One of the most intriguing of Clark’s female companions was the beautiful Virginia Grey. She made her film debut in 1927 at the age of ten. She worked steadily through the 1930’s and 40’s, usually cast as the chorus girl, sister or friend of the main star, even making a small appearance as a disgruntled
girlfriend of Clark’s in Test Pilot. Notably, she was cast as one of “Les Blondes”, the troop of blonde back-up dancers Clark toured with in Idiot’s Delight. It is a well-known story that Carole Lombard caught one of the blondes flirting with Clark and demanded, “Get that bitch out of here or I’ll take Gable out!” That girl was supposedly fired. Little did Carole know she wasn’t the one she should be concerned about. It is not known whether or not the romance with Virginia started before Carole’s death.
Not much is known about their actual courtship because Virginia refused to speak about him in interviews. And Clark was tight lipped as always. In 1949 Virginia made one comment to a reporter who asked her about Clark’s moodiness: “He’s lonely. Everybody tries to tell him what to do, how to run his life, what pictures to make. His nature makes him listen to everybody, and weigh things carefully. The result is that he’s been stung and stung bad a few times, so he tries to withdraw.”
Virginia seemed to be a calming influence on Clark. While Clark was away at war, Carole’s beloved dachshund, Commissioner, had died. She bought him another, that he named Rover. The gossip columns of the day listed sightings of them dancing at nightclubs, dining in secluded corners of restaurants and zooming around town. They all predicted that she would be the next Mrs. Gable.
They were wrong. According to her friends, no one was more shocked than Virginia when Clark married Sylvia Ashley in December of 1949. “They were always on again, off again,” confided a friend, “but she always assumed one day they would be ‘on again’ for good.” Virginia was heartbroken and bitterly referred to Sylvia as “Lady Ashcan” in private.
Clark’s marriage to Sylvia proved to be a mistake and soon after their divorce, he came around to Virginia again. She still loved him but couldn’t bring herself to be hurt again and sent him away, for good.
Virginia never married. Supposedly this is because Clark was “the love of her life” and she never got over him.
She continued to work in pictures and later, television, retiring in 1970. Living the remainder of her life in California, she died in 2004 at the age of 87.