clark gable ria franklin langham

Here is an article from early 1936, when Mrs. Gable was Ria Franklin and all of movie fandom wasn’t whipped up into a frenzy over the pairing of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard yet.  I don’t think most people understood why the reigning hearthrob of Tinsel Town was married to an older, matronly, stoic socialite with two teenage children. But they were indeed married and therefore it was the press’ obligation to portray their marriage as a wonderful romance, despite evidence to the contrary. Everyone in Hollywood knew that Clark and Ria were pretty much married in name only and that Clark had many affairs. It was a surprise to no one in 1935 when Clark finally moved out of the Brentwood home he had shared with Ria and into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  But the press was obligated to treat this parting as a sad surprise end to a love affair. And thus, out trotted articles such as this one.

Clark Gable stood at the rail of a steamship coming from South America. His dark hair caught the mist from the sea and went unnoticed. His eyes watched the emptiness of the horizon and brooded. Water and then more water; sky and then more sky—trying to meet, seeming to meet, yet never touching. Is life like that? Do we roll along—along—trying to reach for a sky?

We all have such thoughts when we stand on a ship and gaze at the endless blue above and beneath us. There was not a passenger on that liner who did not stand thus and ponder. Yet there was not one who did not wonder why Clark Gable stood at the rail and brooded.

Clark Gable! Surely he was one man whose sea and sky had met. What more could one man have—what more could he want? He was handsome, virile, a world hero. Why, in South America, no man had such adulation since Rudolph Valentino! “He makes five thousand dollars a week,” the travelers whispered to each other.

One passenger spoke for all of them when he said, “If I were Clark Gable, I don’t think I’d be brooding.”

If he had been Clark Gable! If any one of them had been! They knew what they would do!…But did they? What would they have done? What would you have done if you had been Clark Gable then? I wonder.

I wonder also how widely scattered those passengers were when they picked up their morning papers three weeks after that South American liner had docked. To each, the faces of the other travelers already were blurred, perhaps forgotten. All but one—that of Clark Gable, standing at the rail, brooding.

“So that was it,” any of them might have said. “According to this story, he and his wife were already separated. Now, I wonder what the real trouble was. Anyway, he wasn’t happy about it!”

I do not think Clark Gable’s parting from his wife is so different from the average marital separation. It does carry one extra burden. You or I could stand at a ship’s rail and brood without having our little ship-world pay is too much attention. We could go through a court action without having the whole world headline it. But what we felt—would that be so different?

Bunch of romanticized junk, huh? Well, if Clark was brooding on a ship, I sincerely doubt it was over leaving Ria. Like I said above, all of Hollywood knew that Clark and Ria were not in this great loving marriage, regardless of what the press said. I have often wondered what the fans of the day thought. Did they really believe that Clark was madly in love with Ria and that theirs was the happiest of marriages, as the press tried to lead them to believe? I think the explosion of fan excitement over the romance of Clark and Carole Lombard in the months that followed answers that question. They wanted Clark to be in an exciting romance like he had played on the screen so many times—and Carole fit the bill perfectly.

lark and Ria Langham Gable always seemed to be inspiring others. Helen Hayes, long before she left Hollywood, told me, “You know, a few friends I have found out here make Hollywood so worthwhile—friends like Ria and Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg. Why, you feel better just to watch Ria and Clark enter a room together!”…Two years later, in New York City, Helen told me: “I didn’t really dislike Hollywood so much. How could I when it brought me friends like Ria and Clark Gable?”

I doubt if I have heard a finer compliment paid two people. But I have heard so many compliments for these two. I remember shopping at one of Hollywood’s exclusive stores, and discovering that all of the clerks in one department were crowded around one woman. Not one saw me until she rose to go. She was Ria Gable. When she had left, I chided the girl who waited on me, “I suppose you have to be Mrs. Gable to get attention like that!”

She was shocked. “Oh no! We are not allowed to give more attention to one customer than another. It isn’t because she’s Mrs. Gable. It’s because she’s so charming. She is so kind to us. We didn’t even know who she was when she first came here and we felt that way about her even then. She’d ask, ‘And how do you like this?’ in a way that made us feel that she really wanted our opinion. There’s something—well, it’s hard to explain, but we really forget about everyone else when she is here. She’s just that kind of person. And when Mr. Gable comes with her, he is like that, too. You know, just regular people.”

Now, although Ria is often painted as this cold villain who stood stubbornly in the way of Clark and Carole’s “true love,” I have actually never heard anyone say anything about her being a nasty person. Everyone says she was extremely friendly, polite and lady-like. Old fashioned perhaps, and definitely not a boisterous personality (opposite of Carole!) but not a mean or calculating woman.

This article provides no real answer to what the cause of the split was (Loretta Young’s pregnancy had a bit to do with it…) and doesn’t really give us a reason why we shouldn’t “misunderstand” the Gables, but it’s what can be expected–a fluff piece. It’s always been rather funny to me how, in a short period of time, the same journalists who wrote melancholy articles like this one over the sad split of Clark and Ria were writing ones about Clark and Carole’s great love exclaiming why won’t Ria divorce Clark?

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

clark gable ria langham

From June 1932:

When Clark Gable’s wife went to New York, Clark gave up the apartment that they had occupied together and moved into bachelor quarters. But he didn’t give anybody the address and when he appeared at the studio his manager was constantly by his side to keep him from being questioned about the divorce, which folks say is imminent. However, in his new neighborhood word sort of got around among the kids that Clark was living in that corner house and dozens of little girls–all under ten, Mrs. Gable–have presented themselves at the front door, welcomed Clark to his new house and asked for an autographed picture.

In the meantime Mrs. Gable, who is really a lovely looking woman, seems to be doing very nicely in New York. I wish I could tell you that there was a pained tragic look on her face, but at the opening of “Grand Hotel” she was just plainly having a good time.

There is, however, enough smoke to make the divorce rumors fairly authentic. Whether Clark wants to run the risk of losing popularity by going through with it is something that only the Gables know.

___

They did not get divorced in 1932–wouldn’t for another nearly seven years. Clark was not hiding his affair with Joan Crawford very well, which I believe was the reason why Ria up and left for New York. In this article (that I consider mostly rubbish), it claims that Clark called Ria in New York and begged her to come back. This I doubt.  I don’t really know why he didn’t divorce her this early on, perhaps it is true that his publicity team was worried it would tarnish his brand new stardom. But running around with Joan Crawford was better? Ah, old Hollywood….

 

clark gable 1932

This article appeared in Photoplay magazine in January 1932, when Clark Gable was a new star and nobody knew much about him yet. It’s rather funny how nowadays a quick internet search provides anyone with information about virtually anybody, but 80 years ago the journalists were scrambling to separate fact from fiction in Clark’s history.

Has he been married twice, three times or four? What is his true background?

Every writer in Hollywood is trying to find answers to these questions. Some have printed stories without waiting to get the truth.

It’s a very old Hollywood custom.

But a custom which Clark, a newcomer, is incapable of understanding.

“Why don’t they come to me,” he demands, “and ask me? My stepdaughter is sixteen years old. My stepson twelve. They are the children of my present wife.

“No one has asked me about this, to date. I would have been glad to tell them. If I had any children of my own I would be proud to say so.”

It’s funny, for a short time MGM purposely left out the fact that Clark had teenage stepchildren–a fact they thought would make him seem old.

This isn’t the first time I have heard that in the very beginning of his career everyone thought he had already been married three times and had a small son who was in a boarding school somewhere. What a curious idea.

The majority of the article devotes itself to the same old story of Clark’s early life that has been told 100 times before: growing up on the farm, working on an oil field in Oklahoma, riding the rails to Oregon.

They were married in New York, before the first Mrs. Gable’s divorce was final in California. How little either realized then the complications which were to follow! They were legally wed in New York but not in California, where one cannot remarry until a year after a divorce. They figured that was all right since they had no intention of going to California.

But fate does not pause to remember America’s strange divorce laws. Just when Clark was closing in “Love, Honor and Betray,” with Alice Brady and the late Robert Williams, Macloon telegraphed him to come to California for “The Last Mile.” Gable took an airplane and paid his own expenses to make certain he would arrive in time to accept the engagement!

Gangsters had become the vogue in pictures. Clark was stalwart and he was suave; he was handsome, as producers visualized gangsters to be handsome. He made several tests and accepted the role of a cowboy heavy in “The Painted Desert,” at Pathe. While working on that he signed a contract with Warner Bros. to make “The Finger Points” and “Night Nurse.” It has been said that MGM loaned him for these parts before they knew the sensation he was to become. This is untrue. He signed for these roles before he went to MGM.

While waiting for these to go into production he played a bit in “The Easiest Way,” with Constance Bennett at MGM. Then in Joan Crawford’s “Dance, Fools, Dance.”

You know the rest of the story. No one, including Louis B. Mayer, head of the studio, and Clark Gable himself, could see what was to happen. The success of Garbo was an accident—so was that of Valentino. Millions have been spent on making Hollywood stars. But the greatest of them all have been created without forethought and without investment.

Almost overnight, this Gable boy from the little town of Cadiz became the great screen lover. Fame simply leapt up and claimed him.

Fame has its penalties. Right now Clark is trying to beat the sure law of compensation. If fame is to bring tribulations in excess of its rewards—he believes he is ready to sacrifice fame.

He had his first taste of fame’s demand when he had been in Hollywood only a short time.  A newspaper man told him he was not legally married. He rushed to Santa Ana for a second ceremony as soon as the first Mrs. Gable’s divorce became final. MGM sent representatives along to see that all the details were according to the California laws governing matrimony.

That whole remarriage thing is complete MGM-coverup hogwash. Clark and Ria were never married in New York. They signed into hotels as “Mr. and Mrs. Gable” just to stay in the same room; nobody ever asked anything. Once they arrived in Hollywood, it was just the word on the street that they were already married. But Clark wanted to dump her and Ria took to blackmail–threatening MGM that if Clark didn’t make an honest woman out of her that she would go to the papers with the scandal.  Scared that their new star would be finished if the word got out, those MGM publicity masterminds concocted the tale of the “accidently” illegal first marriage so that Clark and Ria could be married at the courthouse in June 1931.  It’s funny, later in his career, everyone cites their marriage date as that day in 1931–nobody says how they were supposedly technically married before. Probably because most people knew the truth.

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

ria franklin ria langham clark gable

From March 1932:

Well, well, well, Mrs. Clark Gable certainly pays her bills on time. She was in Magnin’s shortly after the first of January and gave the saleslady a check to take to the accounting department to see if it checked with the store’s figures of what she owed them. She had kept track of her bill and brought in the check before she received an accounting! And was she getting attention! Seven salesladies hovering over her at once. And the customers whispering to each other, “That’s Mrs. Clark Gable.”

I couldn’t help but remember Clark’s remark, “And a year ago I could have walked down Hollywood Boulevard munching a doughnut and no one would have paid any attention.” —Least of all the salesladies of an exclusive shop.

clark gable 1931 

 I have had this article for a year; it has been sitting at the top of my “to type” pile. Every time I go to type it, I pass it up for another one because it is just too dang long and not even terribly interesting. In the magazine, it’s 11 pages. Typed and printed, it’s 13 pages and 6,055 words! And I wonder why I am beginning to get carpal tunnel.

What also turned me off about it is that it is written by Adela Rogers St. Johns. What, you gasp, how can you not like Adela Rogers St. Johns?! She was an acclaimed female journalist, she wrote A Free Soul—the book that the film that made Clark Gable a star was based on, she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom! All true and she seems a fine woman. Clark and Adela were actually close friends for decades. In fact, there were stupid rumors that they were lovers and that he fathered one of her sons. She always dismissed those rumors, saying, “What woman would deny that Clark Gable was the father of her child?” Ok, so, the answer to that question is Loretta Young but I digress. No, the reason I don’t like her articles is her writing style; it is the fanciful, curly-q type of writing that suits itself to romance novels, not reporting—at least early on. I have several articles written by her in the Article Archive and indeed her writing style changed with the times. Post World War II, she was much more straightforward. The fanciful writing of the 1920’s and early 1930’s would not fly with post-war America. Compare the mind-numbing sugary At Last! Mrs. Clark Gable Talks! from 1938 to A Personal Story on Clark Gable from 1944. It’s good that she changed with times, but for this article, written in 1932, we are stuck with:

 Youth clings to him, youth that demands excitement and undiluted adventure. The smell of the soil clings to him, the desire for down-to-earth, hearty living and eating and drinking and loving. There are no complexes, no inhibitions. No fixations, no phobias about Clark. His greed for life, for pleasure, for battle, for conquest, for money, is normal and honest and it vibrates in a room and wipes out the pale lavender scent of pseudo-sophistication,

How he would have loved the roistering, swashbuckling, dangerous days of d’Artagnan, the savage pioneer days of Daniel Boone, the hard-riding, hard-drinking, seafaring epoch of England’s Virgin Queen! And how Elizabeth would have loved him! Perhaps she wouldn’t have remained a virgin queen long if Gable had spread his cloak for her to walk upon. Gable isn’t the kind of man to spread cloaks for nothing.

Instead of all that, he must find his thrills before the camera and spread his cloak for cinema queens. But he loves it. He gloats in his success as a gambler gloats when he catches the fourth ace in a ten-thousand-dollar pot. After the lean years, the hard years, luck broke and poured the fleshpots of the world into his lap. And he makes no bones about thinking it’s a great idea.

After years of the usual affections, introspections, fears, and careful propaganda of most actors, the honesty, the naturalness, the frank pleasure and open delight of Clark Gable are like a breath of pine forest after the sick breath of a speakeasy.

 

She actually says that the Virgin Queen Elizabeth probably wouldn’t be a virgin if she met Clark. Oh my goodness. Let’s just move on from this frosting…

Quite interesting is Adela’s mention of the current Mrs. Gable, Ria Langham. It’s quite notable that she is hardly a mention until far into the article, after the lust he stirs up for all womanhood.

Gable never suggests a married man, yet he has been married twice.

The present Mrs. Gable has been more less a mystery to Hollywood. She gives no interviews, receives few callers, and never discusses Clark Gable.

I met her by chance at abridge luncheon given by Lionel Barrymore’s fascinating and exquisite wife, the former Irene Fenwick. To my surprise, I found that a tall, majestic lady in severe and black satin was Mrs. Clark Gable. A dark woman, she suggests a regal and aristocratic beauty that belonged to Florence Vidor.

A determined, set, rather hard mouth she has, but her eyes are dark and sad and a little wistful.

I rather expected her to say something about A Free Soul, which happened to be my story and which gave Clark his first real part, as the gambler.

But she didn’t. Her graciousness seems to freeze at the thought of being interviewed or studied as the wife of the man so many women admire.

During the bridge game one of the many players at her table, a charming little woman in no way connected with pictures, said:

“I daresay you’re very tire of hearing compliments about your husband, Mrs. Gable. But I do feel I’d like to tell you what a refreshing thing it is to have him in pictures. His work is so natural and splendid.”

Mrs. Gable looked at her and did not reply.

There is a world of character in her face. She suggests Park Avenue, the well groomed woman of the world. She suggests the woman who has always had money, always worn smart clothes. She has a daughter eighteen and a son twelve, by a former marriage, and she is a devoted mother.

But the world of pictures, of the theater, is new to her. When she married Clark Gable in Santa Ana, not many months ago, she stepped into a land and a people as strange to her as China.

Her job is a tough one. But she has a determination, a will, that should see her through.

She had been losing heavily at bridge. Her partner, a girl famous as one of the greatest horsewomen in the country, said, “We’re certainly having a bad run of cards.”

Mrs. Gable sat up, looking like a Roman empress, and said, “It’s got to stop. If there’s one thing I have, it’s a determination to go through with anything I start.” Her playing improved. She made a couple of daring bids and got away with them. With a brilliant smile, she said, “You see. Bulldog determination always wins in the long run.”

I find that perfectly funny and I can imagine it being a direct quote. Ria was obviously a stubborn woman; she set her sights on Clark, trapped him, and when he tried to wiggle free, she played every card she had to keep him. I have always wondered what these female fans of Clark Gable thought of his wife back then, early in his career. Here was their new heartthrob, this burly he-man who knocked women around and swept them off his feet. And his wife was an older, matronly, Park Avenue-type with teenage kids? Adela was well-aware, as was everyone in Hollywood at this time, that Joan Crawford was spending more time with Clark than his wife was those days. Which might explain Ria’s lack of desire to discuss her husband at length.

Adela goes on to tell the tired stories of how Clark met Josephine Dillon, his affair with Pauline Frederick, how he learned to ride a horse just to play in The Painted Desert, and more. You can read the entire article (all 13 pages!) in The Article Archive.

 

 

 

The Mayfair Ball was annual event held every February by the exclusive Mayfair Club. It was the seen-and-be-seen event of the year, taking place in one of the posh Hollywood hotels. The event is best remembered by Clark Gable and Carole Lombard fans for being the birthplace of their spark, as they began flirting for the first time at the Mayfair Ball in 1936.

Well, it turns out that that wasn’t the first time Clark attended the ball. In 1932, he attended with Ria on his arm, and the magic of the night was descibed by Picture Play magazine:

Beauty, Fashion and Fame Assemble on That Night of Nights, The Mayfair Ball

Hollywood goes Mayfair–the first big social event of the year–in brillant fashion. There are more screen personalities in the Biltmore ballroom tonight than will be found together again in many a moon. Crowds gather in the lobby and about the street entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of the great ones. Place cards that make up a “Who’s Who in Hollywood” are laid on tables in the ballroom. Lights are subdued, waiters receive final instructions.

The music starts. The guests begin to arrive, groups of four and six and eight. Furs and velvets and satins; perfume and flowers and laughter. Excitement, thrill, glamour in the air. Applause from the crowds in the foyer. The great social event of the season is on.clark gable ria langham norma shearer dolores del rio joan crawford helen hayesL to R: Joan Bennett with Gene Markey, Irene Wate, Lillian Bond, Joan Blondell, Genevieve Tobin, Marion Nixon, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Crawford, Clark Gable with wife Ria, Norma Shearer, Dolores del Rio, Helen Hayes, June Clyde, Ginger Rogers, Lilyan Tashman with Eddie Lowe.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall…

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.

I was excited about this article as it is the first I know of to provide a detailed description of the Brentwood home Clark Gable shared with second wife Ria in the early 1930’s. They moved here soon after Clark struck stardom gold in 1931. Clark moved out in 1935 and into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. In 1939, he moved into Carole Lombard’s St. Cloud home and soon after, his Encino ranch, which would be his last home. I believe Ria stayed here until she left Hollywood for good in the 1940’s. Usually I only post a few paragraphs of an article in a blog post, but this one is not too long and really, I couldn’t just select a room or two. So let’s go home with Clark Gable, shall we?
Let’s Go Home with Clark Gable
By Jerry Lane
Screenplay magazine, July 1934
clark gable

This is the first time the real private life of Clark Gable has ever been written. The Gable you would meet in the seclusion of his own home.

Doesn’t that bring up ideas, though! Imagine being a guest at the Gable house…dancing informally with Clark to the music from the radio in the drawing room…watching him carve a turkey—and if you don’t think Clark isn’t a past master at the job!…sitting on a high red leather stool with your feet on a brass rail while he plays bar-man!

What would it be like? What is the Gable family life like?

The truth is a little surprising. For Clark, dashing figure of a million romantic dreams, is pretty much like your-man-John around the house. He’s a home man. You’d probably find him in old duck pants and a red sweater—how that man loves red!—with a pipe in his mouth and cleaning his gun. Or working in the garden, as I did.

Now I mean working. None of your star-puttering-around-the-yard poses for Bill. Everybody calls him Bill. He has a “garden” that’s well over an acre on the side of the house and right now it’s planted with gladioli and purple and yellow iris. Many a morning he’s out there at six-thirty digging. And on a day off from the studio if he doesn’t trek off to the mountains, he wraps an antique, very faded bandana around his neck, pulls on some blue jeans and starts in hoeing.

“Rusticating?” I wanted to know.

“Sure. Why not? I was born on a farm, you know,” he grinned. “And say, this back-to-the-soil urge isn’t all bunk. I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing it until we moved up here last fall…come to think of it, this is only about the second or third house I’ve ever lived in. Most of my time has been spent in hotel rooms or small apartments!”

But don’t picture the Gables as living in the backwoods. They don’t! They live on a quiet street in Brentwood about five miles from the Metro studio where Bill works—as you may have heard. The same street that Joan Crawford and Helen Twelvetrees and several other stars live on. It’s like a breath of the country out there, however, and I think that’s what sold it to Clark.

The house itself is Mediterranean-Colonial, perhaps the brightest and most comfortable of all California homes. It has the kind of lawn that sweeps on and o, shaded by gnarled oaks and giant sycamores, and there’s a fascinating gate.

Inside—first the hall, typically Colonial with its chaste white wainscot and panels that introduce you to the walls of the rest of the house.  There’s a coat closet there too, but you’d never guess it. The panels slide silently apart! So much more effective than ordinary doors. A grandfather’s clock ticks away between two French doors that open onto the solarium and give a view of the garden. Oriental scatter rugs..old mahogany high-backed chairs and a folding table with a white bowl of lilacs…above it, a large mirror…mirrors work miracles for a hall. If two of them are set opposite the entrance the apparent size of the hall is greatly increased. And a rectangular mirror always makes a room look bigger than an oval one.clark gable

Now step down into the solarium where Gable reads the write-ups on his prize race horse, Beverly Hills, or studies a script or rummages through a detective story—his favorite indoor occupation—with a leg swung up over the chair arm, and nursing that eternal pipe…It’s very gay in here. Lucky the home that has a room always speaking of spring! Red tiled floor, red and green upholstered furniture, and vines. Vines growing all over this sun room.

It’s in the drawing room that you meet Jana. In a very magnificent oil painting. She looks quite regal in it, this step-daughter of Clark’s whose name is really Georgiana. But as a matter of fact she’s quite young—and quite, quite lovely. Her “crowd” looks upon Clark as their own special property. They wheedle him into bridge games–and he’s not too fond of cards. They inveigle him into being guest of honor at the Spinsters’ ball and other society events. And one glamorous girl after another fights to waltz in his arms…is Jana proud? Oh is she! But to return to that drawing room which is the hub of the household—

If it was in blue I doubt if you could get Clark to linger there. Blue as a predominating color is somehow or other repellent to men. But see the warmth and simplicity and charm of this arrangement. Against the background of a café-au-lait carpet you have richly inviting colors—deep rose, old rose, peacock green and antique ivory. All those tones are combined in the drapery which is the only figured note in the room. Brocaded chairs of the peacock green flank the brick fireplace. The mantel—like all noteworthy mantels—has no cluttering of bric-a-brac. Just ivy spraying out from a bowl in the center and very old brass candlesticks on either side…Much easier to keep clean this way and infinitely smarter…

Subtle harmony here. For example—there are two pillows of ivory ribbed velvet bordered with deep rose fringe on the very spacious deep rose sofa, matching the ivory ribbed velvet wing chair opposite. A long antique ivory and gold coffee table stands before the sofa—across the way are two old rose chairs of brocaded satin with frames like that. White lamps on rosewood tables, gold mirrors hanging above satinwood cabinets, a grand piano…The pleasantly sophisticated, fit-into-your-mood room which would present Mrs. Clark Gable to you.

The drawing room

But there’s a spot downstairs that’s Bill’s own. Directly back of the arch in the hallway. A game room, den, bar—all in one. He calls it simply: “My hang-out.” His books are there. His fishing rods and guns. A collection of pipes the like of which you never saw. The pine-panelled walls are hung with old English hunting prints in red leather, and with the elk and deer heads which are Clark’s trophies. Mrs. Gable was with him when he shot the one above the door. The understanding and friendship of these two go deeper than most people imagine…clark gable

Heavy green and beige drapes carry out the atmosphere of the Turkish rug. There’s a huge seat upholstered in beige rep with the unique inscription burned into the leather across the top: “Rest is the sweet sauce of labor…”

It’s an amusing spot too…a little beer barrel turns out to be an electric cigar lighter, you can go around the world on a parchment lamp shade! And a wicked looking bolo knife develops into a perfectly innocent paper cutter.

This is the place where Bill can lasso his boss, Irving Thalberg, if he has a mind to! Do they park in the den for lengthy discussions of pictures? They do not! But they do have heated arguments and blaze away at each other—over a cribbage board…

The Thalbergs are frequent visitors at the Gables’. So are Helen Hayes and Charlie MacArthur when they’re in town. The Gable dinner parties, though, are never large or elaborate. They prefer the intimate kind where laughter and good talk are served with all the courses. Their dining room is singularly well adapted to such friendly evenings.

Nothing brings out the warmth of mahogany like gray with a touch of yellow. And that’s exactly what you find here. A mahogany suite of Sheraton design offset by French gray floral wallpaper with wainscoting. The tieback drapes are of gold damask which blends in beautifully with the antique rose rug. High windows give views of the garden. A double door leads into the solarium. There’s a fernery banked full with the lacey fronds. Cheer, light, restfulness. The secret of a successful dining room.

We’ve already seen Bill’s “hang out.” Now let’s take a look at Jana’s. It’s upstairs—her bedroom. Unmistakably young girl-ish and very, very elegant. The white satin mood. White satin quilted bedspread with the dressing table opposite also hung in quilted satin to match it. Heavenly white brocaded chairs. A little white lamb’s wool chair. A white desk sitting beneath a hanging shelf that contains a quaint collection of porcelains…hunting dogs, incense burners, rose leaf jars and perfume bottles…

Clark’s step-son, Alfred’s room is something else again. All his prize possessions are here. Airplane cut-outs covering an entire wall, fish hooks…

Alf’s room is a boy’s haven. A comfortable chair under a good reading light, a magazine stand handy and a radio within reach. The tailored maize bedspreads blend invitingly with the dark tan carpet and the deep salmon velour drapes. Practical and all-boy, this room.

Clark’s and Mrs. Gable’s is across the hall. A very large place that opens onto a balcony shaded by a wisteria vine. Old-fashioned hurricane globes serve as wall lights. The flowered over-curtains that are fringed in the new manner lie nine inches on the floor. Faded heliotrope is the fascinating color used here. The oyster white chairs in heavy silk rep are fringed with it, the taffeta bedspreads have flounces of it and it’s repeated again in the couch, a very long “easy” couch, no wisp of a chaise lounge! Clark likes comfort.

Now you’ve seen the Gables—at home.

First of all, I have never heard of anyone calling Clark “Bill” in 1934. He was known as “Billy” for a while in the 1920’s, but once in Hollywood he was always Clark. So it is very odd that the article refers to him as Bill the whole time!

Secondly, especially if you contrast this home with the Encino ranch (read about the interiors of the ranch here and here), which Carole Lombard furnished to please Clark’s taste, you can tell that this Brentwood home was ALL Ria. Rose-colored drawing room, ornate gold coffee table, fancy white lamps, oyster white silk chairs, taffeta bedspreads…all so prissy and formal. Not Clark at all. The only parts that are Clark are the garden and his “hang out.” It was very funny to me how the entire ranch home (minus Carole’s girly bedroom) was like the description of that one room in the Brentwood home–wood paneled walls, fishing rods and guns, deer heads, big un-fussy furniture. Sounds like Ria gave Clark one room as his “man-cave” and the rest was hers. Also it was my understanding that Clark and Ria never shared a bedroom, so maybe MGM publicity only allowed the magazine in Ria’s room and passed it off as “theirs”? Not sure, but I certainly can’t see Clark sleeping under a taffeta bedspread!

It’s rather annoying that there are only three photos and the rest of the rooms are only described! And sorry for the watermarks but I am becoming very tired of paying money for articles and photos and then people just take them and give me no credit whatsoever.

Anyway, this home was torn down completely at some point–ugh.  Strange thing since a search of the address on Zillow reveals that the home that is there was built in 1924. Which is impossible because I tell you I was standing in front of it and that was no way, no how even remotely the same house. Odd. The address is technically in Beverly Hills and now is worth $2-3 million. Not too shabby.

Clark didn’t bounce around as much as many of the other celebrities of his day. So many Hollywood stars of his time period moved around so often it is hard to keep track. For example,the friend who accompanied me on this trip is a big Katharine Hepburn fan and we learned early in the planning stages that visiting each of her houses would be virtually impossible! Clark’s residences aren’t as numerous but unfortunately they’re not all still standing either.

When Ria followed him to California after he made The Painted Desert, she rented them two apartments at Ravenswood Apartments, one for her and Clark and one for her two children, George and Jana. The Ravenswood still stands today near Hancock Park.Ravenswood Apartments

Ravenswood Apartments

Soon after they were married in June 1931, Ria and Clark rented a mansion on pretty, ritzy San Ysidro Drive in Beverly Hills. It was just up the street from the legendary home of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Pickfair. Unfortunately for us, both Clark and Ria’s house and Pickfair have been torn down. I had heard rumors that the original front gates of Pickfair still stood, but we drove up and down their street and I did not see them. Here’s the street sign, though.

In 1933, as his popularity swelled and swooning females were constantly on the lawn, Clark and Ria, stepchildren in tow, moved into another rental house, this time into the more secluded area of Brentwood. The house was described as a grand Colonial and Ria furnished it royally. How it looked then:

This house, too, has been torn down (is there no justice?) but here’s the street:

And the curb:

When Clark left Ria in 1935 (soon after he learned of Loretta Young’s pregnancy), he moved into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which at the time was a struggling hotel in the Beverly Hills business district. Clark paid $150 a month for a three room apartment.

Nowadays, it is at the end of the infamous Rodeo Drive and $150 wouldn’t even get you half a night’s stay.

Beverly Wilshire at the end of Rodeo Dr.

Beverly Wilshire Hotel

Beverly Wilshire

Clark lived there for quite a bit as he had a private back entrance to his suite and could retain some privacy. It was while he lived there that he met and fell in love with Carole; she memorably tipped the bellboy to put “forgive me”doves in his room after the Mayfair Ball in 1936.

We wandered around the hotel for a while and took several photos:

 
lobby elevators and mail box

staircase

The doors are apparently still original, or at least, match the original design (think that’s more accurate). The rooms have been re-numbered over the years so I have no idea where Clark’s room was but here’s a door at any rate.

That’s not all the places Clark lived…more coming soon!