clark gable kay williams

From March 1958:

It was like any other day February 14th on the Band of Angels set at Warners. Until Clark Gable was called off the set between takes. That’s when it became Valentine’s Day.

Because waiting for him in his dressing room was his own special Valentine. 

It was a keg. Beautifully varnished, about five gallon size, little red felt hearts all over it and a white thumb tack pinning a large, lacy valentine to the center of the keg. 

“It’s from Kay,” grinned Gable, “she made it. Look—”  It was filled to the top with golden yellow popcorn!

Asked what the valentine said, Gable handed it around. “Hamish, I love you, darling. Mrs. G.”

Hamish is the name of the character Gable plays in Band of Angels. But Kay had it written this way: Ham-ish! The tag on the gag is that Kay always makes popcorn for the cast of a Gable picture. And by the time Gable got around to his keg, the whole five gallons had disappeared. As somebody remarked, “You can drink an awful lot of beer with that much popcorn.”

Clark Gable doesn’t drink beer. But he didn’t need that keg of popcorn anyway. Hamish, Ham-ish, it was the same difference. The valentine was in his heart, and he looked like a mighty happy king. 

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Happy 115th Birthday, Clark Gable!

In celebration, here are 115 random facts about The King of Hollywood:

1. Clark weighed 10 1/2 pounds at birth.

2. He was born at home with the assistance of the town doctor, who charged $10 for the delivery.

3. He was baptized Catholic, one of his dying mother’s final requests. His father was Methodist.

4. He was named Clark after his maternal grandmother’s maiden name. clark gable

5. Clark liked to wear trench coats in movies, considering them lucky. Burberry made him one especially for Comrade X and it instantly became his favorite; he kept it and wore it for twenty years. At an MGM auction in 1969, a representative from Burberry tried to bid and win the coat, but it was sold to an anonymous bidder for $1,250.

6. The idea that Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell based the character on Clark is completely false. The novel was written between 1926 and 1929, before Clark was even in Hollywood.

7. His only films in color were Gone with the Wind, Across the Wide MissouriMogamboBetrayedSoldier of FortuneThe Tall MenThe King and Four QueensBand of Angels, and It Started in Naples.

8. The first time Clark grew a mustache was in 1930 in the play Love, Honor and Betray with Alice Brady. He was playing a French gigolo and the part called for some upper lip adornment. He tried a fake one at first but it would often come off during romantic scenes so he was forced to grow a real one. He shaved it off as soon as the play closed.

9.  His favorite foods included chicken and dumplings, bratwurst and sauerkraut, baked beans, steak, coleslaw, potato salad, peppermints, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies.

10. Extremely clean, he was known to shower at least three times a day. He thought baths were disgusting.

11. His least favorite color was pink. He didn’t like it when women wore it.

12. Clark’s father, William Gable, never approved of Clark’s profession, often stating that it wasn’t manly enough.

13. Clark’s mother, Adeline, died when he was ten months old. Modern researchers believe she may have suffered from epilepsy. Not much was known of the condition back then, with one of her family member simply stating, “She went crazy and then she died.”

14. It Happened One Night was animator Fritz Freleng’s favorite film. He modeled some of his most famous cartoon characters after characters in the film. Gable was the inspiration for Bugs Bunny–talking fast and munching on carrots (also the name Bugs came from Gable mentioning Bugs Dooley), Walter Connolly was the inspiration for Yosemite Sam and Jameson Thomas was the inspiration for Pepe LePew.

15. Clark smoked about two to three packs of cigarettes a day from age 14 until his death.

16. His favorite color was red. In clothes he preferred to wear grays, blues and browns.clark gable

17. It’s often been written that Clark was a below average student, but the archived records of his high school, Edinburgh High in Ravenna, show that Clark had a grade point average of 81 before he dropped out at age 17. His best subjects were physics and agriculture.

18. Clark’s father belonged to the Freemasons and urged his son to join. Clark did, to please his father, and became a Master Mason in 1934. He also joined the charitable order known as the Shriners.

19. We have Lionel Barrymore to thank for giving Clark his start in films. He saw him in the play “The Last Mile” and insisted on bringing him to MGM for a screen test. Lionel argued with MGM Head of Production Irving Thalberg, who scoffed at Clark’s big ears.

20. It is part of Clark Gable folklore that he “bankrupted” the undershirt businesses when he famously didn’t wear one in his undressing scene in It Happened One Night. This was not planned on his part, nor was it in the script. He didn’t like to wear undershirts, saying they made him feel smothered.

21. In the 1950’s, Clark turned down several offers to appear on television. He stated he was completely opposed to it, as it was destroying the film industry, the very medium that made him what he was.

22. Four out of the five Mrs. Clark Gables outlived him. Carole Lombard being the only one who didn’t, obviously. The last Mrs. Gable to die was fifth wife Kay Williams, who passed in 1983.

23. Sylvia Ashley was the only one of Clark’s wives to remarry after being married to him.

24. Clark’s 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama is infamous for a few reasons: It was the film that gangster John Dillinger went out of hiding to go see, resulting in him being gunned down by FBI Special Agents right outside the theater; it was the first film to co-star Myrna Loy and William Powell, who went on to become one the era’s most popular screen teams, starring in fourteen films together; it was the first and only time that both of Carole Lombard’s husbands starred together–at the time she was divorced from Powell and would marry Clark five years later.

25. He won his only Academy Award on February 27, 1935. It was presented to him by Irvin Cobb.

26. Clark loved dogs all his life. As a small boy, he begged his father to keep a stray he found on his way home from school one day.

27. His most beloved dog was a German short-haired pointer named Bob. Bob’s favorite treat was ice cream so Clark gave him a little bowl every night before bed. He was Clark’s constant companion for over a decade until he died in 1955.

28. Carole Lombard had a dachshund named Commissioner who followed her everywhere. After she died, Commissioner took to following Clark around. Clark was upset to learn that Commissioner died while Clark was in Europe during World War II. Upon his return, his on-again off-again girlfriend Virginia Grey gave him a dachshund puppy, which he named Rover.clark gable

29. When fans would send Clark gifts (everything from pipes and handkerchiefs, to sweaters they’d knitted), his secretary would send a thank you note then donate the items to charity.

30. Some recent books have insinuated that Clark and Jean Harlow had a romantic relationship, which is not true. Clark looked upon Jean more like a kid sister, even calling her “Sis,” and theirs was an easy and friendly camaraderie, not a romance.

31. He loved poetry and Shakespeare. His favorite poet was Robert W. Service.

32. His favorite sandwich was a thick slice of Bermuda onion on homemade bread slathered with mustard.

33. Clark hated having his picture taken. He can often be seen with a scowl on his face if a fan happened to catch him in an unexpected candid. He said taking publicity stills was his least favorite part of his job.

34. He is often accused of just playing himself onscreen. He himself would even agree it to on occasion. But friend and co-star Spencer Tracy disagreed, saying in 1941:  “He’s so natural, most people can’t tell the difference between the on-screen Gable and the off-screen Gable. They think he’s playing himself. He is, up to a certain point. There’s a difference between being natural off the screen and being natural on it. It takes a little art to be natural with a camera in front of you and a microphone over you. Gable has made a fine art of it.”

35. At his funeral, the pallbearers were Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy and Robert Taylor as well as his long time friends Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, Eric Dunliner and Ray Hommes.

36. Other than Carole Lombard, he was also romantically involved with the following actresses: Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Allan, Ella Raines, Paulette Goddard, Audrey Totter, Anita Page, Loretta Young, Grace Kelly, Virginia Grey, Merle Oberon and Marilyn Maxwell, among others.

37. Katharine Hepburn requested Clark to play her ex-husband CK Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story (1940). They sent Clark the script. He deemed it “too wordy” and said “other than pushing the dame down, I don’t have anything to do.” So the part went to Cary Grant.

38. San Francisco was Clark’s second highest-grossing film. Gone with the Wind was the first obviously, as it remains the highest grossing film of all time.

39. When asked what his least favorite films of his own were, he always said Parnell and Dancing Lady.

40. Clark was always extremely punctual and expected the same from others. One of his pet peeves was people who were always late; he found it inconsiderate.clark gable parnell

41. It was rare that he questioned a director. He didn’t care what side he was shot from and he never went to see the day’s rushes. In his later years, he became less confident about his appearance and started to request less close-ups.

42. Being very particular about his clothes, wardrobe was the one department that often saw the bad side of Clark if his clothing did not fit properly. He infamously became furious when he arrived on the set of Gone with the Wind to find his costumes ill-fitting despite having endured hours of wardrobe fittings.

43. Clark was very bad at remembering dates–birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, etc. He counted on his secretary and his wife to keep him on track.

44. He was known for being healthy and rarely sick. Kay Williams claimed in their five years of marriage he’d never so much as had a cold.

45. In 1932, Clark appeared with his very first onscreen mustache, although it was a fake. In Strange Interlude, Clark’s character ages 20 years and a fake mustache was applied halfway through the film to show him aging. He hated it.

46. MGM wanted him to star in Home from the Hill (1960) but Clark refused, still bitter about the lack of appreciation MGM had showed him when his contract had not been renewed. The role went to Robert Mitchum.

47. Mogambo was filmed in Uganda and Nairobi in late 1952. Since Carole Lombard’s death, Clark had developed a fear of flying. His flight from Rome to Nairobi was his first since her death in 1942.

48. His most frequent director was Clarence Brown.A Free SoulChainedIdiot’s Delight, Night FlightPossessed, They Met in BombayTo Please a LadyWife vs. Secretary.

49. Jeannette MacDonald was one of Clark’s least favorite lady costars. He considered her to be prissy and fake. He objected to starring in the film with her because he felt he would look stupid just sitting there listening to her sing. He also was perturbed by how long it took her in her dressing room and that her contract stipulated that she get a week off every month for her menstrual period.  She had really wanted him for her co-star in the film was disappointed in his attitude toward her. In the 1950’s, they were once staying in the same hotel and met for drinks, mending the fences.clark gable jeanette macdonald

50. In 1934, Clark was infamously loaned from his home studio MGM to lowly Columbia Studios to make a little picture called “Night Bus,” which would later be re-named It Happened One Night. Part of the deal was that Columbia also got John Barrymore to star in Twentieth Century…with future Mrs. Gable, Carole Lombard.

51. In 1949, Robert Wagner was one of Clark’s caddies at the Bel-Air Country Club. Clark gave him advice on getting into acting.

52. Clark attended the Academy Awards only five times: 1935 (when he won for It Happened One Night), 1936 (when he was nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty), 1937 (when he was the date of nominee Carole Lombard), 1954 (when he was the date of nominee Grace Kelly) and 1958 (when he presented an award with Teacher’s Pet co-star Doris Day).

53. Contrary to popular belief, Clark did not attend the Academy Awards the year he was nominated for Gone with the Wind. (More on that here.)

54. In 1931, newcomer Clark Gable married twelve movies in the course of twelve months, often filming two at a time.

55. In 1934, Clark’s father William married Edna Gable, who was his brother’s widow. So Clark’s aunt became his stepmother! Clark paid for the wedding and bought them a house.

56. His favorite fruit was grapefruit. When he lived on the ranch, he ate one every morning for breakfast.

57. Clark was very nervous about the singing and dancing required for his role in Idiot’s Delight. He spent over six weeks rehearsing, often at home with Lombard as his coach. On the day they shot the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number, the set was closed to outsiders. Lombard came by to watch and gave him a bouquet of roses afterward.

58. The number one thing that attracted Clark to a woman was intelligence. “It’s a dumb guy who is flattered by the girl he goes with being a half-wit.”

59. Contrary to popular belief, Clark never had his ears surgically pinned back.

60. The legendary Fred Astaire made his first film appearance in Dancing Lady, and his very first scene was with Clark.

clark gable61. His favorite candies were jellybeans.

62. In 1939, he caught a young man who had broken into his house and stolen one of his guns. Clark held him down until the police showed up.

63. MGM Head of Production Irving Thalberg had to talk Clark into taking the role of Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty, a role Clark vehemently did not want.

64. Clark’s second wife Ria Langham Gable, without meaning to, was largely responsible for Las Vegas being known as the nation’s divorce capital in the pre-war era. Since a California divorce had a year-long waiting period, Ria traveled to Vegas and set up residency for the required six weeks before her divorce was granted on March 7, 1939. Clark and Ria’s became the first highly publicized Vegas celebrity divorce, and once everyone read how easy it was for them, Vegas had a booming business.

65. Clark admitted being short-tempered at times and could be rather impatient and intolerant to stupidity.

66. Men in White was the first film that MGM bought the rights exclusively for Clark to star in. Before that he was just the “male lead” opposite Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, etc.

67. Clark was nominated for a Golden Globe Award twice: in 1959 for Teacher’s Pet and in 1960 for But Not For Me.

68. Gone with the Wind became a source of extreme bitterness for Clark in later years. Because he had agreed to sign on as Rhett Butler after MGM offered to pay off his wife Ria for a divorce, no thought was given to the fact that he should also ask for a percentage of the film’s profits. He blamed his agent for this oversight and also David O. Selznick for “hosing him over”. The film was re-released in the 1950’s and Clark refused to attend the premiere. With each new re-release, Clark was only reminded of the money he had “been swindled” out of.

69. Clark and Wallace Beery did not get along during filming of China Seas. During the scene where Beery hits Clark while he’s passed out, Beery reportedly smacked Clark hard instead of faking it. Clark jumped out of the chair and threatened to break his neck and the crew had to separate them and continue filming the scene the next day after they had cooled off.

70. Clark’s favorite thing for Carole Lombard to cook was baked beans.clark gable carole lombard

71. Clark portrays a father in The Easiest WayStrange InterludeHold Your ManTest Pilot, Gone with the WindBoom TownAdventureAny Number Can PlayAcross the Wide MissouriSoldier of FortuneThe Misfits.

72. One of the few foods Clark detested was pudding of any kind, saying “that’s what I’ll have to eat when I’m old and lose my dentures.”

73. Myrna Loy recalled that their relationship was never romantic, that they were more like brother and sister. He would often read poetry and Shakespeare to her on the set. At the end of a film, they would celebrate with champagne.

74. Clark very much wanted to star as Bick Benedict in Giant (1956) but director George Stevens nixed the idea, citing him as being too old. The role instead went to Rock Hudson.

75. Cammie King (Bonnie Blue) famously said that one of her few memories of the set of Gone with the Wind was that Clark’s mustache tickled.

76. Clark received his second Academy Award nomination for the Mutiny on the Bounty. Laughton and Tone were also nominated, all for Best Actor. Noticing that it seemed odd that three actors from the same film were up for the same award, this prompted the Academy to start issuing awards for supporting actors and actresses. All three lost to the only Best Actor nominee not in the film, Victor McLaglen, for The Informer.

77. In 1937, Clark was set to play nineteenth century Irish politician Charles Parnell in the biographical drama Parnell. The real Parnell had a full beard. For whatever reason, despite the fact that in between shooting films Clark often grew a full beard while out on hunting trips, Clark refused to grow a beard for the role. The compromise was some very unflattering long sideburns, or “mutton chops.”

78. Carole Lombard memorably gave Clark some “peace doves” after they got into a fight when they first started dating. Clark kept them and all their descendants on the ranch for the rest of his life.

79. During filming of one of the love scenes in Homecoming, Lana Turner was chewing gum to freshen her breath. Clark kissed her so forcefully that he had to pick gum out of his mustache. Lana said after that she used mouthwash instead.

80. Clark did not believe that he had done a good job in Gone with the Wind until the overwhelmingly positive response after the premiere in Atlanta. Even after that, he shrugged off his performance as just doing what he was told to do.

81. He disliked having a barber shave him, preferring to do the job himself.

82. Clark hated people who were dishonest, and admitted if you lied to him once he had a hard time trusting you ever again.

83. During the filming of Honky Tonk, rumors were rampant that Clark and Lana Turner were having an affair–which they both denied. To show a united front, Clark and Carole Lombard attended the first preview together hand in hand. These rumors persist to this day, but Lana vehemently denied them in her autobiography.clark gable mutny on the bounty

84. When asked what his favorite film of his own was, he usually said Mutiny on the Bounty. After he saw The Misfits, he declared it was the best of his movies. He also expressed adoration for Test Pilot.

85. After A Free Soul was released, critics barely mentioned the relative newcomer Clark Gable, reserving their praise for Lionel Barrymore. Moviegoers, however–especially female ones–wrote the studio in droves demanding more Clark and his fan mail started pouring in. Movie magazines took notice and hailed him as “the man’s man all modern women dream about!” Because of this, his $650/week contract with MGM was ripped up and he signed a new one for $1,150/week.

86. After he died, Clark’s final hospital bill, which included an 11 day hospital stay, an adjoining room for Kay to stay in, an x-ray and round-the-clock care, totaled $1,703,71.

87. In Gone with the Wind, the scene where Melanie is comforting Rhett after Scarlett’s fallen down the stairs called for Clark to cry on camera. He balked, citing that it was “unmanly” and not true to the character. Selznick told him they’d film it first with him crying, then without, and then he could make the final decision. Upon seeing both prints, Clark agreed that the crying should stay.

88. While filming a plane crash scene in Too Hot to Handle, it was reported that the fire got out of control and the director wanted to cut the shot so they could get Myrna Loy out of there in time. Clark rushed in and pulled Myrna out of the plane, saving her life before the flames engulfed her. The press quickly got wind of the story and it was front page news. Myrna recalled she never thought she was in any danger and speculates it was the studio just trying to get some publicity for the film.

89. Somewhere I’ll Find You was the film Clark was making when Carole Lombard died.  After her death, the producers thought the title hit too close to home and suggested changing it to “Red Light.” Clark insisted they do him no favors and keep the original title.

90. Clark did not see any part of Somewhere I’ll Find You  until MGM gave him a personal copy of it in 1956.

91.When filming the fight scene between Clark and Spencer Tracy in Boom Town, Tracy’s stunt double accidentally punched him square in the jaw, breaking his false teeth and cutting up his lips. He was out for three weeks to heal and the film was shot around him until he returned. The first scene upon his return to the set was a love scene with Claudette Colbert. She kissed him so hard his temporary dentures cracked.

92. For the scenes in Homecoming that flashed back to Clark and Ann Baxter’s courtship, hemorrhoid cream was applied to Clark’s face to shrink his eye bags, heavy makeup was applied to his face and neck, and his jowls were pulled back with rubber bands. The result was less than flattering and he hated it. The flashback scenes were thus cut back to one brief scene.

93. His most frequent leading lady was Joan Crawford. Dance Fools DanceLaughing SinnersPossessed, Dancing LadyChained Forsaking All OthersLove on the RunStrange Cargo

94. Carole Lombard was interested in the screenplay for Woman of the Year (1942). She thought it would be a perfect chance for her and Clark to re-team on screen. She was very disappointed to learn that Katharine Hepburn had snatched up the rights to it and it was going forward with her and Spencer Tracy.clark gable

95. Clark’s only Oscar now resides in the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences Library, having been purchased at auction in 1996 by Steven Spielberg for $607,500. Clark’s son and only heir, John Clark, put the Oscar up for auction at Christie’s in Los Angeles. The Academy tried to bar the sale, producing a document Clark signed that stated that if he ever wanted to sell it, he had to offer it to the Academy for $10 first. A judge ruled that the document was forged (the Academy maintains that it was not) and cleared the way for the Oscar to be auctioned. At the time, the winner was anonymous. It wasn’t until Spielberg stepped up and donated the award back to the Academy that his identity was revealed. “I could think of no better sanctuary for Gable’s only Oscar than the Motion Picture Academy,” Spielberg said in a statement. “The Oscar statuette is the most personal recognition of good work our industry can ever bestow, and it strikes me as a sad sign of our times that this icon could be confused with a commercial treasure.”

96. Both Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart turned down the lead role in Teacher’s Pet.

97. Clark was fond of the robe he wore in the New Orleans honeymoon scene in Gone with the Wind and kept it. He later wore it again in Honky Tonk.

98. Teacher’s Pet was originally to be filmed in color, but the producers decided to film in black and white upon Gable’s request (he was self conscious about his weight and aged appearance after criticism of Band of Angels).

99. Adventure is usually maligned as a a huge flop, but that is not true. At first, the film broke box office records for its opening weeks due to fans eager to see Clark’s return to the screen. But bad word of mouth and unfavorable critical reviews caused the audiences to fall off sharply. It was considered a commercial success however, earning a profit of $500,000.

100. Gone with the Wind had three premieres: Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. Even though Gable attended the Atlanta and Los Angeles premieres (with Carole Lombard), he did not see the film in its entirety until the 1950’s. At the Atlanta premiere, he spent half the film chatting with Margaret Mitchell and sources say by the second half he had fallen asleep. At the Los Angeles premiere, the Gables, accompanied by Raoul Walsh and Marion Davies, spent the entire running time of the film in the theater manager’s office getting drunk.clark gable gone with the wind

101. His most common character name was Mike or Michael. ChainedLove on the RunTo Please a Lady and It Started in Naples.

102. During filming of Dancing Lady, Clark was hospitalized with a high fever. It was determined he had pyorrhea, from his rotting teeth and gums, that was starting to spread throughout his body. Almost all of his teeth were removed and then he had to wait for two weeks for his gums to heal before he could be fitted with dentures. They shot all the scenes without Clark and then production was shut down waiting for him to return. Producer David O. Selznick grew impatient and wanted to replace him with Robert Montgomery, but studio head Louis B. Mayer nixed the idea. Clark finally returned after six weeks, only to nearly collapse on the set and have to be rushed back to the hospital. When he was fully healed and returned again on October 20, he had been absent from the set since June 12 and the film was $150,000 over budget because of the delay.

103. Before becoming an actor, he worked as a farmhand, oil driller, rubber factory worker, tie salesman and telephone lineman.

104. Betrayed flopped at the box office and barely recouped its production costs. Clark, however, was still included on the list of the top 10 box office attractions of 1954 thanks to Gone with the Wind being re-released that year.

105. Later in his life, many suspected he suffered from Parkinson’s disease due to his hands and head constantly shaking.

106. Eager to branch out after his separation from MGM, Clark decided to try his hand out as a producer and formed a production company with Jane Russell’s husband, Bob Waterfield, to produce The King and Four Queens. After casting, location scouting, editing and tending to all the minute details of the film in addition to starring in it, he found being a producer too stressful and the film was the only one he ever produced.

107. During the filming of the scene in Gone with the Wind where Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs, director Victor Fleming kept demanding retakes, over a dozen times. An exhausted Clark obliged and carried Vivien Leigh up the stairs over and over again. Finally Fleming said, “The first take was perfect, Clark!”

108. Soon after they were married, Carole decided they should raise chickens and sell their eggs. She designed a carton for them, calling them “The King’s Eggs.” When it was determined that this venture would mean charging a dollar an egg to make a profit, the idea was abandoned.

109. Around 1946, Clark joined an informal group of actors who rode motorcycles around on weekends. Other members included Keenan Wynn, Gary Cooper, Robert Taylor, John Wayne, Ward Bond and Van Johnson.

110. Thinking body hair unclean, Clark often shaved his chest hair.

111. It’s been said that Clark was a poor dancer, but several of his woman companions said that actually he was pretty graceful on his feet, especially good at the waltz.

112. Clark liked his hair short and off his neck. The long hair he had to grow for Gone with the Wind drove him crazy.

113. He had an alcohol problem on and off over the years, his drink of choice being whiskey. Often he would quit cold turkey and drink only lemonade and Coca-Cola.

114. He broke the knuckle on his left ring finger in his farming days and therefore wore his wedding bands on his pinkie.

115. Today is his 115th birthday, so go watch a Gable movie! (Maybe with whiskey and an onion sandwich?)

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This month, the site’s friends on Facebook voted and chose this 1934 romantic comedy starring Clark and his most frequent leading lady, Joan Crawford, for January’s Movie of the Month.

clark gable joan crawford chained

Gable is Mike Bradley, a South American rancher who falls for the glamorous Diana (Crawford) on a cruise ship. Diana falls for Mike too, despite the fact that she is romantically involved with a married Manhattan businessman, Richard (Otto Kruger). She decides to leave Richard for Mike but, upon her return home, Richard tells her he has finally left his wife for her. Diana feels obligated to marry Richard and Mike is left in the dust.

clark gable joan crawford chained

This is certainly more Joan’s movie than Clark’s. She’s in more scenes than he is, struggling with emotional turmoil. Clark doesn’t actually appear until twelve minutes into the film, as we had to be properly brought up to speed on Joan and Otto’s dire romantic situation. Boy, oh boy, the frigid society wife who refuses to give a divorce to her wealthy estranged husband  was a tired old record repeatedly played in 1930’s movies. And it happened to a lot of the stars in real life–Clark included, just a few years later!

Joan sets sail for South America so that Otto can try and convince his old battleaxe wife to divorce him.

joan crawford otto kruger chained

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Clark’s buddy Johnnie (Stuart Erwin) tries to pick Joan up in the ship’s bar but is brutally rebuffed. We meet Clark when he then challenges him to pick her up, who of course accepts upon seeing her.”There’s a look in your eye that careful mothers fear!” Johnnie says.

clark gable chained clark gable chained

Joan is there drinking a sherry flip, her and Otto’s sentimental drink, which apparently was considered “old fashioned” even in 1934. Clark says, “They serve that in old people’s homes on Christmas!” What’s in it? Well…

1 1/2 oz cream sherry
2 tsp light cream
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 whole egg
nutmeg

Shake all ingredients (except nutmeg) with ice and strain into a whiskey sour glass. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and serve. 

YUCK! That sounds disgusting!

clark gable joan crawford chained

The way he smiles and tries to win Joan over actually reminds me of Rhett Butler a few years later: “I’d like to see more of you when you’re free of the spell of the elegant Mr. Wilkes…”

clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained

She somehow manages to not fall immediately for his boyish charms.

Ah, then we have 1930’s swimwear in all its glory…

joan crawford chained

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clark gable chained clark gable chained

Random fact: an uncredited and then-unknown Mickey Rooney is one of the random kids swimming in the swimming pool.

Clark’s hitting Joan with every good line he’s got but she is still resistant due to the fact that she is in love with Otto.

clark gable joan crawford chained

“Your eyes are very beautiful, even when they are bloodshot!”

“I’ll admit I was on the prowl until you dropped down from the sky.”

[When she says she’s never been engaged] “Say, what have you known all your life, a lot of blind men?”

I do love the little scene of them strolling the ship’s deck together.

clark gable joan crawford

And this might be one of my favorite screenshots ever:

clark gable joan crawford chained

This is a really great on-the-set snap:

clark gable joan crawford chained

The story is pretty run-of-the-mill for the period, with the unrelenting wife and the shipboard romance, but there are some cute scenes between Clark and Joan–on the ship and running around his ranch in Buenos Aires.

clark gable joan crawford chained

The relationship between Otto and Joan is rather unbelievable. He’s twenty years Joan’s senior and the way he talks to her is more like a father to a daughter. I guess that’s supposed to be the point–she finally finds “real romance” with Clark.

clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained Chained 5 clark gable joan crawford chained

Of course, when Joan finally returns to New York and ready to dump Otto and run off with Clark, Otto announces he finally got his wife to agree to the divorce–the big catch being that his wicked ex-wife won’t permit him to see their sons anymore. He declares it worth it to be with Joan. (Wow, father of the year!) Joan then of course has no choice but to marry him, and so she is “chained” to him and unable to be with Clark.

clark gable otto kruger joan crawford chained

Clark receives the bad news via letter,  signed off with “Best of Luck.” Heartbroken!

clark gable chained clark gable chained clark gable chained

Of course a year later they reunite and she realizes she really can’t live without him but of course, is still “chained.”

clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained clark gable joan crawford chained

In the end, Clark shows up to tell Otto he’s in love with his wife but chickens out when he sees how much Otto loves Joan. Oh, but Otto reads between the lines and figures out, in those few minutes at the breakfast table, that Clark and Joan love each other and decides to do the chivalrous thing and let her go.

clark gable joan crawford chained

clark gable joan crawford chained

You know, I wonder why they didn’t try to make Otto more unlikable? He’s such a nice guy and is so happily in love with Joan, you really feel bad for him in the end. I guess we are supposed to feel okay about it because the last scene shows married Clark and Joan on their ranch in South America, reading a letter from Otto that says he has been reunited with his sons.

clark gable joan crawford chained

Like I said, this picture is pretty much Joan’s. She gets to make long-suffering looks in her often rather ridiculous-looking 30’s outfits.

joan crawford chained

(via)

Joan later said about this period:

“[Clark and I] knew we would be stars as long as the public paid to see us, but we wondered, the way Metro was typecasting us, if the public would go forever to see “a Joan Crawford picture” or “a Clark Gable picture.” I was the perpetual shopgirl-turned-lady, and he was forever the virile, ballsy hero. We both felt that sooner or later, probably sooner, the public would say the hell with us and we’d sink right back into oblivion. Scared? As Clark would say, we were scared shitless. Actually what Louis B. [Mayer] and the public didn’t know about me and Clark–Clark and me?–didn’t hurt them. If Clark and I hadn’t had each other, at that particular time, we might not have gone on. We simply gave each other courage. We also taught each other how to laugh at ourselves–and that, baby, is the first thing anybody in Hollywood tucks into the survival kit.”

I know a lot of people’s opinion of Joan have been tainted by “no wire hangers!” but I do like her with Clark onscreen. They have great chemistry; you can tell they genuinely like each other. A little film like this would have been a complete flop if he didn’t have a great partner to spar with.

Chained is available on DVD from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

You can read more here and see pictures in the gallery.

clark gable joan crawford chained

clark gable virginia bruce

Virginia Bruce and Clark Gable

 

From November 1936:

Virginia Bruce, who is seen with filmland’s most eligible young men, enjoys a variety of escorts, because, she says, “No one man combines all the qualities I like.”

The perfect escort, according to the Hollywood actress, would have to possess the best points of the men. She lists them:

Robert Taylor to make all the other girls jealous.

Jack Dempsey for protection.

Clark Gable for his manly characteristics.

Noel Coward for his wit.

Fred Astaire as a dancing partner.

George Bernard Shaw for his intelligent conversation.

William Powell for his spontaneous good humor.

James Stewart for his lack of affectation.

Cesar Romero for his polished manners.

Francis Lederer for his charm.

___

Well now, that would be quite the man…

clark gable sylvia ashley

Here is another article Modern Screen magazine ran just a few months after the article I posted yesterday. This one goes into more (fluffy fluffy fluffy) detail about Clark and Sylvia’s “great romance.”

For the actor he is, Clark Gable put on a bad performance these past few years. Loneliness stood out on him like a neon sign. The evenings he spent at his Encino ranch home, he’d wander from room to room, pick up a book and drop it, pick up a phone and decide not to call, sink into a chair and stare at nothing.

The nights he went out the newshounds followed him to parties and theaters and nightclubs for hot gossip about this man of the world. They got the gossip. But anyone with half an eye could see that Gable wasn’t happy.

Then, at one of the parties, he met Sylvia. He’d known her before, but this was different. He’d never married her before…

Everyone knows the story of their elopement and honeymoon. Only his friends know that Clark has changed, that for the first time in many years he’s come out of his shell. They can trace the change back to the beginning of his marriage, to Hawaii…

There were ten thousand people mobbing the dock at Honolulu to greet Clark and his bride. Time was when he would have faced a crowd like this black-browed and scowling. He’d have stalked straight through them, or slammed himself into a stateroom. This time he loved it. They couldn’t drape him with enough leis, he couldn’t shake enough hands or joke with enough people whom he didn’t even know.

No sooner did he hit the Islands than he blossomed out in South Sea shirts that would have made Bing Crosby jealous. He went overboard for every dreamy Island tune. He bought himself a ukulele and crooned off-key to Sylvia. He padded in sandals around Honolulu’s streets, and sunned his chest at Waikiki for the Royal Hawaiian hotel guests to see.

Everywhere he went he yelled, “Aloha!” until his voice cracked. He waved from his open flivver so much he got a charley-horse.

New Year’s Eve, when all of Honolulu practically blows up with fireworks, Clark and Sylvia sent rockets and Roman candles whooshing into the sky from midnight to dawn. They stood there like a couple of awe-struck kids watching the sky light up. Like the newlyweds they were, with a whole life before them, exciting and new.

Nobody who knows Clark or Sylvia well was really surprised by the Gable who came back from Honolulu, the Gable who dropped ten years by saying, “I do,” the Gable with the frequent, boyish grin.

The press back then, I think, was as startled by this sudden and unlikely marriage as the American public. But instead of writing “why in the HELL did he marry HER?” and “no way this lasts!” like they probably wanted to, they had to spin this into a great romance and the answer to all Clark’s fans’ prayers. By all accounts he seemed very happy on their Hawaiian honeymoon, but once the honeymoon was over, their differences were too great.

His friends knew that a guy like him is no good, rattling around alone and lonely as he’d been since Carole Lombard died. But he needed the sort of woman who would understand him, who would be able to interest him in life again.

The new Mrs. G. is not only social but sociable-plus. She liked people and people like her. She’s lived all her life in a world of conviviality, and one Hollywood prediction is practically unanimous: the old recluse Gable is a man of the past. If anyone can warm up his home and bring him back to the life of friends and fun that he really loves, it’s Sylvia. Already in the past two months she’s had more dinner parties at Encino that Clark himself bothered to stage in the past two years, including a surprise forty-ninth birthday party for Mr. G. himself.

These two paragraphs are funny, saying that his friends knew he needed the sort of woman who would “understand him, who would be able to interest him in life again,” then delving into a paragraph about all the dinner parties she’s thrown–more than Clark’s thrown in two years. Yeah, that sort of thing was what made the marriage NOT work out. In more than one article during the Lombard marriage, you will read Clark and Carole stating how they didn’t like to throw big formal dinner parties in their home.

Of course Sylvia has changed things at her new home. Clark expected her to, and he’s delighted with the results.

Already there are flowers and plants inside where nobody ever thought of putting them. The few prize pieces Sylvia had at the ocean-front house Doug Fairbanks left her are on their way from England and New York. The guest house—two rooms and a bath—is fully furnished to her taste. Sylvia’s bedroom was done over again in the soft greens and yellows she loves. The living room furniture’s been shifted around, and recovered. And the unfamiliar scent of lavender drifts out of the wardrobe closets, packed now with the beautiful clothes which were back in New York when Sylvia needed them most—for her trousseau.

Clark was hardly delighted by Sylvia’s changes; he had the guest house redone as soon as she moved out. I’d often heard that Sylvia had redone Carole Lombard’s old room (which was powder blue) in pink, which was Clark’s least favorite color. Here they are saying green and yellow.

The ending of this article is really eye-roll inducing:

And they know that, fate willing, they’ll get the wish they made that Hawaiian night in December 1949. With the Pacific surf in the background, and the moon glistening on the sand, Clark and Sylvia sipped champagne on the lanai, and Clark made a toast: “To us,” he said, “and to our new life in the days and nights ahead. May they all be as swell as this.”

So far they’ve got their wish, and it looks as if it will keep, for on that night when love walked in and claimed Clark Gable’s life, loneliness took one lingering, frightened look and drowned itself off the shores of gay Hawaii.

What a last line!!! Wow. You can read the entire fluffy piece in the Article Archive.

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This article was published in March 1950, one in a sea of articles heralding Clark Gable’s fourth marriage to Sylvia Ashley.

They sat opposite me at Amelio’s, one of those restaurants in San Francisco where the steaks are tender and titanic. I tried not to stare.

Clark and Sylvia Gable had been married only 48 hours. In another two, they would head for pier 32, and board the S.S. Lurline for Honolulu and their honeymoon.

As I say, I tried not to stare. But after all, I’m a woman with a woman’s curiosity, and I couldn’t help myself. There, sitting opposite me was Clark Gable, the King, the most celebrated screen lover of modern times, and there next to him, was his fourth bride, the blonde and beautiful Lady Sylvia Stanley of Alderley, widow of Douglas Fairbanks, Senior. She was dressed in a simple black-and-white checked sports dress and she wore flat-heeled pumps. Over her shoulders was draped a silver blue mink coat.

These two world-famous celebrities did not look like newlyweds. They spoke very sparingly during the meal, and as any waiter will tell you, that’s a sure sign a couple is married. When they’re in the courting stage, they talk a blue streak.

Clark and his bride, however, were both in a happy, anticipatory mood, and when the waiter brought their food, Gable slapped his hands in relish and said, “This is our first square meal in three days.”

What I wanted most to do was to go over to their table and interview them right there and then, but I knew two things for sure: One, I had no right to invade their privacy at a time like this; and two, if I did, the management would toss me out on my ear.

So I got up and drove to the Matson pier. I boarded the Lurline and went down to C deck and suite 245, the quarters reserved for Mr. and Mrs. William Clark Gable. The suite consisted of two bedrooms, sitting room and a private deck.

The boat was scheduled to leave at midnight. It was jammed with hundreds of visitors, all of whom, it seemed, knew the location of the Gable rooms. The corridor leading to the suite was packed with women and bobby-soxers, all anxious to get a look at Clark and his bride.

A little after 11 o’clock, the Gables drove onto the pier escorted by two motorcycle policemen. As Clark and his blonde bride, surrounded by police officers, stepped off the gangplank, the crowd moved in. Ten police officers made a flying wedge and after 15 minutes of shoving, succeeded in getting the Gables into their suite. A crowd then formed outside and began beating on the door.

In a few minutes, the door was opened slightly to permit the entrance of a few of us reporters, and a Modern Screen photographer, Ken Cheney. We dove in.

First thing, our photographer spoke up. “Would you mind please standing a little closer together?” he asked Gable. Clark smiled—so, too, did his tall bride. “Look,” said Clark, as our lensman kept motioning him closer, “you run your romance and I’ll run mine.” We all laughed.

“How did you pop the question to Lady Stanley?” I then asked.

Clark grinned. “I was scared to death,” he said, “that she’d say ‘no’—but she came through all right with a big ‘yes.’”

“I said it as fast as I knew how,” Mrs. Gable added. “Wouldn’t give him any time to change his mind.”

There was another round of flashbulbs, and then the ship’s warning whistle sounded. As we left, I looked back Visible on the newlyweds’ faces were looks of profound relief. They seemed to say, “Alone at last.”

The Lurline pulled out at midnight, and the Gables were below decks as it did.

Here’s what struck me as interesting in this piece: these slight comments that indicate that already the Gables weren’t exactly in newlywed bliss.  They hardly spoke over lunch, as “married people” do? They’re newlyweds! And the photographer had to ask them to stand closer together? I don’t think any photographer had to ask Clark and Carole to get closer together in their post-wedding news conference–their hands are intertwined in every photo and you couldn’t stick a pin between them! Just an observation…

Much of the article goes over their wedding day and Sylvia’s history of marrying up with each marriage. To skip to the end:

Three months ago, she and Gable began going to a few parties together. No one thought anything of it. Gable had first met her 15 years ago when she was married to Fairbanks. They were considered old acquaintances—nothing more.

Most of us had long been convinced that Gable would marry again, but we always thought he would choose someone like his third wife, Carole Lombard—very witty, very down-to-earth, very American. None of us ever thought he would marry a titled Englishwoman.

Clark, as everyone knows, has been married three times previously, once in 1924 to Josephine Dillon, a dramatic coach, once to Rhea Langham in 1931, and once to Carole Lombard in 1938. His marriage to Carole was called “the perfect union,” and when she was killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas, three years later, Clark went into seclusion at his Encino ranch. His hair turned white at the temples, his face became lined, and he ordered that Carole’s room remain just as it was when she left it—clothes still hanging in the closets, perfume bottles in the bathroom, hosiery rolled up into tight little balls.

It’s been no secret that for the past nine years, Clark has been carrying the torch for his dead wife, subconsciously comparing her to every girl he went out with—and always having the escort fail to reach the Lombard standard.

About a year ago, a girl who had dated Gable occasionally was asked if she thought Clark would ever forget Carole Lombard. “I don’t know,” she said. “He’s certainly tried. He joined the Air Forces; he turned intensely to hunting, fishing, and boating. He threw himself into his work. But my own opinion is that there’s only one way in which a man like Gable can forget a woman he’s loved. That way is by falling in love with another one. I’m not that woman.”

She wasn’t, either. But the whole word now knows who was.

I don’t think anybody ever met his Lombard standard–he just gave up trying and decided to attempt to be happy.

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

Another article about the newlywed Clark & Sylvia coming up tomorrow…

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From January 1934:

The latest report from The Merry Widow front is that Clark Gable has asked the studio to permit him to appear in the production as an extra.

There are sentimental reasons behind the request. Gable was an extra in the silent version six years ago.

The earlier Merry Widow won fame for Roy D’Arcy, whose name has passed from the lists of major stars now, and Clark is at the other end of the film see-saw. 

At the moment of writing there is very little prospect of the Metro moguls acceding to his request.

clark gable

This article about post-MGM Clark was syndicated in newspapers in 1955.

After a quarter of a century in the movie business, William Clark Gable, the acknowledged king of the actors, has decided at the ripe age of 54 to go on his own.

“From here on in,” Gable confided recently in Durango, Mexico, where he was on location for The Tall Men, “I’m through working for salary. I’ve been on salary since 1930, and I’ve got less to show for that kind of security than most people think.

“The thing for an actor to do nowadays is to work for a share of the picture’s profits. You’ve gotta take a chance. Fellows like Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper—they had the right idea years ago. Today they’re well-fixed. Why? Because they were willing to gamble, willing the spread the risk.

“If a film’s no good, you wind up with little. You’ve invested your time and talent. If it goes over big, you’ve got a bundle spread over a period of years.

“Take Gone with the Wind,” Gable continued, “Know how much that picture has grossed since 1939? About $35 million. In order to get me for the Rhett Butler part, David Selznick had to give up 50 percent of the film to MGM. Know how much I got? Maybe 30 or 40 thousand in salary.

“Now, suppose I had 10 percent of the gross.” This is Gable’s current deal on Solider of Fortune and The Tall Men, both released via 20th Century Fox. “I’d be set!

“Yes sir, my salary days are over. From now on, it’s a percentage deal with me. Should’ve done it years ago. But I was tied up with a studio contract until last year.”

Oddly enough, MGM, which had Gable under contract from 1931 to 1954, offered “The Moose” a share-the-profits deal prior to his leaving, but he turned it down.

“Eddie Mannix [MGM’s general manager] came over to London a year or so ago,” Gable told me, “and offered me a unit of my own. ‘You can pick your own stories,’ he said. ‘Cast your own pictures. Make anything you want up to 2 ½ million. We’ll back you and we’ll work out the split.’

“It was a good offer, a fine offer, but I didn’t want a company of my own. That kind of thing can become a headache. You get charged with the studio overhead, and every actor in town comes up asking for a job.

“I said to Mannix in London, ‘Thanks for everything, Eddie, but as regards Metro, I think I’ve had it. No more long term studio deals for me.’ We shook hands, and that was really the end of my relationship with MGM. A few months later I came back to Culver City, did a little work, then checked off the lot.

I think Clark is still nursing his wounds over how his relationship with MGM ended, but of course never would admit that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: While I agree he should have set on his own earlier, he didn’t do a great job at picking his own film projects.

Now, for Clark Gable to talk thus about any subject for publication is far from typical. For years his press relations have been affably close-mouthed. He is one actor not given in bright remarks. Ordinarily he limits himself to one-sentence answers—particularly where finances or women are concerned.

As we say on the veranda of his Durango hotel, I said as much to him. “Last time I saw you,” I added, “you were in Venice with that French model, Susan Dadolle.”

“I remember,” Gable nodded. “You wanted to know if I was going to marry the girl. I told you there was nothing to it, just friendship, but you didn’t want to believe it.”

“Every time you say you’re just friends with a girl,” I offered, “you wind you marrying her. That’s the trouble with you. I’ll bet you get married to Kay Spreckels within the next few months.”

Gable tossed back that handsome head of his and grinned widely. “Everyone knows more about me,” he said, “than I do myself. Right now I’m not getting married. After I finish this picture, I’m through working for a year. I’m heading for Alaska and some hunting. Don’t get me wrong, I think Kay Spreckels is a swell girl. But she’s had enough of marriage, too. She’s a three-time loser. Matter of fact, I think that’s what we have in common.”

Clark and Kay were married a month after this article was published….so something changed in that short period of time!

Diplomatic and tactful, he shies away from practically all questions concerning his leading women. Over the years he has played opposite virtually every top-flight actress from Greta Garbo to Grace Kelly. Joan Crawford starred opposite Gable in eight movies from 1931 to 1940 and once told me, “I was very much in love with him but was afraid to admit it. I always had the feeling that he was the kind of lover who cared more for the chase than the prize.”

Quite a quote from Crawford!

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