Our Home, Our Work… and Children
by Ruth Waterbury
Movie Mirror magazine, November, 1939
They are very much settled down in the ranch house in Van Nuys these days, are Carole and Clark Gable.
Their dogs are there and their horses and Clark has finally, after several false starts, got together the herd of cows he wants. Carole is still picking up an occasional early American antique to put in this room or that, but, generally speaking, the Gables have their design for living all worked out.
Because that is true, it can be told now about the ideal by which they are living. Because, while you might not expect it of two such worldly, laughing, highly successful people, they are both idealists about this marriage of theirs and they want by every trick of intelligence and love and consideration to make it last until death do them part.
I had gone over to Metro one morning for the ostensible purpose of talking to Clark about Rhett Butler and Gone with the Wind. Clark came in, wearing jodhpurs and a shirt open at the throat, looking handsomer than I have ever seen him. He was much thinner and very tanned and his happiness was so visible that you could have seen it at fifty paces on a pitch-black night. He always talks easily, of course, but this day he was positively eloquent on the subject of the love he felt Rhett Butler had had for Scarlett O’Hara and why he, Clark, had felt that lived had died in Rhett and made him an old man at forty-five. He said it really did break a man’s spirit to love a woman completely and then discover, as Rhett did, that she was selfish and a fool. He said a man of Rhett’s type couldn’t continue to love unless his mind, as well as his emotions, was held captive, and that he believed it was the mind, and not the heart, that made love last.
“Does that go for Gable as well as Butler?” I asked.
“That goes all the way for Gable,” said Public He-Man Number One. “I don’t know and I’ve never heard of anyone who does know just how much of love is mental rather than physical, but speaking entirely for myself I know it is never love for me unless there is mental attraction in it. Carole is the best business woman I know, plus being the finest hostess, the cleverest manager and the best sport ever, all of which adds up to a lot of girl.” He looked down at me from those amazingly blue eyes of his. His voice became suddenly more alive, charged with emotion and enthusiasm. ‘Listen,” he said and I listened; that is how this story, which neither of them ever intended to tell, this story about the marriage code of Clark and Carole, came about.
You know, certainly, the history of the nutsy courtship of Lombard and Gable: about hams with his photographs pasted on it and white flivvers painted with bleeding hearts and cast-iron life-sized statues that they two exchanged as idiotic gifts. You know, also, the more serious side of it: about how long Clark had to wait for his freedom and with what quiet grace Carole, who was visibly in love, bore herself during those trying months.
But up until now they have not talked at all for publication since that afternoon late last March when they drive quietly out of Hollywood to the little city in the hunting district that Clark likes so much, Kingman, Arizona, and there got as unobtrusively married as their fame would permit. That day they became Mr. and Mrs., husband and wife, but in no sense did Clark then become lord and master and in an even lesser sense did Carole become helpmate and slave. The point is that neither one of them is looking up to or down upon the other. They are on the level with one another and you may interpret that in as many ways as you may desire; every one of them will be okay and true with the Gables.
For the ideal on which they are founding their marriage is that they shall be on a basis of equality with one another, on a single standard. Henceforth and forever they hope to live on a fifty-fifty basis, two free souls, neither giving nor receiving.
They have, for example, discussed the matter of their incomes with one another. Too much money breaks up almost as many homes as too little. The California Community Property Law is pretty fearsome in its action. Carole and Clark don’t intend to get wrecked on those shoals. Before they were wed, they were both making personal fortunes. That is the way the intend to continue, the movie companies and their popularity co-operating. Just because their lives are united, they see no wisdom in their incomes following suit. They are not talking of founding one big fortune for two with all the dangers of arguments and quarrels that might entail. They plan to go right on making two smaller, individual fortunes.
Clark purchased the ranch at Van Nuys. He felt that was a husband’s duty; but, when it comes to living expenses, each of them pays half. Carole pays for her own clothes and provides her own spending money. Clark does likewise. What she saves or spends out of her income remains her business and what Clark does with his money remains his. They each have individual bank accounts, in separate banks.
“There is nothing holding me and Carole together but love,” Clark said, disposing of this money business.
The second big item they had to discuss was two careers in one family. They have both been around Hollywood long enough to know what a source of trouble that can be, but their plan about it has so much sanity, such obvious thought of each other’s interests, that it is merely another declaration of their love. They were, for instance, unable to take a honeymoon right after their marriage because Clark was working still on Gone with the Wind. Just about as he finished, Carole started on In Name Only. That staggering of their working time is the only thing concerning their careers that they permit themselves to discuss together. As nearly as studio schedules will allow, they will arrange their productions so that only one of them will be working at a time. After all, each of them makes only two pictures a year, so they think they can juggle that. If they can, it will mean one nerve-relaxed partner at home to comfort the studio-fatigued other half.
Other than that, there’s no “picture talk” at the ranch, no story discussions, no casting problems raised and settled. The decisions Clark makes about what pictures to play in will be his. The decisions Carole makes about her pictures will be hers.
“But how will you feel if Carole should make more successful pictures that you and thus earn the most money?” I asked.
“Heck, Carole makes more money than I do right now,” said Mr. Gable. “What of it?”
“Why, you actually do feel that a woman can live her own life and be an equal around you.”
“I always have,” Clark said. “It’s a dumb guy who is flattered by the girl he goes with being a half-wit. I’m dumb in plenty of ways, but all baby talk from a girl does to me is get in my hair. I want none of it–and I’ll certainly never get any from Carole. That one’s right in there with the brain every minute.
“The big idea is that Carole and I are two individuals. There’s no phony baloney between us, none of that mystery routine, none of that so-called allure. Don’t forget that with us make-believe is something we do all day at the studio, a way of making our livings. We need none of that at home. We’ve got every worthwhile interest in common, our home, the country, our work.”
“And children?” I asked.
“You bet. There’s been a story published to the effect that we expect to adopt some. That’s not true. We’ll have our own. When they come, of course, our present scheme of living will necessarily change and I’ll bear all the financial burdens, but until then Carole and I live as free personalities. If that sounds as though we were, either of us, seeking too much freedom in marriage, I can honestly say we’ve found it works out just the opposite. When i want to do something Carole doesn’t want to do–like going on a hunting trip, say–I’ve discovered, the few times I’ve tried it, that without her it’s no fun. I want to do the things she wants to do, not alone to make her happy, but because sharing them with her actually makes me happier. Carole says it’s that way with her, too. She is happiest doing what I want to do. Maybe that’s what love really is: getting your greatest pleasure out of doing what the other desires and liking the fact that your thinking of the other guy’s happiness just makes you happier than insisting upon your own. At any rate, that’s the standard Carole and I have set for our marriage. What’s more, you wait and see,” said Mr. Gable. “We’ll make it stick.”
“I believe you will,” I said. And I really do believe it, don’t you?