clark gable

From November 1941:

Clark Gable said to be hunting in Ohio.

The state conservation division reported today that movie actor Clark Gable was hunting in Henry County.

Division officials said Henry County officials, in reporting a shortage of hunting licenses, said that the movie star was one of thousands of out-of-state hunters who had applied for a license.

clark gable

In this 1936 article, a magazine writer who first met Clark Gable in 1931 goes back to interview him now that he’s had a string of hits and an Oscar.

It is always hard for me to temper my enthusiasm in writing of Clark Gable. I happened to do the first interview with him and I may as well be frank and admit that it was done under protest. I had the average man’s prejudice against another man over whom women were raving. And I came away from that interview thoroughly sold on Clark. Women might go for him, but he was typically a man’s man.

Several things about this ruggedly handsome, smooth-shaven chap named Gable impressed me. For one thing, there was nothing about him that made me want to write, “He reminds me of a small boy.” Clark seemed matured mentally as well as physically.

Another thing that attracted me to him was the total lack of that quality frequently found in actors and which, for want of a better name, Richard Arlen calls “whimsy.” There was nothing “cute” about Clark. He was human.

He had asserted that Hollywood would never “get” him because he had been broke and friendless there and he knew how narrow a gulf separated success from failure in the movie town. He showed a willingness to face life as it is when he said that if he should start slipping tomorrow the back-slapping would stop as suddenly as it started. There was no bombast, no egotism about him.

I say this a lot, but I do love the fact that the general consensus on Clark is always the same: an unassuming, humble guy.

Today, four years later, I look at Clark and feel like giving him a pat on the back. I listen to people who say that today he is a vastly different person from the man he was then. I listen to writers who interviewed him in the old days and who tell me that they can’t touch him now with a ten-foot pole. And it all rolls off me like water off a duck’s back. I’ve waited almost a month for the interview, but what does that matter? I know that Clark, today, is fundamentally the same as he was when I first met him. There may be more character lines in his face, but fundamentally he will never change.

The interview, if you can call it that, took place on the deck of the ship used in Mutiny on the Bounty in which he plays the leader of the mutineers.

Clark came from below decks. “Hi, pal,” he said. And suddenly all the things I had been hearing about him did matter—mattered tremendously. I happen to like Clark; and when you like a person, you can’t hear him put on the pan and then casually dismiss it. You want to set him straight with everyone—so far as is possible.

“Clark,” I began earnestly, “has Hollywood got under your skin?”

He looked at me and grinned. “What do you think?”

I nodded glumly. “I think it has in a way.”

The smile faded. “What do you mean? How?”

“Oh, I don’t mean that you’re taking the back-slapping seriously—that you’re taking your success ‘big.’ I don’t mean that. But do you remember, when you first came out here, telling me that you liked interviews? You were—were grateful to people. I think you’ve changed in that way.”

“Oh, no,” said Clark positively. “I’m still grateful—and don’t ever think I’m not. I still get a kick out of seeing my name in print and feeling that, perhaps, people are interested enough in me to want to read about me. I still try to be considerate of people. But conditions have changed—and I’ve had to change with them.

“Look: For more than one year, I haven’t had a rest—not one rest—between pictures. There has never been a time during a picture when I have had three or four days off at a time and could go away on a little trip. If I have a day off, there are wardrobe fittings; the publicity department is after me for interviews or portrait sittings or publicity stunts. I can’t do all the things that are asked of me.

“In the beginning I didn’t work in so many pictures and I had only small parts. I had plenty of time to myself. It was easy to accommodate everybody. Now—don’t think I’m trying to make myself out a big shot because I’m not—the demands made on me are so many that it’s humanly impossible to accede to them all. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Do you see what I mean? That’s why people say I’m ‘difficult’ now.”

I nodded. “Do you remember telling me that when this contract was up you would never sign another?”

It was Clark’s turn to nod.

“Well,” I continued, “how is it that you’re talking a new contract with the studio?”

“Suppose,” he answered, “my contract had expired and I didn’t sign again. I’d do all the things I’ve wanted to do—see all the places I’ve always wanted to see. Maybe it would take a year. And then what? I’d be bored stiff, so I’d come back to the one thing I know—pictures. And my retirement would have been a fiasco. What’s the use of kidding myself?

“I’m going to make a stab at it, though. As soon as this picture is finished. I’m going to take three months off and go to Europe or South America. I’ll see how I like loafing.”

“But will you get any rest that way?” I argued.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he confessed. “If, when the time comes, it looks as if I’m going to have the clothes torn off me everywhere I go, as I did in New York. I’ll just say I’m going to Europe and go to some quiet place.”

Clark constantly talked of retiring in every decade of his career. I think he always tried to be nonchalant about his acting, like he could take it or leave it, but the truth was he never really wanted to quit.

 

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

clark gable too hot to handle

From April 1938:

Clark Gable knows now that it pays to be particular about his stories and so he has sent Too Hot to Handle back for a rewriting job. He and Metro Goldwyn Mayer had many a battle over Test Pilot and Clark held it up for eighteen weeks until he knew the story was right. The result is that Test Pilot is breaking records and and has been held over in Hollywood for another week–a thing that rarely happens at the Chinese. His objection, I hear, is that the newsreel cameraman, instead of being the hero we know him to be, is pictured as a faker whose exploits are the bunk. 

clark gable

From February 1938:

Tailors of the nation cast a practiced eye over some of America’s celebrities Tuesday and measured up 10 men, including President Roosevelt, for sartorial honors.

The President took top ranking among wearers of double-breasted dinner jackets. 

Clark Gable, the actor, won for appearing best dressed in sports clothes. “Men and women both think so,” said the national conference of the merchant tailor designers association, meeting here with 600 delegates from all parts of the United States and Canada. 

 

clark gable

From March 1941:

Clark Gable’s still kicking

That regularly recurring report of Clark Gable’s death was going the rounds again this week; the rumor originated in Georgia this time and had the star smashed to smithereens in an automobile accident. As usual, a studio executive had to go through the red-tape ceremony of going over to Gable’s set and asking him whether he was dead or alive.

 

clark gable 1931

Here we have an article featuring new star Clark Gable, comparing him to belated silent star Rudolph Valentino, whose untimely death just a few years earlier was still fresh on everyone’s minds.

Once in a lifetime—and maybe twice—there flashes across the screen a man with the power to make all women feel that they are in danger. Such danger as all women prefer to peaceful safety.

Once—and perhaps twice—we see a man who, when he kisses the heroine on the screen, kisses you—and you—and me. A man with an earthy quality—call it romance, call it glamour, call it sex. No matter what you call it, there it is, compelling and irresistible.

Such a man was Valentino.

And such a loss was his that no one—not Ronald Colman, nor John Gilbert, nor Clive Brook nor any other man—has been able to atone for that loss.

Valentino’s death is, to-day, the grief it was yesterday. He was every woman’s lover. He was every woman’s dream of that romantic secret life never yielded her—save in him. He was every husband’s and every lover’s phantom rival. He made lonely woman glow and love again. He gave color and flame and mystery to the feminine world.

No man is like another man. No emotion is ever the same as another emotion. But a similar effect may be produced.

Clark Gable is not Valentino’s successor, not his rival, not even his counterpart—but he is a man who will give you the nameless thing that Valentino gave you.

He will make you dream again. He will evoke the flames of desire. He will quicken your veins with the same sensuous fever that Valentino gave you—and left you the poorer when he took it away.

Everywhere, here in Hollywood, where women gather, you hear the name of Clark Gable. Everywhere men as well as women are calling him “the biggest sensation the screen has known in years.” And everywhere you hear: “Doesn’t he remind you a little of—Valentino?” I give you my word that I have heard two hundred Hollywood women, in groups and individually, say that same thing to me and to each other.

Ok yes, this is a hokey article. It seems rather silly to me to compare Gable to Valentino—-they had very different screen presences. In fact, many heralded that Gable was a new kind of leading man–the burly everyman–as opposed to Valentino’s old world silky smooth Romeo type.

[Clark] laughed when I asked him if he felt himself to be the dangerous, thrilling individual he is on the screen. He just threw back his head and laughed. He laughs a lot. You suspect that his laughter masks embarrassment and uncertainty—uncertainty of just how serious you may be when you talk to him of his potentially brilliant future.

He claims he doesn’t want to have a great roll of money. I really believe that he doesn’t, too. He says, “If I reach the spot you are telling me about, I know what I’ll do—I’ll back out gracefully. I don’t want money, not a great deal of it. I don’t want things. I’m not that type of person at all. I wouldn’t be happy living as some of the stars out here live. I don’t care anything about luxuries and servants and swimming pools and big parties. I wouldn’t fit. I couldn’t handle them. It’s important to me to be happy—in my own way.”

I asked him about women—of course, I told him some of the things that might happen to him if he should approach the stage that Valentino reached. The hysteria of women. The pursuit. The burning curiosity. He said simply, “I should think it would be sort of repulsive.”

He is not a ladies’ man, this dark, new lover. He is timid with women, respectful and courteous. He makes you feel dangerous when you look at him. When you talk with him, you feel comfortable and happy and safe.

He likes men’s things. Especially horses. And boats. And the sea. And guns and pipes and long hikes and the mountains. His favorite author is D.H. Lawrence.

He drives to the beach at four in the morning to see the sunrise and he tells you about sunsets he has seen. He tells you about sunsets with the same ardor you might suppose he would tell you about women.

He doesn’t talk about women at all. He doesn’t seem to be interested. His mind doesn’t run that way.

This was very much the persona that the studio was shopping around about Clark—a timid gentleman who would ring the doorbell and have a talk with your father before taking you out on a date. Not exactly accurate…

When I pressed him for an opinion, he said that he liked modern women, self-reliant women, women with minds of their own. He does not like clinging vines or cute little things. He likes a woman you can talk to as you can talk to a man. He also said that he doesn’t care particularly for the sensationally beautiful woman. He pointed out that many of the great loves of the world have been between people of no outstanding beauty. He asked me, relative to this, if I had read “The Savage Messiah,” the new and powerful biography of Van Gogh, the artist.

What’s very interesting about this otherwise fluffy article is that when this was published in November 1931, Clark was married to his second wife, Ria. There is no mention at all of her in this article, no mention at all of him being married. Asking a married man what kind of woman he prefers? Saying he’s timid around women? Seems odd, doesn’t it?  Back then, the articles for these fan magazines were written way ahead of time (for instance, fan magazine articles about Carole Lombard’s death in January 1942 didn’t start appearing until April of that year), so I’m guessing this was written before Clark and Ria’s wedding in June 1931. Which, as I wrote about a few years ago, was, according to MGM’s publicity department, their “second wedding just to make it legal in the state of California.” Such hogwash. If that was true, why did articles like this omit her completely?

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