to it desperately. I must have had some inward sense that once I lost it, I was done for. I didn’t lose it. And today, it’s a habit with me. I can’t look at me in a mirror, or consider Clark Gable, the star, without that sense of humor saving me from something that would have been worse—yeah, even worse than the gutter.”

I know certain stars in Hollywood who have their own pictures, portraits in oil or camera, hung in their homes and dressing-rooms. Gable’s dressing-room walls are lined with caricatures of himself—the most grotesque possible ones—the kind that show his ears, and his funny grin and accentuate the other points that make him anything, but handsome.

Of affectation, of poses, of snootiness, there’s no more in Clark Gable than there is in Li’l Orphan Annie. Even less. Whatever he does, it’s because he likes to do it. Whatever he doesn’t do, it’s because he doesn’t feel like it. Never does he do or NOT do something merely because “it’s the thing to do—or not do.”

Try to find unusual things to write about Gable, and a writer’s sunk. He’s so ordinary, so matter-of-fact, so regular, that there’s no “trick stuff” you can write about him. He’s just a sort of swell young fellow who lives in Hollywood and works in movies. And that’s the works. Somehow, naturally, you regard him as the personification of romance. You imagine, if you don’t know better, that his days and nights are just a 24-hour-round of “lady-killing.” You rather fancy he’s got luscious blondes, caloric redheads, smoldering brunettes heaped up in all manner of places. You’re surprised to find that he’s less involved with women than ninety-nine out of a hundred other stars—single or married! It’s so true that the studio, which really has to keep him billed up as America’s Great Lover, has to invent romancing for him, via the press agent routine.

It’s been said before–he’s just ordinary, like everyone else, he’s just like you and me! But still, I find it refreshing that articles about him are consistent in this. No details of diva behavior.

Just now, they’re kind of pumping up the Carole Lombard angle for all they’re worth. Carole’s a swell gal, if ever there was one, so she goes for it. Clark helps out. And the publicity boys can write and whisper romantic rumors about Clark and Carole. And Clark and Carole grin and have fun—being friends. Their biggest help to the campaign was that trick auto Carole sent Clark, remember?

For $25 or so, she picked up an ancient Ford runabout on a second-hand lot one night, had two big hearts painted on it with hers and Clark’s initials, and sent it around to his hotel, Clark had an awful time, They threatened to throw either him or the car out unless he did something. He did. The aftermath came the other day, when I drove into the Ford agency in Hollywood where I have to pay every month or they’ll take my giloppy away. There, in the workroom, stood Gable. He was dressed from head to foot in white—white shoes, white flannel trousers, white sweater. But the pretty white was all be-greased and be-grimed. He was helping the Ford experts put the finishing touches on the car Carole had sent him. He’d spent hundreds of dollars on it—new motor, new works, brand new all-white paint job, lots of new fitments including even an electric fan on the steering wheel to cool him while driving, new tires and new top. Must have cost him double what a new one would have. But he had a perfect little car—and now he uses it for his hunting and location car. It runs like a 17-jewel watch. And is Carole laughing?

Oh yes, Clark and Carole were just friends…just friends and nothing more. That angle is interesting, especially since it brings up the long-reported Valentine car story, because most publications were already heralding their romance as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Seems

 

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4 Responses to {New Article} 1936: Humor is a Habit with Gable

  1. Barry Lane says:

    You know that this piece is a lot of fun but William H. Gable wasn’t invited out to see his son. He invaded, and Clark tried to get rid of him by pressing a few hundred dollars into his old man’s empty hands. Carole Lombard thought otherwise — that this wasn’t right. She prevailed. Gable did not resent Carole, but he did his father. Thee is a lot more to it. His father’s second wife brought Clark up, a nice woman, who died when he was 16. Gabe Essoe put together a pretty good book about forty years ago. Worth checking out.

  2. Coco B says:

    Gable’s relationship with his father was always strained. It would be strained no matter what profession Clark entered, because the two men were fundamentally different and the father would never fully understand that. Gable has an innate gentleness and gracefulness that certainly did not make him less manly but was incomprehensible to his father. If it was Carole who made him keep his relationship with his father then all the better, from all accounts that was just Carole being Carole. If we recall she had no relationship with her father.

    While media was more controlled in Gable’s era as compared to now one thing that remains somewhat consistent is that the media tends to leave parents alone.

    Once a person reaches the celebrity status of Gable (and I doubt anyone ever will again) that person’s personality has to adjust to that. Many stars are ill equipped to adjust. Gable was always able (or at least led us to believe he was able)to handle the fame he achieved. At the end of the day he did a pretty good job.

    As for diva behavior – I think he had his diva moments. They were just reasonable diva demands and he clearly understood that his luck had a part in his fame so he really didn’t push it with his employers. (That is not to say he never used his star power to negotiate things, he was, after all, Clark Gable)

  3. admin says:

    Yes, I’ve read Gabe Essoe’s book too. MGM publicity tried to paint Clark’s father and their relationship with a pretty paintbrush, but it was strained to say the least. His father by all accounts was a rather cold and critical man; nothing Clark did was ever good enough. He lived with Clark and Ria for a while and then when he remarried Clark had a house built for him not too far from the ranch. Clark took care of him out of obligation. I have always found it odd that when his dad died, he was buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. By that time Carole was already dead and Clark had purchased a plot for himself next to her. You’d think he’d put his father in the same cemetery at least. Instead Bill Gable is cremated and alone in a dark, dank, creepy part of a mausoleum at Hollywood Forever. Odd but telling of their relationship.

  4. admin says:

    I think Clark’s diva moments came out of a sense of fear–he was always afraid of people turning on him, on his luck running out. So a lot of times he insisted things done a certain way to keep the image he thought the public wanted. A shame, really. Prevented him from expanding his horizons.

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