What about Clark Gable now?
By Been Maddox
Meet Clark Gable Today!
This he-man with dimples; this gangster who went heroic by feminine demand; this most desired of all current screen lovers --- where does he go from here?
His powerful performance in "Strange Interlude" has clinched his right to stardom. Unofficial MGM's biggest male draw for the past six months, he is on his own for the first time in the just completed "China Sea".
What is Hollywood doing to him? How has this amazing whirl from obscurity to the foremost position in the talkie affected him? Can he possibly live up to all the grand breaks he has had so far? And, to be personal, is it true that fame is splitting up his second marriage?
Some other stellar men about town have been saying, "Poor Clark! We feel sorry for him. No one could keep a level head with all the publicity and adulation that have been showered on him!"
Logical, but after you meet and talk to Clark Gable you're ready to answer, " Sour grapes!"
Hollywood has affected him, certainly! What's more, he's man enough to admit it. But the change is a sensible, admirable one!
Every actress yearns to play opposite Gable. Every honest male star recognizes the potent appeal Clark exerts in pictures. And you and I know that he is one of the best topics in any social gathering. The Gable craze can be likened only to the Valentino boom of yester-year.
I wanted to know what he, himself, thinks of all the excitement he has stirred up. Learn his own conception of how popularity has altered him. There's nothing quite so authentic as letting a man speak for himself.
The first thing he said was the most unusual statement I've ever heard from the lips of a star. I've interviewed most of them, and Gable is the very first who ever announced, "I haven't done anything big yet!"
This from the fellow who has teamed with Garbo, Shearer, Crawford, Davies --- and won equal honors with these long acclaimed ladies!
"I have never carried a picture along," he went on to explain as we talked at the studio. "In China Seas, it's entirely up to me to deliver the goods. I've always been featured with a prominent woman star before. I don't know whether I'm really popular or not." (Oh, Clark!) "Every hit in which I've acted has had a big feminine star of undoubted drawing power.
"You ask how I feel now that I've reached the climax of my career? Good Lord, don't say I have! To me stardom is the real beginning. The chance at last to show what I can do!"
Though he no longer claims that he is a balloon, liable to be popped back to the ranks of the unemployed any moment, he finds success still too new to be accepted casually.
Half a dozen times Clark has been absolutely stranded. With no money and no one to wire for help. He got himself out of the jams as best he could. Don't believe those occasions are forgotten.
Nine out of ten great stars let Hollywood spoil their home life. Clark Gable won't. So here's one marriage I think we can depend upon.
This is his second marital attempt, you'll recall. his first wife was Josephine Dillion, a graduate of Stanford University, class of 1908. An instructor of voice, she did much to train and encourage Clark when he was struggling for a foothold on the stage. Today she lives modestly in Hollywood, teaching other aspiring actors. She and her now famous husband never meet.
In his early thirties, Clark is married to a cultured, charming woman who has the knack of completely satisfying him in every way. Like the first Mrs. Gable, she is older than he. Her two grown children by a previous marriage attend private schools in the East and spend their vacations in California.
"Mrs. Gable and I are thrilled with our new home," he told me with an enthusiasm that belied the trouble-making gossips. "We have always lived in apartments, but I've wanted a house all along. When we came West we stored our furniture in New York. Mrs. Gable went East and had it shipped out. We've had to shop for more to fill the house. And has that been fun!"
The new place in which they just got settled last month is in Beverly Hills. They are renting. The report that they had brought a lot in Benedict Canyon near the Harold Lloyd estate and would build there is wrong.
Suppose you hadn't had a home since you are sixteen and had been on the move the following seventeen years. Then you'd understand what this place means to Clark. He has tenanted all sorts of boardinghouses and apartments ever since he left Cadiz, Ohio, as a youth.
Margaret Livingston's Colonial House, in which the Gables had an apartment last Winter, was luxurious. But it wasn't the same as a home of their own. Besides, Clark loves to putter around a yard. He hopes the neighbors won't raise their lorgnettes when he waters the lawn or digs in the garden on his free days.
I asked him what he intended to do with his movie money.
"Travel!" he immediately replied. "I've covered a good deal of the United States while working at different kinds of jobs. I want to be able to go anywhere the spirit wills, and in comfort. Right now I'm saving as much as I can to guarantee a steady income in the future. We aren't going in for the traditionally lavish Beverly manner! After I get enough salted away to take care of rainy days, we'll start to see the world in style."
His salary is said to be $1,500 a week with bonuses on each film. It obviously isn't nearly so large as his popularity warrants --- in comparison with the other stars. It will be gradually upped, though.
Today's Clark Gable is not the man who worked as a glorified extra in several plays which starred Lionel Barrymore on the Los Angeles Stage.
"The movies have taught me many things," he says. "I had never had a really nice home, for instance. The idea didn't appeal to me. I didn't particularly care to settle down in one place. Mine was a case of ignorance being bliss! Now I want a home, permanence. I have learned to appreciate the comforts which money busy."
"In another way I'm happier, too. I have the time to get outdoors and take up sports." Husky ever since he worked as a lumberjack, Clark was so busy keeping the wolf from walking in his door that he never had a chance to play tennis and golf. The direct, determined method in which he quickly became proficient in these two games is a tip-off to his character.
The average star would be instructed with all the quietness of a Hollywood first night. But Clark didn't go to a high-toned club where his advent would be a signal for a crowd to rally 'round. He found that the one-armed janitor of his apartment house had once been a fine tennis player. And he and the janitor went daily to the public courts in a Beverly park!
He decided that he ought to be adept at golf. The other afternoon a friend of mine chanced to see him patiently taking a lesson at an inconspicuous little course near the Beverly High School. No flourishes for him!
"If I can't do it well, I won't do it!" This is one of his pet remarks. He has enough Dutch stubbornness in him to mean it. You read that the studio wouldn't allow him to play polo because it was too dangerous? The real truth is that Clark tried it and it was apparent that he wasn't cut out to shine in that sport. He refused to be mediocre, so he quit.
His grace on a horse was acquired for his first talkie. Clark was so anxious to get started in pictures that he gladly accepted the role of a hard-riding cowboy in "The Painted Desert" --- when he'd never ridden a horse in his life! By the time production began he was cantering about with the aplomb of one to the saddle born.
How do you think he learned to ride? By going to a stylish academy? Not Clark Gable! He hired an old veteran of the range to teach him.
At MGM they tell me that Gable is not in the least conceited. Stellar skyrockets are quite apt to acquire superiority complexes. Probably Clark keeps his feet on the ground because he worked so long and so hard before his big break came. He wasn't just a pretty boy, inexperienced and callow. He played in third-rate stock companies and on Broadway, was an extra in silent films.
When he was an unknown actor he covered the walls of his bedroom with photographs of his favorite stars. He idolized them. Now he is at the top of the theatrical ladder himself. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it looks like he's bound to stay up. Every rival studio has unearthed a second Gable. Hollywood has concluded that even brunettes and men --- as well as blondes --- prefer his type! About his imitators, Clark gallantly maintains a discreet silence.
Will he last? I think so. He isn't temperamental and high-strung like John Gilbert. Not sheikish like Valentino. Not complex like Phil Holmes. He has a depth and virility which juveniles lack.
What if he plays "nice" roles? His hit was made as a dangerous he-man. When he has portrayed straight leads he hasn't been as effective. Much has been written about his appeal being purely elemental. If he goes Beverly Hills, will he lose that necessary vigor?
They don't expect to do a lot of entertaining in their new home. Clark already feels the strain which Hollywood puts on its celebrities. He loves to go away between pictures. The Gables are fond of Hotel Del Monte and of the desert. Which reveals Clark's varying dress moods. He likes to dress up and yet he also enjoys turtles-necked sweaters and old pants! He never goes to Malibu.
Did the mustache he grew for "Strange Interlude" please you? To grow --- or not to grow one again --- that's what he and the missus debate these evenings!
Soon he will be loaned to Paramount to co-star with Miriam Hopkins in a fiery number entitled "No Bed of Her Own." Imagine Clark and Miriam, who packs an elemental wallop herself, in a torch story like this!
"They won't rubber-stamp me if I can help it," he declares. "I have played a wide variety of parts so far, and I anticipate continued versatility. While they're guessing, they're interested. That's the way I figure."
"I'm in such a peculiar business," he concluded our talk, "that I can't put my finger on anything definite. It's based on public opinion, studio breaks, and downright hard work. I've noticed that the fellow who is giving responsibility usually works more seriously than ever. Stardom? I'm satisfied that it's a real job that will keep me out of mischief. Please hope with me that the fans and the breaks will be kind!"
This man comes from the class of people who assume that they have to struggle and fight for what they get. He doesn't think the prizes of the world are handed out on a silver platter. Hard knocks have prepared him to stand the gaff of movie fame.
"Hollywood no longer awes me," he says. "If worse came to worse I could go back to slinging hash!"
He deserves his pre-eminent place on the screen because he's earned it by years of apprenticeship. And because there's no one else exactly like him. To the women he's brought a new brand of love. To us men a masculine and intelligent movie hero whom we can respect.