clark gable carole lombard

Much to the surprise of her friends, when Carole Lombard fell in love with Clark Gable she traded in her high heels and fur coats for rubber boots and shotguns. There was the glamorous movie star Carole Lombard, wading through swamps and crouching in duck blinds.

Here are the Gables in their very finest:

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The screenshots from the infamous “duck dance” home video are adorable (if you ignore the poor dead ducks hanging around them):

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And…my favorite:

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Here is the final portion of Frederick Othman’s series on Carole Lombard, published on January 21, 1942. In this segment we learn she buried shrunken skulls in her yard!

clark gable carole lombard ranch

Carole Lombard and Gable Gave Up ‘Flossy’ Dwelling

Happy Film Couple Lived in Simple Home Without Swimming Pool or Guest Rooms

When Carole Lombard married Clark Gable in 1939, there was no whoop-de-do. They drove to Kingman, Ariz., in the coupe of their good friend and press agent, Otto Winkler, said their vows, and came home again.

Then they held a reception at Carole’s house. The only guests were their old friends, the newspaper reporters. Everybody had a big time, host and hostess included, and that was all there was to the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. G. Nearly all, anyhow.

Carole tried to sell the house, but there were no takers. According to her the folks were a little leery about the human heads buried in the backyard. She wasn’t spoofing, either. They were genuine shrunken heads from the wilds of South America, presented her by an admiring explorer. She buried ’em under the petunias after he left.

Rented Big House

Eventually she rented the place to Director Alfred Hitchcock. Not until he signed the lease did she tell him about the skulls under his bedroom window.

Mr. and Mrs. G., meantime, had moved into a home of their own, like no other movie star’s house. Their combined income approached $1,000,000 a year and they could have had solid gold door knobs and a Roman bath if they’d wanted it. They didn’t.

“You get enough of that flossy business on the sound stages.” Carole explained in showing visitors around the establishment, which wasn’t any larger nor any fancier than yours or mine.

They had no swimming pool, because Miss Lombard said pools were good only for breeding mosquitoes. They had one bedroom, because she said what was the use of house guests, anyhow? they did have an elegant front porch, though, for sitting down purposes, and a living room furnished with some of the biggest, softest couches ever seen in these parts.

Carole liked to jump on ’em.

She liked company, too, so long as the company went home at bedtime. She served scotch and soda in glasses the size of mason jars, while she drank soda pop and figured out ways the amuse the man she called “Pappy.”

Theirs was a genuinely happy marriage. This was proven by the fact that the radio oracles constantly were announcing their impending divorce.

Miss Lombard, ever reticent, lamented the fact that it was not in the cards for her to be a mother. Her childlessness was her second real sorrow. The World War was the other. She could not understand why men insisted on shooting each other.

Died in the Service

But that was before the United States joined in the fray. Once that happened, Miss Lombard forgot her idealism. She forgot everything–even life itself, as it developed–in her effort to help win the war. She quit the comforts of her home for the gloom of the sound stages, simply to earn more money so she could pay more taxes. When she was invited to Indianapolis to sell defense bonds, she whooped as only Lombard could whoop, and headed east. She peddled $2,000,000 worth of bonds and flew home–and you know the rest of the story.

The Treasury Department said she died in the service of her country. And so she did. There isn’t any more for us to say.


carole lombard

Over the next three days, I’ll be sharing the three-part series United Press Hollywood correspondent Frederick Othman wrote after Carole Lombard’s death in January 1942.

This first piece was syndicated in newspapers across the country on January 19, 1942.

Carole’s Off-Screen Fun Equaled Screwball Roles

Writer Friend Describes Pranks, Career of Actress; Carole Also Had Serious Side

Of the press corps in the movie capital, none knew Carole Lombard better than Frederick C. Othman, United Press Hollywood correspondent. He reported her professional career, and, in addition, was a close friend. Therefore, he is particularly qualified to write of her life and her personality.

The first of his three dispatches on Carole Lombard follows:

It is difficult even now to realize that the Lombard laughter never will be heard again, that the Lombard jokes have ended, that the beautiful and gay Carole is gone.

She was the only strictly honest glamour girl in Hollywood, and certainly, the only one who said what she thought when she thought it. She was the girl who opposed a war on principle, who once threatened to chain Clark Gable to a barn door if he tried to enlist, but, when her country became involved in war, became one of the most indefatigable war workers in Hollywood.

And she died in the service of her country. She had gone to Indianapolis to aid in the campaign to sell defense bonds, sold $2,000,000 worth, and died in the airplane that was returning her home from that tour of duty on the home front.

Sacrificed Home for Country

The greatest thing she sacrificed was her home to which she had retired while her movie career was at its height. She returned to the screen in order to pay the huge taxes on he huge income she could earn and thus aid her country’s war effort.

Carole Lombard had two sides, and this serious idealistic side was the one her public didn’t know. The one it did know–the gay, laughing blond girl impelled by high spirits into endless impish pranks, was just as much a part of her. Indeed, her sense of fun off the screen, in her private life, equaled the sense of fun so evident in her last movies.

Once at a Hollywood party, the guests played follow-the-leader and Miss Lombard was the leader. Her boss, a leader of the industry, a gentleman of millions and of dignity, she felt was too stiff and grand.

She spoke to a servant and then began leading the guests on a merry chase through the big house. She led them at last to a bathroom where a filled tub awaited her. She waded through it, and, of course, those who followed, including the magnate, had to do likewise.

“You should have seen him,” she was exclaiming for weeks afterward, “when he found he had to put his pretty pants in the drink.”

She rode around her studio on a motor scooter. If anybody carried a packet of sneeze powder, she told him where to distribute it,

Montgomery Subject of Pranks

Robert Montgomery learned something of her pranks in the 1940 presidential campaign. he was one of Wendell Willkie’s most ardent supporters in Hollywood. At the time he was co-starring with Miss Lombard in a movie. Every night, before he could start home from the studio, he had to scrape the Roosevelt stickers from the windows and windshield of his car with a razor blade. Otherwise, he couldn’t have seen where he was driving. He will learn from this that Miss Lombard was the culprit.

No one around her escaped these pranks, not even Clark Gable. He had finished a picture in which he had a role of which he was particularly fond. He probably showed it a little too much. Any rate, a package, impressively wrapped, was delivered to him. Inside was a ham, done up in a blue ribbon.

When he had finished his part in “Parnell,” one of the worst movies of all time, she showered him with congratulatory messages from an airplane.

She was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1908 and her mother brought her here while she still was a child. She served two apprenticeships–the first in an exclusive finishing school for young ladies, at the behest of her mother; the second in Mack Sennett’s academy for hurling custard pies and wearing a bathing suit with grace and spirit, but only after she had talked her family into letting her be an actress.

Was Horse Opry Queen

The rest of her years she retained an uncanny accuracy in hurling a pie and was willing to demonstrate. But professionally, her career as a bathing queen and pie thrower was not long.She graduated to the horse opry, and became the screen sweetie of such mighty males as Buck Jones and Tom Mix.

“But they never would let me get in the fight,” she would lament, recalling those days. “I had to simper at the hero and scream with terror when the heavy came after me. they never would let me get in there and give the villain a good kick in the bustle.”

Miss Lombard was paid $75 a week as a horse opry queen. But her reign didn’t last long for she came in demand in all the studios as a kind of blond rival to Clara Bow. Those were the years when the Brooklyn bonfire was at her height. Miss Lombard wore skin tight dresses, which revealed every curve, and when she danced for the cameras, she used so much energy she seemed to quiver all over. She was gay always then. She hot all the hot spots; went to all the parties.

Started Screwball Comedies

In 1931, in the midst of this phase of her career, she married William Powell–you know, “The Thin Man”–and, when another phase was beginning, divorced him four years later. It wasn’t until them, when they no longer were man and wife, that she co-starred with him in a movie that represented a new type comedy. It gave the indistry new pep and increased Carole’s check to $400,000 a year. The picture was “My Man Godfrey.” It was the first of the screwball comedies.

Tomorrow: How to become a screwball, and, more importantly, how to make it pay.



A few errors in this piece. The ham was given to Clark by Carole as a joke at the end of shooting their lone joint feature, No Man of Her Own.  I also think calling Parnell “one of the worst movies of all time” is a bit of a stretch! She was only married to William Powell for a little over two years.

Part Two coming up tomorrow….


clark gable carole lombard

From January 1939:

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, making their first public appearance since Mrs. Maria Gable announced she planned to sue for divorce, attended a preview last night, smiling broadly as they pushed through the throngs outside the theater. Miss Lombard clung tightly to Gable’s arm as the crowd pressed in. The preview was “Idiot’s Delight,” starring Gable and Norma Shearer.

Want to see some rare Carole Lombard photos? Happy to oblige. Here are some I uncovered in vintage scrapbooks.

If you follow the site on Facebook, you may have seen some of these already, but who wouldn’t want a second look at the divine Miss Lombard? And sorry about the watermarks, but don’t blame me, blame the people who steal photos that cost me money from my website and don’t give me any credit!

How about this amazing color shot?

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Having some fun on the set of her film “Vigil in the Night.”

carole lombard vigil in the night

Hey, she even got a goofy look out of Charles Laughton while filming “They Knew What They Wanted.” Doesn’t she look modern in this photo? You could plop her down in 2016 and she wouldn’t look at all out of place!

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Calling her “Pappy.” The location was Napa Valley for filming of “They Knew What They Wanted.”

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Having a blast playing backgammon with Cary Grant and Kay Francis on the set of “In Name Only.”

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One of those in the series of Carole dumping roses on Robert Montgomery, publicity for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

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Carole and Robert kiss up to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” director Alfred Hitchcock.

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There are a lot of great publicity photos for Carole’s 1937 film “True Confession.” Here’s a great one:

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Carole and her husband Clark Gable (maybe you’ve heard of him?) enjoying some oysters at the Brown Derby.

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And finally, the fashionable pair caught out and about:

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More to come!

clark gable movita mutiny on the bounty

From November 1941:

Remember Movita, who played in “Mutiny on the Bounty” and who afterwards married Jack Doyle and went to live in England?

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard have just received a letter from her.

She says she was injured slightly in an air raid last October but that her narrowest escape was more recent–a bomb struck the back of a theater while she and Doyle where on stage.

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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.

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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.