The Clark Gable I Photograph
By Jack Albin
Screen Guide, October 1940
Screen Guide’s ace cameraman, Jack Albin, is on familiar terms with Hollywood’s celebrities, adept at catching the phonies off guard and the regular guys and gals at their most natural. His view of Gable shows why the big boy won the election.
Stack all the he-men in Hollywood end to end, and in my opinion it still takes five to match Clark Gable.
The first time I ever saw Gable was at the old Troc, with his former wife, Ria. He wasn’t too friendly with photogs, due to the fact that one of them had made himself obnoxious. This particular photographer had been trying to “red apple” Clark, hanging around his table until Gable finally blew up, snapped, “My very good friend, you blanket-blank-so-and-so, give me a rest!”
In other words, Gable likes all cards on the table. He’ll make his own friends in due time and a line of baloney won’t make anyone his bosom pal.
A great change came over Gable when he met Carole Lombard. In her, he apparently found someone exactly like himself. For a long time they dodged photographers. But once their romance was discovered, they were very nice, never tried to duck. I made the first photo of them together, at the midget auto races. Since then, I have shot them separately and together more than 300 times.
After their marriage, they went into seclusion again, seldom go out in public. On rare occasions they have been seen at the tennis matches and at the races. I’ve shot them there, but never found out how much or how little Gable and Carole bet. It’s probably no more than a $5 ticket. They’re a pretty sensible pair, these two.
Gable has the same attitude about his home that he has maintained about his marriage—a decent amount of reticence, but no fake “hermit” pose. At one time he has a hideaway in the San Fernando Valley, where he lived without either his studio or the press knowing about it. As soon as I discovered the right location, I found that every kid in the neighborhood knew that Gable lived in “that house behind the bushes.” I knew I had spotted the exact place when I got a picture of his dog, through the fence. A maid told me to get off the premises. I did—after I got the pictures.
It took just as much detective work to get a long view of his ranch home. No one knew where it was. I found that it was the land formerly owned by Raoul Walsh, the director, got it located, but discovered that the grounds were almost inaccessible. Finally I climbed up on a hill a block away and managed to hey a picture showing the top of the house and a couple of his horses. Guards kept me from getting on the property.
Today all I have to do is call up and come on over. There is still a sign on the gate that says “No Trespassing,” but if you were inside the gate, talking to Gable and Lombard as a friend, not as an insurance salesman or somebody with a “mission,” you’d agree that this guy would take first place on anybody’s popularity poll.
Sometimes a photog will make a screwy shot Gable isn’t too crazy about. Naturally he doesn’t like to be show to disadvantage. On such occasions, instead of getting touch, Gable looks at the culprit, growls, “Get him!” But he knows the photog has a job to do and never asks that a picture be killed.
A good businessman, he is publicity-conscious without being a publicity seeker. The stories of his hunting and fishing, going away where he can let his beard grow, are true—not Hollywood hokum.
Hold a vote among photographers and Gable would come up every time as the most popular he-man—unanimously, save for the one photog who still talks against him. That’s a happy situation. I’d be suspicious of a man who “didn’t have an enemy in the world.” Gable doesn’t peddle bottles of scotch to win friends and influence people.