clark gable carole lombard elizabeth peters plane crash

Now that Carole had been properly laid to rest, the focused shifted to the grieving widower.

Gable To Seek Solace in Work

Clark Gable, turned from a swashbuckling, carefree prankster into a depressed, grief-stricken recluse by the tragic death of Carole Lombard, will seek solace in work.

The fun-loving screen star was so anguished by loss of his wife that he wanted only to be alone. Shielded by studio executives, Gable has been so alone that friends became alarmed at his depressed brooding.

Gable hasn’t yet gone to his Encino ranch where he and Carole lived so fully and joyously. He’s in seclusion at a friend’s home. He has left it only twice since he brought Miss Lombard’s body home Wednesday morning–to attend funeral services for her and her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters, that afternoon, and services for his friend and publicity man, Otto Winkler, yesterday.

He was waiting at the nearby Burbank airport to greet Carole Friday night when he received word of the crash which killed her, Mrs. Peters, Winkler and 19 other persons near Las Vegas, Nev. He flew to Las Vegas, was dissuaded from joining in the search for the bodies–then went into seclusion.

Friends argued that he should plunge into work.

“You’ve got to find something to occupy your time; something to do with your mind besides brood,” they told him.

Gable agreed to go ahead with the picture on which he had done one day’s work–“Somewhere I’ll Find You.” He didn’t set the date and the studio didn’t ask him to.

“We will wait until Gable feels he is mentally and physically able,” a spokesman said. “He has gone through a horrible ordeal.”

There’s not a parallel case of any star losing an equally famous wife or husband so tragically and soon going back to the lots.

Norma Shearer went into seclusion for a year after her producer husband, Irving Thalberg, died. She had threatened to retire.

Mary Astor was out of pictures several months after her husband, Director Kenneth Hawks, was killed in an airplane crash over the Pacific while filming a picture.

William Powell interrupted a picture to seek solace on a yacht cruise after his fiance, Jean Harlow, died in 1937. Five weeks later, he collapsed on the set. A physician said he was exhausted and overwrought with grief. Powell and the platinum blonde had been inseparable.

So had Gable and Miss Lombard.

Since the bodies had been removed, an investigation into the crash began.

Lombard Air Crash Probe Is Launched

Investigation into the crash of a TWA airliner in Nevada which brought fiery death to 22 persons, including Actress Carole Lombard and 15 army airmen, centered in Los Angeles today as the Civil Aeronautics Authority opened a hearing expected to last two weeks.

Witnesses to be called before the investigating committee include TWA officials, Nevada residents who witnessed the crash, representatives of the Las Vegas coroner’s office and army officers.

I’m going to end the series here, as after the 23rd the focus turns to investigating the plane crash and figuring out what’s next for a suddenly alone Clark Gable.

Hard to believe the world lost Carole 75 years ago, isn’t it? Rest in peace, angel.

carole lombard

clark gable carole lombard forest lawn

The morning of January 22 brought details from Carole and her mother’s brief funeral, held the day before.

Simple Funeral Rites Held for Carole Lombard

Actress is Buried With Other Movie Immortals in Memorial Park

Carole Lombard was with the other movie immortals in Forest Lawn Memorial Park today.

After a brief, simple service–in accordance with the wish expressed in her will–the bodies of Miss Lombard and her mother, Elizabeth K. Peters, were interred in the green acres where are buried Marie Dressler, Will Rogers, Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks, Lon Chaney, Tom Mix and many another movie star.

The sealed coffins of Miss Lombard and her mother, killed in last Friday’s aerial tragedy in Nevada, were blanketed with gardenias in the memorial church. Whether by chance or on purse, the caskets formed a “V” in front of the pulpit, where the Rev. Gordon C. Chapman said a prayer, read a psalm and recited one of Miss Lombard’s favorite poems.

Crowds Kept Away

Grim or mouth and wearing dark glasses to cover his red-rimmed eyes, Miss Lombard’s husband, Clark Gable, sat in an ante-room during the ten-minute service late yesterday. None of the invited friends, numbering less than fifty and including Spencer Tracy, Fred MacMurray, Jack Benny, Myrna Loy and Miss Lombard’s first husband, William Powell, ever saw him.

Miss Lombard had suggest in her will that the services be very simple. And simple they were.

Police stopped sightseers at the bottom of the long road leading to the chapel on the top of a hill overlooking San Fernando Valley were Mr. and Mrs. Gable had enjoyed what they said were the happiest years of their lives.  Photographers remained outside the cemetery. A dozen members of the press came not only as newspapermen, but as friends and mourners.

No Music at Service

There was no music. Miss Lombard would not have wanted it. Floral tributes, including two large United States flags made of red and white carnations and blue cornflowers, lined the chapel. None of the bouquets bore cards.

The Rev. Mr. Chapman, pastor of the Westwood Community Methodist Church, said a prayer. He read the 23rd Psalm. Then he recited the poem of an unknown author.

With that Mr. Chapman said the benediction and the mourners filed by the caskets into the gray afternoon. Interment was private, with only the members of the families as witnesses. Gable decided with thanks an offer from the Army of a squad of soldiers to fire a salute over the grave in memory of Miss Lombard’s war work.

He left the cemetery at the sunset, alone in the backseat of a rented limousine. His fans and Miss Lombard’s, numbering by now perhaps 100 at the gates, glimpsed him hatless, with chin in hand, as the car purred away.

The luminaries they mentioned do lay in peace in Forest Lawn Glendale, with the exception of Douglas Fairbanks, who is actually buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.


Carole Lombard Buried Yesterday

Vivacious Carole Lombard, who loved life; welcomed it in its every aspect, was buried with brief, simple funeral services yesterday.

A prayer…a short eulogy…a poem…organ music..fewer than three score intimate friends in attendance.

That was all. That was the way the actress willed it. All except the eulogy. Friends insisted that the pastor, the Rev. Gordon C. Chapman of Westwood Hills Community Methodist Church, read a short tribute they had prepared. Clark Gable, Miss Lombard’s husband, consented.

Sharing in the simple services was Miss Lombard’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters. Mrs. Peters had been Carole’s almost constant companion from the time she was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., 32 years ago until they went to death together in a Transcontinental and Western Airliner crash near Las Vegas, Nev., last Friday night.

Otto Winkler, Gable’s publicity manager and close friend, another victim of the crash, will be buried late today.

Bodies of four others of the 22 crash victims were sent to relatives from Las Vegas yesterday. They were Mrs. Lois Hamilton, to Detroit; Captain Wayne Williams, pilot, to Kansas City; Co-pilot Morgan A. Gillette to Los Angeles for cremation and reshipment to Burlington, Vt., and hostess Alice Gets to Illinois.


You can see modern pictures of Forest Lawn Glendale here.


January 21 brought news of Carole’s funeral to be held later that day at Forest Lawn.


Carole Lombard Funeral at Forest Lawn

Private funeral services, with only intimate friends present, were arranged for 4:00pm today, in the Church of the Recessional, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, for screen star Carole Lombard and her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters.

The bodies, recovered from the Nevada mountain top where a commercial airliner carried 22 persons to their deaths last Friday night, were taken from a train at Pomona this morning and transported by hearse to the cemetery. Carole Lombard’s husband, Clark Gable, issued a statement, saying: “Miss Lombard and her mother, in their respective wills, requested private burial at Forest Lawn.”

The Rev. George C. Chapman, pastor of the Westwood Hills Community Methodist Church, will conduct the brief service.

Haggard, dispirited Clark Gable brought the bodies of his wife, his mother-in-law, and closest friend–victims of a Nevada air crash–back to southern California today.

The matinee idol, wearing dark glasses, slipped from a westbound Union Pacific train at Pomona, 30 miles east of [Los Angeles], this morning while waiting attendants unloaded the coffins containing the flame-seared, battered bodies of actress Carole Lombard, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters and Otto Winkler, publicity agent for MGM studio.


Carole Lombard To be Buried Near Graves of Filmdom’s Immortals

The body of Carole Lombard is being brought home today for private funeral services and burial near those of Will Rogers, Marie Dressler, Jean Harlow and other motion picture stars.


Lombard Rites to Be Held Late Today

The crushed body of Carole Lombard, screen star who met death with 21 other occupants of a TWA plane which crashed in flames on a Nevada mountain peak, was brought to Hollywood today for funeral and burial services.

Clark Gable, actor-husband of the film favorite, accompanied the body back to the film city.

The funeral cortege left Las Vegas, Nev., Tuesday night shortly after the bodies of Miss Lombard’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Knight Peters, and Otto Winkler, publicity agent, who also perished in the disaster, were identified and a brief inquest was conducted.

Joint funeral services for Miss Lombard and her mother will be held late today at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale. Studio spokesmen said that simplicity will be the keynote of the final rites, with only some two score close friends in attendance.

In the meantime it was announced that the government’s official inquiry into the tragedy will open in Los Angeles Friday morning.



carole lombard

By Monday, the reports were grim indeed.

Dental Records Needed to Identify Remains of Carole Lombard

Gable Grim But Brave During Long Ordeal

Tentative arrangements were made today to return the shattered body of Film Star Carole Lombard, killed with her mother and 20 others in an airliner crash Friday night, to Hollywood tonight in custody of her grieving husband, Clark Gable

Plans called for the body to be placed on the Union Pacific, Los Angeles Limited leaving Las Vegas at 9:20pm and arriving Los Angeles at 8:30am tomorrow. Definite arrangements were delayed pending positive identification of the body of Miss Lombard’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Peters.

Studio associates of Gable said that if the bodies of Miss Lombard and her mother are taken to Hollywood tonight, funeral services probably will be held there Wednesday. Gable, grim-faced and haggard, remained in seclusion in a Las Vegas hotel.

Only by using dental charts, flown to Las Vegas from Hollywood, could authorities identify the crushed, burned body of the blonde actress. Mountain climbers and soldiers recovered it Sunday from a  snowbank beneath the torn wing of the Transcontinental and Western Airlines plane, which smashed into the steep cliff of a mountain peak.

Miss Lombard’s body and eight others, still unidentified, were wrapped in brown army blankets and raised with ropes up the face of the 400 foot cliff. They were carried by horses to the mountain community of Goodsprings and taken down the mountainside in army ambulances.

Gable remained in seclusion at the El Rancho Vegas hotel last night and did not attend the inquest held to clear the way for the return of his wife’s body to Hollywood.

Almost frantic Saturday while the search was in progress, Gable recovered his composure Sunday and remained quietly at his hotel. he spoke infrequently, only to his associates and only about decisions necessary to prepare for the return of the body and for funeral plans. His face was pale except for dark circles under his eyes.

Gable, “Pappy” to Miss Lombard, had made two fruitless attempts to join the searching parties Saturday before he returned to the hotel. When the news came, he was sitting, with Don McElwaine of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio, who received a note from the searchers.

“Bad news?” asked Gable quietly.

“I’m afraid it looks hopeless,” McElwaine replied.

“Oh, God,” Gable moaned, and dropped his head into his hands.

With him at the hotel were McElwaine; Howard Strickling, MGM publicity director, Eddie Mannix, general manager of the MGM studio; and Ralph Wheelwright, assistant MGM publicity director.

A coroner’s jury held the inquest in connection with Miss Lombard’s death, in the rice-strewn basement of Justice of the Peace Manlon Brown, the “marryin’ justice” of Las Vegas. The jury reported that the actress died “of injuries received in the crash of a TWA airliner en route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, near ‘Double or Nothing’ mountain.”

The name of the peak added an ironic note to the actress’ death. Miss Lombard and her agent, Otto Winkler, who also was a victim of the crash, flipped a coin to decide whether they should make their defense bond selling trip to the Middle West by plane or rail.

Remains Taken to Hollywood

Life called upon Clark Gable today for a scene more dramatic and poignant than any he ever played in pictures.

Accompanied by a party of close friends, he headed a funeral cortege carrying back to Hollywood the crushed remains of his beautiful wife, screen star Carole Lombard.

Among those with Gable were Spencer Tracy, Mr. and Mrs. D.W. Griffith, Mr. and Mrs. Nate Wolffe ( Miss Lombard’s agent) and William Collier, Jr.

Funeral services are to be held at a date yet to be determined, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, where lie the remains of such other movie greats as Will Rogers, Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow.

Legal formalities for the removal of Miss Lombard’s body from Nevada to California were completed last night at an inquest held before a three-man coroner’s jury.

After hearing witnesses the jury ruled that the star “came to her death as a result of injuries sustained in the crash of a TWA liner enroute from Las Vegas to Los Angeles near Double or Nothing mountain.”

Identification of Miss Lombard’s body was made by Eddie Mannix, vice president and general manager of MGM Studio, through wisps of her blonde curls which escaped the flames and through dental records from Hollywood.

Earlier in the day icy Double or Nothing mountain, also known as Doubleup mountain, 35 miles south of Las Vegas, reluctantly gave up the bodies of nine of the 22 persons who died in the crash. The body of another woman, beside the screen star’s, and the remains of seven of the 15 soldiers aboard the ship were recovered after great difficulty by a posse of some 50 soldiers and civilians.

The bodies had to be hoisted up a 400-foot cliff to a ledge above the wreckage. There they were placed on sturdy mountain ponies and carried out of the steep and rugged Potosi mountains.

The body of the other woman was believed st first to have been that of Miss Lombard’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, but there was some doubt of this today. It is now thought that it might be that of Mrs. Lois Hamilton, wife of an army officer.

Government and TWA officials who investigated the wreck expressed a belief that the pilot did not see the peak he was about to strike. They said that the plane apparently was cruising at full speed when it struck. the nose of the plane was so deeply buried in solid rock that efforts to pry it out were futile.

John Collings, TWA’s superintendent of operations, described the ship as “the most completely obliterated crashed plane I have ever seen.”


carole lombard plane crash

By the time Americans received their Sunday morning papers on January 18, the headlines changed from Carole Lombard being “feared” dead to being a confirmed casualty.

carole lombard mother elizabeth peters plane crash


Carole Lombard Among 22 Killed in Air Crash

Blonde, carefree screen actress Carole Lombard, her mother and 20 other occupants of a luxurious TWA skysleeper crashed to flaming death last night on 8,5000-foot Table mountain.

Searchers on horseback reached the scene today, nearly 18 hours later, and found the shattered wreckage, with bodies scattered for hundreds of yards up the mountain’s face/

Because 15 army ferry pilots were aboard, army guards were sent to the scene to take charge. A patrol also barred the highway into the mountains to sightseers.

Pending on the spot investigations by army and coroner’s officers, there was no indication how or when the bodies would be brought out. A grueling, 11-mile hike to Goodsprings, at the base of the mountain, would be necessary to bring the victims to hearses/

Undersheriff Glenn Jones reported from Jean, Nev., that the big 21-passenger craft apparently hut at full speed. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition.

Thus ended the idyllic marriage of the actress and Clark Gable, idol of thousands of moviegoers. When the word came, a distraught Gable was on his way into the mountains to join personally in the search.

For hours he had paced a hotel room, refusing to be consoled by friends. Soon after noon he announced he could wait no longer. he and Sheriff M.E. Ward headed into the mountains.

his face was drawn and lined. Dark glasses hid bloodshot eyes. Accompanying him were Howard Strickling, publicity chief at his studio, MGM, and A.T.G. Steffes, Los Angeles attorney.

Gable, who learned of the crash as he waited for his wife to return from an eastern defense bond selling trip, had flown here early today from Hollywood.

It took hardened trackers more than six hours on horseback to force their way through the rugged, trackless Potosi mountains. Their search was slowed by terrain which made progress afoot impossible.

Army guards, led to the scene by Major Herbert Anderson, commanding the army’s gunnery school here, took charge.

The search had been underway since soon after 7 o’clock (PST) last night, when miners in an isolated canyon reported hearing an explosive crash and a pilot of another airline had spotted the blazing pyre.

Aboard the west bound craft, which left Las Vegas at 7:07pm, were three civilian passengers beside Miss Lombard, 15 soldiers attached to the army ferry command, and three crew members.

With Miss Lombard were her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters, and Otto Winkler, MGM publicity man and close friend of the Gables. Winkler drove the couple to Kingman, Ariz., to be married two years ago.

The air corps ferry command at Long beach, Calif., said the soldiers were returning to the coast for new assignments. All boarded the plane at Albuquerque, N.M., where four civilians left the plane to make room for the military party.

Miss Lombard, 32, one of the most popular and successful actresses in Hollywood, was returning from a defense bond sales trip to Indianapolis. The former Jane Peters of Fort Wayne, Ind., had sold nearly $2,500,000 worth of bonds Thursday.

Hollywood friends heard that the plane trip was her idea, opposed both by her mother and Winkler. She had gone east by train. Gable, chairman of an actor’s committee in charge of bond sales personal appearances, himself had assigned her.

From scanty reports reaching here, the big 21-passenger Douglas-built liner apparently crashed in snow at an elevation of about 8,000 feet on Table mountain.

Neither TWA, army nor civilian aeronautics authorities would comment on the cause of the probably explosion.

A veteran pilot, Capt. Wayne Williams, 41, was in charge. He had logged 12,000 hours and 1,500,000 miles in the air. his co-pilot was Morgan A. Gillette, 25. Alice Getz, 25, was stewardess.

clark gable carole lombard elizabeth peters plane crash

Witness Tells of Scene in Mountains Where Plane Made Fatal Crash

by G.C. “Buck” Blaine

I got within one half mile of the TWA plane wreckage with my horse.

The snow was up to the animal’s belly and she could go no farther. So I tried her to a tree and started climbing the red rock. It was straight up about 50 feet.

It appeared that the plane had needed either 250 or 275 feet more altitude to clear the mountain. the nose had hit the precipice and had skidded around in a narrow ravine until the tail had also hit the cliff. The occupants were thrown out the left hand side of the plane and were scattered for 150 feet.

Recognizable were the bodies of a lieutenat, a sergeant, an enlisted man, a TWA employee and a woman. The plane had burned and molten aluminim had dropped over the rocks for 25 to 30 feet.

Luggage and other equipment were strewn for 500 to 600 feet. The snow is about three feet deep on the north side of the mountain where the plane is located.

It will be necessary to carry the bodies 1/2 or two miles on sleds, or for the possemen to carry them until they can reach the point where they can leave horses. From there it will be about two miles to the place where the cars can be left.

The location of the wreckage is in the saddle of an almost precipitous mountain. Rescuers must zig-zag to make a path so that officials can walk up to the scene. It probably will take from daylight until noon tomorrow to beat a path and reach the bodies.



carole lombard bond tour plane crash

Yesterday we looked at the headlines from the day of Carole Lombard’s death, published before she perished in a plane crash later that day.

The next morning, the world was greeted with the frightful headlines:

Carole Lombard Among Those On Plane That Has Crashed In West

Screen Star, Army Men Crash Victims

Carole Lombard Feared Dead in Plane Crash

Carole Lombard, 20 Others on Wrecked Airplane

Carole Lombard, Screen Actress, 15 Army Fliers Among Accident Victims

Hollywood Performers Weep at Death of Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard Believed Victim of Air Tragedy

They all said the same thing, in different ways.

Carole Lombard and 21 Others Killed As Air Liner Crashes on Mountainside

Clark Gable joins search for body of film star wife

Mother of actress alone in plane; 15 Army men are other victims

Bulletin: Brokenhearted Clark Gable turned back today from the mountainside climb toward the wreckage of a transport plane carrying his actress wife, Carole Lombard, and 21 other persons, leaving the search to an experienced crew of Indians, soldiers and hardrock minors.

Film Star Clark Gable joined ground crews of hardrock miners, Indian trail blazers and soldiers hewing a path up Table Rock mountain today in search of the wreckage of a huge air transport in which his actress wife, Carole Lombard, and 21 others were believed to have perished.

Miss Lombard was accompanied by her mother and publicity representative, Otto Winkler, returning from Indianapolis. Ind., where Miss Lombard had appeared a a defense bond sales rally. Also on the plane were 15 officers and men of the army ferry command stationed at Long beach, Cal. Miss Lois Hamilton of Detroit was the only other passenger.

Ground crews were unable to sight the wreckage of the plan, altho (sic) a Western Air Express pilot informed TWA that he believed he had seen the wreckage of a plane burning on the eastern slope of Table Rock Mountain dividing Death Valley from Nevada.

The pilot, Art Cheney, reported he was unable to get close enough the identify the ship. The country is extremely mountainous.

Gable, who had waited some time at Lockheed air terminal in Los Angeles for the “delayed” flight on which Miss Lombard and her party had been passengers, flew to Las Vegas by Western Air Express, arriving early today.

He joined the search at once. When the ground crews moved toward the wreckage scene this morning, soldiers, cowboys and Indians had before them one of the most difficult climbs in western America terrain.

The Transcontinental and Western Airlines plane crashed about 20 miles west of here at 7:30pm. a few minutes after it had left Las Vegas on the last leg of a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles, 300 miles west of here.

Miners in the vicinity said they heard the plane explode with a thunderous roar. Flames from the burning wreckage could be seen for miles.

O.E. Saylor, purchasing agent at the Blue Diamond lead mine, said he heard the plane overhead a few minutes after it left Las Vegas.

“Then we heard and explosion and saw the plane afire against the mountain,” he said.

D. Houston, an employee at the mine, said he failed to hear the crash but joined other onlookers five minutes later and still could see the glow against the mountain.

“It’s a steep hill and plenty high and I doubt that anyone will climb it in less than half a day,” he said.

Clark county peace officers recruited Tweed Wilson, septuagenarian Indian, to aid in the search. Army officers ordered trucks and “jeeps” into the area.

The scene of the crash was almost inaccessible. A dozen horsemen and a powerful tractor were pressed into service.

The snow-covered mountain is an 8,000-foot elevation at the lower end of the Charleston range, which separates Nevada from Death Valley. It rises almost 5,000 feet from the valley on either side.

Willard George, Los Angeles furrier who owns the ranch were Tweed Wilson works, said he saw the transcontinental plane passing in the twilight and that its tail appeared to be bobbing up and down in a peculiar manner.

“It seemed to be out of control for a time,” he said, “as tho (sic) someone was fighting in the cockpit. ”

A few minutes after the plane passed from view, it crashed against the mountain not far from a beacon marking its course.

Maj. H.W. Anderson, executive officer of the Air Corps gunnery school at McCarran Field, was in charge of the searching party. because of the rugged terrain, it was believed it would be almost noon before the party reached the scene.

First word from the scene was expected to come from airplanes scheduled to fly over the wreck at daybreak.

The transport left Las Vegas just at dusk and apparently was behind schedule. The course from Las Vegas to Los Angeles is not lighted, altho (sic) beacons mark the path.

The airline reported only one civilian passenger, Lois Hamilton, Detroit, in addition to the three Hollywood residents. Members of the crew included W.C. Williams, pilot; Morgan A. Gilette, co-pilot and Miss A.F. Getz, hostess.

Passengers aboard the air liner which crashed last night were:

M.B. Affrine, corporal, Air Corps.

James C. Barham, second lieutenant, Air Corps.

A.M. Belejekak, sergeant, Air Corps.

Hal brown Jr., second lieutenant, Air Corps.

Frederick P. Cook, sergeant, Air Corps.

Robert E. Crouch, first lieutenant, Air Corps.

Frederick Dittman, Air Corps, rank undetermined.

K.T. Donahue, second lieutenant, Air Corps.

Mrs. Clark Gable (Carole Lombard), Hollywood.

Lois Hamilton, Detroit, Mich.

Robert F. Negren, first lieutenant, Air Corps.

Edgar A. Negren, sergeant, Air Corps (brother of Lieut. Negren).

Charles D. Nelson, second lieutenant, Air Corps.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, Mrs. Gable’s mother, Hollywood.

Stuart L. Swenson, second lieutenant, Air Corps.

Martin W. Tellrank, private, Air Corps.

David C. Tilgman, sergeant, Air Corps.

Nicholas Varsamine, private, Air Corps.

Otto Winkler, movie press agent, Hollywood.

W.C. Williams, pilot.

Morgan A. Gillette, co-pilot.

Miss Alice F. Getz, hostess.





clark gable the misfits

Today, November 16, marks 56 years since Clark Gable passed away at the age of 59. You can read about his death and funeral here.

Below are the past years memorial tributes:

2015: Marilyn Monroe and John Huston Remember Clark Gable

2014: Goodbye, Mr. Gable (Clark’s final days, as told by his widow)

2013: In Memory

2012: Goodbye, Mr. Gable (Time Magazine)

2011: Hollywood Loses Its King

2010: In Tribute

2009: Rest in Peace


This newspaper article ran across the country on November 17:

Gable is Gone–And There is No One to Replace Him

by Vernon Scott

News of the death late Wednesday of Clark Gable, 59-year-old idol of the motion picture world, brought tearful, stunned reactions from actors and others around the world. The telephone at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital switchboard was overloaded with calls from across the United States and from Europe.

One of those calling was Gary Cooper. Another was veteran director John Huston who cried on the telephone and said, “Tell Kay if she needs me I’ll be right here (at his hotel).”

Ann Sothern also called, offering whatever help she could to the grieving widow.

In Lausanne, Switzerland, actor George Sanders said, “I knew him quite well. I am very unhappy to hear of his death. He will be a great loss to the motion picture industry.”

It’s Terrible News

Sophia Loren, who costarred with Gable in “It Started in Naples,” gasped, “I am so shocked I can hardly breathe. This is really terrible news.”

Mickey Rooney said, “it’s a deep shock both to myself and the entire motion picture industry. I used to see him from time to time…he was a great star.”

Movie director Walter Wagner said Clark Gable’s death “will be mourned by the entire world.” Wanger, in London to direct “Cleopatra,” said Gable, “not only was a Hollywood great, but was a personification of everything that makes the motion picture industry great.”

Alone And Apart

Clark stood alone and apart from a community populated with inflated egos. No matter the factions, petty feuds and gossip that swirled around King Clark, he was much-beloved by those who knew him. He had no enemies.

His last co-star, Marilyn Monroe, typified Hollywood’s regard for the man early this month when she completed work with him.

“Clark, I found out, is a real king. It was an honor working with him,” she said on the final day of shooting “The Misfits.”

This feeling for the big guy penetrated throughout the industry. Grips, cameramen, electricians and all the others who help make movies were devoted to him.

Was Always Available

I had known the man and the actor for more than 12 years. He was always available to newsmen and concerned with helping them get a story. His attitude was personal and engaging.

To everyone who approached him, Clark flashed his warm grin. He gave you the feeling that at that particular moment you were the most important person he knew.

And it was sincere.

He worked hard at putting people at ease, whether they were visiting tourists on the set or an assistant prop man fidgeting around him just before a “take.”

Gable exuded masculinity. In his presence women became more feminine and men experienced a rare camaraderie. It was a magical quality about which he seemed entirely unaware.

First On the Set

More than 200 newsmen played bit parts with him 2 1/2 years ago in “Teacher’s Pet,” and we discovered the meaning of “the old pro” during the film. He invariably was the first actor on the set at 8am, in costume, makeup complete and with his lines memorized.

While other stars complained about lighting, unflattering camera angles and battled with directors, Gable held his peace.

He believed an actor should take direction and leave the script and technical supervision in the hands of the professionals.

If he found fault with co-stars and fellow workers he kept his thoughts to himself.

“This is business, like any other,” he once told me, “I’m an actor, not a genius. I do what they tell me and it works out pretty well.”

Devoted to His Wife

Gable cherished his private life and was devoted to his fifth wife, the former Kay Spreckels, and her two children.

“Those kids are the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It’s almost as if they were my own,” he said earlier this year.

He had no illusions about his age and decided last year to leave romantic young lovers to the likes of Rock Hudson. “My days of playing dashing young heroes is over,” he told me recently.

“I don’t think the public likes watching older guys wooing leading ladies half their age. I don’t like it myself. The actresses I started out with 30 years ago have long since quit playing glamor girls. Now it’s time I acted my age–59 years old.”

Other Stars Became Fans

Gable was the movie star’s movie star. His appearance at a party or a premiere sent a tingle through the crowd. Other stars became fans in his presence. His natty mustache, the crows feet etched around his eyes and his lopsided grin were his trademark, both on and off the screen.

He had hoped to continue his career in character roles, patterning his future after that of his friend Spencer Tracy, whom he considered the greatest actor of his time.

Clark first was called “King” during his marriage to Carole Lombard when they were Hollywood’s reigning couple/

The “King” sonbriquet referred to his unequaled magnetism at the box office. But with the years the nickname “King”–which amused him–was applied to Gable, the actor, the gentleman, the warm human being.

The King is dead of a heart attack, and today Hollywood discovered there is no one to take his place. And the belief is that no one ever will.

clark gable the misfits


Clark Gable died 54 years ago today, on November 16, 1960. He was 59 years old.

clark gable the misfits


Here is the description of his final ten days on earth, detailed by his widow, Kay.

The last day Clark spent in the house he loved began much as any other day on the ranch, except that it was raining. It was Saturday, Nov. 5, 1960. The night before, Pa had finally finished all work on The Misfits and he came home looking so worn out my heart ached for him. He talked of flying up to the duck club near Stockton for the weekend, but changed his mind.

Saturday morning he looked more rested. We had breakfast. Then later in the day Pa took his hunting dog out to one of our back fields and worked him. He was pleased with the dog’s performance and we talked about future hunting trips. Pa played with Joan and Bunker for awhile, then he seemed quite tired and restless–so unlike him. I said, “Come on Pa, you had better get a good night’s rest, so off to bed.”

About 4 a.m. Clark awakened with a bad headache. I have him some aspirin and he dozed fitfully. There was a terrific thunder and lightning storm–a rare occurrence in California–and it vaguely disturbed me. I was concerned about Pa and it was some time before I went back to sleep. At 8 a.m., I woke to find Clark standing in the doorway. He has started to put on a pair of his favorite khakis but he had been unable to finish dressing. His face was grey and beaded with perspiration.

“Ma, I have a terrible pain,” he said, “It must be indigestion.”

I was frightened by his appearance but I tried to keep my voice calm so I helped him to a chair. “I’m calling a doctor,” I said. “No, don’t,” Pa protested. “This will go away in a while. I don’t need a doctor.” I looked at Clark sitting there helplessly, then I reached for the phone. As I dialed I said, “I’ve never disobeyed you, Pa. But this time I’m sorry, you must have a doctor.”

When the doctor arrived, he took one look at Clark and immediately put in a call for an ambulance and a fire department rescue unit. “Is it a coronary?” I whispered. The doctor said he thought it was.

It was so like Clark to be more concerned about me than himself, even though he was in great pain. He protested my riding in the ambulance with him; he was afraid it might prove too upsetting in my condition. (Kay was five months pregnant) Of course, I insisted on staying right beside him. As the attendants wheeled him out, Pa looked up at me and said, “I feel terrible, Ma, doing this to you.” I gave Pa a reassuring smile as the ambulance headed out our drive, past his beloved oleander trees.

For the next ten days I rarely left Clark’s beside. At first, I slept in a little cot at the foot of his bed. But his small room soon became crowded with medical equipment and the two nurses we used on each shift, so the doctor thought it best I move to an adjoining room.

It was a great shock for me to see Clark in a hospital bed. He had always been so vital, so strong, so full of life. He was never ill and previous checkups had shown nothing wrong with his heart. Though he suffered great pain at the time of his attack, Clark never complained. He was a good patient and determined he’d get well.  …

From the start, Clark insisted on knowing the truth about his condition. “I want to know just how bad it is,” he told the heart specialist. “I want to know how much damage there’s been and how active I can be in the future. Just give me the plain facts; don’t varnish them. I can handle it.” Pa’s courage never deserted him.

Clark was told that once he was out of the hospital he would face a long period of rest. After that he could gradually resume his normal activities. Each day he seemed a little better; he even felt well enough to read five of the twenty books I’d brought him from Hunter’s book store in Beverly Hills. I also brought in two little elbow pillows so he could read more comfortably. Clark looked at me over the top of his reading glasses. “Come on, old lady,” he protested. “Let’s not overdo this. I’m not quite that fragile.” We both laughed, but I noticed he enjoyed the pillows all the same. …

After Clark’s attack, the doctors explained the tenth day was generally the critical one for a coronary patient. I recall one of them saying, “If we get through the tenth day, all is well.” So I counted and I prayed. …

[On] Wednesday, November 16, we all felt encouraged. I brought in some of the letters and telegrams which had been arriving by the hundreds each day. Each afternoon I’d select a small number for Clark to read.

“Here’s one from an old girl friend of yours in Paris,” I said, handing him a sealed envelope. “See, I didn’t even open it.” Clark flashed me that characteristic grin. “Where are you hiding the rest?” he teased.

I sat next to Pa’s bed, watching his reflection in the mirror. I had never seen him look so handsome, so serene, in all the years I had known him. It was almost miraculous, I thought. The marks of his illness–the lines, the strain and the pallor–were gone. Clark looked twenty years younger and his expression was strangely peaceful. I’ve heard it said the flame burns brightest just before it sputters out. But this never crossed my mind as I sat bathed in Clark’s wonderful glow.

Later, Rufus Martin, our devoted houseman, who had been with Clark over twenty years, stopped in a for a brief visit. He, too, was encouraged and left smiling. “I won’t worry about Mr. Gable any more,” he said.

Pa and I had a nice little dinner together and we commented on what a lovely day it had been. At 10 minutes past 10 p.m., I felt an angina attack coming on. I couldn’t understand it; I hadn’t had one for nearly two years. I didn’t want Clark to worry, so I quickly made an excuse to leave the room. I kissed him and gave him a tender hug saying, “Sweetheart, I’ll be back after the nurses get you ready for the night. Then we’ll drink our buttermilk together and I love you.” They were the last words I spoke to my husband.

Over and over I have said to myself, “Oh, if only I hadn’t left the room.” But at least I know that it was over in a split second. The doctors assured me Clark suffered no pain–he didn’t know he was dying. The nurse said he simply closed his eyes, his head fell back on the pillow and he was gone. It happened at 10:50 o’clock.

I had dozed off after going to my room and was awakened by the doctor and a nurse. “Clark has taken a turn for the worse,” I thought I heard the doctor say. It was like a nightmare. The nurse seemed to be crying. I started to get up, then blacked out. In a few seconds I recovered. The doctor was rubbing my wrists. “What did you say?” I cried. This time I heard him clearly. “Clark has passed on.”

“Let me go to him,” I said, pushing myself up from the bed. “No,” pleaded the doctor. “It’s better for you to stay here.” I reached for my robe. Nothing on this earth could have stopped me from going to Pa. I motioned the doctor and his sedatives aside and I went. …

They had told me he was gone. But, of course, I tried to hold on to him. Heartstricken, I wouldn’t let go. For two hours I held him in my arms.

Finally I did what my husband would have expected me to do–I faced up to it. Pa was gone. I touched his cold face with my hand, in a last farewell, and I walked out of the room. As I reached the door I told myself I must not look back. I did not.

clark gable the misfits

You can read more about Clark’s death and funeral and see his will here.

Wreath placed on Clark's footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater at his death

Fifty two years ago today, Clark Gable died in Los Angeles at age 59. Described by many as a man they thought would live forever, his death came as a great shock to his friends, family and fans.

clark gable

The obituary piece that ran in the following week’s TIME magazine:

A Hero’s Exit

Time Magazine, November 28, 1960

“I’ve laughed about my so-called death before,” he said last year, when his health seemed excellent and he smilingly scotched the sort of morbid rumor that forever comes up in the career of an aging giant. Of course he was not dead. The lines of his face had deepened and the skin had toughened. There was less gloss and more grey in his hair. But this was like seasonal change on a mountain. The basic topography was nearly permanent. He was, after all, Clark Gable.

In 30 starring years and about 65 films, he had dominated Hollywood. He was to the American motion picture what Ernest Hemingway is to American literature. He had the same masculine appeal, conveyed the same sense of escape from oppressive city culture, and suggested that what matters in life is the things a man can do with his body and his two hands. The gulf between Gable and a newer Hollywood generation was well summed up by a Clan member, who once said contemptuously, “He’s a square. What would we find to say to him? He goes hunting.”

Like a Gong

There was something exhilarating about his sheer brawn, whether he was swashing across the decks of the Bounty, or boxing with Spencer Tracy in San Francisco, or pouring the carafe of water over the Bib Boss’s head in The Hucksters. He often pioneered shock scenes. In Red Dust (1932) he had discovered Jean Harlow bathing in a rain barrel, and in It Happened One Night (1934) he shared a tourist cabin with Claudette Colbert, their beds divided by a blanket stretched on a rope. In the same picture, when he took off his shirt and revealed nothing but a glossy chest, he touched off a crisis among undershirt manufacturers.

The main thing was that he took no nonsense from women. In Gone with the Wind, when he snarled at Scarlett O’Hara, played by Vivien Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” he taught the talkies how to swear. And when he slapped Norma Shearer’s face in A Free Soul (1931), he slapped into obsolescence the smooth and courtly Valentino school of hand-kissing elegance. “Perhaps,” said Norma Shearer last week, “that was where Noel Coward got the idea for his line: ‘Every woman should be hit regularly—like a gong.’ And for that sort of thing it was Gable who made villains popular. Instead of the audience’s wanting the good man to get the girl, they wanted the bad man to get the girl.”

Although he was a thorough professorial, few critics bothered to consider him as an actor. He was, simply, a hero, and everything he touched turned to Gable. Sometimes he played The King as if he expected someone else to play The Ace, but he knew it and said so disarmingly, “I’m no actor and I never have been,” he once explained. “What people see on the screen is me.”

His Coronation

The man they saw was born William Clark Gable in Cadiz, Ohio, the 12-lb son of a Pennsylvania Dutchman who had one foot in agriculture, the other in oil. Gable’s mother died before he was a year old, and the shy, chubby, awkward, somewhat spoiled only child—who played a Teddy bear in a grade-school play—was raised on a mixture of hazard and earthy practicality. For three years he worked as a tool dresser in an Oklahoma oilfield, climbing 80-ft derricks to grease the crown block and swinging 16-lb sledge hammers.

Just after his 21st birthday Clark Gable joined a touring theatrical company called the Jewell Players, stayed with the group until it collapsed some months later in Butte, Mont. He had 26 cents. Hopping a freight, he took a gelid ride to the Pacific Northwest, piled logs, sold neckties, became a telephone repairman. One of the last phones he fixed was at the theater of the Red Lantern Players, where Josephine Dillon, then in her late thirties, was the resident stage director. She taught him diction, projection and carriage, and married him when he was 23.

For six years Gable floated among minor theatrical jobs, then caught the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. There was just one problem—those ears. Milton Berle would later describe them as “the best ears of our lives,” but Warner Bros. had already decided that they made young Gable unfit for the screen. MGM simply pinned back the Gable flappers with adhesive tape, and cast him in The Painted Desert. As Gable rose toward his coronation as The King—a ceremony actually performed in 1937 by Spencer Tracy with a cardboard crown—he shed the tape.

Comfort and Courage

Divorced by Josephine Dillon in 1930, he married Maria (Rhea) Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham, a Houston socialite whose first marriage had occurred before Gable was born: despite his obvious virility, he apparently needed the comfort and security provided by older women. The first Mrs. Gable is now 76, lives alone in Hollywood with her Chihuahua, and provided a startling contrast last week when, white-haired and frail, she was photographed looking at a picture of her young husband of years ago. Rhea, now 70, lives alone in Houston.

Gable liked his women to be both sacred and profane, and Carole Lombard, who in 1939 became his third wife, was close to perfection in both categories. During their courtship, when she heard that another actress had plans of her own for Gable, Carole Lombard stormed the set, told the director, “Get that whore out of this film or Gable goes.” The rival vanished. Lombard gave her man a pure white Ford adorned with red valentines, learned to handle a shotgun so she could join him on his beloved hunting trips.

Gable’s smile spread wider than a river in flood—until Carole Lombard was killed in an air crash during the early months of World War II. Soon afterward he enlisted in the Army Air Forces, flew combat missions in B-17s out of Peterborough, England, functioning as both the head of an aerial film unit and as a turret gunner.

On His Own

After the war, the momentum of his great days in the ‘30’s carried him through a series of mediocre films, but not through a mismatched 1949-52 marriage to Lady Sylvia Ashley, widow of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and ex wife of a couple of British peers.

Professionally, matters improved with films like Command Decision and Mogambo, privately with his 1955 marriage to Kay Spreckels, who in 1952 had divorced Adolph Spreckels, Jr., heir to a sugar fortune. By last summer, Clark Gable had at last settled again into a life that fully agreed with him. In The Misfits, written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston, he had found a film he considered his best since Mutiny on the Bounty. He was playing, in Miller’s words, a Westerner whose idea of living was: “You start by going to sleep. You get up when you feel like it. You scratch yourself; fry yourself some eggs, throw stones at a can. Whistle…” In short, he was again playing Clark Gable.

On The Misfits location in Reno, he learned that his wife Kay was pregnant with his first child (due next March). He was so literally the king of his profession that when he came into a room, people stood and clapped. Nevadans stared in admiration while Gable fixed a flat on his own car; they were watching a man who did almost everything on his own and did it well. He made his own friends, who included studio executives but also hotelkeepers, contractors, mechanics and with some of them he would motorcycle through San Fernando Valley at 100mph.

Reason or No Reason

Standing 6ft, 1in, he was still as strong as two men back to back. During the filming of 1938’s Test Pilot, he was supposed to be “killed” by an avalanche of 60lb sandbags, flung them around like jelly beans until the bags were refilled at 200lbs. to make the scene believable. He had, too, a man’s modest ration of swagger. He was proud of his wide, wide shoulders, and with one extra drink in him he would turn in the broadest doorway and go through sideways.

When word came of Clark Gable’s death at 59 last week, resulting from his second heart attack this month, it was no rumor, as it had been last year. Tritely but accurately, his small, quiet military funeral—before burial beside Carole Lombard at Hollywood’s Forest Lawn Cemetery—was called the end of an epoch. His star had gone higher and stayed there longer than any other in the history of films. A bit of dialogue from The Misfits will long be remembered as his exit line, “Honey,” the script had him say at one point to Marilyn Monroe, “we all gotta go sometime, reason or no reason, Dyin’s as natural as livin’. Man who’s too afraid to die is too afraid to live, far as I’ve ever seen. So there’s nothin’ to do but forget it, that’s all. Seems to me.”