Let’s Go Home with Clark Gable
By Jerry Lane
Screenplay magazine, July 1934
This is the first time the real private life of Clark Gable has ever been written. The Gable you would meet in the seclusion of his own home.
Doesn’t that bring up ideas, though! Imagine being a guest at the Gable house…dancing informally with Clark to the music from the radio in the drawing room…watching him carve a turkey—and if you don’t think Clark isn’t a past master at the job!…sitting on a high red leather stool with your feet on a brass rail while he plays bar-man!
What would it be like? What is the Gable family life like?
The truth is a little surprising. For Clark, dashing figure of a million romantic dreams, is pretty much like your-man-John around the house. He’s a home man. You’d probably find him in old duck pants and a red sweater—how that man loves red!—with a pipe in his mouth and cleaning his gun. Or working in the garden, as I did.
Now I mean working. None of your star-puttering-around-the-yard poses for Bill. Everybody calls him Bill. He has a “garden” that’s well over an acre on the side of the house and right now it’s planted with gladioli and purple and yellow iris. Many a morning he’s out there at six-thirty digging. And on a day off from the studio if he doesn’t trek off to the mountains, he wraps an antique, very faded bandana around his neck, pulls on some blue jeans and starts in hoeing.
“Rusticating?” I wanted to know.
“Sure. Why not? I was born on a farm, you know,” he grinned. “And say, this back-to-the-soil urge isn’t all bunk. I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing it until we moved up here last fall…come to think of it, this is only about the second or third house I’ve ever lived in. Most of my time has been spent in hotel rooms or small apartments!”
But don’t picture the Gables as living in the backwoods. They don’t! They live on a quiet street in Brentwood about five miles from the Metro studio where Bill works—as you may have heard. The same street that Joan Crawford and Helen Twelvetrees and several other stars live on. It’s like a breath of the country out there, however, and I think that’s what sold it to Clark.
The house itself is Mediterranean-Colonial, perhaps the brightest and most comfortable of all California homes. It has the kind of lawn that sweeps on and o, shaded by gnarled oaks and giant sycamores, and there’s a fascinating gate.
Inside—first the hall, typically Colonial with its chaste white wainscot and panels that introduce you to the walls of the rest of the house. There’s a coat closet there too, but you’d never guess it. The panels slide silently apart! So much more effective than ordinary doors. A grandfather’s clock ticks away between two French doors that open onto the solarium and give a view of the garden. Oriental scatter rugs..old mahogany high-backed chairs and a folding table with a white bowl of lilacs…above it, a large mirror…mirrors work miracles for a hall. If two of them are set opposite the entrance the apparent size of the hall is greatly increased. And a rectangular mirror always makes a room look bigger than an oval one.
Now step down into the solarium where Gable reads the write-ups on his prize race horse, Beverly Hills, or studies a script or rummages through a detective story—his favorite indoor occupation—with a leg swung up over the chair arm, and nursing that eternal pipe…It’s very gay in here. Lucky the home that has a room always speaking of spring! Red tiled floor, red and green upholstered furniture, and vines. Vines growing all over this sun room.
It’s in the drawing room that you meet Jana. In a very magnificent oil painting. She looks quite regal in it, this step-daughter of Clark’s whose name is really Georgiana. But as a matter of fact she’s quite young—and quite, quite lovely. Her “crowd” looks upon Clark as their own special property. They wheedle him into bridge games–and he’s not too fond of cards. They inveigle him into being guest of honor at the Spinsters’ ball and other society events. And one glamorous girl after another fights to waltz in his arms…is Jana proud? Oh is she! But to return to that drawing room which is the hub of the household—
If it was in blue I doubt if you could get Clark to linger there. Blue as a predominating color is somehow or other repellent to men. But see the warmth and simplicity and charm of this arrangement. Against the background of a café-au-lait carpet you have richly inviting colors—deep rose, old rose, peacock green and antique ivory. All those tones are combined in the drapery which is the only figured note in the room. Brocaded chairs of the peacock green flank the brick fireplace. The mantel—like all noteworthy mantels—has no cluttering of bric-a-brac. Just ivy spraying out from a bowl in the center and very old brass candlesticks on either side…Much easier to keep clean this way and infinitely smarter…
Subtle harmony here. For example—there are two pillows of ivory ribbed velvet bordered with deep rose fringe on the very spacious deep rose sofa, matching the ivory ribbed velvet wing chair opposite. A long antique ivory and gold coffee table stands before the sofa—across the way are two old rose chairs of brocaded satin with frames like that. White lamps on rosewood tables, gold mirrors hanging above satinwood cabinets, a grand piano…The pleasantly sophisticated, fit-into-your-mood room which would present Mrs. Clark Gable to you.
But there’s a spot downstairs that’s Bill’s own. Directly back of the arch in the hallway. A game room, den, bar—all in one. He calls it simply: “My hang-out.” His books are there. His fishing rods and guns. A collection of pipes the like of which you never saw. The pine-panelled walls are hung with old English hunting prints in red leather, and with the elk and deer heads which are Clark’s trophies. Mrs. Gable was with him when he shot the one above the door. The understanding and friendship of these two go deeper than most people imagine…
Heavy green and beige drapes carry out the atmosphere of the Turkish rug. There’s a huge seat upholstered in beige rep with the unique inscription burned into the leather across the top: “Rest is the sweet sauce of labor…”
It’s an amusing spot too…a little beer barrel turns out to be an electric cigar lighter, you can go around the world on a parchment lamp shade! And a wicked looking bolo knife develops into a perfectly innocent paper cutter.
This is the place where Bill can lasso his boss, Irving Thalberg, if he has a mind to! Do they park in the den for lengthy discussions of pictures? They do not! But they do have heated arguments and blaze away at each other—over a cribbage board…
The Thalbergs are frequent visitors at the Gables’. So are Helen Hayes and Charlie MacArthur when they’re in town. The Gable dinner parties, though, are never large or elaborate. They prefer the intimate kind where laughter and good talk are served with all the courses. Their dining room is singularly well adapted to such friendly evenings.
Nothing brings out the warmth of mahogany like gray with a touch of yellow. And that’s exactly what you find here. A mahogany suite of Sheraton design offset by French gray floral wallpaper with wainscoting. The tieback drapes are of gold damask which blends in beautifully with the antique rose rug. High windows give views of the garden. A double door leads into the solarium. There’s a fernery banked full with the lacey fronds. Cheer, light, restfulness. The secret of a successful dining room.
We’ve already seen Bill’s “hang out.” Now let’s take a look at Jana’s. It’s upstairs—her bedroom. Unmistakably young girl-ish and very, very elegant. The white satin mood. White satin quilted bedspread with the dressing table opposite also hung in quilted satin to match it. Heavenly white brocaded chairs. A little white lamb’s wool chair. A white desk sitting beneath a hanging shelf that contains a quaint collection of porcelains…hunting dogs, incense burners, rose leaf jars and perfume bottles…
Clark’s step-son, Alfred’s room is something else again. All his prize possessions are here. Airplane cut-outs covering an entire wall, fish hooks…
Alf’s room is a boy’s haven. A comfortable chair under a good reading light, a magazine stand handy and a radio within reach. The tailored maize bedspreads blend invitingly with the dark tan carpet and the deep salmon velour drapes. Practical and all-boy, this room.
Clark’s and Mrs. Gable’s is across the hall. A very large place that opens onto a balcony shaded by a wisteria vine. Old-fashioned hurricane globes serve as wall lights. The flowered over-curtains that are fringed in the new manner lie nine inches on the floor. Faded heliotrope is the fascinating color used here. The oyster white chairs in heavy silk rep are fringed with it, the taffeta bedspreads have flounces of it and it’s repeated again in the couch, a very long “easy” couch, no wisp of a chaise lounge! Clark likes comfort.
Now you’ve seen the Gables—at home.