clark gable carole lombard

From October 1936:

Carole Lombard has found a “topper” for the wreck of a car she sent Clark Gable as a Valentine gift. It is an antiquated fire engine. 

When the star learned the fire engine was for sale she hurried out and took an option on it. What Gable will do with the engine is a question.

Gable turned the tables on Carole when she gave him the car, for he transformed the broken-down roadster into a snappy racing car. Carole feels that her latest gift will have him “stumped”!

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From November 1939:
Lately I’ve seen both Clark Gable and Carole Lombard at lunch at Ruby Foo’s (this is the old Vendome) with decorator Tom Douglas and a few days later with Bill Haines at the Victor Hugo. They are deep in the business of buying advice and decorations for their ranch home. I can’t quite see streamlined, brittle Lombard on a ranch, even a very exceptional one. But they seem happy as larks.

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From March 1938:
Carole Lombard’s learned to ride Western every Sunday and to roast a nifty duck; she jounces happily in a station wagon when she might be languishing in a limousine. All for Clark Gable’s company! Now, she’s resuming her interest in flying. In “Test Pilot” Clark’s had to fly so much for the director that he has enough hours in the air to get his pilot’s license. Carole took lessons out at the municipal airport a year or so ago, and she’s on the verge of starting over. She’ll never let it be said that she isn’t a swell sport. She isn’t going to be a fool about the top salary she’s commanding, either. The other day, on the set, she inquired how much the owner wanted for a sheep dog acting in her picture. He replied, “Five hundred dollars.” A prop man popped an inquiry, and the answer was “A hundred and fifty.” Carole didn’t buy Snoopy and Snoopy’s papa is no doubt sorry he underestimated this star.

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On January 16, 1942, a grim Clark Gable boarded a plane to Las Vegas to find out the fate of his beloved wife Carole Lombard, her mother Elizabeth Peters and his friend Otto Winkler after hearing that their plane had gone down at Mount Potosi.

Seeing the fire on the mountain at his arrival, he knew the news wasn’t good but still he wanted to go with the rescue team. He was persuaded not to, and considering the charred bodies that were found, it was certainly not a sight he would have wanted to see.

El Rancho Las Vegas

El Rancho Las Vegas


After some time spent at the nearby Pioneer Saloon,  Clark was taken to the El Rancho Vegas Hotel to await news on his wife, his mother-in-law and his friend, staying in a private bungalow under guard from the press and curious fans. The news he received: “No survivors. All killed instantly.”

An emotionally shattered Clark insisted on remaining at the El Rancho until all three bodies were taken down the mountain; he wanted to accompany them on the train back to Los Angeles. His time in his bungalow was spent pacing, chain smoking, not eating, not sleeping and barely speaking.

From this article:

One of the friends who’d accompanied Clark met Eddie [Mannix, MGM publicity):
“He hasn’t eaten since we got here. Go see if you can get him to eat.”

“If you can’t, I can’t–”

“Maybe a new face–”

He went in. “Hello, Clark.”

Gable lifted his ravaged face. “Hello.”
His eyes returned to the window. But the sight of Ed seemed to have dragged him back to the incredibly beautiful time when there had been a Carole in the world–back and then forward. He looked up again. ‘We didn’t meet the plane, did we, Ed?”

Ed’s heart turned to water. “No, Clark,” He said quietly, “we didn’t meet the plane.”

Then, a little later, “Want something to eat?”

“Mind if I eat something?”

He ordered a hamburger sent to him there. Maybe it was a lousy idea, but what could he lose? It worked. “Think you could get me some stewed fruit?” asked Clark. Ed was out of there like a bat out of hell. He wasn’t leaving this to the telephone. With the fruit, he brought back a bottle of milk. Clark finished the bottle, by which time Ed had stealthily introduced another. Clark finished that, too. No general ever got more satisfaction from a well-planned maneuver than strategist Ed.

Clark kept himself going till everything was done that had to be done. Otto was buried the day after Carole and her mother. He insisted on going. He went with Jill. Then he relapsed into what seemed a kind of stupor. They couldn’t get him to love; they could hardly get him to speak. He just sat.

Gable’s been rated a tough guy, who could take what blows fate handed out and come back for more. Those who wondered over his collapse are those who confused toughness with lack of deep feeling. Sure, Gable’s tough, none of which precludes the softer emotions. Tenderness is none the less tender when wrapped in a gag. One day there had been Carole, warm, alive, the dear companion of today and all the years to come. Next day there was Carole, a searing pain. She’d woven herself into every fiber of his being. Torn out, he was left bleeding. She’d been the heart of his world. When it stopped beating, the world crumbled. He was in no stupor. He’d crawled into the hole of himself, because every outside contact flayed his raw grief.

I’ve said before that I have a lot or random Gable related stuff. Well, one of those random items is an original picture of the bungalow Clark stayed in at El Rancho, taken right after he left. You can see, they have typed on the photo as well as written on the back. This was taken by an employee of the hotel, who sent it to her sister, apparently a Clark Gable fan.

clark gable el rancho las vegas


When Clark left El Rancho to head back to Los Angeles with three bodies, he was never the same.

The hotel largely burned to the ground in 1960, and then the remnants were bulldozed in 1978, so this is a rare glance of where Clark was during the worst days of his life.

Clark leaving El Rancho Las Vegas

Clark leaving El Rancho Las Vegas

gable and lombard 1976

Part Two of me watching Gable and Lombard (1976) again and reporting back on how terrible it is. Here’s Part One.

(I am quoting a movie that is Rated R so please pardon the language)

Having decided to make a go of their relationship and to keep it under wraps, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are now disguising themselves as Western Union delivery boys and cab drivers to sneak off together. Aren’t those Clark’s pre-denture teeth?

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He calls her “Ma” here for the first time, but she still shrieks “Gable” all the time.

In reality Clark and Carole were seen everywhere–premieres, auto races, horse races, restaurants, parties–everywhere. They received lots of press and fans were thrilled. I suppose  that wasn’t enough drama though; in the film she laments that they can’t even go to a movie together and eat popcorn like a real couple.

So they make the big tragedy of this film the fact that they have to hide their romance, when in reality that was never the case. There was frustration that they couldn’t get married because of Ria, but there was not a big secret romance.

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Now they’re out on a fishing trip. She’s in a big hat and sitting with a cigarette at first but eventually out-fishes him.

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I appreciate they included the wood-paneled station wagon.

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Their rendezvous is broken up when reporters find out Clark’s up there and so she has to go back to town before they’re discovered.

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Suddenly we’re in late 1938/1939 (I guess?) with Hedda Hopper, Clark and Carole pretending they don’t know really know each other.

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Like her hair and dress. That is all.

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Of course by now they were America’s favorite couple, photographed everywhere. Nobody cared anymore that Clark was still legally married.But instead of trumping up the glamour and the cuteness of their courtship, we have Clark on a fake date with Vivien Leigh [NEVER HAPPENED], with Carole looking on from a distance in dismay.

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And then Clark is filming Gone with the Wind, with Carole visiting the set dressed up like a Confederate soldier, whiskers and all, to check up on him.  He accuses her of being jealous of “my love scene with that British dame.”

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He undresses her as she mocks him as “Mr. Butler” and even says “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.”  She leaves half-dressed, in part of her silly costume. Nobody’s going to notice her walking out of Clark Gable’s dressing room like that?

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Next, Carole is in the bathtub at Paramount. This time Clark’s spying on her because he’s jealous she’ll be in a bathtub with another man.What movie is this supposed to be? In what 1930’s movie do men get in bathtubs with women?gable and lombard 1976

Clark spies on her,  watching her shriek and go on and on like a banshee in the tub, in one of the worst cases of over-acting I’ve ever witnessed.

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Then they’re in bed together and she says she wants to make a baby with his ears. I’m growing tired. Tired and restless at the pointlessness of it all. Doesn’t this movie seem ungodly long? (This coming from someone who loves Gone with the Wind)

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Sweeping  music interrupted by knocks at the door. It’s  Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM,  there to lecture them on being immoral.

“It’s immoral to be in love? It makes me so damn mad, all this phony bullshit!” Carole shrieks.

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Mayer informs Carole that Ria is indeed willing to divorce Clark for the right price. This starts a fight after Mayer leaves, of course. Which is ridiculous, as Carole always knew what was delaying the divorce is that Ria wanted a huge lump sum. Timeline is again skewed, as Clark got the lump sum as a bonus for signing onto Gone with the Wind, which is the film he is already shooting at this point.

“Forgive me if I show my naivete as I was living under the delusion that underneath this self-righteous stud was an honest man. I’m a fool. I think he’s happy with me, it’s a joke. What is it baby, the money, the convenience, the steady lay? I hope it’s not the Sunday morning biscuits because if it is, all this time you could have been screwing Betty Crocker!” Carole cries.

Somebody wrote that. In a script. And was paid to do so.

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More shrieking at him. So much shrieking.

Prepare yourself for Clark’s sappy monologue:

“Let me explain. Mayer’s right. For a price, Ria’d give me a divorce. All I’ve got to do is give her the moon. If I gave her everything I saved, and most all my future income, I’d be a free man. I suppose if I really wanted a divorce I’d do it.  I guess down deep I don’t really want one. Well, it’s not you, baby. You’re everything a guy could hope for. It’s just that I’ve tried it twice before, I was married once before Ria. It didn’t work out. I’ve never been able to make it work out with anybody. I guess I don’t got what it takes to make a woman happy.”

He admits he doesn’t have the guts to try it again, that he’s scared. Whatever. Clark was never worried about that; his two previous marriages were both marriages of convenience, not of love. But true that what Ria wanted would literally have cleaned him out.

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She reassures him.

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Since it’s been 1.5 seconds since their last fight ended, they start another one–now over the fact that Clark never says “I love you.”

“You know how I feel, baby. I’m just not the kind of guy that can say those things. Some guys can say them. I can’t, so what?”

More shrieking.

“You’re not frightened of marriage, that’s a crock of shit. You’re frightened of yourself. You’re frightened of your feelings for a woman because you think it makes you less of a man. You and your phony image of what a man is supposed to be–just screw ‘em and leave ‘em! Well I’ve got news for you, honey. You can plant all the hair in Hollywood on your chest and that still doesn’t make you a man. It makes you just what you are right now–nothing.”

gable and lombard 1976

Then she declares she’s taking the next train to Indiana to see her mother. Carole’s mother had lived in California with her for years but whatever. I guess it was an excuse to do a sappy train scene where he runs to the train station after her, pounding on her stateroom door and yelling “I love you!” at the top of his lungs. Oh and it’s suggested he goes to Indiana with her.

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Oh yeah, did I forget to mention all of this is completely made up. It’d be easier actually for me to point out what’s true in this movie rather than what’s made up. Brolin does look a lot like Clark in that coat with the sunglasses and hat, I must admit.

It’s bothering me so much that he calls her “Ma” and she calls him “Gable.”

Now we finally meet Ria, which I find long overdue. Wouldn’t it have held more dramatic weight to paint the picture of this loveless marriage he was trapped in earlier? Instead of throwing it in there 45 minutes in and then making it the backbone of the whole movie with no backstory whatsoever?

Ria is shown living in a lavish mansion with a huge yard and pool and butler. Which isn’t exactly true. Her house was nice but they have her living at Buckingham Palace.

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The depiction of Ria is way off base but of course they’d have to have given some backstory to explain why he was in a loveless marriage to a homely much older woman, so instead they have Ria looking like a typical Beverly Hills society wife. She also has very 1970’s hair.

gable and lombard 1976

She refuses his divorce offer, now that a story has come out about Clark and Carole’s love nest. “You’ve defiled me in public and you’ll have to pay for it!’

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In reality this article called Hollywood’s Unmarried Husbands and Wives had come out, and that is what angered Ria and Mayer, urging the divorce along. It was about several Hollywood couples, not just Clark and Carole.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know what the word love meant before this. And now I do. For the first time. And I’m asking you to understand,” he pleas. Oh my lord, what prose.

Carole’s house apparently had a grand view of the ocean? (No) I guess this is their new love nest.

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I wish they’d included all of her animals that were always running around.

Clark and Carole were always giving each other crazy gifts and so many of them would have made great scenes (like what about the doves he woke up to find in his hotel room?) but of course the one gift that this trashy movie chooses to include is….

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“To the King. That part of you more precious than gold, this will protect from catching cold.” Yup, a sweater for his penis. We have to endure a whole process of her trying it on him while licking his ear and telling him she had to tell the lady who made it that it was for keeping cucumbers cool in the summer. (Facepalm)

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She lights candles on the cake she’s had made for them to celebrate getting rid of Ria. It has a car on it with hearts all over it. Which would be the Model T that she gave him as a Valentine’s Day gag in 1936. Only they didn’t show that in this film thus far, skipped over it, even though it was a cute story about how they got together in the beginning. And now we’re in 1939, as he’s already filming Gone with the Wind, and we see cast members from Wizard of Oz roaming around.

gable and lombard 1976

A press conference is called to deny the claims of the magazine that Clark and Carole have been shacked up together. Carole arrives in a stylish tailored suit and hat.

gable and lombard 1976

Clark starts reading the script that was prepared for him for the press, which ticks Carole off and she decides she’s had enough of this charade.
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In what is the absolutely most garish, disgusting and vomit-inducing scene in the entire crappy film, Carole changes out of her suit and waltzes into the press conference, wearing a revealing red dress reminiscent of the dress Rhett picks out for Scarlett to wear to Ashley’s birthday in Gone with the Wind, and yells, “Well there’s my horny little hunk of horsemeat! Where you been, angel ass, you know you’re late for your ten o’clock screw, mama can’t wait all day, she’s got customers! Oh hiya dolls, how ya doin’, you must be the new shipment they sent over to keep Gable happy!” as she grabs her chest and shimmys in her lowcut prostitute dress. “What do you get, ten bucks a trick? Five would be highway robbery!” “You just keep that log rollin’ honey because the oven’s hot and the rooster’s ready to crow. He calls me rooster because of my motto–Cock a doodle doo! Cock a doodle doo! Any cock will do!” she shrieks and shrieks.

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Want some horrible GIFs of it? Here you go.


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I am sorry but I cannot imagine any fan of Carole Lombard defending this scene. What an utterly disrespectful, trashy, and absolutely ridiculous display. Portraying Carole as some kind of slut, out parading like that and shrieking “any cock will do!” is a direct insult to her as a person and it makes me angry. She may have “cursed like a man” but she was still a lady. A very respectable lady in Hollywood. What was the point of this entire scene!

And then Clark  chases her down and says he’s proud of her. “I’d have done it myself but I couldn’t find a red dress to fit.”

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He reminds her, “I just want you to know that whatever dumb thing you ever do I’m always going to be right there with you.” How romantic. I am so done with this film. How much longer do I have to endure this?

Oh, and nothing comes of that scene at all. We see no reverberations from it whatsoever.

After that tomfoolery, we immediately go into a completely made-up paternity suit on the front pages of the paper: A cocktail waitress claiming that she is four months pregnant with his baby.I suppose that this is a strange slant on the 1937 paternity trial that Clark endured when a British woman claimed he had fathered her teenage daughter. Why throw this in at this point in the movie? Why include it at all? I do not, for the life of me, understand the script of this movie.

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Clark and Carole meet with the publicists and Mayer, trying to do damage control.

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Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can't be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation.

When Carole shows up at their “love nest” later that day, she runs through the house looking for him and calls him Pa! Finally.

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Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can’t be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation.

Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can't be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation. Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can't be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation.

I like his pinstripe suit. The whole suit and tie is very Clark-like. I’m trying to be positive, see?

Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can't be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation.

But then Carole shows up at the trial anyway, prim and proper in a suit with hat and gloves. “Me and that big ape over there have been hitting the sack every night and I have the sore back to prove it!’ she announces on the stand. More ladylike behavior. For some reason now everyone thinks that her admitting that they slept together every night is funny rather than shocking. She even describes his butt and says she’d know if he ever moved it.

Clark proceeds to convinces Carole that the story is actually true, all because she threatens to call the District Attorney and say that it can't be true because she has been with him every night. So he chivalrously sacrifices their relationship so she can have her career and reputation.gable and lombard 1976gable and lombard 1976

Didn’t everyone already know they were together after the article was published and after her display at the press conference? Why was her testimony at the trial the defining moment when everyone figured it out? That doesn’t make sense!

They leave the court room and their getaway vehicle is a white car painted with red hearts. So the car she gave him in 1936,now she gave him in 1939 after this made-up court case. Wouldn’t it have been cuter to have shown her giving it him early on as part of their courtship? Why did she give him a cake with the car on it earlier in the film when she hadn’t given him the actual car yet? This script gives me a headache. I think I have read more comprehensive writing when I used to grade eighth grade English essays.

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Now they are packing up his dressing room and moving off to a farm apparently, since she torpedoed both their careers with her testimony.

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Change of heart! They suddenly decide to attend a premiere together to prove they don’t care what everybody says. They get out of the car and are met with silence, then everyone claps. Oh, now they are accepted!

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Everyone stands and claps for them when they arrive in the theater. Love is victorious! His wife is granting a divorce!

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They finally get to eat popcorn together!

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We are given no scene of their wedding at all. Nope, next scene they are already married (we only know that because they call each other Mr. Gable and Mrs. Gable) and have the ranch (I guess, we don’t see the house, just open pasture and horses).

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And here’s where he tells her he’s joining the Army. And she says she’s going off to sell war bonds. Very non-dramatic scene; seems thrown in. Oh, and this conversation starts with her asking him if he’s heard on the radio about the battle of Corrigedor, which took place on May 5, 1942. Carole died in the plane crash on January 16, 1942. (Facepalm). It’s called FACT CHECKING! She could have just mentioned Pearl Harbor, couldn’t she have, just to be realistic? Oh no, realism wasn’t the name of the game, I forgot.

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That’s it. Now we are back at Clark waiting for word on the plane crash. No word of her mother going with her or his pal Otto Winkler. Nope. We don’t get to see him pacing at the bar waiting for news, none of it.

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He’s told she didn’t survive. We don’t even get the drama of it being night and the flames blazing on the mountain. He gets back in the car and says, “Hey, I heard a good one today….” tells a bad sex joke and then says “My wife told me that one,” as he cries and laughs at the same time.

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And that is the end.

Truly more horrible than I even remembered.

Why not show Clark and Carole happily married on the farm with the chickens and horses? A montage even, of them riding horses and hunting and fishing together? You could even include the post-wedding news conference of them all happy, them attending the premiere of Gone with the Wind arm in arm, etc. Then later show them struggling to have a baby and the arguing that ensued–real conflicts in the marriage, but the love shining through. How about her selling war bonds to big crowds, sending him telegrams along the way? Him regretting not taking her to the train? Him preparing this big party for her when she returns? No, we have none of that. They weather a bunch of made-up scandals while sneaking off to sleep together and then she dies. We don’t even get the satisfaction of seeing their wedding–that could have been a great scene, them sneaking out of town to Arizona and surprising a small town minister. The absolute travesty of this movie is that they took a great love story–one that without much embellishment or made-up scandals would make a wonderful movie–and made it a bunch of nonsense. A bunch of made-up nonsense with their names on it.

The film was critically panned and largely forgotten, thank goodness, except for it popping up on late night cable here and there. Thankfully the careers of James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh survived the wreckage.

Roger Ebert said of it:

Gable is ready to drop everything for a little farm in Ohio, and Lombard doesn’t give a damn about fame and fortune, and the high point of their day is when she comes banging through the kitchen door with an armload of groceries. Lombard and Gable in real life were apparently somewhat like this – he always said acting was a little silly and so he just tried to act natural, and she was an unaffected free spirit – but by limiting itself to this aspect of their lives the movie never deals with the reasons we find them interesting in the first place. The witty and sensual Lombard of “Twentieth Century” and the sly Gable of “It Happened One Night” would hardly recognize themselves as the innocents portrayed by Furie and his actors, Jill Clayburgh and James Brolin. Real people grow older and more complicated.

The movie spans nearly a decade, but they never seem to grow older and hardly ever seem to work (the movie takes a fan-magazine approach to filmmaking – it’s all dressing rooms and autograph hounds and world premieres). We learn that Gable and Lombard had to live together secretly because Gable’s wife wouldn’t give him a divorce – but the movie never admits what an open secret theirs was. And there are so many dumb practical jokes and would-be risque innuendoes that any concern for their real thoughts and feelings is lost, So we don’t get a notion of their private lives, and we don’t even remotely learn from this movie what made them great stars and personalities. Brolin does, indeed, look a lot like Gable – but imitation here has nothing to do with flattery.

The screenwriter, Barry Sandler, did an interview a few years ago where he said, “You know, the critical reaction was tough. I took certain liberties which you have to do when you’re doing a biography. You can’t stick to every specific detail. You have to shape it into a dramatic narrative that’s going to engage an audience even if you have to eliminate or consolidate or compress or rearrange whatever. So, you know, I got some critics criticizing me for that. I also took a more fun, sexual kind of approach to the relationship, and the critics thought that was being sacrilegious or whatever. Nonetheless, I’m very proud of the film. I had a great time making it and have some very fond memories of it.” You took events of their lives and threw them up in the air, put them in random order and filled most of it with made-up scenarios.

He also said, “I did a lot of research. I remember studying for hours in the Academy library, going over old newspaper articles and new stories, and just reading all the material I could read about that. So, you know, all of that is true: the paternity suit, the sock thing, and obviously the plane crash.” Yeah like none of it is true. Seedlings of truth. What research did you do exactly. Yes, she did die in a plane crash, but the surrounding story of that is missing. The paternity suit was nothing like it was portrayed in the film, for starters–instead of a 4 month pregnant cocktail waitress, it was a middle-aged woman with a teenage daughter she claimed Clark fathered in the 1920’s in England–long before he even met Carole or became a star. Carole had nothing to do with the trial when it took place in 1937.

When asked why they chose to make Clark Gable already in the Army when Carole died, his response was: “That’s the thing about doing a biography. If you want to make characters sympathetic and likable, you have to sort of forge it a bit. If that had been the situation, he would have lost the respect of the audience. So in a way, it’s making him the one who decides that he wants to go fight. It makes him more admirable, I guess, in the eyes of the audience.”

Wouldn’t it make him more sympathetic to show the truth–the 41 year old widower showing up in the same suit he wore to his wife’s funeral, with tears in his eyes, taking his oath to join the Army and declaring “I don’t care if I come back.” ??

You can read the whole interview here. Vincent, over at his divine blog Carole & Co, did a piece about the interview a few years back here.

If you really want to subject yourself to this, the film is on DVD and is available for streaming on Amazon for a low price.


Oh, the things I do in the name of this site.

I receive a lot of random emails (by the way if I don’t answer your email right away, forgive me as my emails server tends to send them in packs of 50 about three days after they were originally sent–don’t get me started). I do love to receive emails from new Clark Gable fans asking questions or just declaring their new love for Clark. I especially love to point Gone with the Wind fans in the direction of Clark’s other works, as there was so much more to the man than Rhett Butler. Over the years, I have received more than a few emails concerning the 1976 feature film Gable and Lombard. Apparently a large number of people have stumbled upon this non-biopic on Netflix or Amazon or late night cable and their opinions of Clark and Carole were shaped by its narrative, and that is downright horrifying. I have only seen it once, many years ago, and I watched it in sheer horror with my hands over my eyes. I swore to never watch it again.

But in the name of this site I decided to set the record straight. So, I am sitting down to watch Gable and Lombard again, Pepto Bismol in hand to control the waves of nausea.

I know that the film was not made to be a biography. I am well aware that you’d be hard pressed to find a movie on a real person where the facts weren’t skewed. But the point of this exercise is to point out just HOW INCREDIBLY wrong this film really is; how this film took a great love story and twisted and turned it until it was unrecognizable.

If I had Twitter, I’d probably do it on there as a live-tweet kind of thing, but I am very uncool and do not have Twitter, so here is my real-time reactions and corrections to Gable and Lombard as I watch it. Prepare yourselves.

(I am quoting a film that is rated R so pardon the language)

And so it begins.

Sweeping music as a portrait of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard morph into James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh. Which just shows you how little Clayburgh’s profile matches Lombard’s. Her features are just too sharp. Brolin is not bad.

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And we get into the first scene with what is arguably the film’s biggest and most annoying mistake. We have Clark, dressed in his Army uniform, learning that Carole’s plane had crashed. For some reason this news is accompanied by upbeat swinging big band music. One of the most romantic and tragic details of their story is that he joined the Army after her death, to make her proud. The screenwriter apparently thought it held more dramatic weight to have him join before she died–makes no sense to me.

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Then we flashback to Clark attending what was supposed to be Jock Whitney’s Nervous Breakdown Party for his wife in 1936. Clark, looking disheveled and grumpy, arrives in a sputtering car, smoking a pipe.

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James Brolin is not a horrible-looking Clark. He gets the squint pretty good and the voice isn’t bad at all. The script on the other hand…

We instantly have him yelling out cliches like a hick. “I didn’t figure this would be monkey suits in the afternoon.” “I don’t own [a jacket]. Don’t plan on buying one. Nah, this kind of shindig just ain’t for me.” Lord. Instantly he comes across as a doofus.

And in 1936 Clark is being called “kid” by the studio publicist (Red Buttons)? Being told that after the latest preview he is going to be a big star?

Here comes a speeding ambulance, which causes Clark to drive his jalopy straight into a tree. Poor Clarkie. Sitting there, pipe still in mouth, surrounded by smoke like Jughead in Archie’s Comics.

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And here we have Carole Lombard, who pops up out of the stretcher in a hospital gown, complete with jewels.

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“Surprise, you dumb bastards!” How eloquent. She  starts schmoozing, cigarette in hand, and casts Clark aside as a waiter. She is immediately unlikable.

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Jill Clayburgh is pretty (was, as she died in 2010) but she just isn’t a good fit for Lombard.

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When he confronts her over the car, she calls him a “stuffed shit” and he says he doesn’t expect her to understand him being upset over the car since she’s a big movie star making $4,000 a week and he makes $300. Um what. In 1936, Clark Gable was a household name, the top of the heap at MGM and had an Oscar for crying out loud.  I don’t even understand the logic in twisting the truth to make him this dimwitted wannabe-star while she is a movie queen. That doesn’t make one lick of sense.

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Oh and then she chases him, shreiks at him “yeah yeah yeah” and then wants him to put up his dukes, dancing around like a moron. She proceeds to haul off and punch him, knocking him into a piano. She throws money at him. “You gotta go around showing you’ve got balls. Wouldn’t hurt to have the balls to show.” Wow, isn’t she likable.

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The real story of the party being about Jock Whitney’s wife’s release from the sanitarium would have helped. Why else would Carole arrive at the party in an ambulance and hospital gown? And her challenging him to a game of tennis in their evening clothes to make up for their argument would have been a cute addition.  Instead she punches him and throws money at him. Yeah great liberty you took there.

In the next scene, we see a billboard for China Seas that advertises him as “New Star Clark Gable”??? HELP ME. The man already had an Oscar and had been a star for four years! Why was this even part of the script?!  The movie never says what year it starts in, and I am sure that is on purpose. Because if they were trying to pass off their meeting as 1932—(at a party that actually took place in 1936) and ignoring that they starred together in No Man of Her Own, well Carole wasn’t a huge star either in 1932 (and married to William Powell, a fact that never gets mentioned) and immediately after the party we have China Seas, which came out in 1935! In just a few scenes we will have him filming Gone with the Wind, which would have been 1939! So…many…timeline…errors…

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Clark’s meeting with a poor imitation of Louis B. Mayer is nonsense. Only truthful part is his white half-circle desk.


Oh, the point of this meeting is to propose Clark pair up on screen with Carole. Oh yeah, too bad that that already happened four years before that, and they were very friendly and got along great behind the scenes. Instead here we have Mayer proposing that Clark star alongside Carole, and Clark refuses.

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Mayer even declares that Carole is the#1 female star in the country. When would Mayer EVER say that a Parmount star was the #1 star, not one of his minions at MGM?

My head already hurts. Why distort the truth so much. Part of their allure was that they were two big stars and fell in love. She was not a big star falling in love with him as some newcomer.

So then Clark goes over to Paramount to meet Carole. You know, to discuss the picture he doesn’t want to star in with her. All rubbish.

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Of course Carole is a big movie star and so is shamefully late to the meeting. And doesn’t care at all that she made him wait. Isn’t she just enchanting.

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She calls him “The King,” a nickname he wouldn’t earn until 1938. God the complete smearing of the timeline! Why would he be called “the King” after apparently one hit picture? She also makes a reference to John Wayne being “The Duke.” John Wayne didn’t even have his breakthrough role until 1939!

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She condescendingly mocks his screen performances–“I realize that you’re rather new to the business and your first performances are bound to be a bit uh….undisciplined…you make up for virile intensity what you lack in subtlety and emotion.” Can you even imagine Carole Lombard saying such a condescendingly–pardon my french but for lack of a better word–bitchy thing to ANYONE? She never was this holier than thou movie star. EVER. Hey maybe this movie is actually about Clark and Garbo? Maybe Norma Shearer?

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Oh she goes on, “Do you really think I should be playing against this newcomer, this unproven risk?” This is horrible. “The public does expect me to match my leading men, not demolish them!” Wow, what a likable, adorable gal she is. Sure hope he falls in love with her. What a gem.

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Clark’s retorts to her are told in a bland, monotone and emotionless voice. Which Carole matches with shrieks. He underacts, she overacts. Dumps fruit on his head. Naturally. And of course he puts a cake in her face. Seriously this is like a bad Lifetime movie.

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Oh, now Clark declares he will win Carole over and bring the publicist a pair of her panties. Class all the way. Wasn’t that scene reused in Sixteen Candles?

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He calls to win her over. Now she is stumping and shouting to him on the phone. “You save the bullshit for the chorus girls, dunghead!” I think my five year old has better insults than dunghead.  “You just stay out of my way or your head is going to be shoved so far up your rear end, you’re going to be whistling Dixie to your prostate!” Again, what a lovely lady. Boy, do I hope they fall in love, don’t you!! I do believe the only personality description the screenwriter received for Carole is that she shrieks and curses a lot.

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So now all of a sudden Clark decides he does want to pursue her, just to win this bet with his publicist, supposedly. So he follows her to a party where he throws one of his shoes to the dog to get by and calls it a “dumb mutt.” Yup sounds just like Clark doesn’t it.

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Then of course he falls down and gets covered in mud, because he has to look like a complete moron in all situations.  Other stars pretend they don’t see him. He is such an embarrassment!

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We find out this party he has crashed is the White Mayfair Ball. Which took place inside. This is outside. Which was hosted by Carole.  This is hosted by Edwina Foxcroft.(?) Clark greets her with “Howdy do, ma’am.” Because you know, he is a dimwitted hick, in case you haven’t caught on.

Clark finds Carole. They start dancing after she tells him to “be a dear and piss off.” So lovely.

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“Sorry, ain’t much of a dancer,” he says. “Honey, you ain’t much of anything.” she replies. Oh isn’t she zany and so adorable? No? How about bitchy and condescending?

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I like her dress. That is all. The costumes for the film were by Edith Head and truly the best part of the whole mess.

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Clark walks around, covered in mud, munching on an apple, as the other stars make fun of him for crashing the party.

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Then they start a scavenger hunt which I do think is just lifted from the script of Carole’s film My Man Godfrey. Clark instigates the whole idea just to win over Carole. Supposedly the inspiration for this was indeed the 30’s screwball comedies Carole was starring in at the time.

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Clark then starts beating guys up in a field who accost them. Carole cheers him on then joins in.

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Turns out is all an elaborate farce to make her fall for him, complete with fake blood. So he ends up in her bed at her house to recover from his fake injuries. Yeah sure why not.

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“Lady, you’ve got a wall up so thick you couldn’t blast through it with a ton of dynamite,” he says to her when she kicks him out after discovering his charade. Who would ever say that about the lovable, sweet and generous real Carole Lombard?

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I hate how she calls him “GABLE” in this harsh shrill tone constantly.

Then he falls down the stairs and they kiss and sleep together. Okay, whatever.

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While in the kitchen making breakfast the next morning he says, “You can have it with all this king stuff; I’m just a lucky slob from Ohio who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Oh look, they grabbed a real Clark quote from somewhere and threw it in! Does that count as doing research?

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They start fighting.

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“You’re about as powerful as a chocolate eclair…off the screen of course.”

“What’s the matter, my coffee’s no good? He steals my virtue but he won’t drink my coffee.”

Wow. No Oscar nomination for screenwriting for this film, really? With gems like that? Jill Clayburgh is a good actress but no one is good enough to save this script.

She chases after him, starts crying. Lord this is tedious.

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Things get philosophical. She says she’s “never said I love you to anyone and meant it.” She doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror. She’s “a cold empty bitch who can’t get a  hard-on.”

His response, “You know kid? I never was much into this psychology stuff. But it seems to me a baby don’t come into this world all cold and empty. They only become that way if the people around them make them that way. Now it seems to me that you just never met the right people.”

What is this? Carole is some troubled soul?

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Oh and now they are in love suddenly. Complete with terrible love music.

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“That dame’s no dame. She’s a real lady.” Clark says as he hands over the check to the publicist, claiming he lost their bet.

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Clark marches into Mayer’s office (in a suit, ill-fitting hat and no shirt, of course) when he is told Mayer is ticked off that Clark spent the night at Carole’s. Here, 45 minutes in, Mayer finally mentions that Clark is a married man, which Clark dismisses with the fact that he and Ria hadn’t lived together for more than two years. Mayer gives Clark a lesson on morality, stating he’ll be run out of the business like Fatty Arbuckle. “But you do what you want to do,” he says. Oh yeah that sounds like a real meeting with the infamous Mayer.

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Carole also gets a talking-to from her studio head. “It’s not only your career at stake, it’s his too.”

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Oh, they are both so tortured. They call each other and lie about going out of town for different reasons, both sad they can’t be together.

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They both decide to go down to Palm Springs to get some space, neither knowing that the other one is there too. He realizes she is next to him on the golf course when she yells “oh shit!” and throws a golf ball when she misses a shot.

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Oh, by the way, all of this is hogwash.

They declare their love for each other. Well, she says she loves him and he says he’s been thinking about her too.

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“If we played it smart, who’s going to find out?” he says. “We’d have to watch our step.”

“I do a great soft shoe,” she says.

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“We can’t be seen in public,” he says.

“I hate crowds,” she says.

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“Have to avoid each other at parties,” he says.

“We’ll have our own party,” she says.

“You think we ought to give it a try?” he says.

“You know me, I’ll try anything,” she says.

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“Might be just a fling,” he says.

“Might be,” she says.

“Could burn itself out after a week,” he says.

“Well don’t you just stand there, you big ape, and start the god damn fire!” she says. (I audibly groaned just then)

She jumps into his arms. They fall over and start kissing. No, I did not make any of that up. Yes, someone actually got paid to write that.

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Coming up next, Part Two. I have to stop here and go out and get more Pepto Bismol.


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Carole Lombard and Marlene Dietrich, with Cary Grant in the middle

From July 1937:

Marlene [Dietrich] and Carole [Lombard] haven’t got to the hair pulling stage–yet–but it is stated that there is no love lost between the rival queens of the Paramount lot.

The Dietrich was not too pleased when Lombard got that new two million dollar contract last year, but the fight was really on when it was reported that Carole was to have the lead in “French Without Tears.”

That role was the apple of Marlene’s eye. She “discovered” the play while she was in London and had persuaded her studio to buy the screen rights. She had come to regard the part as her personal property. She promptly stormed the front office and now that the smoke and dust of battle have cleared she stands victorious.

The picture, incidentally, will mark the German star’s return to a comedy part. It is well known that she is personally tired of those devastating but humorless and rather impossible glamour ladies Hollywood has almost always given her.

Featured in Screen Guide magazine in November 1936, here is one of those wacky articles that could only come from the 1930’s–a psychic tells you what will become of Hollywood’s great couples!

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“The Future of Ten Hollywood Romances as Predicted by Wanda, One of Hollywood’s Most Famous Seers”

The ten blazingest Hollywood romances! How will the end? Marriage? Split up? This story tells.

In presenting this remarkable set of predictions, I have kept in mind that my readers’ interest in the stars is no fleeting thing. You will be amazed as time goes on, to note the accuracy of Wanda’s readings. She has built for herself a tremendous following among the Hollywood famous. I suggest that you keep this article–refer to it in the future and see how right she has been this time. It’ll be fun!

Yes, let’s see just how right this “remarkable” Wanda was, shall we?

Rose Joan Blondell and Richard Ewing Powell (Joan Blondell and Dick Powell)

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There is no if, and or but about this romance. Joan and Dick (if they’re not married by the time you read this) will be married shortly after her divorce from George Barnes becomes final….[Dick] is a charming boy and he and Joan will get along beautifully…She and Dick have many tastes in common and she will always be interested in anything that Dick likes. They will have a child within a year or so after their marriage.

Well, she wasn’t totally wrong here. Joan and Dick were indeed married by the time this magazine hit news stands, tying the knot on September 19, 1936.  They did have a child in 1938, a daughter named Ellen.  Wanda couldn’t predict, I suppose, that in 1944 Dick’s head would be turned by a younger blonde actress, June Allyson, and he would subsequently leave Joan for her.

Arlington Brugh and Ruby Stevens (Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck)

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For his own good Robert Taylor should not marry for many years. I say this because he is an extremely restless personality. He likes action–lots of it–and hates monotony. He never sits still and never is. He is like a wild horse who hates a halter…He will come under a marriage aspect next year, but if he should marry then it will not last…As far as his “romance” with Barbara Stanwyck is concerned, this is really a glorified friendship. Barbara is very intuitive and psychic; she understands Bob’s spirit perfectly…She will have a proposal of marriage in 1937–and perhaps from Bob, but neither should she marry during that year. It would be what we call an “inevitable marriage”—one which she would have no control.

Her timeline is off, but she’s not completely wrong. Bob and Barbara were married on May 14, 1939, after three years of dating and being called out for “acting like they are married but they aren’t” in the same magazine article that called out Clark and Carole. Bob was indeed not a man who could be tamed, so to speak. After years of him cheating on her, Barbara finally filed for divorce in 1951. He went on to marry actress Ursula Theiss and have two children; Barbara never remarried and missed him the rest of her life.

William Powell and Harlean Carpentier (William Powell and Jean Harlow)

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Jean Harlow is two distinct personalities, and she is another person who cannot be restricted. That is why she changed her hair to a brownish shade when she found that its platinum color interfered with her independence. Instead of being its slave she decided to let it be hers…Regardless of what people think, she is very timid and has a strong mother complex. She is also of a restless disposition and enjoys changes. 1937 will prove to be a better year for her than 1936. My advice to her would be to wait a little longer for another marriage.

William Powell was born a genius. He is very proud and disdainful person but loves children and dogs…Bill wants a great deal of love and affection and he wants a wife to be always at his beck and call. That’s why there will be a disturbing element in any marriage he enters into with a busy actress. A woman must role his home as well as his heart.

“1937 will be a better year for her than 1936″?? There is an appalling prediction! Jean Harlow died at the age of 26 in 1937.  Bill and Jean were still together at the time of her death and he was devastated. Married and divorced twice before the Jean romance (his second marriage being to Carole Lombard), Bill eventually married actress Diana “Mousie” Lewis in 1940 and they were married until his death in 1984.

Raymond Guion and Jeanette MacDonald (Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald)

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Because Jeanette MacDonald is a Gemini and Gemini women usually marry men of a different nationality or religion, I have long been expecting this Jeanette MacDonald-Gene Raymond engagement…The marriage aspects are better for her than for Gene. His best marriage year is really 1938. Still a partnership with Jeanette will turn out happily for him as well as for her so long as he is careful about disagreements and separations…Gene is almost as much wrapped up in music as Jeanette is, and you’ll hear a lot more about him as a composer as time goes on. But my advice to them is to wait awhile, until Gene passes through his present aspects. He had one big love affair last year–he’ll know whom I mean–from which he hasn’t yet recovered.

Jeanette and Gene were indeed married, although sooner than the great Wanda wanted–making it official on June 16, 1937. They remained married until her death in 1965, however revelations from friends and discoveries of personal letters and diaries in the past decade or so have provided clear evidence that this marriage of theirs was a cover-up because Gene was gay and Jeanette was being kept away from her ongoing love affair with Nelson Eddy.

James Stewart and Eleanor Powell

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This is a nice friendship but has very little marriage possibilities. Eleanor will make a better friend than a marriage partner in this case…I doubt if either of them would learn the lesson of give and take. James Stewart will have two or more marriages.

Again she is kind of right. Jimmy and Eleanor starred in together in Born to Dance that year and were briefly coupled. Eleanor went on to marry actor Glenn Ford in 1943, her only marriage, which ended in divorce in 1959. Wanda is wrong about Jimmy though, he was one of the very few of the golden age of Hollywood’s leading men who held out for the right woman and stayed once he found her. He married Gloria Hatrick in 1949 and they were happily married until her death in 1994.

George Brent and Greta Gustafson (George Brent and Greta Garbo)

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It is quite likely that this one will be at an end shortly. George Brent is the burnt child who dreads fire. The memory of his marriage to Ruth Chatterton has never been erased–its happiness and its grief both come back to haunt him…He likes to “putter” and as a matter of fact, he is very fussy and old-maidish. Greta, on the other hand, is just the opposite. An introvert who lives completely in herself. The state of things about her makes very little difference.

I don’t think this relationship was ever anything at all. Greta certainly never seemed ready for marriage–she left a brokenhearted John Gilbert at the altar in the late 1920’s and never married.  George was ultimately married five times. After this article, he married actress Constance Worth in 1937 and they were divorced less than a year later. He also had a short-lived marriage to actress Ann Sheridan. He had two children with his fifth wife, model Janet Michaels.

David Niven and Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson (David Niven and Merle Oberon)

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This romance is destined to follow a rocky path. Like “water” which is their symbol, they are too easily ruffled and changeable with the tide. Their sign is Pisces, which is two fish swimming in opposite directions. David likes to stand on his own two feet and doesn’t like to be bossed. And the compelling Merle Oberon has to be boss! …She is no back-seat driver.

Correct, Wanda. This one didn’t work out. Merle dated Clark before Carole was on the scene and one of the reasons Clark lost interest was apparently Merle’s tendency to be controlling and jealous.  Merle married British producer Alexander Korda in 1939, the first of four husbands. David married a British socialite named Primmie in 1940. She died tragically in an accident in 1946. He then married a Swedish fashion model in 1948 and although it was rather a tumultuous union, they stayed married until his death in 1983.

Cesar Romero and Virginia Briggs (Cesar Romero and Virginia Bruce)

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These two are well suited to each other–both are “air” people and therefore could find happiness together. Virginia comes under a very strong marriage vibration after October of this year, and Cesar, too, begins a new cycle in February…Virginia will always attract men who will be constantly telling her how much they admire her, and any man who marries her will have to keep ahead of the others. Even when she is a very old lady there will always be a man waiting for her just around the corner–she can’t help it; hers is just that fatal attraction. But Cesar worships beauty as much as any man and will always respect and revere it. He also senses that she is an adorable mother and he has a strong inclination for a home and family. And if they marry the first of next year there will be a child before October, 1939.

No marriage for these two. Virginia, who was previously married to John Gilbert and had his daughter, married director J. Walter Ruben in 1937. They had one child before his death in 1942. Her third marriage lasted from 1946-1964, ending in divorce. Cesar, who dated Carole Lombard before Clark came on the scene, never married and was rumored to be gay.

And last but not least:

Clark Gable and Jane Peters (Clark Gable and Carole Lombard)

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Clark Gable doesn’t come into another strong marriage vibration until the year 1938, and if he marries then, the only thing I can say to him is that he should keep his suitcase packed. I feel that this warning is necessary because he is individual and independent, and people of his type always marry on impulse. Yet in other respects, and a strange contradiction, he plays life like a game of chess, or like an actor who plays a part and watches himself go by. Few people “get this” about Gable, but it’s true. Another thing about him is that he can’t be bossed. This may have had something to do with the failure of his first two marriages. He is very aggressive and likes to do as he pleases. He will always want much more love and affection than he will give out.

There s little doubt about the fact that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard do get along beautifully, but because she doesn’t come under a strong marriage vibration until 1939 I cannot see a happy immediate marriage. There is, however, always that matter of Gable’s impulsiveness to be reckoned with. Many people point out that Clark and Carole have so much in common–that they both like sports, for example. However, they like them in a different way. Carole likes smart sports–smart tennis on a smart court in a smart pair of shorts. Clark likes backwoods “roughing it” sports. Their ideas are really quite far apart in this connection. Also Clark is content to live in plain, homey surroundings, while Carole’s artistic expression demands something more elaborate and “interior decorated.” She’s really amazingly artistic and when her film career over she can always find a lucrative livelihood as a painter, a landscape gardener, or an interior decorator. Also she is very rhythmic and if she would devote time and study to her voice, she might easily become a successful singer–even an opera singer. She is what we would call extravagant, yet her extravagances are really necessary to her. She hates miserliness in any form and there is nothing stingy about her, nor will she tolerate it in others around her. She has a very real humanitarian outlook and is abnormally patient with everything and everybody. She will put up with things for a long time, but, as is typical of such people, when she finally does get around to putting her foot down, she puts it down irrevocably. Carole is so interested in other people and other things that she neglects herself, and therefore I would advise her to marry someone who would take an interest in her…her health and her welfare–a physician or a surgeon preferably.

Well, well! There are a couple of things wrong about this: Carole did get into Clark’s kind of sport, and she wasn’t the type to scoff at wearing hunting gear and waders and getting dirty.  I don’t think Carole would have made much of an opera singer! Really! If you have seen her film Swing High, Swing Low, you can hear that Carole was not exactly an opera singer! Carole was more extravagant with Clark, but she wasn’t stupid with her money, and I don’t think she minded Clark’s tendency to be a penny pincher too much, as they both pretty much spent their own money as they pleased. I can’t see Carole being some surgeon’s wife…sounds like she’d get bored. I can’t argue that Clark was the type to marry on impulse—he’d done it before then and he’d do it again. Also he did like to do just what he pleased and I would say that him wanting more love and affection than he’d be willing to give out is fairly accurate. And of course, they did get married in 1939–when Carole was having a “strong marriage vibration.”

As Clark Gable and Carole Lombard fans know, they starred together in 1932’s No Man of Her Own, got into an altercation at Jock Whitney’s Nervous Breakdown Party in 1936 which ended in a game of tennis, then sparks flew at the Mayfair Ball a few weeks later. She infamously gave him a painted Model T that Valentine’s Day and so a legendary Hollywood romance was born.

They could only dodge the rumors for so long and in April, they were finally photographed out together as a couple. At a fancy premiere? A dazzling dinner party? Nope, these two were at the midget auto races at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles, on April 18, 1936.

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Fan magazine cameraman Jack Albin was apparently the one to take these first pictures, and he recalled in this article: “For a long time they dodged photographers. But once their romance was discovered, they were very nice, never tried to duck. I made the first photo of them together, at the midget auto races.”

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One of the captions proclaimed: “Frequent appearances together at Hollywood resorts has lent credence to reports that Carole Lombard, former wife of William Powell, and Clark Gable are going to middle-aisle it. Their romance started when Miss Lombard Gable with a a dilapidated automobile as a valentine joke.”

It strikes me as rather funny that the press was very quick to celebrate their romance and claim it the real thing. “Middle-aisle it” after a few months? Did the press know something we didn’t? It’d take a few years for that but nonetheless these photos are the beginning of a courtship in front of the flashbulbs.

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From December 1937:

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard had quite a scare recently when they thought that gangsters were following them.

As the couple drove off from Carole’s home they noticed that they were followed by a car which had been parked near the star’s home.

The mysterious motorists several times drove by Gable’s car, and the occupants, two young men, stared at the celebrities. 

Gable stepped on the petrol, and outdistanced the strangers.

He had taken the precaution of noting the license number of the other car, which was reported to the police.

The mystery was soon cleared up. The car was owned by a Glendale youth, of excellent reputation, who said that he and his friend merely desired to gaze upon the two celebrities.