clark gable ria franklin

This short little article from 1931 is extremely tabloid-y but that is what makes it interesting! Published in the fall of 1931 when Clark was the newest heart throb, articles like this were the result of editors screaming at their writing staff, “I need pieces on Clark Gable NOW!” So, they grasp at whatever straws they have, which, back in the days before internet and uh, actual fact checking, were largely rumors.

“No,” Clark Gable’s friends quote him as saying last summer. “I’m not married now. My wife just got a divorce in April.”

“Yes,” Clark Gable admitted six months later to inquiring interviewers. “I’m married. But I’d rather not discuss that, please.”

Then, a few weeks ago, came a hasty trip to Santa Ana, where a license was secured for William C. Gable and Mrs. Rita Langham to wed. The license indicated, it was reported, that this was the lady’s third marriage, and Clark Gable’s second. Maybe his first marriage to Mrs. Langham did not count.

How many times has Clark Gable really said, “I do”? Let us see! The newest “great lover” of the screen labors under the misfortune of being a local boy who hung around Los Angeles casting offices for years. There are altogether too many people here who “knew him when”!

Friends warned Clark that if he wanted to keep his remarriage to Rita Langham a secret, he had better not go to Santa Ana, whose courthouse has been the scene of so many headline romances that reporters watch it like hawks. But Clark is apparently sincere in his declaration, “Why, I’m nobody! I’m not important! I’m just an actor working at his job!”

If he really thought that no notice would be taken of his wedding, he was very much mistaken—as mistaken as Rudolph Valentino when he thought that no one would find out that he had married Natacha Rambova in Mexico before his California divorce was final. For an exactly similar reason Clark Gable says he remarried the lady whom he first wed “somewhere back East,” a trifle too soon after he and Josephine Dillon were divorced. Though he does not declare dramatically, like Rudy, “My love could not be kept waiting!”—a line that thrilled a million women.

Clark was saying he wasn’t married last summer because HE WASN’T. The “trip to Santa Ana” was the first and only marriage ceremony between Ria and Clark, a fact that MGM publicity would never allow to be released. You see, Clark and Ria had been living together for a few years and after Clark arrived in Hollywood and started to make a name for himself, Ria wanted to get married and Clark wanted to dump her. So Ria ran straight to MGM executives and threatened to bring down their newest star, to tell everyone that he had been living with a woman he was not married to. (You can read more about this whole situation here. ) Doesn’t seem at all scandalous today, I know, but in those days it would have been career suicide. So, Clark was forced to marry her in June of 1931 and to say that it was a remarriage because of a legal loophole. What’s ridiculous is that he always is quoted as saying  that the first time they got married it was “last year” and “somewhere in the East” with no specifics. Who says that about their marriage ceremony?! And Clark was purposely sent to Santa Ana for the ceremony, where MGM knew there would be photographers to document the occaison.

While he was living here humbly several years ago, often going hungry, one of the women who saw him making his endless rounds of the theaters, agencies, and casting offices was Josephine Dillon, a well-known vocal teacher. She took pity on this ambitious, poorly-prepared boy and worked with him tirelessly, coaching him, improving his delivery of dramatic lines. At length they were married. Though they separated not long after, it was not until April, 1930, that the lady obtained a divorce from her young husband. Her age was given as forty-two.

But according to one of Clark’s closest friends, a young screen actor, even this was not Gable’s first marriage! For good measure this friend’s story mentions a young son also, and swears that he has often seen telegrams from the boy to Clark. Which, if true, would make four marriages for the newest screen sheik, counting two to Mrs. Langham?

I have read this rumor so many times—that when he made it big in Hollywood he already had a son in boarding school. It’s appeared in so many blurbs from the early 1930’s that is smells of MGM publicity, but I scratch my head as to why they would think that would be a beneficial rumor to circulate. Is it more romantic to be married four times by the time you are 31 and have a ten year old son? Not sure of the motivation. But, needless to say, that is a rumor and nothing more.

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

clark gable

As I mentioned earlier this week, this article is the first one on Clark Gable to appear in Photoplay magazine. Clark’s ascend to fame wasn’t very gradual–one month he was completely off the radar and the next the fan magazines were frantically scrambling to find out his backstory so they could put together an article.

Well, every time a group of Hollywood’s prettiest get together these days, they say it’s a Gable Club. They’re all gabbling about Gable. It seems the lad has captured the fancy, not alone the screen fannettes, but also of the loveliest of the screen stars themselves.

It is a remarkable thing, but typical of Hollywood, that a few years ago Gable was working in inconspicuous and unpublicized parts at the same studio where he is now the sensation of the lot. Even the waitresses in the commissary wouldn’t give him a tumble then. He was just another ham actor. Now the feminine stars who wouldn’t give him a nod are using their coyest come-hither glances to get him to play as their leading man.

The parts he has played have brought him the popularity that caused the hysterical writers to proclaim him as another Valentino. That is all applause and no discredit to Gable.

Soon some fan magazine will come out with a story on “The Love Life of Clark Gable.” It will tell of his great lure and all that sort of rot. He never had it until he played sex-appeal parts in pictures, and up to that time he was about as deadly as the nice lad who measures out your gasoline at the filling station.

Hollywood never made a fuss over Rudy either until he got those great roles in “The Four Horsemen” and “The Sheik.”

I think it’s funny it says “a few years ago”…more like just a few weeks ago, really! And the comparisons to Valentino are rather silly, I have always thought. The two are very different–Valentino was a foreign, smooth type with an accent. Clark was, in his words, “like the guy would come move your piano.” I suppose the comparison arrose because of the way he quickly nabbed female’s hearts.

When Clark Gable marries, he marries women quite a bit older than himself. The current Mrs. Gable is more than a decade older than he. She’s in her forties, while Gable is thirty or thirty-one. She’s got a daughter old enough to be Gable’s wife.

There’s also in Hollywood an ex-Mrs. Gable. Her name is Josephine Dillon. She’s a voice culture expert, and insists she did much to train Clark for the talkie fame that he’s achieved. Josephine Dillon, too, is in her forties—more than a decade older than the lad who divorced her a few years ago. When she was Mrs. Gable, Clark was just another actor trying to get a job in Hollywood.

And there’s another ex-Mrs. Gable in existence somewhere, although the facts are a bit vague. Close friends of Clark tell of how, on his birthdays, for instance, he gets telegrams from a nine or ten year old son of his, in school somewhere.

But whether he’s been married three times, or three hundred, that indefinable quality called sex appeal certainly does currently belong to Gable. It’s manifest off-screen as well as on, those women who have met and talked to him admit. It’s as synthetic quality in Gable, compounded by a number of ingredients.

There is, for instance, a sort of confidential “just-between-you-and-me” way he has of talking to girls he’s just been introduced to. It makes them feel, somehow, that here’s a man who understands them deeply.

Besides, he’s got two of the most intriguing dimples women ever laid their eyes on.  He has a strangely frank, disarming smile, that’s appealingly ingenuous.

He has an air of sincerity which women suspect isn’t true, so they’re interested in finding out what he’s covering up with that air of sincerity. His personality is a strangely paradoxical combination of the “lady-killer” women ought to run away from, and the “little boy” type women love to mother, as they call it.

He’s not handsome, in the conventional meaning of the word, but he challenges a woman’s interest at sight.

Hedda Hopper, for instance, put it neatly when she saw a photo of Gable astride a splendid thoroughbred steed. “When you can look at a man on a thoroughbred,” she remarked, “and not say ‘what a good-looking horse,’ then the man has ‘It!’”

It’s kind of funny, actually, how they mention Ria and Josephine almost in a completely unromantic way. I wonder how the paragraph would have been different if he was married to a 20 year old blonde starlet? And about this ten year old boy—um what? Don’t think so. First I have heard of that. Trying to stir up drama.

The article repeatedly says “he’s not handsome,” which I find rather funny as the article is written by a man—I think it would have been different if the article was penned by a woman, probably more gushy.

As has been remarked before, Gable isn’t handsome. But he’s considerably less unhandsome than Nature originally made him.

One of the things people notice about him when he smiles that dimply smile of his are his exquisite teeth. They ought to be—they cost him enough. It was Pauline Frederick’s personal dentist who made Gable’s dental equipment what it is today.

Gable played a small part in one of Pauline’s companies some years ago, when he became aware that his teeth would certainly be a handicap against screen close-ups.; So Polly arranged to have her own dentist fix them up.

Gable’s ears used to stick out a great deal more than they do today—like Eddie Cantor’s. But that’s been overcome, too. It was easy. Gable may not be handsome—but he’s a beauty compared with the Gable as was. He’s a worthwhile lesson to any man or woman who is ambitious enough to overcome facial defects.

He has a noticeable measure of self-consciousness. His hands, for example, are rather large. He is patently worried about what to do with them. He is keenly clothes-conscious, and always dresses well. He liked to dress up. The biggest surprise that ever hit one of his acquaintances who “knew him when” came on Broadway one evening when Gable had just gotten out of the press-your-suit-while-you-wait ranks. The acquaintance beheld Gable resplendent in full evening dress—not tuxedo, but tails—with all the trimmings; high silk hat, white gloves, silver flask (filled) and even a cane. The acquaintance will never be the same.

Now that he’s making his money, Gable buys clothes in quantities. He’s fair game for the haberdashers of Hollywood. Clark may go unto a store with the intention of buying nothing but a necktie; when the salesmen get done with him, he’s probably bought three or four hundred dollars’ worth of clothes.

A lot of women have laid claim to fixing those teeth! I have heard that Josephine scraped together money to get his first set of dentures, I have heard that his teeth were one of the first things Ria threw money at him for,  and now Pauline Frederick gets the credit.

Clark dispelled the rumor that he had had his ears fixed in this candid 1957 article. Never happened. They tried to tape them back at first, but he had none of it and the ears remained as they were. If he had undergone surgery on his ears, wouldn’t he have had them pinned all the way back? Why would they stick out so much afterward? Makes no sense. And if you look at early pictures, those are the same ears.

You can learn more about this budding star Clark Gable by reading the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.

clark gable kay williams look magazine

I don’t usually like articles that are titled “Clark Gable’s Life Story.” Typically, depending on the time period, they are either short and fluffy versions of the truth or they are long, bloated and completely boring to Gable fans who already know he came from humble roots in Cadiz, Ohio and worked as an oil driller and telephone lineman. I have one magazine from the 1960’s that has such a story and the article is 25 pages long. I doubt you will ever be seeing that one typed by me and appearing in the archive!

So I wasn’t too optimistic about this article, particularly since it’s from 1955 and Clark still had five years of living to go yet. But actually this article contains some interesting quotes and anecdotes.

When you walk along the street with Gable in a city like New York, you see women a block away recognizing him and stopping dead in their tracks,” a film-company official said. “They all react the same way. They stop as if something had hit them. They seem to get weak at the knees. They clutch their chests as if they are gasping for breath. I’ve been around a lot in public with other movie stars, like Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper, but none of them affect women the way Gable does.”

A while ago, Gable traveled by train from Hollywood to New York with Howard Strickling, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio publicity director; Strickling is one of his few close friends. When they changed trains in Chicago, Strickling, an enthusiastic cook, decided to look at kitchen utensils at Marshall Field’s. Gable went along. As the two men were standing at the kitchenware counter, Gable nudged Strickling. “Here they come,” he muttered.

“I turned around and I saw a crowd of three hundred and fifty or four hundred women silently and slowly closing in on us,” Strickling said. “They weren’t making a sound, but they kept edging closer and closer, all of them staring, fascinated, at Clark. I don’t know how we got away from them.”

Even though it’s rather disconcerting that he was mobbed like that even in a department store, the fact that the fans were quiet and just fascinated really shows the difference in Hollywood stars then and now. Now that they all have Facebook and Twitter and photos of them in tabloids in their underwear, nobody would sneak up and quietly be fascinated by a star. No. They would probably snap 100 pictures of them on their phones and then try and sell them to a magazine complete with details of what kind of kitchen appliance the star was looking at. Sigh.

[After the war] The plunge into social life didn’t help Gable forget Carole [Lombard]. When her name was mentioned at a party, he changed the subject immediately, but a girl who knew him well said that when he was alone with her, he talked to her for hours about Carole.

“He even tried to get me to wear my hair the way Carole wore hers,” the girl said. “He was an unhappy man. I remember going to his house one Christmas. We were sitting alone in front of the fire. I was being very witty and very gay. He just sat there, staring at the fire, not saying a word. Finally, he looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you stop trying to knock yourself out?’ I gave up. Neither of us talked after that, and I got up and went home.”

“Of course if I had told my friends that I had spent an evening alone with Clark Gable in his house, none of them would have believed it ended that way.”

This really sounds true to me. Clark may have looked happy-go-lucky at night clubs with different women in the late 1940’s, but underneath he really was just lonely. And it is quotes like this that show that he was not really this skirt-chasing cad, he was just lonely and looking for someone to find comfort with. So very sad. He was a very quiet, brooding person, which most people don’t believe, considering his witty, grinning screen persona. First wife Josephine Dillon agrees:

 “He’s a fine actor,” she said. “The Clark Gable you see on the screen, that playful rogue with the happy-go-lucky, mischievous glint in his eye, is not the real Gable. The real Gable is moody and thoughtful and gloomy.”

This article surprised me a bit with its quotes from Josephine, actually. She really does a complete turnaround on how she was portrayed in this “Confidential” magazine article from earlier that same year.

Everything considered, 1955 has been Gable’s best year since 1939 when he married Carole Lombard and appeared in Gone with the Wind. There was only one unpleasant note. He was annoyed by the publication of an article in a scandal magazine.

The article accused Gable of neglecting his first wife, Josephine Dillon, who divorced him in 1930 before he became a movie star. It depicted Miss Dillon as a poverty-stricken old lady, living in a barn on a North Hollywood back street, while, a few blocks away on Ventura Boulevard, Gable roared past every evening “in the back of a sleek, chauffeur-driven limousine—bound for one of his new and youthful conquests.” The article said that Miss Dillon had asked Gable for money a few years ago when she was in a hospital, critically ill and penniless, but that Gable had ignored her. It also said that Gable’s age was 61 instead of 54.

Gable’s lawyer and his friends urged him to sue for libel. “I wouldn’t dignify them with a suit,” he said.

Gable recently purchased Miss Dillon’s house, arranged to have it painted and repaired, and leased it back to her, rent-free, for the rest of her life.

Miss Dillon,a  woman of pride and dignity, was more embarrassed than Gable. The “barn” that was described as her home is a studio in which she gives dramatic lessons. She lives in an adjoining house. The studio is an old building but hardly in a state of collapse, and it is attractive inside. It is filled with books about the theater and is tastefully furnished with antiques.

“Whoever wrote the story doesn’t know much about furniture,” Miss Dillon said. “This rug on the floor is a genuine Oriental. That desk came to California around Cape Horn. It belonged to my grandfather. That piece in the corner is an original George Washington music cabinet. It’s true that I don’t have any money. What teacher does? But I’ve never asked Mr. Gable for anything. I refused to accept alimony from him. My people don’t believe in alimony. I’ve been in a hospital once in my life. That was an Army hospital. I went there to entertain the soldiers.”

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

Beverly Hills

Instead of hopping on a tour bus to be driven around, snapping photos and hoping to catch today’s stars in their bathrobes watering their front lawns, we were on a mission to find the homes of the past.

Let’s start with two of Clark’s wives…

Here is the house on Landale that Clark’s first wife Josephine Dillon lived in from her arrival in Hollywood until her death. Clark owned this property, paid the property taxes and let Josephine live there rent-free. He left her the house in his will.

Josephine Dillon's house

After Clark’s widow Kay Williams sold the Encino ranch to developers in 1970’s, she moved into posh Beverly Hills to this house on the affluent Roxbury Drive with her three children.

Kay Williams Gable's house

She had some nice neighbors: Roxbury Drive was once home to stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Elizabeth Montgomery, Rosemary Clooney, Warner Baxter and more.

Two of Clark’s leading ladies…

Jean Harlow’s house on N. Palm Drive. This was the last home of Jean, who left this rented house for the hospital in 1937 and never returned to it. Rita Hayworth owned it in the 1950’s as well. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio later lived a few houses down.

Jean Harlow's N. Palm Dr home

in 1937

Jean Harlow Palm Dr house

Lana Turner’s house on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. This house is famous for being the place where Lana’s daughter Cheryl stabbed her mother’s boyfriend, mobster Johnny Stompanato, to death on April 5, 1958. Bedford Drive also had its share of famous residents, including Clara Bow, Jeanette MacDonald, Stan Laurel, Greta Garbo and Frank Sinatra.

Lana Turner's Bedford Dr house

Bela Lugosi’s house on Outpost Drive (as I mentioned before, the friend who accompanied me is a classic horror fan). When the house was built in 1935, it was known as the “All Steel” house for having a steel frame, making it “termite free.” Johnny Depp owned it at one point as well.

Bela Lugosi Outpost Dr house

Charlie Chaplin’s house on Summit Drive. This home was known as the “Breakaway House” because Chaplin commissioned studio carpenters to build it on the cheap. It looks like it has been added on to, but apparently the original structure is still the backbone of the house.

Charlie Chaplin's house on Summit Dr

On to Santa Monica…

The Santa Monica Pier

Not too far from the Santa Monica Pier is a stretch of gorgeous beach property located on what is now the Pacific Coast Highway. This once extremely private area was referred to as “Rolls Royce Row” by columnists and was not accessible to the general public. Odd to think that now, since it currently faces a busy six lane highway! Along this road lived Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the last years of his life (with Sylvia Ashley), Marion Davies, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, and Cary Grant with roommate Randolph Scott.

Beach view of "Rolls Royce Row"

The most impressive on this street was this beach house William Randolph Hearst built for his mistress Marion Davies in 1929. It had 34 bedrooms, 55 bathrooms and 3 separate guest houses, as well as a tennis court and swimming pool. Clark, alone and later with Carole, was a guest on many occasions.

After Marion sold it in 1947, it operated as a small hotel called Oceanhouse. In 1956, it became the exclusive Sand and Sea Beach Club. Unfortunately the main house was badly damaged in an earthquake in the 1990’s and it soon fell into severe disrepair. The majority of the property had to be torn down, leaving only one guest house and the original pool. In 2009,the property opened to the public as the Annenberg Community Beach House.

As it looked when Marion lived there. The remaining guest house is in the top right corner.

Marion Davies Santa Monica beach house

The guest house today. Usually, it is open to the public but a wedding was being held there the day we visited so we could not go in.

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

The pool today.

Marion Davies beach house pool in Santa Monica

Just down the street is Norma Shearer’s gorgeous home. Newlyweds Norma and Irving Thalberg had this home built in the late 1920’s.

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

 Because Irving was not a well man and often could not sleep, Norma had the entire house soundproofed so he couldn’t hear the ocean. Irving died of pneumonia in this very house in 1936. Norma moved out in 1942 but couldn’t bring herself to sell the property until 1961. Clark often visited this home to see Irving on MGM related-matters and attend Norma’s many parties.

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica
What’s amazing to me is how far back the ocean is from the original picture and now. Now, there is quite a long stretch of beach between the house and the ocean. This picture from the 1930’s, you can see that the house’s backyard was the ocean!

Norma Shearer's Santa Monica house

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

Calvary Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery

Calvary is a beautiful Roman Catholic cemetery located in East Los Angeles. It dates back to the late 1800’s and that is evident. Unlike most of the cemeteries which were usually all flat headstones with the occaisonal elaborate memorial, this cemetery was filled with gorgeous tall monuments.

Calvary Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery

My main reason for venturing here was to find Clark’s first wife, drama coach Josephine Dillon. When we arrived, we located the name of the lawn she was buried in and the area was huge. We set ourselves for another long search, but it turned out to only take about two minutes; we had no trouble finding it because the headstone is HUGE. I am 5’9 and this headstone went to my shoulders.

Josephine Dillon

Josephine Dillon Calvary Cemetery

Josephine Dillon Calvary Cemetery

Josephine doesn’t have an individual marker; she is buried in the Dillon family plot.

Calvary Cemetery Josephine Dillon

Now, this cemetery, while gorgeous, isn’t in the best area, being in East LA. So we didn’t want to wander aimlessly around here too long. We headed straight into the massive mausoleum.

Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum

This place kind of gave me the creeps because it seemed endless. Every time you turned, it would be another hallway with rows and rows of uniform nameplates, all in gold lettering. The bottom level was especially off-putting, as the corners were very dark and it was so very quiet. Finding people was a challenge as we had the plot numbers, but they weren’t easy to follow.

Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum

Here is Lionel Barrymore, the man we can credit with starting Clark’s film career by suggesting him for an MGM screentest. He starred with Clark in A Free Soul and Lone Star.

Clark shows his Oscar off to Lionel Barrymore

Lionel Barrymore Calvary Cemetery

Below him is a space for his brother John Barrymore, with the inscription “Good Night, Sweet Prince.” I was surprised to find John below Lionel; it hadn’t been mentioned in the research I had done on the cemetery. Turns out he is not actually interred there; he is buried in Philadelphia. Not sure what the story on that is.

Lionel Barrymore John Barrymore Calvary Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery

John and Lionel’s sister Ethel is interred in the mausoleum as well, but we couldn’t find her.

Nearby is comedienne Irene Dunne. Irene never starred with Clark or Carole but she struck the champagne bottle that launched the USS Lombard and…she’s delightful. She’s here next to her husband Francis Griffin, a doctor.

Clark and Irene Dunne launch the USS Lombard in 1944

Irene Dunne Calvary Cemetery

Irene Dunne Calvary Cemetery

Both Lionel and Irene were very close to the beautiful chapel on the second floor.

Calvary Cemetery chapel


Whew. I usually don’t mind typing articles for the site; in fact I like it. This particular article was quite a chore, however. First of all, the magazine is in very bad shape and was literally falling to pieces in my hands. The dust from the crumbling newsprint is probably toxic and made my eyes itch. So the only way I could type it was to photocopy it and type it from there. Secondly, the writing is quite tedious and the article is the longest I have come across! And probably mostly fictional, but I digress…

This piece is from 1933 and appeared in True Story magazine. True Story wasn’t a Hollywood fan magazine, it was more of a Reader’s Digest-type collection of stories. Back in those days, magazines only needed a seed of truth and then could pretty much spin whatever story they wanted to. As is evident in this article, a loooooong (7,202 words, but who’s counting), mostly fictional semi-biography peppered with unnecessary look-at-me-I’m-such-a-great-writer musings.

Since it’s 1933, the article devotes much of its focus on his marriage to Josephine Dillon.

Thus it was that Josephine Dillon came to fill his thoughts in every waking moment, and to go with him into his dreams at night.

Probably, had they met in ordinary circumstances, there would have been no love story, no sad and unhappy marriage for them both. The difference in years would have warned them of disaster, a difference which might make no difference later but was bound to work ill for a boy in his early twenties. The fact that he did not really love her would have been plain to Josephine, and she was a wise and even a noble woman. It might also have been vitally plain to Clark who, even then, knew something of passion and its hold. 

But day by day for months, they met in the enchanted circle of their mutual love—their mutual dreams. They did not meet as a young man and a middle-aged woman, depending only upon themselves for something to awaken love and promise it a future. Their common Muse, the goddess of the art of acting, their common temple of worship, the theater, ruled their lives; not the little blind Cupid and his playground.

They did not know how little they had in common because that one great bond filled their lives.

Many dramatic pupils had passed through Josephine Dillon’s capable hands. There was no finer dramatic teacher in the West; and even in New York her name was known and her ability respected. She had the real art of teaching, and she was tireless because she was inspired. In this big, awkward, intense boy she found what she had long been seeking, not actually a lover, not a husband, though was to become both, but a pupil who could be made into a great actor.

 It spins quite a romantic tale of Clark and Josephine, when really their marriage was not complicated: she was his teacher, he yearned to learn, they had to travel together and live together because they were poor, and the only way they could do that is if they were married. This is during the period of time though, that Josephine maintained her “innocent and loving first wife” persona which quickly faded in the 1950’s when she stopped receiving money from his paychecks and decided he was ungrateful to her.

At last she felt that he was ready; that he must now begin his real experience. He must go to Los Angeles, the dramatic center of the West, and get work in the theater to prepare for his final attack upon the citadel of Broadway. Thus it will be seen how she had crystallized those vague and youthful plans and ambitions which had torn Clark Gable from the farm, from his father’s oil fields, and sent him to starve and struggle on the hard road to theatrical success.

Josephine Dillon realized that she had done all she could; that he must now have actual stage work to do him any good, and she sent him on his way, wondering perhaps when she would see him again, parting from him with a very heavy heart.

But Clark missed her terribly. He knew no one in Los Angeles. No one in the theater there. For so long he had been used to her daily companionship, to the spur of her ambition and confidence. He missed the enchanting—and enchanted—voice, telling him how great he was going to be one day.

He got a very small job in one of the Los Angeles companies, but no one paid any attention to him except to bawl him out occasionally.

And so, in absence, his affection for the woman who had been his best friend grew, and he wrote and told her all about it, in a boyish, funny, hurt and rather bewildered letter. It seems difficult now to connect that lonely, bewildered young man with the dynamic, poised and charming screen star of today, but those things he gained later.

When she received that letter, Josephine Dillon closed her dramatic school, rang down the final curtain on the Little Theater, and followed Clark Gable to Los Angeles.

Clark was glad to see her; gladder than he had ever been to see any one in his life. They had little or no money—dramatic schools are seldom gold mines. They were always together.

Just how it came about perhaps they, themselves, hardly knew, but suddenly it seemed natural for Clark to ask her to marry him, and for her to say she would.

Clark had a job then, was playing a walk-on part in Jane Cowl’s company of “Romeo and Juliet.” And so one day in June, 1924, before a matinee, he and Josephine Dillon were quietly married. The newspapers, not being able to see into the future, did not comment upon the event.

Well, they were married in December, not June, and I am doubtful that the whole event was that romantic. From what I understand it was more of a business deal.

No woman of the American stage has ever possessed more attraction than Pauline Frederick. In the theater she had always great artistry. Outside it, she, as the modern phrase goes, “had everything.” Her beauty was a legend. Her wit part of theatrical history. Moreover, as all who ever knew her testify, she had simplicity and sweetness and the most delightful joy in living.

Of course she was the star, and Clark Gable was only a very minor member of her company, playing small bits that didn’t matter. She was also an experienced woman of the world, who had been several times married, who had been adored by famous and brilliant men, men of vast fortune, men of the theater and men of the social registers. And up to that time Clark Gable’s experience with women hadn’t been very great.

But after all, Clark Gable was Clark Gable, the same Clark Gable who, only a few years later, was to follow in the footsteps of Rudolph Valentino. Undiscovered as yet by woman fans, by audiences or producers, he was nevertheless Clark Gable.

Naturally enough, he went crazy over Pauline Frederick.

He was sore disillusioned, terribly unhappy. The glamour had faded from life. He had just gone through a domestic tragedy and he was sick at heart, sick of domesticity, sick of the sordidness that must leave its sediment after almost every unsuccessful marriage. He wanted to forget, he wanted to reach out once more and touch the glittering garment of romance.

There, where he could see her and talk to her every day, was the most attractive woman he had ever met. Pauline Frederick was free of all those things which had lately dragged him into reality—free of hurt, of heartache, of distress and failure. She was a glamorous, successful, brilliant figure, and a beautiful woman.

 I’m not sure how true this relationship with Pauline Frederick is. It’s possible, but since this article is full of romatic fluff, I am inclined to think it is exaggerated.

The most interesting part of this article is that it hints at his affair with Joan Crawford, something that was frantically hidden by MGM’s publicity department.

There can be no question that the greatest temptation of Clark Gable’s life was Joan Crawford. The real fade-out of Joan’s marriage to young Douglas Fairbanks came when Joan surrendered to the charm that was to make Clark Gable the greatest matinee idol of his generation, though the actual separation did not come until much later, and by that time the flame which threatened to consume them both had died to ashes.

I like that they call him “the greatest matinee of his generation”! Before his Oscar, before GWTW, before his official title of “King.” A little presumptious, but I think it turned out to be a true prediction!

When I got to the end of the article, I found the last paragraph said thus:

This amazing human document, revealing the deep emotional conflicts in the life of the screen’s greatest lover, is continued in the September TRUE STORY Magazine—On Sale Everywhere August 4th!

Oh my. I am going to need to rest my pre-carpal tunnel hands before I tackle that!

You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive. You might need a bathroom break halfway through…


 This piece is about Clark and Boris Karloff’s ex-wives and how they are “persecuted” by the press to tell dish about their favorite ex-husbands. I was delighted to come across this article because my very dearest friend is a classic horror movie freak and I was quite happy to be able to say to her, “Here’s an article for the both of us!” as Boris Karloff is to her as Clark Gable is to me.

Onto the article. Clark’s only ex-wife at this time was Josephine Dillon, a matronly acting coach 17 years his senior. He was newly married to Ria Langham.

The story of Josephine Dillon’s persecution by yellow journalism is almost incredible. In a civilized community, with policemen pacing the Boulevard not a hundred feet away, she was threatened and browbeaten, terrified and insulted. In her inexperience, she trustingly admitted these wolves in writers’ clothing into her plain, prim, clean little living room. But her gentle answers to their questions, her mild little reminiscences of hours of hard work with Clark Gable, and her generous praise of him were not what they were looking for, not what they wanted.

They tried devious and diabolically clever ways to get their stories. Some of them—of the feminine gender—sympathized with her disarmingly, a process known as “taking down their back hair.” Others tried to trap her into statements that would lend sensational color to their articles. One seasoned newspaper man, who had exhausted every trick in his repertoire to get her to reveal some of the secrets of her married life, decided to arouse her anger against Clark.

“Look at yourself!” he shouted. “A poor, miserable woman, living in this wretched shack, while he has a fine apartment! Look at your shabby clothes! Look at your shoes!” He pointed a scornful finger. “How do you feel when he rides by in a limousine? Why, I’ll bet you haven’t the price of a square meal in the house this minute!”

But for all her quiet voice and ladylike ways, Josephine Dillon is a clever woman. “Oh, I’m not so poor I can’t buy a ticket to see a Clark Gable picture!” she answered, smiling.

I find this article a bit odd. Odd and rather funny. If you are sick of the press stalking you, why talk to them at all? Why be interviewed by a magazine ABOUT how you are being hounded by the press?

And I would also like to add that I sincerely doubt Josephine had much dirt to spill, anyway. According to both her and Clark, the marriage was in name only and they never slept together.

Without friends to trust, without protection, or money to hire lawyers, she at last turned for help to the studio where Clark Gable was working.

“There was a writer for a newspaper syndicate who came to me,” She relates. “He didn’t ask for a story. He had a story already—had obtained it in New York. All he wanted was for me to admit that his story was true. I denied it, over and over. He was so violent I was terrified. He went away, and came back the next evening—late. I told him again that his story wasn’t true. Finally, he looked at me. ‘Miss Dillon,’ he asked, ‘your father was a lawyer, wasn’t he?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He looked at me bitterly and said, ‘I thought so. Because you are the most artful dodger I’ve ever met. But how long do you think you can get away with it?’

“After he had left, I couldn’t sleep. The next day, I went to the studio and told them they must protect me. I told them that I had never said anything unkind about Clark and that I never intended to do so. But I couldn’t stand this persecution any longer. Since then they have dealt with the people who came to interview me.”

Please don’t waste your tears on poor threatened Josephine. She actually wrote Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, a long letter in which she called Clark “an ungrateful chiseler” who had used her. She said that if she did not receive some sort of compensation, she would be “forced” to go to the press. The result of this was Mayer deducting $200 a month (not a small amount, in those Depression-era days) from Clark’s paychecks and sending it to Josephine. Clark was not pleased. So, she may have been threatened by the press, but the reason she wouldn’t release a story was not because she was such a good and honest woman. It was because she was being paid to keep her mouth shut.

I’m not sure when the payments to Josephine stopped but by 1955, she was in need of money and publicity again and sold her story to the tabloid mag Confidential. (Read it here in the Article Archive). In it, she is pictured in her renovated barn of a home and complains about Clark having money and not giving her any and how he is her “creation.”  She does neglect to mention that Clark owned the house that she lives in rent-free. Details, details…

The ex-Mrs. Karloff, a gal named Pauline (which is weird because when I looked up Boris, none of his six wives seemed to be named Pauline?) is also hounded and goes to Josephine for advice in the last part of this article.

After “Frankenstein” had set the public to talking about the new mystery man of the screen, Boris Karloff, Josephine Dillon Gable had a caller one day—a young and pretty woman whose card bore the name, “Pauline Karloff.” She told her that she was a dancer, an artist, and the ex-wife of the new screen star.

“Reporters are after me to tell them sensational stories about Boris,” she said. “I knew that you must have been bothered the same way—so I came to ask you what I should do to stop them.”

No motion picture scene that movie-star Gable or movie-star Karloff is ever asked to make can be more dramatic than that meeting of these ex-wives in Josephine Dillon’s plain little living room. There they sat, two women who had known and still knew the pinch of poverty, discussing earnestly how to protect the men they had married—and lost.

Read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.