The Love Life of Clark Gable

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

He was called "the King" long before anyone had ever heard of Elvis Presley. He was quite possibly the most famous, enduring, beloved leading man in the history of motion pictures. The ultimate "movie star,” Clark Gable was the fantasy of countless millions of women all over the world. And countless millions of men, from postmen to clerks to guys who pumped gas, would look in the mirror and wish they were clark Gable.

Some say Gable had a fixation for "older women" and point to his first two marriages as proof. But those marriages seem to have been more a matter of convenience than passion.

Interestingly- and ironically- Gable's first marriage was not consummated. Gable's first wife, Josephine Dillon, who was his acting coach and 17 years older than him, later claimed that she and Gable actually had no physical relationship, that theirs was a marriage "in name only.”

Gable next married a wealthy 46-year-old Houston divorcee named Ria Langham, who encouraged him considerably during his early career.

Gable himself admitted to a preference for older women and once remarked: “The older woman has seen more, and knows more than the demure young girl... I’ll take the older woman every time.” Still, Gable wasn't "fixed" in some "older-woman" syndrome.

In his thirties, he had a red-hot affair with one of his early leading ladies, Joan Crawford, who was 27 at the time. Crawford said Gable had "animal" attractiveness, and added that she didn't believe any woman who ever worked with Gable "did not feel twinges of sexual urge beyond belief.” Although Gable and Crawford were to remain best friends, they cooled off their romance on studio orders since they were both married to other people at the time.

Then he met Carole Lombard, the Hollywood screwball comedy actress, who was, according everyone who ever knew Gable, unequivocally, the greatest love of his life. Gable and Lombard actually did a film called No Man of Her Own in 1932 and no fireworks or sparks went off. They finished the film and went they own separate ways, Gable having many other women at his beck and call.

But Gable came to a party she gave in 1936, after the death of her husband, and the two "danced all night together.” They soon fell deeply in love. It was during the shooting of Gone With The Wind in 1939, that Gable and Lombard got married. (One other odd factoid: during the filming of Gone With The Wind, Gable's leading lady Vivien Leigh hated kissing him because she said his dentures smelled so bad.)

Gable, who, ironically, tended to be a bit shy and reserved in real life, was tremendously attracted to Lombard for her zaniness and ribald sense of humor. They called each other “Ma" and “Pa" and were inseparable. They loved laughing and playing practical jokes on each other. Lombard loved Gable so much, she gamely trekked along with him on his beloved hunting-fishing expeditions, sleeping in the open and once making love in a duck blind with him.

Lombard once made an often-quoted remark about Gable's prowess as a lover by saying he was "the worst lay I ever had.” This remark is a part of their legend and is often disputed. Lombard had a very off-color, salty sense of humor, and many who knew the couple believe it was said completely in jest. Knowing the deepness of their love, they don't believe she really thought this about her husband.

Although Carole Lombard was definitely the greatest love of Gable's life, he still could never be a "one-woman" man. Lombard would periodically explode whenever she heard the latest rumors about her husband's latest escapades with his current leading lady.

Gable was devastated by Lombard's death in a plane crash, just three years after their wedding, in 1942. “Ma's gone,” he said brokenly to a group of friends after they had recovered her body. He was to spend the rest of his life looking for another Lombard.

Gable was promiscuous and often indiscriminate about who he went to bed with. Although he could snap his fingers and get almost any woman he wanted, many times Gable preferred to go to bed with high-priced call girls. Asked why he hired a call girl, he replied, “Because I can pay her to go away. The others stay around, want a big romance, movie lovemaking. I do not want to be the world's greatest lover.”

Screenwriter Anita Loos noted that Gable had "that old early American male idea that you must take on any girl that comes your way.”

Although Gable clearly had countless women to choose from, he didn't always select attractive women. When an army buddy who was stationed with Gable during World War II asked him, bluntly, why he was going out with a certain "dog,” Gable replied, "well, she's there.”

Although he was to marry twice more after the death of Carole Lombard, he also had one long-term love affair, lasting ten years. Interestingly, she was a diminutive, plain-looking Hollywood writer. The affair was a secret to all but those who best knew him. She was to recall about Gable as a lover, “It never amounted to much and was never very good. But then I would open my eyes and realize this was "the" Clark Gable himself- and only then would I feel truly excited.”

(Who knows? Maybe Carole Lombard wasn't kidding about Gable's talents as a lover? This same pattern is cited fairly frequently about Gable's actual prowess as a lover: women were attracted to him, that much is unequivocal. But as far as an actual lover, many women found Gable a bit disappointing. Although all of his women loved the idea of "having Clark Gable make love to me.” Also, they all pretty much liked Gable as a person. He was a nice guy, according to most women's accounts.)

Physically, Gable was a "clean freak,” taking four showers every day. He also routinely shaved his chest and his armpits.

Gable always took advantage of his ready supply of co-starring actresses. Once, when looking at a group photo of all of MGM studio's female stars, Gable exclaimed admiringly, “What a wonderful display of beautiful women, and I’ve had every one of them.”

His name has been linked romantically with every actress from Jean Harlow to Grace Kelly to Ava Gardner. More than one actress was to remark, “I think every woman he ever met was in love with him.”

Marilyn Monroe confessed to a huge childhood crush, and said that she "got goose bumps all over" when he accidentally touched her breast. Or as actress Joan Blondell put it: “He affected all females, unless they were dead.”

Clark Gable was, by all accounts, a great guy- an immensely likable fellow. Unlike so many "tragic" Hollywood celebrities we read and hear about, Gable was basically a happy person- he loved being Clark Gable. It might be said, with all fairness, that no man in history gave as much pleasure to as many women as Clark Gable.

And they gave him a lot of pleasure too, that is for sure.


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