Gable Answers Your Questions!
By Eric L. Ergenbright
Motion Picture magazine, April 1933
As your Inquiring Reporter, his voice a mere whisper of its former self, fired the last one of your questions at Clark Gable, he filled his beloved pipe for the twentieth time and sighed with relief.
“Now,” said Clark decisively, “I know what it feels like to be put on the spot!”
The mountainous pile of questions that I received from Gable followers—after they read, in the February MOTION PICTURE, of the chance to ask him a question—covered his past, present and future, sought his opinion on every subject under the sun, and left him gasping for breath.
Fortunately, many of the questions were duplications. A great number of you wanted to know “how to get into movies.” In the question of duplication of questions, one answer will serve for all.
Unfortunately, there were some questions that studio rules prevented Clark from answering. A few were beyond the bounds of good taste—but very few. And there were literally hundreds of queries that requested a personally autographed picture of the star. Such requests should be addressed to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, not to the Inquiring Reporter. Also, a number of you applied for a job as Clark’s chauffeur. Several hundred questions were received too late to qualify, and because of that I urge you to send in your future questions promptly, so that they will be received on or before the twentieth of the month.
So here goes! William Clark Gable is on the witness stand, giving a complete, revealing account of himself! Your questions are in light italics, his answers in heavy Roman type:
What books do you enjoy most, and who are your favorite authors?
I like detective and adventure stories best, I think. Arthur Conan Doyle, S.S. Van Dine and Jack London are among my favorite authors.
Who is your favorite poet?
Robert W. Service
Did you graduate from college or university?
No, I’m sorry to say I didn’t. I attended Akron University night school for about a year.
What would you like to do if you were not in the movies?
I would try to become a mechanical engineer, for I like anything connected with machinery and I think that profession has a mighty fine future.
Who do you think is the prettiest woman movie star in Hollywood?
Really, I can’t answer that question. Hollywood has so many beautiful women, it would be impossible to make a fair decision.
If you ever visit France, will you go to Biarritz?
One of my keenest ambitions is to travel. I’ve never had the opportunity, you know. If I visit France—and I certainly want to—I’ll not overlook Biarritz.
What story would you like best to make into a picture?
A stage play, titled “Blind Windows.” It would make a great picture.
Were you, on July 4, 1925, measuring timber in Clinton, Montana, with a group of boys from St. Paul? I have two snapshots of the boys and one is like you in every detail.
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t have been in your snapshots. I was in Los Angeles at that time.
For a young actor wishing to gain experience, which would you advise—the stage, stock or “extra” work in Hollywood?
A good stock company. It will give you wider experience and more versatility.
If you were making a personal appearance, would you consider coming to Paterson, New Jersey? (There were many questions like this, and in answering one, Clark replies to all.)
When an actor is on a personal appearance tour, his route and theater appearances are arranged by the studio and exhibitors.
You like the wild life very much, don’t you?
If you mean life in the wilds, yes. Hunting is one of my favorite recreations.
Is it true that your parents were Pennsylvania Dutch?
Yes, my name is an Americanization of Goebel, and my mother, who was born in Pennsylvania, was named Hershelmann.
Is it true that you stick your ears to your head with adhesive tape while being photographed?
No, that isn’t true.
Why is it that you never wear a ring in your pictures?
I don’t like jewelry, either on the screen or in real life.
Do you speak any foreign languages?
No, I’m sorry to say.
What is your real name and what year and month were you born in?
William Clark Gable. I was born February the first. (The studio prohibits its contract players from giving their ages.)
Are the articles written about you in the different magazines authentic and true?
With a few exceptions, all I’ve read have been very accurate when quoting me.
Why do your kisses take so long? (Now there IS a question!)
I guess I’ll have to give the director the credit for that.
Did you ever, as a youth, live in New York City?
Do you remember going to school with Jake Stahl?
I certainly do. Please ask him to drop me a line in care of the Metro-Goldywn-Mayer Studios, Culver City, California. I’d like to hear from him.
Don’t you believe that solitude sometimes is one of the greatest things a person can have?
Yes, most decidedly. Everyone needs solitude now and then for the purpose of self-analysis.
Don’t you think that you owe much of your success to Greta Garbo? Your part in “The Painted Desert” was very small and you were fading. Then came “Susan Lenox.”
Of course, I’m grateful to Miss Garbo and I’ll frankly admit that she helped me greatly in “Susan Lenox.” But “The Painted Desert” was my first real picture and between it and “Susan Lenox,” I played in “Dance Fools Dance,” “The Secret Six,” “A Free Soul,” and “Night Nurse.”
What are your favorite sports?
Golf and hunting. It would be hard to choose between them.
Would you rather play opposite a young girl like Dorothy Jordan, or an older woman, such as Norma Shearer?
That depends entirely on the picture and which is more suited to the leading feminine role. Personally, I have no choice.
Do you play bridge?
Not very well, but I try to, occasionally.
A man of your apparent intelligence would not continue in pictures of he were not working towards a definite goal. What is that goal?
Financial security and all it means, primarily.
How often do you make pictures and how long do you work on each picture?
The actual shooting time averages about six weeks on each picture, but that does not include the time spent on rehearsals or possible added scenes. I played in nine pictures during my first year on the screen, but now I’m expected to make only four or five pictures a year.
What is the most difficult role you have ever played on pictures?
The doctor in “Strange Interlude,” because of the age transition.
Did you work at the Firestone and Miller Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio?
Yes, about 1916.
Where did you find such a charming wife?
Mrs. Gable and I met in New York City and were married there.
To what do you attribute your success in motion pictures?
Largely to lucky breaks.
Do you ever read movie magazines?
Yes, I read almost all of them.
What do you plan to do after your life of ten years as a movie star is over? Do you plan to go into any other type of work?
Yes. I don’t think I could be happy as a loafer. The kind of work I take up will depend on my age, the amount of money I’ve been able to save, and business conditions at the time.
What feeling do you experience when you see yourself on the screen?
The sensation is very strange. I feel detached, as though I were watching another person.
What is your favorite pet?
A dog. I own an Irish setter named Queenie.
Do you make a hobby of collecting anything?
Yes. I have so many pipes, of all kinds, that they clutter up the house.
How long do you plan to stay in movie work?
Just as long as there is a demand for my services. I don’t know of anything that will pay me as much money or give me as much real enjoyment.
Do you have a secretary to open your mail?
What do you think personally of some of the things the reporters and publicity men say about you—“Hot-Cha Gable,” “What-a-Man Gable,” etc?
Sometimes I’m amused, sometimes I’m amazed.
What kind of rifle do you prefer for deer shooting?
A .30-caliber rifle with high velocity and great shocking power, because I think any real sportsman should try to avoid the chance of wounding game and leaving it to die of starvation. A .2250-.300 or some of the .270 calibers are also very satisfactory.
Why do you wear those turtleneck sweaters? Don’t you know they’re frightfully unbecoming to you?
Perhaps they are, but I think comfort is more important than appearance.
What color clothes do you like?
Grays and blues.
Do you really enjoy the love scenes you enact, or would you rather take an active he-man’s part without any love-making?
Love-making is a normal part of an active he-man’s life, isn’t it?
Of all the pictures you have made so far, which did you enjoy working in the most?
“Hell Divers.” One of the most interesting experiences of my life was working with the naval fliers at North Island.
What type of role would you like to play and what kind would completely satisfy you?
I’m especially anxious to do a light comedy role. No one role would ‘completely satisfy’ me for I want diversity.
Which is the best picture you’ve ever played in?
In my opinion, it’s a toss up between “The Secret Six,” “A Free Soul” and “Possessed.”
How much does Joan Crawford weigh and what are her measurements?
I guess Miss Crawford will have to answer that one.
If a young fellow came to you and asked for advice, meaning life in general, what are the points you would particularly stress?
A strong will, ambition, and plenty of courage.
Were you ever on Broadway? Did you like it?
Yes, I played in “Machinial,” “Hawk Island,” “Gambling” and “Blind Windows” on the New York stage. I like New York.
Did you enjoy playing opposite Joan Crawford in “Possessed”?
I certainly did. I think Miss Crawford is one of the screen’s finest dramatic actresses.
What is the real color of your hair? Your eyes?
My hair is dark brown. My eyes are gray.
When will we have another Clark Gable-Joan Crawford picture?
The studio has no definite plans for one just now.
Is it true that Mrs. Gable has a granddaughter old enough to be a college student?
Who was your first wife, and when were you married?
Josephine Dillon. We were married soon after I went on the stage.
How do you like California?
California would be an Eden if a person had time enough to enjoy it.
One so often hears the saying, ‘It gave me the biggest thrill of my life’—and I want to ask you what incident gave you the biggest thrill in REAL life, as compared to your biggest thrill in REEL life.
The biggest thrill of my REEL life was an explosion that occurred during the making of “The Painted Desert” when a whole mountainside was dynamited and the entire picture troupe escaped only by a miracle. The biggest thrill of my REAL life, I believe, was the day not long ago when I shot my first deer. Always before, I had stood by amateurishly while others bagged the game, but this day, on the mountains South of Los Angeles, I brought down a fine buck.
What is your idea of “It”?
It’s a certain indefinable personal magnetism. And it doesn’t depend on beauty, either.
Did you fall in love with Jean Harlow while making “Red Dust”?
No. I admire Miss Harlow, but I didn’t fall in love with her.
What is your conception of a good stock company to join?
One that has a wide repertoire and presents a new play every week or so.
Are all the actors and actresses of the screen highly educated?
No. We have our quota of college graduates, but most of us have only the most ordinary educations.
What is the easiest and quickest way for a girl to get into the movies?
Via the stage. Motion picture scouts are always watching the legitimate theaters for new talent.
How did you become an actor?
I had a job as a call boy in an Akron theater and the director gave me a chance to play a bit.
Who is your closest friend?
Joe Sherman, of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is my closest friend.
Are you eager to welcome old acquaintances—those whom you knew before you became famous?
Always. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent renewing old friendships.
Did you know Gladys Bozlee, the dancer?
No, I don’t believe I’ve ever met Miss Bozlee.
What do you think of the publicity given Marjorie Miller Sharpe as your first sweetheart?
I think it is fine and I’m glad and proud that Marjorie remembers me.
How do you spend your week-ends?
When I’m not working, I usually play golf or go to the desert or the mountains.
Why is it that you are the only man in the world I have any desire to kiss or be kissed by?
Is married life happier than a single one?
Yes, certainly. Although I guess there are exceptions to that rule.
Who was “Poppy” that played opposite you in “Shanghai Gesture” in Chicago?
I never played “Shanghai Gesture” in Chicago.
How would you like to put on the old togs and sneak up on a big, scrappy trout at Buck’s Lake?
That sounds mighty good to me.
Who are your friends off the screen?
Mrs. Gable and I are very friendly with Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. E.C. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sherman and Howard Strickling.
Do you remember me? (This query is signed by Mary Culver of Hondo, California.)
Of course I do.
Do you remember Wilson and Ray Hoover and Zeke and Bill Wenner, whom you knew when you lived at Hopedale, Ohio?
Yes, I remember them very well, but as I remember, Wilson and Ray were called Hoopler, not Hoover.
Do you get a kick out of kissing a movie actress playing opposite you?
No, I can’t say I do. After all, an actor is working when he is in front of the camera, you know.
Why don’t you play in a picture with Constance Bennett?
Miss Bennett is under contract to Radio Pictures, while I’m under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, an entirely different studio.
I read in a magazine that you don’t like pictures in which you have to wear evening clothes—is that a fact?
Not necessarily. I don’t object to evening clothes now and then, but I don’t want to be typed as a drawing-room actor.
Really, Clark, do you have to be pretty to get into the movies and is it hard to get in?
It is difficult to break into pictures, but beauty is not a necessity. Few great stars have been perfect beauties and there are all sorts of parts, you know.
Do you see the pictures you play in and do you go to many picture shows?
I see all my pictures, and I never miss an outstanding movie. I enjoy pictures and I can always learn by watching my own mistakes and other actors’ work.
Do you play the pipe organ?
Do you remember Mr. and Mrs. Runyon, Andy Means and his mother, Dr. Parkhill, Frank White, the Laceys, the Williamsons and Charles Smith? We all lived together on Getz Street in Akron. (Signed by Mrs. Mary Runyon, with the note that she was Clark’s landlady.)
Of course, I remember you and I hope that some day we can have a grand reunion—in Hollywood, if not in Akron.
Do you remember a druggist from Akron named Louis Grether, the one you left your mother’s pictures with?
Certainly I remember Louie. Please tell him I’m writing to him immediately.
Did you ever work on Carol Stiewer’s farm near Salem, Oregon?
Yes, I worked there about nine years ago.
What is your favorite color?
Have you any objection to play roles in costume?
No, I wouldn’t want them as a steady diet.
When taking the part of a lover in your pictures, does it have any effect on your personal emotions?
Why do you prefer your pipe and working around your car to social activities?
I’m just not socially inclined, I suppose. Even as a boy in school, I wasn’t.
Do they give you much time for rehearsal before starting a picture?
No, unfortunately. They do whenever possible, but things move so fast in Hollywood that sometimes I learn from the papers on Friday that I’m to start a new picture next week.
Which do you like best—blondes, redheads or brunettes?
Each type has its own fascinations.
Why don’t you answer your fan mail personally—no alibis but the straight truth?
It would be a human impossibility. I receive an average of at least one thousand letters a week. Even if I devoted all of my time to it, I could not read and answer that many letters.
Do you read all your fan mail?
I’ve answered that question.
Do you have the privilege of choosing the pictures you play in?
No, the studio executives decide that question.
What do you do at a Hollywood party?
Just about the same things you do at your parties. Hollywood parties are not very different from those anywhere else.
Are you really a cave man or are you a quiet husband who likes to stay home evenings of your wife?
I spend most of my evenings at home—in my own cave.
Do you really enjoy playing roles such as you played in “Red Dust” and “Possessed”?
I enjoyed both of those parts.
Did you have a motorcycle way back in 1913 or 1916 in Hopedale? One day we had a blowout at the triangle in Hopedale (my home is in Steubenville) and I think it was you that the boys called “Gable.”
Even after all these years I still remember that blowout in Hopedale, when we all tried to help. That motorcycle was the pride and joy of my heart.
Do you brush your teeth three times a day and see the dentist twice a year?
I brush my teeth more than three times a day and see the dentist more than twice a year.
Why do you wear Jodhpurs? I thought they were only for girls.
Really, I’ll have to look into this.
What is your personal idea of Greta Garbo?
I think Miss Garbo is one of the great actresses and a very magnetic personality. Personally, she is charming.
Is it necessary that your most intimate feelings and the most trivial things about your personal life be dragged into publicity?
I don’t think so. But I’m grateful for the interest that prompts such publicity and I try to cooperate.
When and how did you learn to swim and dive?
When I was a boy on the farm near Hopedale. In the “old swimmin’ hole.”
If your stepsons were girls, which type would you want them to be—quiet or full of pep?
I would want them to be normal—in other words, a combination of thoughtfulness and pep.
Have you been chose to play the lead in “The White Sister”? Do you think you’re the type to play the gentle Indian officer?
Yes, I’m playing the part. I think I am, as I’m assigned. I feel the part keenly and hope that I won’t seem miscast.
Do you feel that you’re rewarded for all the effort you put into your pictures?—I don’t mean financial reward entirely.
Yes. Putting aside all financial consideration, I’ve been richly paid. I like my taste of success.
What is the name of your horse?
I don’t own a horse just now. The one I usually take from the rental stables is named “Thunder.”
Now that you have money and fame, don’t you sometimes wish for a life away from the crowds?
I’ve not yet reached the degree of money or fame which would be stifling or monotonous. I’m anything but bored.
Do you take in the night-life of Hollywood?
Which kind of part do you prefer—that of a gentleman or that of a roughneck?
I like as wide a variety of parts as possible.
What else have you done besides work in pictures?
I’ve been timekeeper in a factory, an oil field laborer, a lumberjack, a stage actor, and a farm hand.
Are you ever coming back here where you used to live as a boy?
I hope to visit there as soon as I have an opportunity.
Where do you spend your summer vacations?
I don’t have a regular summer vacation, but I usually spend my leisure between pictures fishing, playing golf or hunting.
Would you like to play the part of “The Sheik” that made Rudolph Valentino famous?
No, I don’t think I’m the type, and there can never be another Valentino.
How can I sell a scenario I’ve just written?
I can’t advise you on that. The studios do not read unsolicited scenarios.
How did you happen to get the idea to become a movie star?
I was on the stage—naturally; pictures seemed a logical step as they offered more money and wider opportunities.
Where did you spend your boyhood?
Most of it was spent in Hopedale, Ohio.
Do you find motion picture work a nervous strain?
Yes. When we work, we are on a terrific tension.
How does it feel to be famous?
I have no real fame as of yet, and what I have is too recent to give me enough perspective to answer such a question.
What effect do you think television will have on the screen?
I’m not qualified to answer that one, but it’s my opinion that it will be used in cooperation with pictures and will never entirely replace them.
How did you get into the movies?
I was playing on the Los Angeles stage in “The Last Mile” in 1930 and was offered a screen test and a small part in “The Painted Desert.”
How does Mrs. Gable feel about it all?
I trust that she feels as any good wife would-anxious for her husband to succeed and overjoyed whenever he takes a step forward.
Why have the singing films gone?
They haven’t gone, entirely. When talkies first came in, they were overdone and the public tired of them.
Do you remember Harvey and Merle Parks, the boys you used to go hunting with and play basketball with when they were kids in Hopedale, Ohio?
I’m certainly glad to hear indirectly from Harvey and Merle. If you have time, I’d be happy for further news about the boys.
And there you are. If there is anything left to be known about Clark Gable, it’s just an oversight. What a third degree! Your Inquiring Reporter felt like a Father Inquisitor before he was through firing question marks at the hapless victim. But Clark seemed to enjoy it, which all goes to prove that his pals are right when they talk about his golf game and call him a glutton for punishment.