Gable: Things We Like About Clark
By Sara Hamilton
Photoplay magazine, April 1941
His naturalness. His complete simplicity. The fact he never fails to greet or know the least of his acquaintances under any or all circumstances; the way he laughs at himself—these are things we like about Clark Gable.
In a town of slam and sham, his un-Hollywoodness stands out like a carbuncle on Durante’s nose. He won’t be made a hero, a glamour boy or a movie-star touch-me-not. He’s Clark, not Mr. Gable, to practically everyone on the lot from the janitor to Louis B. Mayer—and you can bet the janitor, the grip, the prop, get the same treatment from Gable as the higher-ups. Without any condescending, understand. Or any feeling of being a good scout with the underdog. He’s just one of ‘em, this former oil driller, lumberjack, telephone wire-man.
For instance, there’s the dressing-room trailer he uses on each set. If Gable can get in it, he’s lucky. It’s usually filled with everyone else on the lot. One day during a hot football game, Clark rushed from a scene to his trailer radio to listen to the game.
“No room, no room,” the gang yelled, without even turning around to see who it was. So, nothing daunted, Clark made for his car outside the stage door and listened to the game on the car radio. No one, including Gable, saw anything unusual in a big star’s being shoved out of his own domain. It goes on all the time.
Look at the possessions in that trailer. Are they Gable’s? Could that be his teapot, for instance? Or could those dainty biscuits inside the dressing-table drawers be Mr. He-man Gable’s? Forget it; they belong to his stand-in and makeup man. They use Clark’s trailer for coffee-making in the morning (you should see that pot) and tea-brewing in the afternoon. “Making, coffee,” they’ll yell at Gable, if he pokes his nose anywhere near the door and he’ll grin and go somewhere else.
“Look at them,” Gable will smile, as the boys fish in the drawers that should hold make-up and don’t, to bring out dainty cookies. “Mr. Campbell poured,” he’ll taunt the make-up man. Deah, deah, deah.”
And will you tell me what that makeup man is doing in the joint, er–pardon us–place, with Gable never permitting one smear of goo on that pan?
Well, Clark likes to have him around; just to hear him say, oh, maybe once a day, “Hey, Clark, better comb your hair.”
“I never had one of those facial things in my life,” Clark says, “and never have a barber shave me.” So when the hairdresser yells, “Hey, Clark, comb your hair,” Clark pulls out the comb and goes to it right where he is.
We like his readiness to praise others in sports in which he himself excels. Try getting him to talk about skeet shooting, for instance, at which he’s a top-rater. He’ll start right in to tell you how good Fred MacMurray is or how Bob Stack can outshine everyone in every kind of sport.
And this hunting business that he loves, an item that is the delight of every Hollywood columnist who gets a kick out of reporting his various treks into the wilds. Do you think Gable will let himself have too much, even there? Oh, now mind, he does go, loves the rough-and-ready sport; but when pressed about it he’ll confess that along about noon he gets pretty tired and lets the other fellows go on while he climbs into the station wagon or gets under a tree and sleeps like no log you’ve ever seen. You can’t make a hero or a big he-man out of him, we tell you. He’s just an ordinary guy, like everybody else. For that alone, we’re crazy over him.
He’ll shatter that “smartest star in pictures” legend, too. With other stars raving over the smart way Clark has handled his career, he’ll shrug and ask what the . . . we mean, he doesn’t quite know what they’re talking about. For what he’s done really is to tend to his acting department and let the studio take care of their several departments. “I figure those fellows in the publicity department must know their jobs or they wouldn’t be there,” he says, “so I take their advice and play ball. When I was on that South American jaunt several years ago (the grin widened at the memory), I got a bit careless and let a cameraman snap me with several pretty girls and my shoes off—for comfort.” The grin grew even wider. “Several days later I got a wire from Howard Strickling, publicity head, saying, ‘Glad you’re having a wonderful time but keep your shoes on you blankety-blank-blank.’
“I kept them on after that,” he howled. Of course, that message from Howard, when translated into the “South American fandango,” meant “Behave yourself, kid.” Clark behaved.
When they wired him in New York to get out of New York and back to Hollywood, again he obeyed. Of course, he practically ruined the nervous system of one middle-aged New York housewife (who is still regarded suspiciously by members of her set) by doing it, but he did it even if the only exit he could make from the mob was by the basement and up through the freight elevator that rises, like a genie from a bottle, out of the sidewalk.
The unexpected sight of Clark Gable, of all people, rising slowly out of the sidewalk before her startled eyes was too much for the above-mentioned lady. She’s never been the same; imagines Gable is following her all the time.
In the matter of stories that can make or break a star, Gable exercises common sense that more than wins our admiration. He has the guts to stand up and argue against a story that he feels is not for him. “But I do all my fighting before the camera begins to grind,” he says. Once he – says he’ll do it, he gives it all- he’s got.
We like his businessman attitude toward his work with no temperamental, nervous quibbling over scenes. He claims he has no good or bad side to his face. Shoot him upside down and it’s okay by Gable. He never looks at the day’s rushes, going on the assumption the director and cameramen also know their jobs or they wouldn’t be there. His favorite remark after a scene he hasn’t felt sure of is, “Boy, did I ham that up!”
He’s a lambie-pie and no kidding. We admire Gable’s zest for life and living, which is so vital to a man or woman. We like the kick, the enormous bang, he gets out of pranks and jokes, usually played on “Mrs. G.”, as he always calls his wife Carole Lombard, such as his painting a sign on their station wagon: “The Lombard Moving Van,” because she packed so many things for their last hunting jaunt. And that calliope wagon with monstrous banners announcing, “Culver City Welcomes Carole Lombard” when Carole moved down there for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
More than anything else, we hand it to Clark Gable for the way he can take it, too, getting almost as big a kick out of being the butt of a gag as the promoter. For instance, the day a studio car driver, during the making of “Boom Town,” hailed him, “How you like working in Spencer Tracy’s picture, Clark?” was a banner day for him. He told it all over the place and when he discovered Tracy
had bribed the fellow to say it, he died. The “Remember ‘Parnell'” gag that always flies up in his face never fails to get guffaws from Gable. And the day he and Carole drove up to the sheriff’s barbecue in Bakersfield (he’s always turning up in places like that) and some local yokel remarked, “Why, that guy’s ears are bigger than mine.” It tickled Clark so, he couldn’t wait to get back to the studio to tell it.
Yes, sir, he’s some big boy and every honest regular thing about him, we say we like Clark Gable. But, then, who in Hollywood doesn’t?