clark gable bette davis

From December 1940:

Clark Gable and Bette Davis can eat their Christmas turkey in peace. They may not win Oscars this year, but they have copped a far more important prize, from a viewpoint of financial security, the box-office rating as the most popular actor and actress of 1940.

This is the second win for Miss Davis, who was accorded the same honor in 1939. Her closest competition this year came from Judy Garland and Myrna Loy. On the heels of Gable were Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, respectively. The poll was participated in by movie editors, theater owners, civic, educational and religious leaders.

joan crawford clark gable

From 1946:

Joan Crawford, who never gives big parties, really went the works on a welcome to Hollywood for Viveca Lindfors, the new Swedish importation. There was a dance floor, orchestra, bar and complete buffet service, all under a huge cellophane tent in Joan’s yard. Every guest showed up but Bette Davis and Clark Gable. Believe it or not, Bette got smacked in the head with a moving camera and went to Laguna Beach to recuperate. Clark didn’t get back in time from a fishing trip. Cutest couple present was Ann Blyth and John Compton, the “daughter” and “son-in-law” of “Mildred Pierce.”


Anyone else not surprised Bette Davis didn’t attend?

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

This week, featured is another article from the archive, Gone with the Wind Indeed!, Photoplay magazine, March 1937. This article is all about the pressing issue of casting the great civil war epic:

Time was when you could call a man a rat in Hollywood and get yourself a stiff poke in the nose. But now what you get is–”Rhett? Rhett Butler? Well–I don’t know about that ‘profile like an old coin’ stuff, but I’ve been told I am rather masterful and–” Yes and there was a day when you could call a woman scarlet in this town and find yourself looking into the business end of a male relative’s shotgun. But now it’s–”Scarlett? Scarlett O’Hara? Oh, do you really think so? Well, I wish you’d say that around Mr. Selznick. Of course, my eyes aren’t exactly green, but unless they use Technicolor–”

Ever since that very small but very un-Reconstructed Rebel, Mistress Peggy Mitchell, of the Atlanta Mitchells, wrote a book called “Gone with the Wind”, which went like a seventy-mile gale over the country and whipped up a grade-A tornado, a civil war, the like of which Jeff Davis never dreamed, has been raging uncontrolled way out in Hollywood.

Houses are divided, brother against brother, husband against wife, butler versus pantry maid.

“Why, Judge,” a woman told the court the other day, “this bum says the only man to play Rhett Butler is Warren William. How can I go on living with a cretin like that?”

“Yeah,” countered the defendant, “and, Your Honor, she embarrassed me before my friends plugging for Ronald Coleman. Ronald Coleman–imagine! My business dropped off.” “Divorce granted,” murmured the court, “although personally I’ve always thought Gary Cooper would be a natural for the part.”

Who will win? Well–here are the favorites, complete with clockings, handicaps, and pole positions. You pay your money and you take your choice:

Ladies first, which means Rhett Butler–

Clark Gable is the odds on favorite. He probably will play the part. If he doesn’t there may be a Revolution. The nationwide choice, by a wide margin, he runs neck-and-neck with Warner Baxter in the South, which, incidentally, will have plenty to say about the casting of this picture. Gable is also the big Hollywood favorite, although if you can’t see him you can’t see him at all. It’s that way. Letters have poured in threatening boycotts and reprisals (honest) if he’s cast as Rhett. The same if he isn’t.

Clark is the right age, the perfect build, the effective sex quotient. On a very touchy point–whether or not he can put on a Southern accent and wear it becomingly–he is doubtful. He would give a year of his life to play Rhett–why not? It would be the biggest money gland his career could conceivably manage.

But–Gable is among the most jealously hoarded of MGM stars. And Selznick International, not MGM, copped this prize story of the century. MGM turned it down! Selznick International means John Hay Whitney and David Oliver Selznick. But again–David Oliver Selznick is married to Louis B. Mayer’s daughter. Would Gable be available? What do you think?

Frederic March is the only actor so far officially tested for Rhett. Was the early choice, but seems to have faded in the back stretch. Would be available, eager and willing to play Rhett on a moment’s notice. Runs about third in the terrific straw balloting which increases every day. Is regarded by millions as a great actor–many others do not agree. Played the other great sensational best seller title part, “Anthony Adverse.” Consensus of opinion is that Frederic would be an adequate Rhett, but that’s all. Lacks the sinister sex considered absolutely essential to a great performance.

Warner Baxter has surprising support from Atlanta and the deep South. Is the best “sympathy” actor in the race. His recent sock hit in “To Mary–With love” is considered an apt build-up. Warner has the strong support of all who picture Rhett Butler as a man who suffered and suffered. Is keeping his fingers crossed day and night because if he landed it would be “In Old Arizona” all over again for him. His contract, of course, is with Twentieth Century Fox, which makes him eligible. Darryl Zanuck who is a borrower of stars in the talent market wouldn’t dare bite the hand that feeds him and keep him locked in the closet. Warner, too, is about the right age, a little on the oldish side. His weakness, too, is no powerful sex appeal.

Ronald Colman popped into the running through an erroneous press dispatch. But once in has remained a strong contender. Chief advantage is his spot as long term contract star with Selznick International, his decided romantic charm, suavity, age and sympathetic personality. Chief disadvantage is ever-lovin’ Britishness, hard for the folks down South to swallow when the story is almost a sectional issue.

Those are the favorites. But Cary Grant, Basil Rathbone, Edward Arnold haven’t given up yet.

Now gents–it’s your turn.

For Scarlett O’Hara–

Tallulah Bankhead–shared the same bum steer announcement that brought Ronald Coleman in. Was tested by Selznick twice, once in Hollywood while on the stage in “Reflected Glory.” It was a simple color test but it gave the newshawks ideas. Tested again in New York by Director George Cukor. Is a professional choice, being considered the best actress of all candidates. Would satisfy Dixie, hailing originally from Alabama. Her pappy represents the state as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington. Talu could probably recapture a sugar-lipped drawl, all right, buy the years and an aura of sophistication are against her. The part would be like long delayed manna from Heaven for her, bestowing the great screen break her rooters have long wailed has been denied a great artiste. Only a lukewarm choice in the popular response. But vigorously opposed by an opinionated minority.

Miriam Hopkins is the red hot choice of Atlanta and the South. Leads other actresses by a nice margin in the letter deluge. One reason, she hails from Bainbridge, Georgia, right close to home. Is a good subject for color, if it is used, except she’ll have to wear a wig. Played Becky Sharp, the character generally compared to Scarlett O’Hara, but that might work against her.

Bette Davis is the number one Hollywood selection. Just missed cinching the part by a matter of minutes. On her way to England, Bette was told by Warner’s New York story board they were buying a great story for her, “Gone with the Wind.” But by the time they wired Hollywood for an okay, the hammer had dropped. The day His Majesty’s courts decided that Bette was a “naughty girl” and “must go back to jail” her low spirits were lifted by a columnist’s clipping calling her the ideal Miss O’Hara. Answers to Scarlett now around the Warner lot. Bette is the only Yankee girl to score below that well-known line. Ranks third in the Cotton Belt. Is considered to be just the right age to handle the assignment and blessed with the right amount of–er–nastiness. No complaints from the home folks on her southern accent in “Cabin in the Cotton” or as Alabama Follansbee in “The Solid South” (stage).

But–Bette is in the doghouse chained and collared, and one of the main issues of her legal whipping was her loan out demand. Warners can–probably would keep her in the cooler. Selznick, in fact, is supposed to have said, “Bette Davis? Great–but could we get her?”

Margaret Sullavan holds the second spot in returns from down yonder. Is a Virginia girl, and knows what to do when a lady meets a gentleman down South. Handed brilliantly the lead in “So Red the Rose”, another Civil War picture. Fractious and fiery enough to make Scarlett a vivid character. Tagged next to Bette Davis in Hollywood.

And the Field–Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Jean Harlow.

Now as if puzzling about all this were not enough to set a body weaving baskets in the clink, Messrs. Selznick and Company announce that they want for Scarlett and Rhett not Hollywood stars at all. No–instead they have arranged to canvass all the finishing schools of Dixie, and ogle Junior Leaguers at the very lovely teas and discover and “unknown” Scarlett. A similar search, minus the tea, is hoped to dig up an indigenous Rhett.

Thus, they say, everything will not only be peaches and cream for professional Southerners, but what is much more important, two brand new stars will be born. Why take other studio’s stars and build them? Isn’t this going to be the greatest picture of all time?

Well–as to the first idea–it’s great if it works, is the opinion of the Hollywood wise ones. But it won’t work, they say. Whom are you going to find in the sticks to handle parts like those? Whom could you dare gamble on?

And that “greatest picture of all time” stuff. It smacks strongly, I grant you, of the old mahoskus. It’s press agent oil of the most ready viscosity and has flowed freely around every epic from “The Great Train Robbery” to Shirley Temple’s latest cutrick. But this time the answer that snaps right back out of your own skeptic brain is, “Why not?”

These gentlemen–Whitney and Selznick–have, and they know what they have, the greatest screen story of our day. If you don’t think so, here’s the cold cash proof: The day after they laid $50,000 on the line for the picture rights, another studio offered them $100,000. The next offer was boosted to $250,000. The last bid, not long ago, was $1,500,000 and an interest in the picture besides! Tie that.

They said “No” and they are still saying the same. Mr. Whitney and Mr. Selznick are not ribbon clerks. They shot $2,200,000 on “The Garden of Allah.” They will pinch no pennies on “Gone with the Wind”. If color will help it (and it probably will) they’ll shoot and extra million. Sidney Howard is writing the script. George Cukor will direct. Walter Plunkett is designing costumes. These men are all top flight.

So you can reasonably be sure of this–when you finally see “Gone with the Wind” you’ll see a picture dressed in the best trappings of modern production, primed with meticulous preparation, artistic thoroughness and as many millions as it can comfortably stand.

But as for who will be Scarlett and who will be Rhett–well, the riot squads are doing a nice business, thank you. And good citizens of Hollywood scowl across Cahuenga Pass at North Hollywood muttering. “Dam’ Yanks!” While out in Beverly Hills the South Side of the Tracks is threatening to secede if somebody will only fire on the Brown Derby.

It looks as if we’ll fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. Everybody’s welcome, and usually it doesn’t require a second invitation. Just casually mention the subject. You’ll see. Matter of the fact, the only person I can think of offhand who doesn’t seem to be at all upset about the matter is the lady who wrote the book.

Early in the fray, Margaret Mitchell allowed it would be nice if a Southern girl could play Scarlett. But the reaction was so violent that it must have surprised her. At any rate she announced the other day it was her one desire to remain only as the humble author, and to a close friend she confided:

“I don’t care what they do to ‘Gone with the Wind’ in Hollywood. Just so they don’t make General Lee win the war for a happy ending!”

These choices really crack me up. JEAN HARLOW?? CARY GRANT?? EDWARD ARNOLD?? CLAUDETTE COLBERT?? Really atrocious.

You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.



From September 1940:

Players who came to the Hollywood feast early get most of the gravy. The highest salaries go to firmly established stars like these:

Clark Gable hits the cash register for about $7,500 weekly, 52 weeks a year, with fat bonuses.

Ronald Colman pockets $150,000 per picture, plus 10% of the world gross when it goes over a certain amount–and it usually does.

Robert Taylor brings Barbara Stanwyck an envelope containing about $5,000 weekly, plus bonuses.

Bette Davis earns not less than $3,500 a week the year round.

Deanna Durbin, who blossomed before the economy blight, earns over $2,500 a week, and bonuses.

Claudette Colbert draws $150,000 per picture.

Jimmy Stewart gets about $2,500 a week–and a crack at that bonus.

Due to Hollywood;s reluctance to reveal actual salaries, these sums are estimated on the basis of information supplied by reliable sources.

Hardly threatened with starvation, these stars still can’t approach the Arabian Nights scale of living once rampant in Hollywood:

Linda Darnell has climbed from $110 to $350 a week within the last year. It will be a long time before she reaches the $1,500 mark.

Mary Beth Hughes collects $350 a week for mugging with John Barrymore.

Carole Landis, much publicized, earns $350 weekly for the same sort of role that brings Carole Lombard $150,000 per picture.

Robert Stack gets about $250 a week, opposite Durbin and Dietrich. Robert Montgomery’s greater fame, experience and ability would rate $4,000 weekly for the same work.

Hedy Lamarr, as well known as Colbert and Garbo, earned $750 weekly a few months ago, now gets $1,250, may never reach $5,000.

From April 1935:

What would you do if you only had 24 hours to live?

carole lombard

Carole Lombard…wants to gather her friends around her for the last bow. Instead of just a few, she prefers a large gay cocktail gathering in her home.

“Because,” she said to me, “I think it would be great to go out with a ring of laughter and music in your ears, don’t you?”

cary grant

Cary Grant:

“By cable, telephones, wires and radios I would get in direct communication with the few people I have hurt during my life. With death hovering near, I could explain and ask their forgiveness, a thing that seems too difficult to do in the midst of life and loving. I would make my peace with them, and then I would go to some out of the way church and make peace with God.”

claudette colbert

Claudette Colbert:

“First, I hope I could arrange for those precious twenty-four hours to take place in New York City, and I’d like the day to be a Wednesday or a Saturday. I would want it this way so I could attend a matinee and another performance in the evening. You see, I would like to witness two whopping good plays on my last day on earth. And, somehow, I think I would like to find death in the same place where I first found life, in the theater.”

gary cooper

Gary Cooper:

“I’d charter a plane and fly up to the family’s ranch in Wyoming. The trip should take five hours, leaving nineteen for a swim and some fishing in the waterfall pool near the ranch house, a short ride into the mountains and one campfire meal. I can’t think of anything else more satisfying for my final day.”

bette davis

Bette Davis:

“I can forget every worry, fear and irritation in the High Sierras. I am sure I could even forget impending death there. I would want Ham, my husband with me, and, if possible, our two dogs. We have a special camping place in the northeastern corner of Kern County, California, that few people know about. I’d like to pitch camp there, catch one rainbow trout, cook it over an open fire, eat it, and then watch one of those impossibly beautiful mountain sunsets.”

clark gable

For Clark Gable there would be no heroics or dramatics. He would dispense with farewells, last talks with friends and loved ones, and would live his one short day as it were just another casual date on his calendar. “I’d like to go to work at the studio as usual, see familiar faces, do familiar things, eat familiar foods, that’s all.” And then after a full minute’s hesitation he added: “Oh, yes, just one more thing, I’d like to see a sunrise.”

Some of my favorite finds when I am scouring through old fan magazines are candids of random stars together. “I never knew that Blank ever even met Blank!” I often think, particularly now during “awards show season”, how the generations to come won’t feel similar joy, since there are thousands of pictures taken at every red carpet event, awards show and party and so thus the surprise of seeing stars posing together has dwindled.

Here are some shots of Clark with other Tinseltown folk…

clark gable robert taylor

with Robert Taylor

george burns gracie allen clark gable

with George Burns and Gracie Allen

clark gable errol flynn

with Errol Flynn

clark gable judy garland

with Judy Garland

clark gable margaret o'brien

with Margaret O'Brien

mickey rooney clark gable

with Mickey Rooney

marlene dietrich clark gable

with Marlene Dietrich

paulette goddard clark gable

with Paulette Goddard

jack lemmon clark gable

with Jack Lemmon

marilyn maxwell clark gable

with Marilyn Maxwell

roy rogers clark gable

with Roy Rogers

clark gable ann dvorak

with Ann Dvorak

clark gable susan peters

with Susan Peters

clark gable elizabeth taylor

with Elizabeth Taylor

clark gable ginger rogers

with Ginger Rogers

clark gable ann sheridan

with Ann Sheridan

clark gable shirley temple

with Shirley Temple

clark gable jayne mansfield

with Jayne Mansfield

clark gable marie dressler

with Marie Dressler

clark gable katharine hepburn

with Katharine Hepburn

clark gable james stewart

with Jimmy Stewart


nancy davis clark gable

with Nancy Davis

gary cooper clark gable

with Gary Cooper

clark gable bette davis

with Bette Davis

clark gable spencer tracy robert taylor william powell

with Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor and William Powell

See more in the gallery.

Our trip to Forest Lawn: Hollywood Hills was a quick one. Founded in 1906, it is younger and smaller than its big Glendale cousin (blog on Glendale this week!) but is still gorgeous in its own right. The best part of the cemetery is the view; you could see for miles from the top of the hill.

Our main objective here was the legendary Bette Davis, who was not at all hard to find. I left her a bouquet (dedicated from some dear friends of mine); she had already been given several flowers and also a big lipstick print.

Clark Gable and Bette Davis

Clark Gable and Bette Davis


She’s entombed with her mother Ruth and sister Barbara.

Right around the corner from her, in a wall in the outdoor mausoleum is a modest marker for renowed actor Charles Laughton. Charles was the tyrannical Captain Bligh to Clark’s mutinous Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty, and starred with Carole in White Woman (1933) and They Knew What They Wanted (1941). Carole reportedly nicknamed him Cuddles, but apparently neither she nor Clark cared for him very much personally.

Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton

Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton

Not too far from there is George Raft. George was known to have Mob connections and was quite the womanizer. Him and Carole were rumored to have had a thing or two while filming Bolero (1934) and Rumba (1935) together. George also dated Norma Shearer and, briefly, Clark’s ex-wife Ria Langham shortly after their divorce.

Carole Lombard and George Raft

Carole Lombard and George Raft

george raft

Cool fact about Forest Lawn: Hollywood Hills is that during the silent era its massive fields were used as a filming location. Battle scenes for D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation
(1915) were filmed here.

warner brothers

All the major studios offer tours: Sony (formerly MGM), Warner Brothers, Universal, Paramount. We of course knew we wanted to do MGM (blog post forthcoming), since that was home to Clark and so many other of the “brightest stars”. We wanted to do one other one and it was a toss-up between Warner Brothers and Paramount. We ultimately picked Warner Brothers because it was the highest rated studio tour.

We weren’t disappointed. It is a tram tour, but our guide was very knowledgable and I felt he mixed the old with the new quite well. We saw the set of Friends’ Central Perk, the outside set of ER, and heard a lot about Harry Potter.

But we also heard about Bette Davis, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and the history of Warner Brothers.

Before Clark signed his contract with MGM that lasted over 20 years, he had small roles in two Warner Brothers films: Night Nurse and The Finger Points. Later he was loaned here for Cain and Mabel. After he left MGM, he filmed some scenes for Band of Angels on a soundstage here as well. Carole Lombard made Fools for Scandal (1938) here.

Warner Bros backlot

Warner Bros backlot

One tram stop was to the studio museum, which was two levels, one for the Harry Potter films and one for everything else. We have never seen nor read Harry Potter (sorry) so we stayed downstairs. They had several interesting items–pieces from Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford and more; my favorite being this dress that Bette Davis wore in her Oscar-nominated turn in Dark Victory (1939), complete with the tiny cap she wore to conceal her character’s recent brain surgery.

 I had always wondered what color this dress was and so I was thrilled to see it in person. The top was multicolored intricate embroidery, all brightly shaded, and the skirt and cap were a vivid ruby red. I wish I could have taken a picture but they made us lock them up in the tram beforehand.

Being the Clark fan I am, the thing I wanted to see the most on the Warner Brothers lot was the former Stage 7 (now 16). When Clark was loaned to Warner Brothers in 1935 to make the mediocre romantic comedy Cain and Mabel with Marion Davies, this studio was where it was filmed.

Stage 16 Warner Bros

What makes it so special is that Marion Davies, the mistress of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, demanded that the studio roof be ripped off and the studio be extended by over 30 feet to accomodate the large dance numbers planned for the film. WB head honcho Jack Warner refused to do it, saying it was too expensive, but Hearst, wanting to make his lady happy, footed the bill. It was deemed too pricey to rip the roof off and build up, so in an extremely difficult process, the studio was actually lifted off the ground and the new addition was built underneath it.

See the studio under construction with Clark and Marion looking on in this behind the scenes video/trailer for the film: Cain and Mabel

Stage 16 Warner Bros

At the time, it was the tallest soundstage in the world and is still the tallest on the Warner Brothers lot; you can see it everywhere you go on the tour. Including the two million gallon water tank installed under its floors, the studio is 94 feet tall.

Stage 16 Warner Bros

Stage 16 Warner Bros

Stage 16 Warner Bros

Outside each of the studios is a list of the “memorable” films filmed in that particular studio, which I thought was a nice nostalgic touch. Here is Studio 16, although you may notice that Cain and Mabel is not listed, because, frankly, although the studio owes its mammoth size to the film, it was a flop.  Inside Studio 16, Dark Victory, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Big Sleep, My Fair Lady, Ghostbusters and Jurassic Park were filmed, among many others.

It was a great tour and very informative. As a classic film fan, I liked that Warner Brothers is moving forward into the future but still acknowleding and appreciating its past.

From March 1940:

Talk of Hollywood, recently, is how much luck the girls who did NOT get the Scarlett O’Hara role in Gone with the Wind had!

Of course, Vivien Leigh was the “lucky” one who got the part. But look at the others–

Bette Davis did Jezebel instead and won an Academy Oscar; Norma Shearer, in The Women, did such a swell job that she may get the next Award; Tallulah Bankhead, when she flopparooed on Scarlett, did the stage play that’s getting her international raves…ditto Katharine Hepburn, who also did NOT get the O’Hara plum, but who scored hugely behind the footlights in Philadelphia Story. And Susan Hayward, Paulette Goddard and Miriam Hopkins, who also went pfft on their O’Hara tests, are running tops in the Hollywood handicap in other films.

Margaret Tallichet was another Scarlett also-ran. But instead of getting a part-time role as the O’Hara, she got herself a full-time role as Mrs. Willie Wyler!

And Carole Lombard!–whee, without even being IN the picture, much less Scarlett O’Hara–Carole got Rhett Butler all for herself!!!


Today and tomorrow I am attending the festivities in Marietta, GA the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum is hosting to celebrate thne 75th anniversary of the novel! Details are here. I will have a full report!

We’ve reached 9,000 images in the gallery! Wahoo! New this week are screenshots from Men in White.

vivBette Davis in Jezebel

Today is Bette Davis’ 103rd birthday– here’s a letter to the editor of a fan magazine from June 1940:

I was extremely disappointed to learn that Vivien Leigh, not Bette Davis, was the recipient of this year’s Academy Award. What right had they to give the “Oscar” to a star who has had only one great picture to back her? Hasn’t Miss Leigh been in pictures before this “GWTW” epic? And hasn’t she just been “among those present” as far as the fans were concerned? Did she ever attract any attention before they thought she looked the way Scarlett O’Hara should look? It isn’t fair that Miss Davis be de-throned by a star who was lucky enough to get the most talked about role in all movie history. Furthermore, Bette could have acted that part just as convincingly.

Physically speaking, Bette isn’t as much Scarlett as is Vivien Leigh, but that doesn’t say she couldn’t have handled the role just as well or better. Look at what she did with “Elizabeth” and “The Old Maid”! She didn’t look like either of them, either, but did we ever give that a thought?

I don’t dislike Vivien at all. She was grand in “Gone with the Wind.” We cannot, however, adjudge her worthy of that most coveted award just on the strength of one picture. The other choices were perfectly satisfactory. I did think Clark Gable would get one for his 18 carat Rhett, but then Robert Donat was just as good in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”. All in all, it was a pretty fair outcome, and the “best of everything to the winners.” ~Jane Brennan, Beverly, New Jersey


Bette Davis was very vocal in her desire to play Scarlett and begged Jack Warner, head of her studio at Warner Brothers, to buy the rights for her. She still thought she had a chance after Warner passed on it but when David Selznick was briefly considering her, Warner said he couldn’t have her unless he took  Warner property Errol Flynn as Rhett as well. Selznick refused, since he had his heart set on a certain other mustached fellow for Rhett, thus crushing Bette’s chances. To be fair, Bette did get to star as a different bratty Civil War era Southern belle in Jezebel, as a bit of a consolation prize. And she won an Oscar for the role, the year before Vivien did. So even though she lost out to Vivien the following year (Bette was nominated for her excellent turn in Dark Victory), she had two Oscars on her mantlepiece already (Bette also won in 1934 for Dangerous). So is there really a reason to complain, Miss Brennan?