My Hollywood Friends
PhotoPlay Feb, 1946. Page 48
By Susan Peters
In her world from a wheel chair, Susan Peters shares with you her warm impression of people she knows. This month it’s “The King”…… Clark Gable
Judy Garland once sang a song called “Dear Mr. Gable,” at which exact moment Judy and I were kindred spirits. Shucks, I knew the lyrics before she sang them. Clark Gable! He wasn’t so much a heart throb as a symbol…. but heart throb ran a close second.
It’s been quite some time now since Judy sang that tune, but Mr. G. still stands for something pretty wonderful in my mental notebook.
He really knows the art of being a public personage backwards. There is one star about whom I have never heard an unkind word. Mention his name to anyone with whom he has worked and you evoke a eulogy. Crew members, directors, actors, producers, make-up men, cameramen, writers, executives – everybody loves the guy.
It’s fascinating to observe the effect of his entrance into such a blasé room as the studio commissary. Stars by the gross walk in every day and nary a head turns, but when Mr. Gable arrives it’s an epidemic. Everyone turns to look at him.
I’ll tell you another thing about Clark (which I’d never dare call him in person): He commands respect without trying. I can’t think of any attribute more desirable in a person of importance. I’ve seen clamoring from the hubbub I expected him to be mobbed. Something magic happens when he appears. An aisle opens up and with a grin and a “hello” he walks through unscathed. I’ve seen dignified men approach him and say, “Excuse me, Mr. Gable, but I’m Mr. Smith of Amalgamated Stuff and I’d like you to know how much enjoyment your pictures have given my wife and me.” No ogling, no wisecracks, no pretense, no mush. Just sincere admiration and appreciation for a great man.
While Clark was in the service a crop of new male stars developed. I’ve invariably compared them with him and to me they’ve all fallen short so far. In my adjective, “great” Valentino, Gilbert, and Gable – said she, sticking her chin way out.
There’s a similarity between great stars and great race horses. There have been hundreds of horses that have shown brilliant form and intense speed in sprints, but when urged over a long stretch have lacked the stamina to match their speed. The man O’Wars, Sea biscuits and Whirlaways have been few. So have the Gables in acting. He’s been running in front a long time, and he’s just getting his second wind. You’ll understand what I mean when you see “Adventure.”
I must confess to you that I am disgressing from original plan to tell you about my closest, oldest Hollywood friends. Clark Gable is a new friend – but a very welcome one.
I first met him in the hospital about a year ago where he was a fellow inmate. He had been in an auto accident and was confined for a few days, and you know why I was there.
We had the same doctor, and when he told Mr. Gable I was there, “The King” came to see me. It would have been so easy for him to come barging into my room unannounced, but no, he called on the phone first to see what time would be most convenient!
We set a time (I somehow managed to be very, very free of engagements, you understand) and Mr. Gable arrived right on the dot.
I must have startled him for at that time I was a bag of bones and had my hair in pigtails which I am told made me look a sharp twelve. I was almost completely hidden by strange bottles, tubes, lamps, and other weird hospital gadgets. But if he was dismayed he certainly didn’t show it. He grinned and introduced himself (as though that were necessary) and put me completely at ease. In five minutes I had forgotten all about my appearance and felt that I was at once quite beautiful, charming and, believe it or not, very healthy. His manner and conversation made me forget he was Clark Gable, the star, but vividly aware that he was one of the most gracious men I ever met.
We talked about the studio, people and stuff, and from the deep interest he showed when I was talking you’d have thought I was Einstein explaining the theory of relativity.
He looked wonderful. He was wearing sensational matching pajamas and robe and a big white bandage on his forehead. Several times he asked my nurse if he was tiring me, but even she was too far gone to answer him! Finally, after a long wonderful visit, he left, but no t without asking if there was anything he could get for me. I told him there was nothing –everyone had been so kind that I had everything. Nevertheless, the next day a huge basket of flowers arrived with a card from Mr. Gable saying how much he had enjoyed our visit and expressing his hope that I would be well very soon.
Of course there were repercussions. My nurses weren’t themselves for days! That afternoon of the visit the girl who brought my dinner tray asked my nurse if she might see me for a minute. I told the nurse to show her in but first borrowed my nurse’s fountain pen, thinking the girl wanted my autograph. She burst into the room and stood shaking like the proverbial leaf.
In an attempt to put her at ease, I said, “Hello, I’m Susan Peters. Did you want to see me?”
She gulped and her eyes bulged slightly as she said, “Was Clark Gable really here to see you? What’s he like? Is he as handsome as he is in the pictures?”
I said, “Yes, wonderful, yes….”
With that the young lady floated out of the room in a glazed daze and I humbly returned to the fountain pen to Nursie. I knew how she felt. I was happy as a garden of larks myself that this charming man had lived up to all my dreams.
All of which may give you some ideas of why I decided I wanted to write about Mr. Gable. Reason one: I figure if you’re going to write you might as well write about the best! Reason Two: No matter what you write you can’t go too far wrong on Gable! Reason three: I could be the lucky girl who would get the one and only interview Clark has given out since his return from service. Reason four: It would be nice to talk to him again.
I called, he accepted and he arrived at our house at Malibu Beach (a long haul from town) on the dot. This visit told me far more about him than the first.
I saw a touch of the little boy in him when he became enthralled with Hymie Fink’s new camera. I saw too, a touch of loneliness when he spoke of Carole Lombard… their fishing and hunting trips together and the wonderful times they had. He was leaving on a fishing trip the next day. Fishing trips aren’t the same any more but above all he wanted to be away through the holidays. However I felt somehow he’d be much nearer a real Thanksgiving alone by a stream in the north woods.
Clark Gable is a more handsome man today than ever. He looks young and strong and at the same time mellow and dignified. Age plays strange tricks on some, but each new year does Mr. Gable a favor. He’ll retain that crown he’s worn so long.
He’d like to do a picture for Metro in London. He liked doing “Adventure.” He likes the script for his next, “Lucky Baldwin.” He’d like Lana Turner for his leading lady. He must like being a wonderful guy because he does it so well.
I like Mr. Gable.