What are Clark Gable’s Plans for the Future?
By Francis Kellum
Motion Picture magazine, May 1936
The most colorful chapter in Clark Gable’s life is just ahead of him. Until now, everything has been a prelude. All the struggle, the handicaps, the good fortune and the bad—they have each played a part in shaping the story of a fellow from Cadiz, Ohio, who has become one of the most famous men in the world. And the main part of his life story has only started!
Clark is thirty-two. For the first time, he has money enough for his need. And that need is to see the earth. To go adventuring where things are still untamed as the wind—and free. You have only to look at him these days to realize that Clark is already savoring a thrill-packed future.
“By the time I’m ready to settle down a bit—at fifty or so—I want to have seen every country on the globe and to know the people,” he told me. “But not as a tourist! I want to get out and live among them until I get their slant on life…and then shove off to some other place…This is a spot I’d like to have seen in the early days,” his gesture indicated the atmospheric set around us for San Francisco, the new picture on which he’s working with Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy. The scenes were of San Francisco in the sixties when tall-rigged ships sailed through the Golden Gate and adventure was to be had for the asking.
Clark himself was the one who persuaded MGM to buy the story. “These people lived. They were real. Their hates and loves and ambitions were honest emotions—and they had room to give vent to ‘em!” He grinned a little at his own enthusiasm and lit his five-year-old pipe. Something in his expression told me: Four walls will never hold Clark Gable again. Neither, I think, will any one woman. Some men are born to play a lone hand. They’re the pioneers. And Bill Gable—he’ll always be “Bill” to old Jeff Peters, the guide on the Mono Lake trail, and to the rest of his cronies, everywhere.
“I’m more at home with men than I’ll ever be with women,” he said reflectively, “and of late that’s truer even than it was before. I’m almost afraid to speak to a girl off the screen for fear somebody will say it’s a ‘budding romance’ and spread it all over the newspapers. For myself, it doesn’t matter. But it’s embarrassing for the girl.
“Plans? I have ideas but no definite plans to carry them out. I never make any—because things shape themselves better when I let them alone! Believe me, what success I’ve had has been a surprise package out of the bag. I did have a neat little plan once. It was when I was working in a hit-or-miss stock company in the middle west and I had it all mapped out how to save my money for seven weeks so that I could startle Broadway. But the manager lit out with the company funds in the third week. Since then, I haven’t tried to plan.”
And that’s exactly what makes Clark’s private life as vital and full of action as a Sabatini novel. He acts on the spur of the moment. That trip to Mexico, for instance. There were nine of them on that trip. Besides Gable, there were Leo Carrillo, Jack Conway, the director, and Jack Maddox, aviation executive, and five others. In Mexico, they slept outdoors under brush cactus near Guaymas. The town had insisted on giving them a celebration the evening before, of course. There had been a dance and all the senoritas had palpitated visibly beside their mothers. Gable did his gallant best in taking one after another for a turn on the floor. But, knowing him, I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that he heaved a long sigh of relief when the party was over. In the morning, he forgot to shave. And for nine days thereafter.
The one time when you really get to know a man is when you rough it with him. When the bread gets soggy and ants discover the flour and cactus needles somehow work through leather jackets.
“Nothing bothered Gable,” Leo Carrillo chuckled. “I’ve never seen a man who could take anything in stride with better humor…He’d sit in the duck blind for hours, just watching the birds circling around, sometimes not bothering to fire a gun. Oh, he got his quota of ducks and quail all right. But it was the country that really got him. He was like a kid on a holiday. Give Gable a pipe, a gun, and a pair of boots, turn him loose in the open, and he’s happy. If I had to choose eight people to take with me to a desert isle, Gable would be the first one! Then I’d be sure that life on the island would never be dull with him around. He flicks a finger and things happen. Everything he does is on impulse. From the time he flipped a coin in a restaurant in Texas to see if he’d come back to Hollywood and acting or return to the oil fields, it has been that way. If heads had turned up then, he would probably be building derrick by now! And that flight of his to South America last fall: It was as unpremeditated as the moment when he walked aboard a tramp freighter and headed to Holland. Only that time—in Holland–he was so broke that he had to sit around the dykes, waiting for the ship to sail home,” said Carrillo, reminiscing.
At present, one of Gable’s ideas is to fly the China Clipper across the Pacific as soon as production of San Francisco is completed. Not for a thrill. Merely to give himself extra tour weeks in the Orient. But you can’t tell me. However, when the time comes, ten to one, he’ll hop into a zeppelin and soar over the Atlantic.
That’s William Clark Gable. It’s an exciting thought to find yourself suddenly with the whole globe as your playground! Gable never expected it, of course. Not in ten thousand moons. “I’ve got so much more out of life than I ever dreamed of having,” he says, still a little awestruck at the miracle of it even after five years. “I never wanted much. I don’t today. Possessions only clutter up living for me. That is, if I have a lot of them. They put a restraint on a man that’s hard to break through. Of course, I won a couple of horses. I’ll always have horses. Someday, maybe, I’ll get a small ranch and start raising them.
“At present, though, I’m living in a Beverly Hills hotel. Usually, however, I go for a horseback ride up in the hills before I go to work and I have breakfast at any hamburger stand I come across. After dinner, if I don’t go to a prizefight or show with some of the fellows, I turn in early. I never did shine much as a social light, you know,” Clark added, smiling.
But that isn’t quite accurate. Clark can make a party lively when he wants to do so. However, he’s been to only two social events all winter. Sam Goldwyn’s party, which he attended alone, and the Mayfair ball. He brought Edie Adams, a new contract player, to the latter. Mary Taylor, a Park Avenue photographer’s model, was seen once with Clark last autumn—and given a leading role!
But, as far as real romance is concerned, Clark is not interested in it at the moment. He’s distinctly the type of man who wants to do his own pursuing. Underneath that sophisticated devil-may-care-ness of his are a lot of old fashioned notions, among them the belief that men are still the natural champions of women. He has an innate respect for them, fostered by his stepmother, and he has never lost it. But if he falls in love again, that fact will be carefully sheltered from public attention!
“But this I do know,” said Clark, “I intend to live with a free rein now and always. I’m planning the future with an open mind and I’m going to live every minute of it!”
It will be well worth watching, this next chapter in Gable’s life story!