Live Alone and Like It?
By Nate Edwards
Modern Screen magazine, April 1955
Marriage? Never again, says Gable, but can Hollywood’s greatest lover stay fancy free? Read this frank report to see why his friends say no.
Clark Gable is fifty-four years old. He has been married four times. Before each of these marriages, he ardently courted the woman who was to become his wife. During this period, he steadfastly denied any matrimonial intention.
Gable is currently squiring Kay Williams Spreckels, “an old friend” he has known for years.
Kay recently had her former husband, Adolph Spreckels, thrown in prison for beating her up. “I’ve had enough of marriage, at least for a while,” she said a few weeks ago when she was rumored to have eloped with the handsome, graying-at-the-temples actor. “Mr. Gable and I are just old, old friends.”
Clark gives out the same line, “Why are people so anxious to marry me off?” he asks. “Kay and I go out a few times, and right away we’ve had a New Year’s elopement. Not a word of it is true.
“I don’t know how these things get started. Just like my supposed retirement. I’ve got absolutely no plans for retiring. What I’d like to do is make one picture a year, then take plenty of time off for fishing, maybe a little hunting.
“I’ve got six weeks off between Soldier of Fortune and The Tall Men. I expect to go down to Palm Springs, maybe to Phoenix and Tucson, and get myself a tan. Don’t like to use make-up, you know. Had to for Fortune.
“If I’m seen with a girl in Arizona, those marriage rumors will probably start again. But just for the record, I have no intention of getting married. Girls, yes. But marriage is out.”
An irresistibly charming lover, Gable has said all this before. But sooner or later he always succumbs to the wiles and enticements of some beautiful woman.
Of these he has always had an adequate list, no matter where he has been. In Arizona, he has Betty Chisholm, a wealthy widow whose companionship he finds utterly delightful. An outdoor woman, Betty owns a sizable ranch where Clark can relax and take it easy.
In Hollywood there’s Kay Spreckels, Susan Hayward, Grace Kelly and, of course, Virginia Grey.
To this list you may now add Suzanne Dadolle with whom The King traipsed around Europe two years ago. Suzanne, who gave up her job as a Schiaparelli model to become Gable’s traveling companion, arrived in Hollywood a few months ago to seek her fortune.
The stately beauty from Paris once had the inside track with Gable. But she gave out a premature engagement announcement—and Clark flew the coop.
When he came back to Hollywood last year, he was asked if he hadn’t been close to making Suzanne the fifth Mrs. Gable. His answer was curt and sharp. “No,” he said. “We never discussed marriage. She just taught me to speak French.”
Well, Suzanne is back in town, and it will be interesting to see whether or not Gable wants to brush up on his French.
To date, The King and Suzanne have encountered each other only twice. Once on the set at 20th Century Fox where Gable was doing a luncheon scene in a Hong King restaurant with Susan Hayward (late that day he drove Hayward home) and once in La Rue’s restaurant. Gable was dining there with Kay Spreckels when Suzanne came in with contractor Hal Hayes.
Since Hayes used to date Kay, and Gable used to date Dadolle, there might have been some embarrassment. But Kay handled the situation tactfully. She walked over to Hayes’ table and was introduced to Suzanne. Gable nodded pleasantly, and the encounter came off without incident.
Suzanne is currently working as a freelance model. “I work for Orry0Kelly, Magnin’s, Saks and television. I love California so much. Eet remind me of North Afrique where I was taken when I was a girl. Please, I do not want to discuss Mr. Gable. He is a great actor, un bon ami. But let us not discuss heem. I saw heem at studioand restaurant. He is very charming, a nice man. I say no more.”
It has been suggested, perhaps by the envious, that Suzanne came to Hollywood in an effort to recapture Gable’s love.
It is safe to say that Clark is incapabale of going without the companionship of women for long periods of time. And Suzanne, along with the rest of Hollywood, knows this. To attribute ulterior motives to the French model, however, seems hardly fair.
Whether or not Suzanne is reconciled to having lost the veteran actor, the fact remains that at this writing Kay Spreckels is the number one candidate in the Gable Marriage Sweepstakes.
It was Kay who went golfing with Clark last winter in Palm Springs: it was Kay who met him at the airport when he returned from Hong Kong; it was Kay who was his 1954 girl friend; and it’s Kay who has been his steady dining companion.
Clark has known the attractive little blonde for years, a fact that her ex-husband once deplored in court, and had always been tremendously fond of her. Kat us endowed with a lively sense of humor, an attractive figure, and a sparkling vivacity—three advantages, incidentally, that characterized Clark’s third wife and great love, Carole Lombard.
Gable acknowledges the need for women friends but discounts the necessity for a wife.
His early background sheds some light on this. The doctor who delivered Gable in Cadiz, Ohio, on February 1, 1901, charged ten dollars for the delivery and registered the newborn baby as a “female”—an error that was eventually corrected.
Gable’s mother, Adeline Hershelman, died seven months later. Gable was without a mother for five years. Then his father married a milliner named Jennie Dunlap.
When Gable grew to manhood, he twice married women older than he, Josephine Dillon and Rhea Langham. One psychologist suggested at the time that, “In these marriages, Gable is fulfilling the need for a mother as well as for a wife.”
This mother-replacement theory is scoffed at by one friend of Gable’s who insists that he married these women “out of sheer gratitude.”
“The thing to remember,” he points out, “is that when Gable first came to Hollywood he was broke. He was also a lousy actor. Josephine Dillon took him in as a twenty-three year old kid—she was thirty-seven at the time—and she taught him most of the acting fundamentals. She also got him jobs. He married her in 1924 and they stayed together for six years. Then Gable married Rhea Langham, a Houston divorcee who topped him by eleven years. Both of these women were kind to him, and I guess he felt that the least he could do for them was to give them his name.”
It didn’t cost Gable a penny in alimony to divorce wife number one, but Rhea Langham hit him for $283,000.
It took a long time in coming and during the years of separation Clark was linked with Loretta Young, Elizabeth Allan, Mary Taylor and a few other beauties of the 1930’s.
In all those years he made few close male friends. Al Menasco, who used to run a Ford agency in Los Angeles and is now in the winery business in northern California, is probably Clark’s one real pal. The Menascos toured Europe when Clark had Suzanne Dadolle in tow. Menasco kept saying at the time, “Gable’s not marrying anyone, I don’t think.” But few of the European newsmen would believe him.
Kay Spreckels says the same thing, but again no one is buying that tune.
“Look,” Kay protests, “if we were going to get married, the spark would have been kindled years ago. I’ve known Clark for twelve years. Met him at Metro when I was working there. It was during the war. He had just come back from the Air Force in Europe.
“We went to parties and dinners, and it was fun. Nothing else. Then I went off and got married. I’ve put out three fires (Charles Capps, Martin Unzue, Adolph Spreckels) and the marriage department is not for me.
“I’ve got no intention of walking down the aisle with anyone. Gable feels the same way and that’s why we hit it off. We go out for laughs.
“In Hollywood people think it will lead to something. Some fellow named John Ravens (I never heard of him) saw Clark with me one night and the next thing he called all the columnists and announced that we were eloping, that by 1955 we would be man and wife. The newspapers play it up big—‘Hint Gable Elopement’ and all of that. No truth to it. Talk about marriage, and I’ve had it.”
“Suppose Gable proposed to you?” Kay was asked. “What would your answer be?”
“You don’t have to worry. There’s no chance that he will. He’s a smart fellow. He knows when he’s well off.” Kay replied.
Gable has reached that point where he has one woman, Jean Garceau, to look after all his correspondence, bills and household matters. If he needs a girl for dinner or any movieland function, he only has to pick up his phone. When he wanted to take someone to the premiere of A Star is Born, he called Grace Kelly.
In Hong Kong where he was on location for Soldier of Fortune, he heard that Ava Gardner was coming into town. A quick phone call, and the stars of Mogambo were dining together. Gable does not like to eat alone. For years he has preferred the company of a beautiful woman—and who can blame him?
When he was sitting out an anticipated divorce at the Flying ME ranch north of Carson City, in an effort to dissolve his marriage to Sylvia Ashley, he dated a most attractive divorcee named Natalie Thompson.
It is difficult to remember when and where Gable has ever been without a woman. When he was making Mogambo in Africa, he occasionally went hunting. But Grace Kelly went with him. When he got to London after that picture, it was still Grace Kelly. Once Grace left for New York, Clark moved over to Paris and Suzanne Dadolle.
Back home again, he gave Betty Chisholm a whirl, took out several others, concentrated, more or less, on Kay Spreckels.
Gable needs a woman around because he has been accustomed to female care and consideration ever since he was five,
His stepmother, Jennie Dunlap, babied him as a boy. When he became an actor and hit the road, a young actress in Portland, Oregon, fell in love with him and talked her father into letting Clark live on the family farm. Gable was then twenty-two, and according to Miss Franz Dorfler, the girl in question, “We were supposed to get married.” Gable went to Hollywood where he married Josephine Dillon, She was the third in the platoon of women who were to make life easier for him.
The best-known of these was, of course, lovely Carole Lombard, who somehow managed to infect everyone around her with her contagious gaiety. When she married Gable she was not an outdoorsy girl. But to make him happy, she learned to ride and shoot and fish. He never has been that happy since.
The only woman in Gable’s life who reportedly did precious little for the rugged Don Juan was his fourth wife, Sylvia Ashley. Sylvia is an English girl who struck it rich via marriage. She redecorated the house on Gable’s twenty-eight-acre ranch, moved Jean Garceau out of the place, began to entertain on a large scale, all of which Gable could not tolerate.
Three weeks after he married Sylvia, the actor knew it was a big mistake. Following the divorce—supposedly the settlement cost him $150,000—he renounced marriage and left for Europe.
When he came back, he refused to sign a new contract with MGM and told friends, “From now on I’m going to make only those movies I life. I want to be a free soul, play golf, travel here, visit there. I don’t want any strings attached.”
All men are creatures of habit, however, and Gable is no exception. It’s all right to have Martin, his butler of many years, to take care of his clothes and personal wants. It’s all right for Jean Garceau to take care of his secretarial needs. But who is there to take care of his emotional life?
Only a wife can do that, and at fifty-four, William Clark Gable has not stopped loving.