Screen Album, Summer Edition 1940
Doerfler, Dillon, Langham, Lombard—that’s Gable’s true life story in four words—four women. Three of these women are bitter. One terribly happy. Three were stepping stones. The fourth—a goal…Franz Doerfler was playing stock in Portland when 22-year-old Billy (Clark’s real name) joined her troupe. “Billy was a terribly nervous boy,” says Franz. “The sweat broke out all over his face when he had to memorize lines.” When the company broke up, Billy and Franz, penniless, dug clams for food. Billy had nothing to offer Franz but his loneliness. Franz stuck…But when things began to look up, when Billy had given a successful song recital at the Hotel Portland, he realized overnight he didn’t care for her anymore.
He had met Josephine Dillon, dramatic coach. They married. He was 24—she 34. For seven years Billy traveled with his teacher-wife, learning to act learning to be Clark Gable…Then he met Ria Langham, Kentucky widow, eleven years older than himself, mother of two children. About Clark’s second marriage, Josephine made this simple, declarative statement: “Clark is a double Dutchman. He left me because Ria had more money!”…Lionel Barrymore, then directing for MGM, gave Clark a screen-test. Since then, Clark has had no money worries…He left Ria in ’35, after four years of marriage.
It was in ’36 that Carole Lombard first piqued Clark’s interest by having herself carried to one of Jock Whitney’s parties in a stretcher. Theirs was a Hollywood romance—in gag time. When Ria finally have Clark his divorce, they married. Ironically, moneyed Ria was awarded a $286,000 property settlement…The Lombard-Gable merger looks permanent. Each of Clark’s first loves had what he needed at the time. Now he needs fun, and Carole’s full of it. What’s more, she hunts and knows farming from sweet peas to manure…Considering Clark’s seven-year contract for $250,000 a year, their $16,000 living expenses are modest. A cook, a butler and maid run a house whose most interesting feature is a bathtub-bar combination. Clark can afford to be good-natured nowadays, and he is. A kid held up the Gable home one morning. Clark disarmed the boy, then refused to press charges. He and Carole got a rich laugh out of the desperado’s having slept the night in Clark’s garage, guarded by Clark’s “fierce” watch-dog…A minister in Clark’s home state, Ohio, once offered up a prayer for his reformation. Carole Lombard has reformed him—into a happy guy…And nights, when memories of his women haunt him, he can always say, “Shucks, weren’t they loved by Gable?”