clark gabel carole lombard david selznick

Clark Gable and Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick didn’t exactly always see eye-to-eye (to put it mildly), but nonetheless David let bygones be bygones and gifted Clark with this gorgeous Tiffany’s cigarette case for Christmas in 1939:

clark gable david selznick christmas gone with the wind

“Presented to Clark Gable at the completion of “Gone with the wind” Atlanta–Dec. 25, 1939 David O. Selznick.”

I wonder if he gave it to him at the Atlanta premiere, which was just ten days before Christmas?

The case went for $20,000 at auction a few years back (complete with the unfiltered cigarettes). Quite a priceless artifact! Here’s hoping maybe it pops up in a museum one day…

 

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

In 1940, Photoplay magazine supplied its readers with facts on Gone with the Wind so that they could play their own GWTW trivia game…

Hollywood can talk of nothing these days but Gone with the Wind. It’s crept into every luncheon and dinner party until hostesses, in despair, have invented a Gone with the Wind game. Pencils and papers with questions to be answered concerning the mighty epic are passed around at every gathering. The one winning the highest score gets the prize. Why not try it at your parties, too? With [us] supplying all the answers to facts and figures, you can make up your own questions.

Here goes:

The Margaret Mitchell book was purchased by David Selznick for $50,000 on June 3, 1936. Garbo was rumored as Scarlett. Other Hollywood producers offered Selznick as high as $1,000,000 for the rights. They were refused.

Gable was signed om August 25, 1938 for Rhett Butler and Shearer was announced as Scarlett. The nation went crazy. Shearer withdrew.

There is no wind in the picture, but there were 4400 people employed directly by the studio for the picture. The largest number who worked at one time was 1, 730. In all, 2,400 extras were employed.

Leslie Howard, an Englishman, and Olivia de Havilland, born in Tokyo of English parents, were signed for Southern Ashley Wilkes and Melanie.

Three talent scouts were dispatched to the South to find a Scarlett. Twenty-eight actresses were tested for the role and a total of 149,000 feet of black and white film and 13,000 feet of Technicolor were filmed in the testing. Cost of testing was $92,000.

First scene shot without a Scarlett on December 10, 1938, was the burning of Atlanta. A visitor to the scene, Englishwoman Vivien Leigh, was signed as Scarlett, January 13, 1939. Official starting date of the picture was January 13, 1939. Final shot was made November 11, 1939.

Seven hundred mustaches, 500 pairs of sideburns and 300 yards of crepe hair were used. Scarlett used thirty-eight different hairdresses. The completed picture runs three hours and forty-five minutes.

On February 15, 1939, Director Cukor resigned in favor of Victor Fleming. Vivien Leigh worked a total of 125 days of actual shooting, Gable seventy-one, de Havilland fifty-nine, and Howard thirty-two.

Scarlett wore forty-four separate costumes. Gable thirty-six, Olivia twenty-one, Leslie eleven. The cleaning bill alone amounted to $10,000.

In use were 1,000 horses, 9,000 bit and extra people, 375 assorted animals and 450 vehicles.

One million man hours of labor went into the making. Exactly 475,000 feet of film were exposed and 675,000 lineal feet of Technicolor film printed.

And, finally, the money spent on the picture was $3,957,000.

 

clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
In 1933, Clark was in a musical–but no singing and dancing for him…just brooding and yelling.
In Dancing Lady, Clark is Patch Gallagher, a short-fused Broadway producer who hires down-on-her-luck ex-burlesque dancer Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) for the chorus line of his latest show. Janie is constantly pursued by a rich playboy admirer, Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). Patch begins to have feelings for plucky Janie, but grows bitter as it becomes obvious she is wrapped up with Tod. When he promotes her to the lead in the production, Tod becomes impatient (Janie said she’d marry him if the play fell through) and pays off the Broadway powers-that-be to shut the play down. Janie finds out of his deceit (thanks to a drunken Patch) and dumps Tod. She encourages Patch to put on the show all on his own. The conclusion, the showing of the production, is a beautiful art deco showcase of dancing, singing and spectacular sets.clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
The producer of this musical extravaganza was David Selznick, whom Clark had just worked with in the ensemble piece Night Flight and would later work with in Gone with the Wind. Clark did not enjoy working with Selznick in Night Flight—finding his perfectionist ways tedious and was perturbed that the film’s many delays caused him to miss a planned fishing trip. So he was hardly excited to be working with him again in Dancing Lady. It was Selznick’s idea to take James Warner Bellah’s rags to riches novel and make it into a grand musical. Selznick had originally wanted to cast Jean Harlow, whom he had just worked with with great success in Dinner at Eight. But Joan Crawford was desperate for the role, as her career had started to take a dive after the recent failures of Today We Live and Rain. MGM wanted to tag her onto Clark’s rising star to revive her career. And the film is really Crawford’s, with her scenes practically doubling Clark’s.clark gable jona crawford dancing lady
But one of the things I really like about this film is that it is so very quintessentially 1930’s. From the scandalous burlesque-girl-makes-her-dreams-come-true storyline to the dance numbers, to the gorgeous costumes,–from itty bitty dancing rompers and fringe-lined bathing suits to esquite ruffled gowns. joan crawford dancing lady
Speaking of costumes, my oh my this was definitely the pre-code era. We have everything here from Crawford in those tiny rompers and a small bikini top, to girl cops in the finale number wearing short flippy skirts with see-through mesh tops with pasties covering their nipples! It is a role that fit Joan like a glove, as she always played “poor girl makes it big” roles at this point in her career, and she was a hoofer before she was an actress.clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
The supporting cast can’t be ignored. Yes, that’s Eve Arden with platinum blonde hair ranting and raving with a fake Southern accent after she leaves the stage early in the film. And there’s Sterling Holloway, known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, as one the theater managers Clark ticks off. May Robson plays Franchot’s crusty deaf Grandma as only she could. That unmistakable voice is indeed Nelson Eddy in a top hat in the finale number “Rhythm of the Day” as well. Especially of note is that this film marks the first film appearance of Ted Healy and his Three Stooges, here as stagehands. clark gable the three stooges dancing lady
Oh, and that skinny, balding man hoofing it with Crawford nearly an hour into the film? Why, that would be the very first film appearance of a certain Mr. Fred Astaire. That’s right, Fred’s first scene in a film was with Clark Gable and his first dancing and singing partner was Joan Crawford! Later on in his signature hat and tails, no less.
joan crawford fred astaire dancing ladu
Fred Astaire and Joan Crawford pose outside the soundstage
Clark always described himself as miscast in the film. And it’s true. He is rather wasted. He is angry in nearly every scene, barking orders and brooding in corners. The romance with Joan seems rather forced as most of the time he’s either yelling at her or avoiding her. The one cute scene is when they both are working out at the gym. She hurts her hand and so he rubs it. She hurts her shoulder and so he rubs it. She hurts her butt…and tells him he better not!clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
clark gable dancing lady
clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
Part of the bad memory of the film for him might be because he was very sick during filming. In 1957, he recalled, “MGM assigned me to do a bad part in Dancing Lady with Joan Crawford—a picture I didn’t like. But as bad as the part was, it wasn’t as bad as my health…I’d lost a lot of weight. They’d been working me hard and I was tired. I told myself, ‘If I have a few operations, that will take care of my health and the part in Dancing Lady too.’ I had my appendix and tonsils out, but it didn’t take care of everything, for MGM was mad at me. For some strange reason they thought I’d taken evasive action to avoid their picture. They bided their time during the eight or nine weeks I was in the hospital. Then the very day after I got out they called me in and said, ‘We’re sending you over to Columbia Pictures on a loan-out.’” The loan out? That would be for a little picture called It Happened One Night, which would earn Clark his one and only Oscar.clark gable dancing ladyclark gable dancing lady
Not only were his tonsils and appendix taken out, but so were nearly all of his teeth. He had developed pyorrhea—a serious infection of the gums that threatened his life. He was extremely ill with a high fever as the infection spread. After two weeks of rest, his gums were finally well enough for indentations to be made for a new set of dentures.
clark gable dancing lady
After being absent for weeks, Clark appeared back on set to film one scene: the one he has with Fred Astaire.  Clark’s mustache had been shaved off for his gum surgery and so he had to wear a fake one. In his absence, they had already filmed all of Fred’s dancing numbers and he had to finish his scenes so he could start his first film with RKO, whom he had recently signed a contract. Clark was on set just one day to film that one scene and Crawford recalled, “He was so weak, perspiration broke out on his face. I never felt so sorry for anyone.”clark gable joan crawford dancing lady
Clark and Joan had been notoriously engaged in a heated affair off and on for about two years when filming on Dancing Lady began. Clark’s long absences from the set led the bored Joan to seek comfort elsewhere–in the arms of co-star Franchot Tone. By the time Clark finally returned to set to finish the film, he had been replaced by Franchot as the main visitor to Joan’s dressing room. Joan and Franchot were eventually married in 1935.franchot tone joan crawford clark gable dancing lady
Dancing Lady is available on DVD in the Clark Gable Signature Collection. You can see over 150 pictures from the film here and read more about the film here.

clark gable rhett butler gone with the wind

It’s no secret that Clark Gable didn’t want to be in Gone with the Wind. Despite the public’s insistence that he was the only one who could play Rhett, he had no desire to step into the shoes of the rebellious blockade runner. “The reason I didn’t want to do Gone with the Wind–here is a novel that is the top seller of all time. Now, people form opinions about characters–they formed an opinion that I was going to play it. They already had a preconcieved idea of what they were going to see. That’s why I didn’t want to play, I said too many people know this character.  My God, with Rhett Buter, if they saw one thing they didn’t like, they would have remembered back to the book. I had to be on my toes and I knew that,” he later recalled.

Through pre-production and casting, the director on the film was George Cukor. George was a gay man and was known as being a “woman’s director,” able to coach the best performances out of actresses. This made Clark uneasy right from the start, as he was not feeling very confident in the role and knew that George was focusing more on Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland than him.vivien leigh clark gable

The rumor is that Clark didn’t like George Cukor because he was gay and that George knew about a gay affair that Clark had in the 1920’s and that made Clark uncomfortable, so Clark had him fired and replaced with his buddy, Victor Fleming.

Let’s peel the orange on this one. First of all, yes, Clark was a bit of a homophobe. He was rather conservative in his thinking and, after all, this was the 1930’s, there weren’t exactly gay pride parades going on. Clark tended to be very uncomfortable around gay men. He felt the same around Charles Laughton on the set of Mutiny on the Bounty. For some reason, people pounce on this and declare that because he was so uneasy around gays that that must mean it was because he himself was gay! Ridiculous. If being a homophobe means one has gay skeletons in their closet, then we must have a lot of gay Republican politicians!

The “gay affair” that is claimed that Clark had was with William Haines, a gay silent movie actor who later turned interior designer. The rumor is that he and Clark had a fling around 1925 and that Clark was a “rent boy” and did sexual favors for pay. I am inclined not to believe this for several reasons, mainly because the only place this secret nugget has been printed is in salicious, disgusting so-called biographies that are full of lies. Also, it just doesn’t fit with whom Clark was—he was fascinated by women, always chasing women, and I just don’t think he was ever gay–even for pay. Also, if this thing with William Haines was such a well-known fact as these so-called authors claim it was, then why would Carole Lombard let Haines in her house? She and “Billy” were friends–he had decorated her famous Hollywood Blvd bacherlorette pad– and he was at the ranch from time to time. I sincerely doubt that Clark would let him in the house if the rumors were true and Carole wouldn’t have blamed him.

Clark’s preference for rough-and-tumble director Victor Fleming instead of George Cukor should come as no surprise, gay rumors or not. Vic Fleming was a long-time pal of Clark’s, having directed him in Red Dust, The White Sister and Test Pilot. But an important factor to remember is that David Selznick and George Cukor were at odds without Clark’s influence. Clark was probably a factor in Fleming being hired in George’s place, however.clark gable vivien leigh david selznick victor fleming

From Michael Sragow’s  excellent biography on Fleming,Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master:

…Gable’s preference for Fleming to direct GWTW instead of George Cukor was not only well-known; it was also reported before principal photography began. And ever since he joined the production, Gable has been out of sorts. He shot his first scenes in January 1939,  two weeks after Leigh and Olivia de Havilland. Doubtless he felt uncertain in a new studio, acting with women who already a close rapport with Cukor.

After Selznick fired Cukor, John Lee Mahin recalled, Gable made a late night visit to Fleming’s house to beg to come on to GWTW. Mahin was probably thinking of the events of the early morning hours of Sunday, February 12; a coup de theatre straight out of a screwball comedy and at odds with Selznick’s denial that he consulted with Gable about the directorial change.

In this version, Selznick, Gable, and Eddie Mannix, after viewing GWTW rushes at Selznick’s house, paid a 3:00am visit not to Louis B. Mayer but to Mervyn Leroy at his Santa Monica beach house. The ruckus stirred Leroy from slumber. He looked down from his bedroom window and demanded; “I’m in bed–what do you mean by busting in at this hour of the night?” Selznick shouted in return; “We want your director–we’ve got to have Victor Fleming!” It took a series of phone calls–including at least one to Mayer–but a few hours later Leroy at released Fleming from The Wizard of Oz. Selznick announced Fleming’s hiring two days later.

“My God, imagine picking up a project like that at this stage,” Fleming was heard to muse that week on the Oz set. “Still, if Clark’s going to sulk, I guess I better do it.” As soon as Selznick made the switch, Norman Webb of  National Box Office Digest wrote the producer that he was glad Fleming was taking over, because, unlike Cukor, “Victor Fleming has one of the very best box office records in the industry.”

So what did happen to Cukor? And why did Selznick summon Fleming? Contemporary columnists and well as latterday analysts, trying to make sense of Selznick’s decision, have often placed the onus on Gable. But several eyewitnesses contradict the notion that Gable catalyzed the crisis, no matter how central he was to the outcome. Susan Myrick, the film’s Georgia dialect coach and technical advisor, provided an intimate account in a letter to the book’s author, Margaret Mitchell. She wrote that Cukor told her he had “looked at the rushes and felt he was failing. He knew he was a good director and knew the actors were good ones; yet the thing did not click as it should.” He demanded that they return to the original script by Sidney Howard. Selznick balked and offered his own ultimatium: “OK, get out.”  In 1954, Ed Sullivan wrote that Cukor reached the point of no return when he clashed with Selznick on how to film a scene of Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) walking down the stairs to meet Scarlett: “I think Ashley, at that moment, would be scared to meet her,” Selznick said. “I disagree wholeheartedly,” Cukor replied.

Cukor was never specific in his own recollections. “David talks generally,” he said in 1968, recalling the day he was summouned to Selznick’s office. “He said something like, ‘It’s not coming along the way I want it to, I’ve taken complete responsibility and it has to be my way.'”

Bottom line is, that even though Clark was the biggest star of the film, he didn’t have some inflated ego that caused him to demand that Cukor be shoved out and his buddy Fleming be brought in. Selznick and Cukor were butting heads already and Clark’s displeasure was just icing on the cake. Clark didn’t get Cukor fired, but once the decision was made that Cukor was out, he certainly was 100% behind the idea of bringing Fleming in.

And can any of us really say we are dissatisfied with the results?

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

 

 

 

The Church of the Recessional

Continuing on in Forest Lawn Glendale…

Before we venture over to the Great Mausoleum, we have one important pitstop: The Church of the Recessional, where both Clark Gable and Carole Lombard’s funerals were held–Clark on November 19, 1960 and Carole (with her mother) on January 21, 1942.

Church of the Recessional, Clark Gable’s funeral

Church of the Recessional front doors

Church of the Recessional courtyard

Naturally, we tried to see inside but there wasn’t much to see through the windows and all the doors were locked. Here is a photo of the inside, from Forest Lawn’s website:

And now…onto the Great Mausoleum.  A place I have thought of often and had always hoped to visit.

It is absolutely gorgeous to behold in person.The building is huge beyond belief; I couldn’t even get it all in one picture.

Bird’s eye view of the Great Mausoleum in the 1940’s

The picture above is of the Memorial Terrace Entrance, where we entered. Yes, we did see the Holly Terrace Entrance, which has become well-known the past two years because of a certain King of Pop interred behind the doors. Holly Terrace was built on later and is on the other side of the building from the Memorial Terrace.

The inside was just as I had imagined it would be: absolutely gorgeous, pristine and very peaceful. We were in the only two people in the mausoleum at the time and it just felt so peaceful, there isn’t another word for it.

A recreation of the Last Supper Window is in the main hall. The only thing that interrupted the peacefulness of the mausoleum is the booming broadcast of the unveiling of this window every thirty minutes. I didn’t get a picture of the actual window, since I was busy elsewhere in here, but here is where they unveil it.

One of the mausoleum’s newest residents, Elizabeth Taylor, is still without a marker. But here she is, entombed under this huge angel, before you reach the Last Supper Window.

Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor

Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor

Past Elizabeth’s final resting place and to the right is a beautiful hallway called the Sanctuary of Benediction.

On the right are many long plots, with  William Powell’s parents and actress Marie Dressler among the residents.

Clark Gable and Marie Dressler

Clark Gable and Marie Dressler

Across from them are very impressive rooms that house Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theater) and famed comedian Red Skelton.

Red Skelton

The very last room on the left hand side is for Jean Harlow, Clark’s close friend and co-star in The Secret Six, Red Dust, Hold Your Man, China Seas, Wife vs. Secretary and Saratoga, who died in 1937 at age 26.

Clark Gable and Jean Harlow

She is entombed in the middle of three plots with the simple inscription, “Our Baby.” Her mother was also placed in the room, although unmarked. The third space shall remain empty.

At the end of the hall, past a gate, is the room for Irving Thalberg, MGM’s “wonder boy” producer. Irving was the one who gave Clark a shot at the studio and guided him into some of his most well-known roles, such as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty. He died at age 37 in 1936.

Irving Thalberg and Clark Gable

Irving Thalberg and Clark Gable

Irving’s inscription reads “My Sweetheart Forever,” from his wife, actress Norma Shearer, who is entombed above him, marked “Norma Arrouge,” her second husband’s name.

 

Norma starred with Clark in Strange Interlude, Idiot’s Delight, and she was the one he smacked around in his star-making turn in A Free Soul.

Clark Gable and Norma Shearer

Clark Gable and Norma Shearer

Irving’s parents Henrietta and William are also in this room, along with his sister, Sylvia.

Now we leave the Sanctuary of Benediction and go back out into the main chapel and into a section called “Columbarium of Prayer.” There are two hallways in the section, the one to the left being “Sanctuary of Trust,” the final resting place for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

At the end of the hall on the left side, is a room for David Selznick, legendary producer of Gone with the Wind, among his other distinct projects. His actress wife Jennifer Jones and their daughter Mary Jennifer are also entombed in this room.

David Selznick, Mary Jennifer Selznick, Jennifer Jones

David Selznick, Mary Jennifer Selznick, Jennifer Jones

Forest Lawn Glendale

Forest Lawn GlendaleForest Lawn Glendale

To reach the Selznicks, you would have to walk past a simple marble bench.

It is here, on the right hand side across from the bench, that Clark Gable rests for all eternity, next to Carole Lombard.

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

Carole’s mother Elizabeth Peters, who perished with her in the plane crash, is on the other side of Carole.

Elizabeth Peters and Carole Lombard

Clark’s widow, Kathleen “Kay” Williams Gable, is one row down and to the left of him, on the very bottom row.

Clark Gable and Kay Williams

Clark Gable and Kay Williams

I wish I could put into words what it meant to me to stand in front of Clark and Carole’s bronze nameplates and to put flowers in their empty vases. But it’s just a bit hard to express, it was very emotional for me. What I can say is that when I left the mausoleum for some reason I had a renewed sense of purpose for what this site can be.

That wraps up my adventures in Hollywood. Thank you to everyone for “tagging along”!