Gable Speaks Out!
by May Mann
Silver Screen magazine, October 1948
Clark Gable breaks down and answers some of the questions fans and friends are asking.
What does Clark Gable want from life? What does he anticipate? What does he hope for today and plan for his future tomorrow? What is most important to Gable, who professionally is the screen’s most romantic star; who personally is America’s most eligible bachelor?
These are pertinent questions regarding “The King”, whom his intimates term “The Unpredictable”, accustomed to an exciting, exhilarating and adventurous life. What is on Mr. Gable’s mind has been a matter of his own exclusive counsel for too long—up to now.
At Fieldsie and Walter Lang’s big party, Clark arrived with a new and beautiful blonde. The usual buzz that is attendant whenever Clark appears was obvious even in this celebrity circle of guests. It was a full minute before anyone noted that Ann Sothern was the girl. Speculation began. “Is this the new big Gable romance?” His friends are always hopeful. But it was soon determined that this was not “the great love”, but rather two people out for laughs together on a pleasant evening.
“Will he ever fall in love again?” several sighed. “He’s such a great guy, and so alone.” So I decided to find out by directly asking Mr. G. himself.
I closed my eyes and ran the gamut of Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, Brian Donlevy, John Hodiak and Marshall Thompson to reach Gable. They were all working side by side in the new Gable picture, “Command Decision”, at MGM. With concentration on Mr. G, and his problems in life, if any, I managed to signal him away from the group.
“Hi, Sweater Girl. What’s on your mind today?” his greeting was coupled with quick approval. He had a healthy glow, a deep tan, high spirits and an amiability that dared me to say, “You.” Mr. G. laughed.
“Are you so terribly lonely?” I pursued, remembering the lamentations of his friends.
“No, Dear,” his right eyebrow shot up in a whimsical grin. “The only loneliness to descend upon me is the possible loss of my cook. Some friends sampled her chicken and dumplings, and they’ve asked her to work for them.”
Mr. G. then lit a cigarette and settled in the big red leather chair by the door in his dressing room. Noting a pair of newly purchased woolen socks pilling out of a paper sack, he arose, retrieved them and placed them neatly on the dressing table. They were bright blue with a red and tan diamond shaped design. “Some color,” he remarked. He settled back comfortably again in his chair. “They thought she was my regular cook,” he continued, “but she was ‘standing in’ that night, since my regular cook was ill. I said, sure, go ahead take her. This morning my regular cook calls that she may not be coming back.”
“Do you cook?”
“Hardly,” he confessed. “I’m chore boy. Like to get up early and get things going, make fires on camping trips and get things started. But noooo, I don’t say I cook well!”
“What about all those 5,000 proposals that make you the most-proposed-to-man in the world?” I queried.
“Am I?” he fenced, slightly embarrassed, for he’s a very modest man. Then, “I hope there are a few good cooks among them. Now, how is it possible to turn down a lady’s proposal and still be a gentleman? I’ve wondered about that.”
“I’ll propose to you, purely for professional reasons, and we’ll find out by getting your reaction.” I proffered.
Mr. G. met the challenge smoothly, as Gable would. “I wouldn’t have my heart in it,” he replied, “because you wouldn’t have your heart in it.” There are those who say he’d have made a good lawyer.
“I have no intention of getting married—unless.” He stopped, grinned. Unless, of course, he should fall in love.
Astrologically speaking, and without his knowledge, several beautiful and prominent ladies have had Mr. G.’s horoscope charted by leading astrologers. The prediction one disclosed is that Mr. Gable will marry in the Fall of 1948.
“Now that is interesting, very interesting,” he commented. “I am sure I don’t have an answer as to whom the lady might be, I wish I did.”
“Peace of mind is a great thing,” he remarked, changing to a more serious mood. “Once you gain the knowledge of understanding what you really want, then you go after it and there is no problem. Luxury has never been a part of my life. I’m a simple Joe. I like to hang around a garage, tinker with motors and engines in automobiles. Get my hands and face spattered with grease and go without a shave for a day. Now, that’s not romantic, I know, but you asked, and that’s me.”
“I have always wanted an old-fashioned swimming pool on the ranch,” Mr. G. continued. “Just a boyhood dream. In 1939 we had the blue prints drawn. I’ve moved the barn nearer to the house, and we’ve converted it into a bathhouse. The haylofts have been transformed into guest rooms and there’s plenty of room for company. Always have someone whom I knew in the War stopping over.”
The ranch, long reported “for sale”, has never been for sale according to Clark. It was property he discovered on a location jaunt back in 1934, during the filming of his Academy Award picture, “It Happened One Night,” when he and Claudette Colbert were driving from location. “Now, that’s my idea of a real place,” he told Claudette. “I’d like to have the dough to buy a place like that. Far away from Hollywood, and yet close enough to do picture business.”
One day he drove by and there was a “For Sale” sign on it. Next day Gable had acquired the ranch. It will always be the Gable ranch. “I’ll never sell it,” he said.
“There’s a lot to do keeping the place in shape. There’s only one man to run the ranch besides myself, which keeps us both very busy with the repair work necessary to keep it up. “
“Our project last year was to fence in the ranch, the entire twenty acres. I was elected to do the fencing in,” Clark said. “And we have just completed putting in a sprinkling system. The flowers and gardens are beautiful once more. I’ve imported rose bushes from Canada and Oregon.”
Clark’s friends are quite accustomed to receiving flowers from Clark—handpicked and delivered in person. Dozens of the, along with baskets of oranges, lemons and grapefruit. Mr. G. is quite the country squire. Most of the improvements have been put in by the sweat of Gable’s own back as well as his brow. It’s his own handiwork. He loves working with the soil.
An oft-repeated Gable story, told by Fieldsie Lang (she was Carole Lombard’s secretary) concerns a tourist bus which trespassed on Gable’s ranch one day. Clark, unshaven, with the sweat melting off his back under the broiling sun and wearing some faded dungarees and an old slouch hat pulled over his brow, was digging a ditch when the bus loaded with neck-craning tourists drove around the bend of the road. There was no escape for the great Gable. He stuck his head down and continued his ditch digging, while the bus driver exploited the wonders of seeing it first hand, the home of Clark Gable.
“We’ll make this a regular feature of our trip,” he announced over the mike. “We’ll have Gable out here to greet you.” At that, the man, now down knee-deep in mud, muddled under his breath, but no one recognized the “ranch hand”.
Nothing was said. The bus was not reported for trespassing but the next day, Clark was down the road erecting a gate so no further invasions of privacy were possible. It’s indicative of Gable. No protests, no harsh reprimand, just quiet but immediate action to remedy the situation himself.
He has chickens. Several hundred Cornish hens that he has required from chef Joseph Milani, who personally taught Clark how to cook them. His ranch produced a bumper crop of tomatoes. “The cook bottled enough sauce to paint the entire city of Los Angeles red,” he said. Stewed tomatoes cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen is a treasured boyhood memory.
“I get four months between each picture. That’s when I do my traveling, hunting and fishing. I have a great spot up in Oregon on the Rogue River. I am building a cabin up near the rapids. Great steelhead and salmon that don’t need too much coaxing, that’s for me. Plenty of life out of doors out of doors under the sun, and,” he added, “the nights are great.”
“I like roughing it. Sometimes wonder why everyone makes such a project of making money, when it’s the things that money can’t buy that most of us want. Guess it’s the challenge to our ego and sense of achievement.”
Mr. G.’s restlessness is evidenced on the completion of a picture, for he is on the move to one part of the country or another. Perhaps he’s running away from memories, perhaps he’s hoping to find something—someone to fill that wifeless void in his life. Al Menasco, a Los Angeles automobile man, is often his companion on these jaunts. They are off to the auto races in Indianapolis, or to New York to see the plays, or to Mexico or Arizona for mountain lions.
Clark was called back on the set and Jack Conway, who has directed him in several pictures, sauntered by. We talked about Gable.
“His friends agree that he needs companionship most,” Mr. Conway admitted. “Someday he’ll find it but only when the right woman comes along. He’s a man’s man, a good storyteller, loves to sing around a campfire; ‘Oklahoma Joe’, and a few other numbers he knows. But you’ll notice Gable only talks when he has something to say. He’s thoughtful of his father and he’s thoughtful of his friends. Sends flowers to his dinner hostesses, keeps up his correspondence, and is always ready to help others solve their problems, always has time to listen too.”
I notice Mr. Gable’s dressing room. The same knotty pine walled portable he’s had for years, with the English hunter prints on the walls. A bottle of men’s cologne, a box of peppermints, a box of white handkerchiefs, the paper bag of newly purchased woolen socks, a Rolofex, an encyclopedia on sports, a road and track magazine, a pitcher of ice water. Those he had placed for the day’s comfort. He has an admitted sweet tooth and is frequently seen stocking up on such sweets and paper thin chocolate peppermints and the farmer’s market. He’s rarely seen eating out because he loves dining at home. Apple dumplings are his favorite dessert.
Clark returned. “No, I don’t have any ambitions along the line of producing or directing pictures. Or—“he paused as his attention was attracted to a pretty girl passing his dressing room door. Definitely, he has an eye for beauty, dating such beauties as Virginia Grey, Anita Colby and the socialite Dolly O’Brien. He plays the field, as a bachelor would who has no ties or emotional entanglements.
“What I want from life,” he became thoughtful, “is what everyone wants—peace of mind, good health, a share of this world’s goods, friends—“ And he paused for a bit, “companionship. I’m not different from anyone else, for that’s what everyone wants.” With a grin he added, “A great picture would help, one like Test Pilot or It Happened One Night, and a date with a beautiful girl, and if I’m lucky enough to find—“ He left it that way, but he meant love of course, where he’ll find it, time will tell.
The other night he walked into Mocambo evidently expecting to meet a friend. Four girls left their dancing partners and ran for Gable.
And what did Mr. G. do? He ran too, the other way, to his car in safety!
But give him time!