Two Happy People Part 4
By James Street
Movie and Radio Guide, May 18-24, 1940
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard take marriage seriously—that’s why theirs is a success!
In previous issues, James Street has given his impressions of Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, has described their home and the manner in which they live. In this, the final installment of “Two Happy People,” he explains why their marriage is a solid one, reveals the intimate little things each has brought to what may be considered one of the most glamorous, and sensibly happy, unions in Hollywood.—Editor
Clark Gable’s favorite topic of conversation is Carole Lombard and her favorite topic is Gable. And that’s why we feel justified in calling this man and his wife two happy people.
If they are not happy, then they are better performers at home than on the screen. In Hollywood, where gossiping is a profession and scandal-mongering is a craft, the Gables have been spared the darts that usually are hurled at the folks who live in the goldfish bowls of Graustark.
Before their marriage? Well, that’s another story, and let the dead past bury its dead. The important thing is that the crown prince and the court jester of the fantastic realm, where the caste system makes India seem democratic, are leading happy, normal lives and are proving that it can happen here.
The wise boys who are connected with the propaganda agencies of Graustark will lay odds-on against the happy marriage of two stars. One of the stars must take a back seat, they insist, or else their professional jealousies will clash.
The Gables are old enough, smart enough and experienced enough in marital adventures to know that professional jealousy is the biggest barrier to their happiness.
Without doubt, Miss Lombard is determined to keep pace with her husband in stardom. Miss Lombard apparently has no intention of leaving the screen and settling down with a dish-cloth in one hand and a diaper-pin in the other. However, she is trying, and apparently successfully, to make her life—that is, her personal life—fit into the Gable pattern.
Clark Gable is very much the master of the manor, and Carole Lombard is the wife who sees to his needs, bosses him just a bit without letting him know that he is being bosses, and is his sidekick at play.
Mrs. Gable is one of the smartest women I’ve ever met. She is no child-bride, and now that she has what she wants she seems determined to keep it. If her husband wants to do something—say, play a game she doesn’t know—she will learn the game. She is not taking any chances on anybody else hunting and riding with her husband.
And Gable loves it that way. They really have fun together. Some folks say that all the capers they cut together are acts, publicity baits thrown out for the suckers. That is absurd. Of course, they act even when they are not before the camera. It is only natural. It is impossible for natural actors to stop acting the minute the whistle blows. Does a banker cease being at banker at 3:00pm? Does a writer cease being a writer when his story is finished? Acting is a profession with the Gables and they live their work all of the time. That’s why it’s impossible for Miss Lombard to retire and devote all of her time to wifing. You might as well ask Jim Farley to quit politics.
She is proud of her success and her ability. Gable says he’s going to quit when he is assured of ten thousand a year for life. Perhaps she will retire when he does. But I have the feeling that these people will be on the screen as long as the public wants them. Energetic, ambitious folks like the Gables simply do not work and fight to get to the top and then retire gracefully and go to their little blue heaven where the vines twine around the door and hand, hand in hand, walk down the twilight trail together. It’s very romantic, but it seldom happens.
In public, Mrs. Gable talks about her husband; not boastfully, but naturally. She’ll often say, “The old man thinks so and so.” Or “Mr. G. had a lot of fun yesterday building some thingamajig in his workshop.”
Mr. Gable never fails to mention his wife during a conversation. He will say, “Mrs. G. sold six dozen eggs yesterday.” Or “Carole is doing pretty well with her golf lessons.”
He never fails to rise when she enters the room, and he often compliments her on her clothes and the way she does her hair. He’s a smart husband. If they are in a crowd, he always manages to toss a modest little compliment her way. Carole Lombard may be glamour from her lightning tongue to her beautiful feet, but she’s all woman, and women glow when their husbands compliment them.
Don’t get the idea that Mrs. Gable plays second fiddle to her husband. She is an individualist and their marriage is a partnership.
They are not social lights in Hollywood, where society is a scrambled institution and so clannish that it makes New York’s Four Hundred (or is that four thousand?) look like a gang of clam-diggers. Neither are the Gables the most popular couple in Hollywood. Nor the best dressed. They are not the “best” or “most” anything, and are content to sit at their farm, where life unfolds itself interestingly, and watch the parade and brass bands go by.
Gable usually wears work-clothes around his place, fatigue trousers and boots. His wife wears slacks. His idea of dressing up is to put on gray slacks, white linen shirt, tweed coat and a tie, always of a solid color. He likes solid-colored socks, too, and he wears supporters, for he hates to see socks flopping around a man’s ankles. He always wears one ring—a ruby that his wife gave him. He dislikes dressing for dinner but usually does to please his wife.
When he comes in from the fields, dirty from plowing, Mrs. Gable often meets him on their back porch.
“Don’t forget to wipe your feet,” she’ll say.
“All right, all right.”
She will follow him into the house, and if he starts for the table she will tap him gently on the shoulder and point toward the bathroom. Mr. Gable always grins, but he goes and washes and slips on some clean clothes.
They both are healthy eaters. Mrs. Gable plans the meals and they balance perfectly. She is a bit partial to fowl and he likes steaks.
They usually have coffee in their living room, and then they settle back for a quiet evening at home. They will talk over the day’s work, things they did and people they saw. Then they’ll play backgammon or each will grab a book. They both are avid newspaper readers, and they really read newspapers. They both pore over the foreign news and domestic political news. Then they will discuss what they have read and will not always agree. That’s a healthy sign, too. Each stimulates the other’s brain. Mr. Gable also likes the sport pages, and Mrs. Gable often tears out of the paper a recipe or something. Sometimes she tears a page that her husband wants to read, and then the same thing happens in their family that happens in yours and mine.
They have few really close friends. These include Andy Devine, the Tuffy Goffs (Abner of “Lum and Abner”), the Walter Langs, and the Charles Walterses. Please note that, with the exception of Devine, none of their close friends is an actor. Goff is in radio. Walters is a lawyer. Lang is a director, whose wife, Fieldsie, once was Miss Lombard’s secretary.
Reports persist that the Gables are going to have a baby. Mr. Gable did not discuss it. However, if a baby were expected at their house, Gable would probably say so. He is the kind of fellow who would give out cigars and buy drinks if his wife bore him a child. Mrs. Gable said simply that if she were going to have a baby she would be very proud and would announce it instead of hiding it. One gathers the impression that they would like to have a baby.
Gable is a great story-teller. He likes to hold a highball in his left hand, a cigarette in his right, and weave himself a yarn, embroidering it just enough to keep it interesting. Mrs. Gable—wise woman—never interrupts. It is rather difficult for her to be quiet and still very long, but when the old man is telling a tale she listens as though she has never heard it before.
Mrs. Gable is a good storyteller, too, but she doesn’t weave her stories; she pieces them together. And she acts them out. She gesticulates, walks the floor. Most of her stories are about persons—persons she admires and persons she does not admire. And her tongue can be caustic.
They both are practical jokers and play jokes on each other.
You should never think, because Gable is a big outdoorsman now, that he has always been one. He worked on a farm while he was a boy, but is just now learning to appreciate the land. And those jobs in the oil fields, timber camps, etc., simply were fill-ins between show jobs.
Mr. Gable is a gentleman farmer. He farms because he enjoys it. As much as I admire the man, I doubt if he could make a living farming, and I also believe that Mrs. Gable would not do so well as a real farmer’s wife. There’s a great deal of difference in telling a person how to cook beans and in cooking them.
Studio publicity may insist that Clark Gable is a farmer by heritage. If Mr. Gable had to earn his bread and meat running an Ohio farm, I do not believe he would east as well as he does now. And so far as being an outdoorsman is concerned, Mr. Gable learned to shoot—that is, shoot well—comparatively recently. I do not mean that as a criticism, but it simply is a statement of fact.
Hollywood, which despite all of its smartness is still a bit naïve and a country town dressed in its Sunday best, has made a great deal over the fact that the Gables are supposed to call each other Ma and Pa. Some folks think that “Ma” and “Pa” sound democratic. Perhaps Mr. Gable calls Mrs. Gable “Ma” and she calls him “Pa” for the benefit of publicity. But I never heard it. They might call each other Ma and Pa in kidding, but the Ma-and-Pa legend really is just that and nothing more.
One story goes that Mrs. Gable recently telephones her husband a servant answered. The servant is reported to have shouted to the master of the manor, “Hey, Pa, Ma is on the wire.”
I don’t believe it. The Gables would not allow their servants to be so familiar. Most persons in Hollywood, even strangers, call Mr. Gable, Clark, and Mrs. Gable, Carole. Seldom do they call her Mrs. Gable.
Mr. Gable is very proud of his wife, his success, his home, his dogs, guns, land and horses. And his mule, Judy.
He put his hand on Judy’s head and the old mule blinked at him, not the least impressed that he was being fondled by the crown prince of Graustark. “Isn’t he a swell fellow?” Mr. Gable asked, and patted old Judy.
Yes sir-ee, he is, and so are you, Mr. Gable.
Mrs. Gable is very proud of her husband and her other possessions, including her chickens. She insists upon owning New Hampshire Reds because she likes brown eggs. She reached into a nest and lifted an egg. It looked just like any other egg to me, but to her it was different because her chicken had laid it. We’re all that way about our own things. It was quite a thrill to see beauteous Miss Lombard, the frosty blonde, the fire-cracker girl, holding a common, everyday egg.
“Isn’t it MAR-vel-ous?” she asked.
Yes it was a good egg, Miss Lombard, and so are you.