clark gable

From January 1935:

Oddly enough, Hollywood, the film capital which is not a city, cannot be reached via railroad–except by freight train! Clark Gable and Jim Tully–one a screen idol, the other a noted scenarist and author–selected this unusual path to fame several years ago when they “hit the road” to study geography first hand.

The paths of these two men crossed one day, and they “threw in” with each other, traveling together across the western states, taking odd jobs and gaining an understanding of human nature that was to stand them both in good stead.

Tully has give the world many delightful and colorful stories based on his own first hand experiences in the art of hoboing and Gable’s human characterization on the silver screen have carried him to an envied stardom.

 

clark gable jean harlow

Here is the continuation of yesterday’s article, where Clark Gable wrote what he thought of Jean Harlow. Now it’s Jean’s turn to gush about Clark–and gush she does indeed!

I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather have for a friend than Clark Gable. He embodies all qualities which are necessary for true friendship.

Not more than half a dozen people in Hollywood, I believe, know Clark as he really is. He is so much deeper than people think. He won’t talk about himself—he doesn’t even seem to think much about himself. It’s not that he’s a Garbo. But he is always so interested in finding out about you that he never tells you much about Gable.

But I know him from the standpoint of one who has worked with him on many pictures. I believe that by working with a man you get to know him as well as anyone possibly can. If he stands well in the opinion of his fellow workers, he’ll be the same under any conditions.

We started our screen partnership several years ago in The Secret Six. It was my first picture after Hell’s Angels and it was, I think, Clark’s first important picture. Since then we have played together in Red Dust, Hold Your Man and now in China Seas. The most revealing comment I can make about Clark is that he is, today, the same human, natural, amusing chap he was in the beginning.

He has made a spectacular success. His rise to the top is breath-taking even in Hollywood, where overnight fame comes fairly often. He is probably ever woman’s ideal of a man, as a husband, friend or a lover. But Clark is no more conscious of this than he is conscious of the color of his eyes. Maybe even less so! Fame hasn’t changed him.

For instance, his stand-in now is a man who worked with him on the stage some ten years ago. Clark’s attitude toward this chap is that of a friend and a fellow worker. He doesn’t seem to have a trace of a feeling that would be, after all, quite natural in the circumstances—“I’m the star and you’re the stand-in!”

There’s one exception, one change that has come inevitably with success. When Clark and I made The Secret Six we had no particular incentive because it seemed too wildly improbable that we would become stars. We regarded each bit of success as a lucky “break” and made the most of it. Our attitude was happy-go-lucky. We enjoyed ourselves as we went along.

Now Clark regards his work with an increased seriousness. He takes each part more intensely. The best way of putting it is to say that he has an increased application to his roles.

He is essentially a man’s man. His attitude toward me is that of a pal or a brother. With some men, you are made awfully conscious of being a woman.  You think, “Maybe my nose is shiny,” or “Does my hair look right?” or “What if my lips aren’t on straight?”

With Clark you don’t care if your nose is powdered or not, or whether you have on an old pair of slippers. You feel that he likes you because you’re a human being. You can be at ease with him, comfortable. This may seem a small point but it’s awfully important to me. Or to any woman—I’ve noticed the same reaction in others. I think it’s an important part of Clark’s charm.

He’s a completely natural person. He does all the little things for a woman that other men do—offers me a light for my cigarette, pulls out a chair for me, and so forth. But so many men have rather an air of preening themselves when they’re being gallant. Clark, quite naturally, wants to help you. And his unobtrusive way of offering the small courtesies represents true gallantry. Women must sense this through his screen performances. I believe it’s another explanation of his success.

He is highly considerate. He always seems, for instance, as vitally interested in my problems as his own. Sometimes when we rehearse I have difficulty with a bit of dialogue. A line won’t read in a way that sounds natural to me. Or perhaps it is out of character with the role I’m playing. Nine times out of ten Clark will say, “How would it be if Jean read the line like this?” Then he makes a suggestion that solves the problem.

I have the feeling that he is just as anxious for me to give a good performance as to give one himself. For instance, if we’re doing a scene which is more important to my role than his, he still gives of his best to help me. Even if it’s just a business of “feeding” me a line.

He is amusing, humorous. It is difficult to write of jokes and casual conversations—they always sound a bit flat when repeated. Between scenes we often talk of horses. I’m crazy about riding and of course polo is one of Clark’s min loves.

He is interested in all sorts of things, and all sorts of people. I believe this is another explanation of his charm. He loves talking to all kinds of men, learning their hopes and ambitions, the way they live. Often he goes over to the extras and chats with them. In our present picture China Seas, we have a lot of Oriental extras and Clark enjoys talking to them.

Of course they all think him a “velly nice man!” One of them spent hours whittling away on a bit of wood, making a curiously complicated puzzle which he presented to Clark.

Our sets always have this nice feeling of friendliness between the extras, the bit players, and all the others. It would be difficult to work under any other condition. With everybody Clark is kindly and understanding. And if he can be so considerate toward these people–who really mean nothing to him—how much more would he be toward a friend!

He is dependable, too—another important quality in friendship. I feel that he would be big enough to handle any situation with complete ease.  He never fusses or frets. He looks clearly at a problem and sees the right thing to do. He seldom argues. Quietly, he thinks things out, and then what he says always has real meaning.

He is, of course, an excellent actor. (And I believe it is an important indication of character when a man excels at his trade, whatever it is.) As a working partner, I couldn’t ask for more/ Je gives up so much to each part that I have to keep up with him. He constantly keys me up.

Today, for instance, we did a scene in China Seas in which the suspense is terrific. It was a difficult and dramatic bit. Yet Clark was so vibrantly master of the scene that he gave me something to shoot at.

Personally, he has more stability than many men I have known. You feel this when you talk with him. He seems to know where he stands, and where he is going. He won’t change.

Even more important, he has the ability to follow-through. I admire that tremendously. He has made a success and stuck with it, even though there have been times when it wasn’t easy.

I have seen him, for instance, work twice as hard for a role in which he didn’t quite believe as he would have worked for a role he really liked. He never quits on the job for any reason. He wouldn’t be a fair-weather friend.

There! When your editor suggested that I do this story telling “what I think of Clark Gable,” I warned him that it might sound like a Pollyanna yarn. Perhaps I’ve been too darned complimentary. But anyone who knows me will realize that I couldn’t say such things unless I wholeheartedly meant them. And sincerely I think Clark Gable is the grandest guy in the world.

clark gable jean harlow

This is article appeared in Hollywood magazine in 1935, as publicity for the upcoming China Seas. Clark Gable and Jean Harlow were buddies, and the publicity team at MGM liked to circle that around.  Here on the site we’ve got this article about them on the set of Wife vs. Secretary.  And This one behind the scenes of Hold Your Man is fun too.

The endearing way he talks about Jean is so sweet. So difficult to wrap your head around the fact that she would be dead in two years, at the age of 26.

Here is what Clark had to say about his buddy Jean in 1935 (Jean’s part about Clark coming up tomorrow!):

 

To me, Jean always seems to have rather a man’s attitude toward life. I don’t know just how to explain this, but I always feel it when I’m with her. You can talk to her so naturally. She understands and appreciates the things men are interested in. Of course this appeals to any man.

Instead of the slinky evening gowns and bizarre costumes you might expect her to wear, after seeing her on the screen, she usually goes around in a pair of slacks, or a sports skirt, short socks, and sneakers. She seems utterly unconscious of her beauty.

She adores golf. She is an expert fisherman. She loves riding. And she makes no allowances for herself as a woman in these sports. She plays them on an equal basis with men—and discusses them more intelligently than one woman in a hundred.

She never uses her femininity in conversations—to win arguments, for instance, or to put over a point. So many woman suddenly “go feminine” when they think it will turn the tide their way, but I don’t think Jean even thinks of her sex in such circumstances.

She has, too, a complete sense of fairness. I don’t know anyone, man or woman, who is more of a straight shooter. She is fair in the things she does and the things she says. I have seen her, on one occasion, give a bit player an unusual break. The girl had a short line to speak, and then Jean was supposed to interrupt her. The girl had tried awfully hard, but as the scene was to be played she would be hardly noticed. Jean said, “I was an extra myself once, so I know what this means to her. Couldn’t we change the script a little so my line can be delayed—and I won’t have to walk in front of her?”

I’ve never known Jean to “go temperamental,” and when you consider the number of days we have worked together, this is a real tribute. I have seldom seen her out of spirits. Of course, she’s human, and she has occasional flare-ups. But they last only a short time and are always directed where they belong. Usually she is right.

She’s a swell sport. For instance, if I have to “sock” her in a picture—and believe me, it is done with the utmost reluctance!—she never asks me to take it easy. She doesn’t expect me to. When I “dunked” her in the barrel of water in Red Dust, she didn’t seem to mind at all. I’m always a bit embarrassed about such scenes, and her attitude helps. It’s just part of the business to her, and she goes through the retakes, if they’re necessary, like a trouper.

Again, during the making of China Seas, she had a bad cold, and right in the middle of it we had another scene where she had to be soaked. She didn’t complain once, though I’m sure it was anything but pleasant for her. And if she didn’t have such radiant health, it would take her weeks to break up the resulting cold.

One of the characteristics I have in mind when I say she has a man’s attitude is her amazing sincerity. She is always perfectly frank. There is no halfway about her, she treats everyone the same way—director, producer, or fellow actor. When we were making The Secret Six, Wallace Beery once criticized her for some minor detail of her performance. Without hesitation she flared right back at him. Remember, at the time, her position wasn’t nearly so important as his. But he admired her frankness—I believe their friendship dates from that day.

She never keeps things pent up inside herself. She doesn’t nourish a grudge. If she has anything to say, she brings it out into the open, and then forgets about it. I like that.

Looking back on our first picture together, the talks we had will always stand out in my mind. After her success in Hell’s Angels, she was a step ahead of me on the way to success, yet she never made me feel that it was her picture any more than mine.

Neither of us knew much about the business, and we tried to figure things out together so the rest wouldn’t realize how awfully green we really were. I remember Jean would ask me at the end of every scene—“How’m I doing?”

And I asked her the same.

We criticized each other, trying desperately to learn. Nobody else seemed to pay much attention to us. We were not among the chosen few who saw the daily rushes. Every good word Jean heard about me, she would rush to repeat to me. And things that weren’t so good, too, because she knew that is one way of progressing.

We used to plan, jokingly, what we wanted if we ever did get to the top. Jean never particularly wanted fame. The lights and the crowds and the glamour of being a star never seemed to mean much to her, even before she had them. She wanted, sincerely, the happiness of knowing she had done a job well.

If you talked to her directors and other fellow stars, I think you’ll find that she feels the same way today.

She was, I remember, terribly afraid of being typed in “vamp” roles. She was afraid that her part in Hell’s Angels would mark her forever in the eyes of the fans. Red Dust wasn’t much better. But she didn’t complain.

She is, in my opinion, one of Hollywood’s best comediennes, and I feel that she is right in wanting to do more comedy. Certainly few stars in Hollywood could have equaled her wonderful performance in Bombshell. I hope she is given the chance to do more pictures like that.

She is a thoughtful person, considerate of those around her. Every morning she has coffee and doughnuts on the set. Instead of ordering one cup of coffee and a couple of doughnuts sent to her dressing room, she orders a huge pot of coffee and a couple of dozen doughnuts for the entire company.

Because of little things like this, every extra I’ve ever talked with adores her. Sometimes they are critical of other stars, who may be, in their eyes, ritzy or up-stage. But Jean stands ace high with all of them.

Having grown out of the extra ranks herself, she has not forgotten her friends and acquaintances among them. Out of every crowd, on our pictures, she will find a familiar face or two. It’s always—“Hello, Eddie!—“Hi, there, Janet!”

She has boundless enthusiasm—a quality so many people outgrow. In many ways she is like a kid in her pleasure over little things. Just the other day a property boy who had worked with her on Bombshell brought her a live rabbit. She couldn’t have been more pleased if it had been an expensive gift.

Because they like her, everyone who works with her tries to make things easier for her—even though she isn’t a demanding person, and prefers to do things for herself. She has told me of making the dance scene in Reckless. She had never danced for the camera and was terribly nervous. She had to do her stuff in front of a hundred or so but players—all of them chosen for their expert dancing. If they had so much as whispered a word of criticism, she told me, she wouldn’t have been able to go through with it. Instead they applauded her, and kept crying out, “That’s the stuff, Jean! You’ve got it now!”

And their enthusiasm meant so much to her that by the third “take” she was dancing like a professional!

It has always been a bond between us that we started at about the same time, and our progress has been more or less parallel. Neither of us can remember “way back to the silent days.” We went to the same class in the same school, in other words, and we’ve been promoted in the same pictures. Of course, in between, we each went separate ways, she with other leading men and I with other leading ladies. After a picture, we make no effort to keep up our friendship. But when we see each other again, we seem to pick up where we left off, regardless of what has happened to us in the meantime. It’s marvelous and rare to have a friend like that. Most friendships are lost unless they are kept alive.

Probably this outburst puts me in the class of her fans. I am. And I think you’ll find that everyone who really knows Jean feels just the same way.

clark gable father

From 1948:

Very little has been written about Clark Gable’s devotion to his father. Seldom, if ever, did they pose for pictures together. And all for good reason. Clark’s dad was proud of his son, but wanted no part of the spotlight. He lived close to the Gable ranch with Clark’s adored stepmother. She died recently and while Clark was in Europe, his father followed her. Clark hurried home for the funeral. There were no crowds, no clicking cameras. That was the way Dad Gable would have wanted it. During all his years in Hollywood, unless he was out of town, Clark never missed Sunday night dinner with his family. Thus continues the Gable legend.

___

What fluff. He and his father were not really that close and bumped heads often. He took care of his father, but they weren’t best buddies. And I sincerely doubt he had dinner with his father every Sunday!

I have always wondered why Clark’s father was cremated and is in a mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In 1948, Carole had already died and Clark had purchased the plot next to her for himself, at Forest Lawn in Glendale. So why was his dad put in Hollywood Forever? Hmm.

clark gable

From April 1935:

Clark Gable had his troubles when he boarded a plane at Dallas, Texas, en route for Hollywood, for a mob of his admirers, mostly women, burst through the police lines and surrounded the machine. Finally the pilot was able to get sufficient space to take off.

The women certainly were frantic to see Gable. 

clark gable boatFrom October 1936:

Clark Gable is in the market for a yacht, with a globe-circling cruise in mind. Hollywood rumor has it that he will purchase John Barrymore’s “Infanta”, said to be up for sale. 

From a reliable source, I hear that Gable’s proposed trip will be for business, as well as pleasure, and that he will be accompanied by W.S. Van Dyke, adventuring director who filed “Trader Horn” and other notable films. 

clark gable army graduation speech

Clark Gable headed off to Miami to attend Officers Candidate School right after being sworn into the Army in August 1942. He finished 700th in a class of 2,500. At the graduation in October, he was persuaded (probably not willingly) to give the graduation address.

Up until now, I only had a clipping of his speech, which was blurry and incomplete. Thanks to a dear fan (who has a signed original!), here is Clark’s speech in its entirety:

Fellow Classmen:

What’s happened to you, gentlemen? Why have you changed so much in twelve weeks? Look around you. Look at each other. What you see if a picture of discipline that did not come easily. It’s proper that that .we should have learned it the hard way. We’ll keep it longer because of that. Officer Candidate School knows its business on that score–and today we know it, too.

Frankly, I didn’t know it when I came here twelve weeks ago. I didn’t know what a gig was then–a G-I-G, gentlemen. I thought it was something pulled by a horse. I learned quickly that it was something pulled by an officer candidate when his basic sanitary equipment was not sanitary enough to pass inspection.

It was a good lesson. It doesn’t take a fantastic imagination to see where the gig for a blunder or a mistake can lead. Gigs on the battlefield are measured in terms of blood of men. You don’t see it at first, perhaps, but it is the business of OCS to see that you do by the time you come to a day like this.

While at this school, I had the good luck to run into a chap who has seen discipline in action where it means the difference between life and death. He had served with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China. I asked him, a fellow who knew what it was all about, what element was the most important in the difference between winning and losing on a battle front.

“Discipline,” he said, without a second’s hesitation. “The kind of discipline that does a thing on the very nose of the second when it is supposed to be done.” Those boys made it work, we all know that.

As one of you these last twelve weeks, I’ve watched you–some of you soldiers when you started, others, like me, fresh from civilian life–learn discipline the tough way. I’ve worked with you, scrubbed with you, marched with you, sweated with you, and worried with you over whether this day would ever come. The important thing, the proud thing, I’ve learned about us in that time is that we’re men.  No one could say a finer thing about us. As mean, you know that you no longer are individuals whose laxity is purely a personal matter. Your individual degree of discipline has a national value, a world value today. If I had learned nothing else in OCS, that would be a lesson to prize all the rest of my life. Multiply us by millions of other Americans and you have what it takes to win the war, and what will cost us victory if we don’t have it.

In a few minutes, gentlemen, we will put on the uniform of an officer which symbolizes a stage in our development where indivdiual effeciency counts more than anything else. How we look in it is a very important thing. How we wear it is a lot more important.

Gentlemen, I’m not going to say to you “get on the beam.” You’re on it. The job is to stay on the beam until–in victory–we get the command: “Fall out.”

clark gable army graduation

clark gable norma shearer a free soul

From August 1931:

Every reader of Adela Rogers St. John’s interesting Hollywood stories in New Movie [magazine] will want to see the talkie built at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios from her novel, “A Free Soul.” The story makes a very effective vehicle for Norma Shearer.

The motherless Jan Ashe has been raised by her father, a hard-drinking lawyer, to do as she likes. Conventions are something to break–until she discovers that she can’t find happiness in smashing the rules of life. There’s a murder trial sequence that will surely get you.

“A Free Soul” is superbly played. Miss Shearer steps further upward as the reckless Jan, Lionel Barrymore is admirable as her sodden but brilliant father, while Clark Gable–watch this boy!–is corking as the gambler who wins Jan for a few dangerously menacing moments.

 

clark gable marion davies

This month, Clark’s a grumbling small-time boxer in a love-hate relationship with Marion Davies’ spunky waitress-turned dancer in Cain and Mabel.

Clark Gable is Larry Cain, a heavyweight boxer, whose publicity team cooks up a fake romance with Mabel O’Dare (Davies), an aspiring musical star, for publicity. The two loathe each other but begrudgingly agree to play along to help both of their careers. Of course along the way they actually do fall in love and decide to quit boxing and show business to be together. Their publicists won’t hear of it however and set to break them up.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

This is completely Marion’s film. She’s billed first and carries the majority of the scenes without Clark–heck, he doesn’t even appear until about 16 minutes into the film. Oooh and his first appearance is in his pajamas!

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Can you imagine slamming the door in Clark Gable’s face if he showed up in his pajamas and a robe?

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Clark at this point had grown fond of his signature mustache and was not amused when Marion specifically requested him for the part–but demanded he shave off his facial hair, claiming she was “allergic” to mustaches. He does look rather hunky though.

clark gable cain and mabel

Clark wins the heavyweight title but his fights aren’t popular enough to earn much of a profit. Marion gets a starring role on Broadway but her shows are hardly sell-outs. “The ushers are quitting because they’re scared of being alone in the dark!” her employer scoffs.

clark gable cain and mabel

So his support team and her support team decide that if they throw them together in a romance, the newspapers will eat it up and it will help both careers. Although both Marion and Clark are unwilling participants, the plan works–her shows are sell-outs and his fights are more popular than ever. Oh, but what happens when they actually DO fall in love?…

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

The plot is rather tired. They love each other, they hate each other, they love each other, they hate each other. When they do fall for each other, it’s sudden and you really have no idea why.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Water fights!

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Clark spends most of the film grumbling and insulting her:

“Someday I’ll meet that dame. When I do, I’ll spank her so tender she could sit on a newspaper and read the headlines!”

“I’m warning you, if I ever meet that dame, they’ll be throwing a benefit for her the next day!”

“If that galloping you were doing tonight is dancing, then I’ve seen the Russian ballet at a horse show!”

“I’m supposed to be a fighter and what am I doing–playing post office all over the front page with a dame!”

Marion was always one to be able to deliver a snappy comeback:

“You may be a champ to somebody but you’re just a punching bag with ears on it to me!”

“He’s got a swelled head so bad he could wear a bathtub for a hat!”

clark gable marion davies

She coos: “There’s something about you that’s very familiar. Oh yes, I remember: I had tripe for dinner!”

He replies: “I had ham, looks like I’m going to have some more.”

Yeah….this script is not exactly great material.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

Marion can dance, sure, but her numbers just feel like filler. The point of this film was most definitely to show off Marion’s beauty (there are an excessive amount of close-ups of her face) and her dancing talents. Her singing voice definitely isn’t all that great. This whole publicity stunt-romance with dancing was done better a few years later with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance (1937).

William Randolph Hearst (producer, publishing magnate and Davies’ paramour) spent $35,000 on the carousel for the musical number “Coney Island.” The carousel is onscreen for about a minute total. After filming was completed, it was installed in the backyard of Davies’ Santa Monica home, near her pool and tennis courts.

The biggest number, “I’ll Sing You 1,000 Love Songs” took two weeks to shoot and cost $400,000. For all that it only occupied nine minutes of screen time. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Dance Direction.

marion davies cain and mabel

Filmed in Stage 7 (now Stage 16) at Warner Brothers, a studio that towers over all others on the lot, thanks to this film. Hearst demanded that the studio roof be ripped off and the studio be extended by over 30 feet to accommodate the large dance numbers planned for the film. WB head honcho Jack Warner refused to do it, saying it was too expensive, but Hearst, wanting to make his lady happy, footed the bill. It was deemed too pricey to rip the roof off and build up, so in an extremely difficult process, the studio was actually lifted off the ground and the new addition was built underneath it. At the time, it was the tallest soundstage in the world. Including the two million gallon water tank installed under its floors, the studio is 94 feet tall.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel st

The massive soundstage was later used to film Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Goonies and The Perfect Storm, among others.You can see what the studio looks like now in this post about my visit to Warner Brothers Studios.

Clark and Marion watching the construction of the soundstage

Clark and Marion watching the construction of the soundstage

Cain and Mabel is available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

You can read more about the film here.

clark gable marion davies cain and mabel

***I have been ill for several months, so I apologize for the lack of updates. I am behind on the comments and emails as well, so if I haven’t answered you, I apologize and am doing my best to catch up!

clark gable

From December 1936:

Departing from the studio after a wardrobe fitting, Joan Bennett was mildly surprised the other day to see four sweet-faced old ladies lined up determinedly on the sidewalk by her car.

It transpired that they were visiting from Buffalo, and has a three-fold purpose in their visit to Hollywood. One was afternoon tea with Miss Bennett, one a chat with Lionel Barrymore and one the autograph of Clark Gable.

Touched by their ambitions, Joan provided them with tea, and, when last seen they were observed moving off in the general direction of another studio to polish off the matter of Mr. Barrymore and Mr. Gable!