Gable Wants to Marry Again
By Denny Shane
Screenland magazine, February 1953
“I’m not too old or too gray or too set in my ways to say yes to marriage a fifth time,” says Clark, who’s the marrying kind.
Whenever I mention that I spent some time in Europe with Clark Gable, ears perk up and I’m bombarded with questions about him.
“How does he feel about Sylvia Ashley?”
“Is he in love with Gene Tierney, as some of the columnists hint?”
“Is he still grieving over Carole Lombard?”
“How does he look now?”
“Do you think he’ll ever marry again?”
Gable, who has a reputation for a closed mouth, has plenty to say when he feels in the mood to confide. Of marriage, he admits with unexpected enthusiasm, “Of course I’d marry again if I knew the right girl! That is, if she’d say yes.
“I’m not too old or too grey—or too set in my ways to say yes to marriage a fifth time,” Clark declared firmly.
“Just don’t ask me for advice on staying married,” he grinned wryly. “I wouldn’t know the secret. I must have learned something about marriage since I went into it the first time—that was in 1924—but I couldn’t tell you just what,” he admitted.
One thing about Clark Gable is clear. He is definitely the marrying kind. He has invariably proposed to the women with whom he really fell in love, and married them.
Twenty-eight years ago he found himself in love with a woman years older than he. Her knowledge and her adult strength and charm had great appeal for young, unpolished Gable. They married—and eventually parted without rancor or bitterness on either side. I’ve met and talked with the former first Mrs. Gable, Josephine Dillon. Her words about him were only the kindest.
Once again Clark Gable married an older and very charming woman, socially prominent Rhea Gable. Theirs was a marriage that again followed in Clark’s pattern of looking to people who knew more than he did. That’s how one grows. He learned (and contributed) a great deal. His first two marriages cannot be dismissed as mistakes. Perhaps they can be classified as ‘growing up.’ He proves his appreciation and gratitude toward both women by saying reminiscently, “I’ve been lucky in love.”
What was happening to Clark Gable during those earlier years is still going on! He is a man who is continuing his quest for personal growth. He’s ever alerted to acquiring new knowledge, to developing himself. You can tell by being around Clark that he’s not calculating in his approach to men or women. He is not trying to use people. He’s genuinely attracted to able, interesting, adult personalities.
He reads a lot. We talked at length about some of the newer books, mostly non-fiction, such as the Whittaker Chambers book. He travels a lot, and with his eyes wide open, I found out. His listens with interest to new information. He keeps on learning—and consequently, Clark Gable continues to develop.
Such a man is sure to outgrow certain personal relationships and he finds that he must sidestep others because there isn’t enough to them. Being attracted to a girl is not enough to constitute love for a man of Gable’s substance!
Today, gable isn’t trying to avoid love, but he has found out that it can’t be forced. He’s learned that unless there’s mutual respect and shared interests, a superficial, magnetic attraction doesn’t last. Nor is friendship—or admiration—or a desire for companionship enough for Gable.
Friends were openly puzzled when Clark Gable and Sylvia Ashley married. Their interests and tastes were as different as day and night. It’s possible that Clark married that time out of loneliness. I’m certain the experience was enough to jolt him sharply to the realization that a man can’t talk himself into love.
Of Sylvia Ashley, he says, “That was unfortunate. The faults weren’t all on one side, you know. It might have lasted, I suppose. I don’t ever go into marriage thinking ahead to divorce,” he added.
He rarely speaks of Carole Lombard, his great love. He’s not the kind of man who moans when he’s suffering, but he told someone I know, “It’s foolish to attempt to match an ideal.”
In case it appears to some that Gable is living in a tear-stained past, let me make it plain that he came to painful grips with reality—and won.
He looks marvelous. I sat watching him at Royal Festival Hall in London, where he and Gene Tierney were working on one of the scenes of the MGM movie, “Never Let Me Go.” I noticed he had the powerful stride and physical bearing of a handsome, fit man at his prime.
Gable came walking up to the table where I was eagerly waiting to talk with him again, and greeted me with a look of genuine pleasure ay seeing an acquaintance from home. He quickly slipped out of the dapper-looking trench coat he was wearing for the scene, sat down and then ordered coffee for both of us.
Fortunately, we had about two hours to get re-acquainted and talk while the movie set was being shifted around. I captured the impression of an intensely alive, magnetic, attractive man—healthy, hearty, high-humored, and with a zest for living that makes him a very exciting companion. There’s nothing detached or vague about Clark. His penetrating blue eyes engaged mine and sparkled as his inimitable husky voice recounted some of his many adventures.
I happened to ask when he’d first travelled to Europe, supposing it had been during his war service as head of a combat photography unit. “No,” he corrected, “my first time over was in 1928, when I got a sudden yearning to see Holland.” He interrupted himself to mention, “I’m half-Dutch, you know, and I had a hankering to see where part of my roots grew. Anyway, I got to Holland, didn’t speak the language or know what to look for and I was so darned green,” that I stayed only a few days and headed right back for the United States like a bewildered hick.”
I once heard a girl—a rather self-centered and famous young lady who dated Gable for a while—describe him as a dull conversationalist. I could only grin to myself and feel sorry for the girl. Apparently, she’d heard so often he was interested mainly in hunting and fishing that she just never bothered to tap other facets of his lively and interesting mind.
He does have to be drawn out a bit at first. He’s inclined to listen quietly and attentively when someone else wants to do the talking. Meanwhile, he’s taking it all in. One of the studio employees in England commented to me, “Why, I’ve never before met a man of Gable’s stature in show business who had so much humility, and such a great and genuine interest in what other people have to say!”
Let a woman possessed of sufficient brains, charm and tact strive to explore Gable’s mind, however, and she’ll find there a treasurehouse of interesting facts, fun and penetrating observations, once he opens up.
He is a fun-loving man. “What’s more important in life than its chuckles?” he asked. “Having fun is good sense. If a guy can’t laugh now and then, he’s not much good.” declared Clark.
Nor does he mind if the laughs turn out to be at his expense. I asked him whether he was plotting to get some big-game hunting in while he was making the next movie, “Mogambo,” in Africa with Ava Gardner.
“Every time a producer gets the idea to have me work in a picture that’s to be made in some faraway place,” he laughed, “the big inducement offered is always how good the hunting is there. Big-game hunting, deer-hunting, duck-hunting. They always figure out something too good to miss. The only hook is—I’ve yet to hunt on one of those location deals. They never let me off the set long enough.”
“Then you aren’t going to take your guns to Africa with you?” I asked.
He broke into a grin. “They’re already there—sent ‘em on ahead—just in case this time turns out to be different,” he added hopefully.
That’s typical of Clark Gable. There is absolutely nothing half-hearted about him. He loves to hunt, and would rough it in the wilds of any place for a chance at some challenging game. He also loves to travel because he’s bursting with curiosity. We talked about Rome, which I hadn’t yet visited then. He wanted to be certain I’d drop him a not describing how I found things there. He figured at the time that he’d like to catch one of the jet liners and fly there for a weekend (British studios only work five days to our six.)
“But if I don’t get to do that,” he figured, “I’ll either drive or fly there on the way to Africa. I’m eager to take a look at Rome. I hear the people are great,” he commented, “relaxed and easy-going and they really know how to enjoy life.”
Those qualities would appeal to him. He can’t stand the nervous, jittery, self-conscious types. Of himself, Clark says, “I’m happy if I have a jacket and a clean pair of trousers; some people worry about clothes or money or how the next race is going to finish. If I do bet on a race,” he smiled, “I consider the money’s spent before the race is run.”
Usually, Clark Gable isn’t inclined to talk much about himself. I’m afraid I tricked him, though. Our conversation started with talking philosophy of life. That led us to get personal in the philosophizing.
“Sure, I’ve been unhappy, too, at times,” he conceded. “After marriage has failed, for example. But you can’t go on being miserable. Some people may say I’m crusty,” he winked, “but I take life easily. I like to get way and relax with a few of the boys and fish and ride. I have a couple of horses back home in California,” he mentioned with a trace of longing, and I nodded. I’ve seen his ranch home at Encino, which is just an easy half-hour’s ride from Hollywood.
“I enjoy riding,” he continued, “and swimming, and I like to just laze around, too, in comfortable blue jeans. I keep fit and enjoy life that way,” he smiled.
“This guy Gable is pretty lucky,” he opined. “Lucky in films—and, well, you might also say lucky in love.”
Gable, as you can see, is harboring no regrets about his past loves. As for the present, his name and Gene Tierney’s have been widely coupled in American newspaper columns, but neither he nor Gene can figure out how the rumors got started, unless they derived from the fact that Clark and Gene are co-starring in the film, “Never Let Me Go.”
While they were in London working on the picture, Gene was knocking herself out learning how to behave like a real ballerina so she could convincingly play the part of one in the movie. It was exhausting work and she went home at nights worn out, she told me, and literally dove into bed early, except for those few evenings when she went to the theatre early (shows begin at 7:15pm in London) with her mother.
Clark spent every weekend in Paris, and his week-nights learning his lines for the next day, reading scripts for future movies—he’s usually conscientious about his work—and often ate dinner right in his room at the hotel.
There’s a wonderful feeling of exhilaration about being in the company of someone like Gable, who’s so very alive to the possibilities of enjoying life. He can talk about Paris for hours. He’s crazy about the place because it’s gay, it’s complicated enough ever to provide new discoveries—and it contrives privacy for its visitors.
Even Clark Gable can saunter along the avenues and wander into little shops and restaurants without being approached by strangers. Clark was telling that he has roamed the city from border to border without intrusion. He’s had the auto of a French friend to drive there, and used it every weekend to explore Paris, as well as the beautiful French countryside.
He’s been dating several attractive French girls there, usually improvising a big, gay Saturday night with his date and one of the charming French couples he’s become friendly with in Paris.
There have been a lot of rumors of romances between Gable and various girls since he ended his last marriage. Virginia Grey, a long-time friend of Clark’s, has been mentioned. Gene Tierney was a rumored love. Another was pretty Natalie Thompson, who only recently ended her own marriage to a magazine publisher.
I know Natalie and spent some time with her and her second husband, the publisher, in New York. They had a child, a baby who is deeply and thoroughly adored by Natalie. She’s one of the loveliest girls I’ve ever met, gay, sweet and very pretty—and city-bred. She loves dancing, bridge games and parties. Although she and Clark were quietly seeing a good deal of each other before he left for Europe, and I understand she intended to be in Europe while Clark was working there, she didn’t seem to be around. Another case of dissimilar interests? Who can tell? This romance may not be dead yet.
In Africa, Gable will be co-starring with Ava Gardner. He told me the story of the romantic comedy picture they’re going to make together there. Ava plays the part of a beautiful girl who sets her cap for a fabulous maharajah and trips over Gable instead. Clark, in describing the girl’s role, said enthusiastically of Ava, “She’ll be perfect for the part, just terrific.”
If Frankie and Ava come up with any more public disputes, look toward Africa for the next batch of romantic rumors, but eye them questioningly.
Recall that Ava and Clark have had some dates in the past. They’ve known each other for years—and Gable is a guy who usually knows his own mind. That is, once he makes it up.