How Many Marriages for Clark Gable?
By Dorothy Calhoun
Movie Classic magazine, September 1931
New Screen Sheik has Hollywood guessing
Popular actor says he has been wed twice, but friends claim four marriages for him
“No,” Clark Gable’s friends quote him as saying last summer. “I’m not married now. My wife just got a divorce in April.”
“Yes,” Clark Gable admitted six months later to inquiring interviewers. “I’m married. But I’d rather not discuss that, please.”
Then, a few weeks ago, came a hasty trip to Santa Ana, where a license was secured for William C. Gable and Mrs. Rita Langham to wed. The license indicated, it was reported, that this was the lady’s third marriage, and Clark Gable’s second. Maybe his first marriage to Mrs. Langham did not count.
How many times has Clark Gable really said, “I do”? Let us see! The newest “great lover” of the screen labors under the misfortune of being a local boy who hung around Los Angeles casting offices for years. There are altogether too many people here who “knew him when”!
Friends warned Clark that if he wanted to keep his remarriage to Rita Langham a secret, he had better not go to Santa Ana, whose courthouse has been the scene of so many headline romances that reporters watch it like hawks. But Clark is apparently sincere in his declaration, “Why, I’m nobody! I’m not important! I’m just an actor working at his job!”
If he really thought that no notice would be taken of his wedding, he was very much mistaken—as mistaken as Rudolph Valentino when he thought that no one would find out that he had married Natacha Rambova in Mexico before his California divorce was final. For an exactly similar reason Clark Gable says he remarried the lady whom he first wed “somewhere back East,” a trifle too soon after he and Josephine Dillon were divorced. Though he does not declare dramatically, like Rudy, “My love could not be kept waiting!”—a line that thrilled a million women.
Who is the present Mrs. Clark Gable? Apparently an attractive, smartly-dressed and well-to-do divorcee with two previous husbands and a son and daughter. Clark met her in the East when he temporarily gave up the struggle to make a go of picture work and tried his luck on Broadway. Was he married to her when he returned to Los Angeles in the stage production of “The Last Mile” and won a screen contract? If so, why did he tell friends last summer at Malibu that he wasn’t married? If not, when and where were they married the first time?
As though this were not enough mystery, the newspapers printed the ages of the couple—the lady’s as forty-one, Gable’s as thirty. For the second time he has married a wife ten years his senior.
While he was living here humbly several years ago, often going hungry, one of the women who saw him making his endless rounds of the theaters, agencies, and casting offices was Josephine Dillon, a well-known vocal teacher. She took pity on this ambitious, poorly-prepared boy and worked with him tirelessly, coaching him, improving his delivery of dramatic lines. At length they were married. Though they separated not long after, it was not until April, 1930, that the lady obtained a divorce from her young husband. Her age was given as forty-two.
But according to one of Clark’s closest friends, a young screen actor, even this was not Gable’s first marriage! For good measure this friend’s story mentions a young son also, and swears that he has often seen telegrams from the boy to Clark. Which, if true, would make four marriages for the newest screen sheik, counting two to Mrs. Langham?
“Clark’s preference for older women is easily explainable,” says a well-known actress, who helped him get small theatrical parts in the old days. “He was never sure of himself—he relied on other people’s advice. He had terrific respect for experience. He needed guidance and knew it. Older women’s liking for Clark is also understandable. He appealed to their maternal instinct. He was very humble about himself, boyishly enthusiastic, grateful. He used to have plenty of chances to go out with beautiful girls, but he always chose to be with mature women, whenever he could.”
The mere fact that the Gable-Langham marriage at Santa Ana was a remarriage did not surprise Hollywood. Only last spring Helen Twelvetrees announced her marriage to Frank Woody, only to remarry him a few days later, just to make sure that the titles to community property were all in legal order. John Gilbert and Leatrice Joy once remarried, too.
Hollywood doesn’t know what to make of this matrimonial mystery. Why hasn’t Hollywood seen the new Mrs. Clark Gable with her young husband at openings and restaurants? Did Clark Gable really say, as he is quoted as saying when an actor mentioned Josephine Dillon, “Dillon? Josephine Dillon? I don’t believe I knew the lady”? Has Clark a nine-year-old son? Why all the mystery? It’s an out-of-date superstition that the public prefers its romantic heroes unmarried?