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Mister "King"

By Louella O. Parsons - Photoplay 11/1947

He stands at the top and has never had to move over for anyone.  What else lies ahead for Clark Gable?

I first decided to tackle the assignment for a story about my old friend Clark Gable, I thought I could write it while I was buying a hat or having a massage or taking a nap.

After all I've known the King (and that is what everyone on the M-G-M lot calls Clark Gable, from prop boy to L. B. Mayer himself) for twenty years.

But it wasn't that easy, believe me. Some of the questions I wanted to ask him were pretty difficult - such as, "Where does the Kind go from the top?" And, "What is in a man's heart when he has known and lost a great love? Is it possible to accept a 'second best'?"

So you see what I mean when I say it wasn't easy.

However, the chance to talk naturally and easily with Clark came when he accepted my invitation to appear as guest on my radio show. As these shows require more preparation than you might think, it wasn't just one conversation but several that I had with Clark about the things that are ahead for him.

It was on the first of these trips to the house-we were sitting out in the garden after the others had left-that we began to relax and let our hair down.
The King, genial, amusing and as handsome as Lucifer, was stretched 'out comfortably in the swing, his sport shirt open at the throat in the informal manner he prefers when he isn't "done up" for a movie. At forty-six-and he doesn't deny a year of it-he is still one of the best-looking guys that ever ingratiated his way into a woman's heart-including mine. 

It was after one of those comfortable conversational lulls only old friends can enjoy that I asked him, "Where do you go from the top?"

The swing rocked on a couple of times before Clark said, "You keep on going. There isn't a place anyone ever reaches where you don't keep on - going straight ahead-particularly where your work is concerned. Believe me, Louella, you are through when you begin to think you're, on top. That is the mythical place where you start sliding down!" 

"That's just the point," I argued. "You don't ever slide! 'Adventure' wasn't a good picture but 'The Hucksters' put you right back on top! Were you really angry with the studio during those long months when you refused script after script between those two pictures?" That rumor had certainly been well circulated-even to the point that Clark was retiring.

"Of course, I wasn't angry with them," he answered quickly. "The studio was just as eager as I to make my comeback after the war a successful picture. I admit I didn't like the story of 'Adventure.' But, I blame myself as much as anyone that it wasn't as good as my earlier movies. The trouble was, 1 had war jitters. Like every other guy back from the service, I was nervous and restless. I was pressing too herd. We were all pressing too hard. Result - it was all very de-pressing!

"When it was over, I realized I was going to have to get away for awhile and fight this thing out by myself. When 'The Hucksters' was first submitted to me, I didn't turn it down because I didn't like the script or the story. I just wasn't ready to tackle another picture sq soon.

"So I went away on fishing and hunting trips with an occasional fling in New York, dining or dancing with a pretty girl. And all of a sudden the kinks were ironed out. I was raring to get back to work. Why, at one time, I even thought of retiring, and am I glad I didn't! Lucky for me that no one took me seriously."

That dancing, dining with a pretty girl reference gave me just the break I had been waiting for. "Do you think you'll ever marry again?" I asked, hoping the words didn't sound as though they jumped out of my mouth. When I had asked that same question several years ago, he had said: "No, I'll never marry. I had the best in ,the world in the love of Carole Lombard, and there can never be another woman to take her place."

This time Clark didn't reply immediately. He seemed to be deep in thought. Then-"I don't know," was the unexpected answer, "I. can't say for sure. It gets awfully lonesome living alone. Do you think there is a chance for happiness, after you have been so in love in another marriage?"

I knew what he meant. Carole had given him a special kind of companionship, as well as deep love. They had so much fun together. She brought so much gaiety to the relationship.

But I said what I really felt-that if he gets' the right girl there should be' happiness in congenial, companionship.

"They've tried to marry me off often enough," the flash of his teeth revealed that lovable old Gable grin. I'm sure we were both thinking of the long string of charmers "rumored" as having caught Gable's heart. There were-Virginia Grey the beautiful 'blonde actress, to whom (to quote the columns) "Clark' always returns;" Dolly O'Brien, the sophisticated New York matron for whom be was supposed to have "carried a torch" when she married Jose Dorelis. Dolly has since divorced her husband and is now in Hollywood. Clark takes her out 'and has had her at his ranch. They also spent a weekend at Santa Barbara with Constance Bennett and her husband, Colonel Coulter. At first I had thought this was "it;" but I've changed my mind. After seeing them together at the Zanuck party I am confident it is not serious. While Clark is very courteous he doesn't act like a man in love. And believe me, I have seen Clark when he has been head over heels in love.

Also on this list, are: Millicent Rogers, Miss Money Bags, herself, who followed Clark to the Coast on several occasions; Iris Bynum, a Hollywood beauty with whom he dined and danced several times. Then there was Anita Colby, the glamorous girl executive, who would give up any date, any time, for Clark.

We saluted the parade of beauties silently before Clark said, "If I do marry again, it will probably be sudden. Unless you have the girl already, marriage is one of those things you can't really plan for the fi4ure, Louella. Sure, you can hope you'll find the right one, but you never know when or where if ever she'll come along."

He went on, "I have a friend who was a confirmed bachelor. If he told me once, he told me a million times he would never get married. Then he meets a girl, knows her ~ few weeks, and the. next thing you know I am in San Francisco being best man at his wedding."

That's an old story that invariably amuses men when it happens to the other fellow and,, as per custom, Clark was laughing about it now.

"If a girl, the right girl, came along in your life-which type would, she be?" I put in while I had him on this hook. But do you think I could pin down a smart Huckster like Clark?

"Types really don't matter," he hedged, "I have been accused of preferring blondes. But I have known some mighty attractive redheads, brunettes, and yes, women with gray hair. Age, height, weight haven't anything to do with glamour." He must have, realized he had tipped his hand a little here for he quickly admitted:

"I'll beat you to the question. Yes, I am. intrigued by glamorous women. And before you jump in with 'What's glamour, papa?' I'll tell you what it is to me.

"Its that inner something that inspires a woman to express outwardly, 'I'm something special and distinctive I don't mean conceit or vanity, two awful traits. Maybe this will explain what I mean-a vain woman is continually taking out a compact to repair her make-up. A glamorous woman knows she doesn't need to.

"Take Joan Crawford-she's a queen of glamour, dressed to the teeth and knowing what she is doing every minute. Deborah Kerr has another. type of glamour-the charm of sweetness and femininity. Ingrid Bergman's glamour-and she is one of the most exciting women of today-is the glamour of complete naturalness."

Clark raved so particularly about Ava Gardner, I asked him especially about her. No," he laughed, "I'm not in love with Ava. It isn't anything personal that makes me believe she will go far.. Perhaps as far as Lana Turner or Jean Harlow.

"Ava just has what it takes. The first day we worked on 'The Hucksters' I was worried about her. It was at my suggestion that she had accepted such a small role and I wondered if I had done right in urging her. She was in fast acting company with Deborah, Adolphe Menjou, Sydney Greenstreet and Keenan Wynn. Then I took a look at the rushes. 'Gable, my boy,' I said to myself, 'Every man for himself. That girl's good.'

"'That is what I mean when I say there's never a goal you can reach and then relax. These newcomers are constantly fighting to get there too. When you're there, you're fighting to stay. If you want a good career, you have to keep at it all the time.

"I cannot understand some of these kids who think they are all set the minute they get a studio contract. How can they go out dancing every night when they have work, and good hard work to do? No one can loaf with more enthusiasm than I-but I still believe that when I have a job to do, nothing in the world comes ahead of it.

"You just can't accept the good things this business gives you-and refuse the responsibility. I feel it is up to me to read good books and see plays that might make good pictures for me and that this is as much my job  it is the studio's.

"In a way I'd like to get back to the character of some of my earlier hits-the tough guy with an all-right heart. I don't want to be a James Mason, heaven forbid. It's swell for him, but I couldn't do that woman-slapping sort of thing well. But find me another 'Boomtown,' 'San Francisco' or 'Red Dust,' and I'll be happy."

He was getting up now and we walked together toward the house.

"With all your arguments about my having no place to go from here,' Louella," he said, "you're dead wrong. Every picture I make, every experience of my private life, every lesson I learn are the keys to my future. And I. have faith in it."

And that philosophy my friends, is what makes Gable what he is today-still King.

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