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I Danced All Night.. .with Clark Gable

By Hazel Knapp, St. Louis, Missouri. - Source (?)

I COULD HAVE danced all night...and, as I recall, I did!

Back in 1920 or 21, I enjoyed a week-long summer acquaintance with an unknown Hollywood hopeful named Clark Gable. During that magic week, he was my dance partner every night!

I lived on my own in the Midwest then, but had gone to California to visit my father. in those days, Los Angeles was a good 10 miles distant from the ocean shore.

Father wanted me to have some beach fun, so he took me out to Catalina Island, where family living and amusements prevailed. Back then, the island was only partly inhabited and no autos were allowed, so the children ran freely about.

Rented rooms were arranged in clusters near the beach, and food stands were always handy. At the end of a wide, mile-long walk, a luxury hotel catered to the tourist trade.

Halfway along this walk was a big pavilion used for social events and entertainment. Every evening from 8 p.m. to midnight, a dance band played. Virtually everyone on the island-young and old alike-would gather there to dance or just enjoy the  music. This was the only evening entertainment available.

Picking Partners

There were plenty of dance partners available if you weren't accompanied by someone. The smart young people watched for a while, mentally selecting a good dancer to accompany them onto the floor. On my first night there, Father danced the opening dance with me.

Later, a dark-haired young man approached and gallantly asked my father's permission to have the next dance with me.

The young man said his name was Clark Gable, and that he and some other boys were looking for work as extras in a movie being filmed on the island. The movie starred a new actor named Charlie Chaplin.

This was the beginning of a week-long friendship with Clark, during which he wangled a way for Father and me to go to the movie set on a chartered bus that ran there from the business district.

We were the only visitors on the set, and we were not particularly impressed with Charlie Chaplin- we thought him a strange clown.

During the days when Clark was not at the set, we enjoyed his company. My father was a newspaperman, and Clark liked talking with him. We all enjoyed swimming in the lovely, quiet waters of Avalon Bay among the many handsome yachts anchored there.

Pacific island Magic

But those warm summer evenings on the dance floor were the most memorable times of all. I had been trained as a dancer from the day I could walk, doing ballet and classical work. At age 11, I had attended the Ruth St. Dennis School of Dance, where the world-famous Martha Graham later instructed.

Clark said he admired my ability on the dance floor, so every evening we "tripped the light fantastic" to an admiring audience.

There were some "cut-ins," but a good dance partner was a thing to be cherished when public events were not so crowded. He and I always got back together for another turn around the floor.

As the fun trip drew to a close, we wished Clark success in his chosen work. Little did we know the success he'd see!

From the mid-'20s through the late '50s. we applauded his magnificent achievements as he earned the reputation as "The King of Hollywood". And we mourned his early death in 1960.

But the happy, polite young man we knew is still the best lasting memory I have as I approach my 100th birthday.

On a 1920s trip to California, this reader spent a pleasant week in the company of an aspiring actor. Little did she know what a name he'd make!

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