Gable! The Movies Saved Him!
By Ben Maddox
Screenland magazine, 1932
Here is that NEW slant on Clark you have been waiting to read! It’s refreshing—inspiring
“Just like a story book!”
That’s the way Clark Gable describes his present life. It is lavish with happiness. Love, fame, and financial security—everything for which he has schemed and struggled for years is his.
He is being rushed from one epic to another these days. If he isn’t in the cinematic embraces of La Harlow or Helen Hayes, he’s preparing to yearn at Joan Crawford.
I found him getting torchy with the platinum-haired Jean. They were putting the polish on a super-hot love sequence in “He Was Her Man,” for the ultimate benefit of we who, along with Mae West, appreciate the elemental thrills.
“You hear a lot about stardom bring disillusionment and discontent,” he told me when he came off the set after the first “take” was finished, and the director, cameramen, and electricians began the usual mysterious conferring that goes on lengthily between shots.
“I’ve read many of those touching tales of how Hollywood ruins the lives of the people it favors. How the lucky pay and pay for their brief moment in the spotlight!
“Personally, my fate has been very different. Instead of upsetting my equilibrium and wrecking my private affairs, Hollywood has literally saved me!”
The engaging Gable grin, that healthy, generous smile which spontaneously lights up his handsome face, gradually faded as he became utterly serious. Thoroughly sincere, Clark does not talk of his current good fortune in a shallow manner.
“The movies have rescued me from a life of unhappiness. I was blue and discouraged when I had to lead a humdrum, commonplace existence. When I had to work at whatever was at hand. When I was only an extra and even when I was playing leads on Broadway.
“I dreamed of doing exactly what I am doing now. And I had to suppress those desires for fear of being laughed at! Hollywood has sky-rocketed me into a glamorous, exciting atmosphere and I’m one actor who doesn’t want to get away from it all.
“It’s an artificial life here, no doubt. But a person with an inherent theatrical streak thrives on beautiful illusions!”
He mused silently for a moment.
“Remember I once was a time-keeper in a rubber factory in Ohio! I worked in the Oklahoma oil fields and heaved logs in Washington. To say nothing of collecting for classified ads and for the telephone company on Portland, Oregon. That’s when I felt low!”
That Clark has retained his common sense is the most surprising thing about him to me. Especially since his individual brand of masculine appeal registers as strongly in person as on the screen and the local girls-about-town have pursued him diligently. With admirable modesty he appears oblivious to the effect he creates.
“It seems to me that the stars whose lives are ‘spoiled’ by Hollywood are responsible themselves for their troubles. I think they ‘pay’ for their prominence so gravely that they let it make a mess of their personal conduct.”
Acclaimed universally as today’s most romantic male, Clark is human enough to be secretly pleased with winning applause. But not for one minute is he deluded by the passionate adulation.
“I can’t kid myself,” he continued after the director had put him through another flaming scene with Jean. (If you get a wallop from their film embraces in your favorite theatre, you ought to come around and see ‘em sometime—on the set. When Gable emotes with Harlow, sex marks the spot!)
“I can’t begin to explain how much I appreciate my luck. It’s a break that comes to few, this chance to live a story-book life. And I’m trying my best to prove worthy of the interest the fans have shown in me.
“But I realize perfectly that this popularity won’t go on forever. That keeps me from worshipping my career above all else. The day will materialize when my so-called vogue will be over. How long do I expect to last?” He shrugged his shoulders. Probably meaning, as Miss Garbo would tersely put it, “Who can tell?”
Clark declared he is positive that he is no wonder-man and that since he knows it he’ll never acquire the idea that he’s indispensable.
“That’s the complex which drives stars haywire. They believe the flatterers and are finally convinced they are ‘immortals.’ When they make all sorts of foolish sacrifices to preserve their ‘fame.’ No wonder some of them are miserable in the midst of all their plenty!”
Holding on to his stardom when the tide has turned is one thing he plans not to do.
“When the studio long-term contracts are no longer available I’ll return to the stage. I couldn’t sit idly by twiddling my thumbs, of course. I’ll never attempt a ‘come-back’ in pictures. It’s my theory that you should ride the crest of the wave and then quit. Stars who hang on deliberately seek unhappiness!
“However, a star should argue for good roles. Parts break as well as make. While you can’t avoid all the wrong parts, you can object so forcefully that they’ll be relatively few and far between. MGM has treated me very kindly on this score.”
The chances of staying permanently married have proved plenty slim for a movie star. Yet, in Clark’s opinion, we are wrong in blaming Hollywood. The town doesn’t ruin love, nor does the profession of acting. The persons themselves are wholly responsible.
“Love is really the most important thing in life.” The set was a madhouse of confusion and a half dozen tourists had just been ushered in to gaze wide-eyed at Clark and Jean. He went on unperturbed.
“Certainly it is with me. With the right wife a man is ready to face anything. He is one hundred percent alive. Vibrant! Why should business—and acting’s merely that—interfere with love?”
Note this, gossips!
“I haven’t had to fight any baleful Hollywood influence as regards my own marriage. On the contrary. Hollywood has been a good experience for Mrs. Gable and myself. It has brought us even closer together, if that were possible.
“Now that I have a contract and don’t have to worry about where my next job is coming from, I have more time to spend with her. Also, I have the money to do the pleasant things for her which I always wished to do. And couldn’t. We recently moved to a larger and nicer home, to give a specific example.”
It is a beautiful place of Early American architecture. Curiously, the Gables chose the same quiet Brentwood Heights street on which Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, and Helen Twelvetrees reside. These four top-notchers reside within two blocks of each other.
“We enjoy social life. Hollywood has give us the opportunity of making friends with many fascinating, brilliant people. They are stimulating company and we like to entertain and to visit them. These are contacts which I, not so long ago, couldn’t have made.”
Because he is such a congenial fellow, Clark is as well-liked by men as the women. Mrs. Gable, a charming sophisticate, won her reputation as a clever hostess in the smart circles of New York City. So an invitation to the Gables’ is a prize.
I think a significant fact about Clark is worth commenting upon. He looks and lives as we imagine a movie star would. At premieres and our best parties he cuts a striking figure. Weekends when he’s not working find him at Del Monte, Palm Springs or Agua Caliente.
Superficially he is the spirit of Hollywood. And yet he is absolutely natural, unaffected. He, more than any other of the male stars, is exposed to the supposed evils of the movie world. Yet what has happened?
Surrounded by would-be-willing women, he has eyes for his wife alone. Paid a large salary, he lives comfortably but not extravagantly. Faced with unlimited occasions of making hey-hey, he remains decent and respectable. Can it be that Hollywood has been horribly slandered? That it has been the magnificent alibi for less self-respecting actors?
With the third “take” of the same love scene okayed by the director, Clark said goodbye to his partner in picture passion for the afternoon and walked off the stage with me. (Did I get jealous glances from the tourists, or did I? I did!!
“I needn’t go into detail as to how Hollywood has saved me financially,” he added as we headed for his dressing room. “In Portland, oregano, I once played a week with a cooperative stock troupe. We gave fourteen performances and everybody shared in the profits. My total pay for the week was $1.30!
“There have been similar sad chapters in my past. Strange, isn’t it, that the ‘good old days’ were the darkest ones for me! Naturally I’m glad to be doing so well with my wages now. I’m saving a sizeable proportion, too, for when my movie era ends the big salary stops with a bang.”
“How about your fondness for sports?” I asked. “You weren’t able to indulge so extensively before the movies’ magic wand was waved, were you?”
“Check up one more blessing from this grand city,” he retorted with a gay flourish of both husky arms. “I’d always wanted to have my own horse, to play polo, golf and tennis. And I was too busy working until my break in the talkies. As soon as I could afford it, I rushed to take lessons from experts.”
He-man supreme on the screen, Clark is equally masculine in reality and he excels in these gentlemanly games today. Nevertheless, he still prefers hunting to the tamer sports. He particularly likes to explore the wilds of Utah and Mrs. Gable accompanies him on these back-to-nature excursions. I’ve a suspicion he has designs on the lions in darkest Africa!
I left him at the door of his dressing room. By the time I was a few yards away, he popped out again and was racing for his twelve-cylinder roadster. I’d forgotten that he is the one male star who wears no make-up. Why should he dabble for an hour with a jar of cold cream? He had no grease-paint or troubles to remove!