Will Gable Take the Place of Valentino?
By Gladys Hall
Movie Classic magazine, November 1931
Not since the days of the lamented Rudy has the screen had such a sensation as Clark Gable—who has started out the same way, though an entirely different type. Even as he thrilled Garbo, he seems destined to become every woman’s ideal of a Great Lover.
Greta Garbo took one look at him on the screen and said, “DOT ISS MY NEXT LEADING MAN!” The man was CLARK GABLE. You will see them together in “Susan Lenox, Her Fall and Rise.”
And that little expression of Greta’s tells, in six words, how this new Hollywood sensation is awakening feminine interest everywhere—not only with the stars (the men like him, too), but also with the romantic girls and women who make up the majority of the screen’s vast audiences.
Extraordinary, indeed, is the personality who can evoke from the indifferent Garbo as definite, so enthusiastic a reaction.
And if this desire was aroused in the sphinx-like breast of Garbo, what will be the effect upon the millions of much more susceptible women?
Once in a lifetime—and maybe twice—there flashes across the screen a man with the power to make all women feel that they are in danger. Such danger as all women prefer to peaceful safety.
Once—and perhaps twice—we see a man who, when he kisses the heroine on the screen, kisses you—and you—and me. A man with an earthy quality—call it romance, call it glamour, call it sex. No matter what you call it, there it is, compelling and irresistible.
Such a man was Valentino.
No One Has Replaced Rudy
And such a loss was his that no one—not Ronald Colman, nor John Gilbert, nor Clive Brook nor any other man—has been able to atone for that loss.
Valentino’s death is, to-day, the grief it was yesterday. He was every woman’s lover. He was every woman’s dream of that romantic secret life never yielded her—save in him. He was every husband’s and every lover’s phantom rival. He made lonely woman glow and love again. He gave color and flame and mystery to the feminine world.
No man is like another man. No emotion is ever the same as another emotion. But a similar effect may be produced.
Clark Gable is not Valentino’s successor, not his rival, not even his counterpart—but he is a man who will give you the nameless thing that Valentino gave you.
With Garbo you will see him and long to have him with you.
He will make you dream again. He will evoke the flames of desire. He will quicken your veins with the same sensuous fever that Valentino gave you—and left you the poorer when he took it away.
Everywhere, here in Hollywood, where women gather, you hear the name of Clark Gable. Everywhere men as well as women are calling him “the biggest sensation the screen has known in years.” And everywhere you hear: “Doesn’t he remind you a little of—Valentino?” I give you my word that I have heard two hundred Hollywood women, in groups and individually, say that same thing to me and to each other.
They Started the Same Way
He began his screen career as Valentino began his first as an extra, then as a “heavy.” He emerges from that type of role in the Garbo picture. But no single picture has been responsible for his fame as “the Four Horsemen” pushed Rudy into the limelight.
Joan Crawford (he played with her in “Dance Fools Dance”) told me, “He is the finest actor, the greatest find, the most outstanding personality the screen has had in years—perhaps has ever had.”
Ivan Lebedeff said, “I saw Gable on the screen for one instant and in that instant I thought, ‘That man will be a tremendous sensation. He is an actor. He has great power. He is a romantic heavy as Valentino was.’”
At a rival studio the other day, someone observed, “There is one person out here now destined to be the new sensation of the movie world.” And the Powers at the rival studio said, “You mean Clark Gable.” Not even a question.
Hollywood is talking about this man as no man has been talked about since Rudy was a living idol.
The man himself—also like Rudy—is of the utmost simplicity. Perhaps he will not be so a year from now. If he is, he will be a superman. For the cards are all on the table and unless some unforeseen hand disarranges them, he has such adulation coming his way as makes mortals believe they are gods.
He doesn’t, physically, by feature or measurement, actually resemble Valentino. He is six feet, one inch tall. He weighs one hundred and ninety pounds. He has dark brown hair and luminous gray eyes. He has tanned skin and an ingenuous smile. His shoulders are broad.
When I asked him where he was born, he said, “In Ohio, ma’am.”
How and Why He Began Acting
He looks foreign. I don’t know of what nationality. Bulgarian, perhaps. His forebears were all Pennsylvania Dutch. His father, William H. Gable, was a contractor. Clark was born in Cadiz, Ohio. He went to public schools and to high school in Hopedale, Ohio. He took a business course at Akron University. It had never occurred to him to be an actor until he became interested in the stage through “filling in” at a community playhouse.
He liked to dramatize himself when he was a youngster, he told me. He still does. Expecting to follow in his father’s footsteps and deal in stone and brick and mortar in Cadiz, Ohio, he likes to imagine himself doing more breath-taking things—riding to thrilling rescues, toppling over kingdoms, exploring strange seas. He decided after a few years of banging about the world (part of the time as a lumberjack) that he could satisfy this desire for self-dramatization by being an actor and acting these parts.
He has, to date, a completely undeveloped ego. He is bewildered by this thing that is happening to him. Echoes of the prophecies for his future have reached his ears.
“I don’t know what to think,” he told me, “I don’t know what it is all about. They tell me these things. I don’t know what they mean. Of course, I’ll never be anything like Valentino. I haven’t what he had to work with. I’m just an actor with a job, that’s all. That’s all I ever have been, all I ever expected to be, all I am now.
“Why, I was out here four or five years ago and they wouldn’t even give me a chance as an extra. No one could see me at all. Funny, isn’t it? I suppose styles in actors change just like styles in clothes and plays and things. I wasn’t the type then. Perhaps I am now. That may be it. But if I wasn’t then and I am now—well, I may not be a year from now. Isn’t that logical?”
“A Great Lover?” He Laughs
He laughed when I asked him if he felt himself to be the dangerous, thrilling individual he is on the screen. He just threw back his head and laughed. He laughs a lot. You suspect that his laughter masks embarrassment and uncertainty—uncertainty of just how serious you may be when you talk to him of his potentially brilliant future.
He claims he doesn’t want to have a great roll of money. I really believe that he doesn’t, too. He says, “If I reach the spot you are telling me about, I know what I’ll do—I’ll back out gracefully. I don’t want money, not a great deal of it. I don’t want things. I’m not that type of person at all. I wouldn’t be happy living as some of the stars out here live. I don’t care anything about luxuries and servants and swimming pools and big parties. I wouldn’t fit. I couldn’t handle them. It’s important to me to be happy—in my own way.”
I asked him about women—of course, I told him some of the things that might happen to him if he should approach the stage that Valentino reached. The hysteria of women. The pursuit. The burning curiosity. He said simply, “I should think it would be sort of repulsive.”
He is not a ladies’ man, this dark, new lover. He is timid with women, respectful and courteous. He makes you feel dangerous when you look at him. When you talk with him, you feel comfortable and happy and safe.
He likes men’s things. Especially horses. And boats. And the sea. And guns and pipes and long hikes and the mountains. His favorite author is D.H. Lawrence.
He drives to the beach at four in the morning to see the sunrise and he tells you about sunsets he has seen. He tells you about sunsets with the same ardor you might suppose he would tell you about women.
He doesn’t talk about women at all. He doesn’t seem to be interested. His mind doesn’t run that way.
The Women He Prefers
When I pressed him for an opinion, he said that he liked modern women, self-reliant women, women with minds of their own. He does not like clinging vines or cute little things. He likes a woman you can talk to as you can talk to a man. He also said that he doesn’t care particularly for the sensationally beautiful woman. He pointed out that many of the great loves of the world have been between people of no outstanding beauty. He asked me, relative to this, if I had read “The Savage Messiah,” the new and powerful biography of Van Gogh, the artist.
He doesn’t go to parties. He has to work too hard. In New York, where he played in “Machinial,” “Hawk Island,” “Gambling,” and “Blind Windows,” he worked at night and had the days to himself. Here he works all day, sometimes part of the nights, and would like to know what you can do in between times—except sleep? There haven’t been many idle moments for Clark—not with “The Easiest Way,” “Dance Fools Dance,” “The Secret Six,” “A Free Soul,” “Sporting Blood” and the present Garbo vehicle under his present Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract, as well as “Night Nurse” at Warners, on loan.
His screen chance came overnight—after many nights, he says—when Hollywood saw him on stage as Killer Mears in the prison tragedy, “The Last Mile.”
Once in a lifetime—and maybe twice—there flashes across the screen a man with this strange power. Clark Gable doesn’t know his power yet. The inexplicable sensations he gives you are as inexplicable to him as they are to you or to me. A certain combination of features, a certain look in the eyes, a certain way of carrying the head and using the hands—and a world falls in love with you.
When the world falls in love with Clark Gable—he will run away!
Garbo recognized him. So will you!