Skip to main content

The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon: The Gable & Lombard Love Story

A lot happened in 1932. Gandhi was arrested and interned by the British in India; Hattie W. Caraway became the first woman elected to the United States Senate; Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was published; women's suffrage was granted in Brazil; James Chadwick discovered the neutron; Goofy made his first ever appearance in a Disney short; the Summer Olympic Games took place in Los Angeles; the first Mars bar was produced; Babe Ruth performed his famous called shot; the BBC World Service began broadcasting; and the iconic Radio City Music Hall opened in Manhattan. It was also in 1932 that Carole Lombard and Clark Gable met for the first time, not knowing each would change the other's life forever.

Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, a love story for the ages.
CHAPTER I. Carole with an «e»
Jane Alice Peters was born to a wealthy Indiana family on October 6, 1908. When she was seven years old, her parents separated and her mother, Bessie, took her and her two older brothers to live in Los Angeles. Jane grew up a «tomboy» and was passionately involved in sports in middle school. She took up baseball, football and swimming, and won medals in track and field. 
At the age of 12, Jane caught the attention of director Allan Dwan, who convinced Bessie to let him cast her as Monte Blue's sister in The Perfect Crime (1921). «She was a cute little tomboy,» Dwan later recalled, «and I needed someone of her type for the picture.» Although the film was not widely distributed and paid only $50, the experience spurred Jane's mother to enroll her in drama school. In 1924, just as she turned 16, she was screentested by Fox Film Corporation and subsequently hired to play Edmund Lowe's wife in Marriage in Transit (1925). The studio thought her birth name was too ordinary, so she decided to become «Carol Lombard».
LEFT: Carole Lombard at 18 months old. MIDDLE: Carole at the age of 7 years. RIGHT: Carole with Monte Blue in The Perfect Crime.
Unlike many other actors, Carol made an easy transition to sound, signing a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures in 1930. In advertising for her first assignment at the new studio, the musical comedy Safety in Numbers (1930), Paramount accidentally added an «e» to her name. She ended up liking this spelling and «Carole Lombard» became her permanent screen name.
The following year, Carole was cast as William Powell's love interest in two films, Man of the World (1931) and Ladies' Man (1931). Despite their 16-year age difference, she was immediately attracted to his good looks and debonair screen persona. They soon began a romantic relationship and, a few months later, they were married at her Beverly Hills home.
LEFT: Carole Lombard with Kathryn Crawford and Josephine Dunn in Safety in Numbers. RIGHT: William Powell and Carole Lombard in Man of the World.
The newlyweds were happy at first, but their disparate personalities quickly clashed. At 22, Carole was a carefree party girl and famously foul-mouthed; at 38, Powell was intellectual and sophisticated, and he did not approve of his young wife's extensive cursing vocabulary. 
At the same time that her marriage was crashing down, Carole was hired to replace Miriam Hopkins as the female lead in No Man of Her Own (1932). Directed by Wesley Ruggles, the film told the story of a card sharp on the run who falls in love and eventually marries a frustrated small-town librarian. The male protagonist had originally been slated for George Raft, but Paramount ultimately decided to borrow Clark Gable from MGM for the role.
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable as Connie and «Babe» in No Man of Her Own.
CHAPTER II. Clark Gable is a big ham
William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio. After his mother died from a brain tumor when he was just 10 months old, his father remarried and the family moved to nearby Hopedale. During his school years, Clark developed an interest in music, language and literature, and took part in athletics and baseball. He was one of the so-called «popular kids» and could often be seen at parties, church socials, or hanging out with friends at the soda fountain. 
At 16, Clark left school and went to work at a rubber factory in Akron. It was during this time that he became passionate about acting, after watching the play The Bird of Paradise at the local theatre. He was so dazzled that he started hanging around backstage, offering to run errands and sweep the floor. Eventually, the manager of the resident stock company got him a part in one of his productions. It was just a one-line role, but Clark was thrilled.
LEFT: Clark at 18 months. MIDDLE: Clark with his stepmother in 1909. RIGHT: Clark aged 17.

In 1924, after a few years of touring the country in stock companies, Clark finally arrived in Hollywood. He soon found work as an extra in several silent films, including The Plastic Age (1925) and Ben-Hur (1926), in both of which Carole can also be seen. At the dawn of the sound age, Clark signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was paired with some of the studio's biggest female stars, such as Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow.

When No Man of Her Own began production in late 1932, neither Carole nor Clark showed more than a professional interest in each other. She was too involved with personal problems and he had just married his second wife, socialite Maria Langham. No sparks flew, but the two got along very well, nicknaming each other «Ma» and «Pa». At the wrap party, Carole gave Clark a big ham with his picture on it, he kissed her goodbye and then they went their separate ways.
LEFT: Carole Lombard and Clark Gable on the set of No Man of Her Own. RIGHT: At the wrap party, Carole gives Clark a big ham with his picture on it.
CHAPTER III. Ma and Pa go for each other
By the time Carole Lombard and Clark Gable met each other again four years after making No Man of Her Own, they were two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He had won an Academy Award for Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934) and she was one of Paramount's leading comediennes after her success in Twentieth Century (1934) and Hands Across the Table (1935). They were also in very different places in terms of their personal lives. She had divorced Powell in 1933 and he was separated from his wife.
On Saturday night, January 25, 1936, the Mayfair Club of Hollywood hosted its first social of the year, a formal dress ball at the Victor Hugo Restaurant in Beverly Hills. Producer David O. Selznick, the club's then-president, had asked Carole to organize the ball and choose its theme. At the time, she was famous for throwing wacky parties for her friends, like one where they came to her house dressed as doctors or nurses and had dinner in a replica of a hospital operating room. But with 350 of Hollywood's elite invited and the proceeds going to the Motion Picture Relief Fund, she realized that the event would have to be more elegant and dignified.
LEFT: Carole with Cesar Romero at the White Mayfair Ball. RIGHT: David Niven, Merle Oberon, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg at the same event.
Carole decided it would be a White Mayfair Ball, where the women had to wear white gowns and the men white tie and tails. She was escorted by her friend and fellow actor Cesar Romero, while Clark, arriving as part of Marion Davies's group, brought along Edie Adams, a singer who frequently dubbed for some of the MGM stars. Other notable guests included Louis B. Mayer, Irving Berlin, Davies's lover William Randolph Hearst, as well as Irving Thalberg and his wife, MGM queen Norma Shearer, who caused a scandal by wearing a bright crimson gown.

The party had nonstop dancing, with music provided by Cab Calloway's swing orchestra and Eduard Durant's rumba band. After dancing with Edie Adams and Marion Davies, Clark decided Carole would be next. He found her just as «Cheek to Cheek» began playing. «I go for you, Ma,» Clark said, grinning. She looked at him, surprised by hearing him use the nickname he had given her four years earlier, and then quipped back, «I really go for you too, Pa.» Watching Clark and Carole dance together, Davies reportedly turned to columnist Louella Parsons and said, «Those two were made for each other. Wouldn't it be great if they fell in love?»
Clark Gable and his 1935 Duesenberg Model JN convertible coupe.
At some point during the night, Clark offered to take Carole for a ride in his new Duesenberg convertible. She pleaded hostess obligations, but he persuaded her by promising to bring her back in ten minutes. He drove her on a quick tour of Beverly Hills to show off his custom-made car and then stopped in front of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. «Would you like to see my apartment?» he said. «Who do you think you are? Clark Gable?» she quipped. Angered by her sarcasm, he stepped on the accelerator and took her back to the ball. 
They both returned to Victor Hugo's in a bad mood. Carole soon had to separate Clark from actor Lyle Talbot, with whom he was about to fight for having made a snide remark about their absence, then Clark had to dissuade Carole from punching Norma Shearer, with whom she was still furious over the crimson dress. They ended up dancing again in each other's arms and, by the end of the night, she invited him back to her house. Clark must have thought that the two of them would finally be alone together, but Carole simply wanted him to entertain her friends. Feeling angry and upset, he made an excuse and left immediately. He returned to his apartment at the Beverly Wilshire, drank half a bottle of scotch and went to bed. 
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in publicity stills for No Man of Her Own.
The next morning, a hungover Clark woke up to find an open birdcage and a pair of white doves flying around his room. One of the doves had note tied to its leg that read, «How about it? Carole.» She had bribed a hotel clerk to release the doves in Clark's room while he was asleep; she had thought of it as a peace offering after their quarrel at the ball. Clark laughed and then phoned Carole to apologize for his behavior the previous night and thank her for the birds. He called her again the following day and ask her for a date, but she refused. After two more failed attempts, he lost interest and found companionship in Merle Oberon's arms.

Two weeks later, Clark organized a «gag party» where the guests were supposed to come dressed in their evening attire in the middle of the day.
Clark was at the door welcoming guests when an ambulance with sirens wailing suddenly stopped next to them. The attendants wheeled out a stretcher with an apparently unconscious Carole on it, leaving everyone shocked and concerned. Carole suddenly sat up and burst out laughing, but Clark was not amused. He began shouting at her, she shouted back, and then walked off. Eventually, he attempted to make up by suggesting that they play tennis in their evening clothes. They spent the rest of the afternoon frolicking with each other, until she finally threw her arms around him and kissed him.
LEFT: Clark Gable and Carole Lombard playing tennis in their evening attire. RIGHT: Clark and Carole in a still from No Man of Her Own.

CHAPTER IV. Ma and Pa take Hollywood
On February 14, Clark started working on San Francisco (1936) with Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy. When he arrived at the MGM lot that morning, he found a Valentine's Day present waiting for him outside the main gate. It was a decrepit Model T Ford painted white with red hearts all over it. There was a note attached to the steering wheel that said, «You're driving me crazy!» He had no trouble guessing who had written it. He immediately phoned Carole to thank her for the gift and asked her to dinner that night at the Café Trocadero. This time she accepted, and they spent the night dancing to the music of Phil Ohman's band.

A few days later, Carole started filming The Princess Comes Across (1936), her second of four collaborations with Fred MacMurray. She told Clark that she would be unavailable for the six following weeks — and she meant it. Their blossoming relationship seemed to cool down a little bit during this time, but they were still in each other's hearts and minds.
LEFT: Clark and the Model T Ford full of hearts. RIGHT: Carole and Clark at the Café Trocadero during the premiere party of Marie Antoinette (1938).
In late April 1936, Clark began working on Cain and Mabel (1936) with Marion Davies. The day before shooting began, Davies invited her co-stars for a Sunday brunch at her beachfront house in Santa Monica. She decided to play matchmaker and urged Clark to bring Carole along, which he did. After the party, Carole took him to the amusement pier at nearby Venice. She had once rented the entire place for one of her wacky parties, so the owners had shown their appreciation by giving her a lifetime pass. She took Clark for free rides on the rollercoaster, bumper cars and the ferris wheel. They held hands and, apparently, «necked like teenagers.» 
That night marked the beginning of a serious affair, but one that developed slowly. Both Clark and Carole had been hurt before and both of them sensed that this new relationship could be important, so they did not want to ruin it by rushing things. Clark had finally found his match. Unlike his two previous partners, who had been much older than him, Carole was only seven years younger — and she was also his peer. She had her own successful career, her own income and her own property. Despite her wackiness, she was a genuinely warm and down-to-earth human being, which was exactly what Clark had looked for his entire life.
LEFT: Carole and Clark at the Midget Auto Races in 1936. RIGHT: Carole and Clark attending a match at the Los Angeles Tennis Club in 1937.
For her part, Carole adored Clark and set out to be the sort of woman he would want. She even learned how to shoot so she could go along with him and his friends on hunting trips and be «one of the boys.» Having lost his mother when he was just a baby, Clark seemed to be searching for a woman who could be the perfect balance of mother and companion to him. Carole realized that and gradually made herself over into that image.
Over the next three years, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard indeed became the most popular unmarried couple in Hollywood. They could often be seen at the Trocadero or the Coconut Grove, or out at the races, horseshows, rodeos, fights, tennis matches, movie premieres, award ceremonies and other studio functions. Everywhere they went, flashbulbs followed. 
LEFT: Clark and Carole at the 1938 annual MGM picnic. RIGHT: Clark and Carole reading the odds at a horse race in the San Fernando Valley in June 1938.
Unlike William Powell, Clark did not mind Carole's notorious foul-mouth. John Lee Mahin, Clark's favorite screenwriter, who penned several of his films, recalled, «It was always fuck and shit, fuck and shit. Clark loved it. He'd laugh; never tried to stop her 
Carole was definitely not a conventional woman, but Clark loved her all the more for it. He never tired of recounting «Carole stories.» Many years later, for instance, he would tell novelist A. E. Hotchner that, when Carole and he went duckhunting together for the first time, it was too foggy to see anything. Clark told her that they just had to wait until it cleared out, and then she suggested she could think of something better to do during that time. Apparently, they had sex twice in that duck blind, which, according to Clark himself, was not an easy thing to do.
LEFT: Carole and Clark returning from a hiking trip in 1940. MIDDLE: Carole getting ready to go duck hunting with Clark. RIGHT: Carole and Clark hunting in South Dakota in 1941.

CHAPTER V. The Gables and the pursuit of happiness
By early 1939, Clark's career had become more successful than ever. He had been cast as the charming philanderer Rhett Butler in Victor Fleming's iconic Civil war epic Gone with the Wind (1939), which would bring him his third Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. On the first day of shooting, Carole sent him stuffed doves to his dressing room. Ever since the Mayfair Ball, doves had become a symbol of their relationship and Clark saw them as being good luck.
For almost three years, there had been great discussion in Hollywood's society circles about whether Clark Gable and Carole Lombard would marry. They both wanted to, but Clark was still legally married to Maria «Ria» Langham, who refused to grant him a divorce. 
Carole and Clark at the Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind, on December 15, 1939.
During their long separation, Ria had always been confident that Clark would eventually go back to her. So much so, that she became quite upset when both the press and the public embraced her husband's relationship with Carole instead of condemning it as adulterous. They wondered when Ria would finally agree to a divorce and let Clark marry the love of his life. At first, she spitefully insisted on getting the divorce in California, which called for a waiting period of one year before Clark could marry again. However, after a few months and some scornful comments from the press about her standing in the way of «true love,» she travelled to Las Vegas and was granted a quick divorce on March 8, 1939. Clark was free at long last.

On the afternoon of March 28, Clark was informed by the assistant director on Gone with the Wind that he would not be needed on set the following day. In the spur of the moment, he decided to take this opportunity to do what he had been wanting to do for months. He called Carole and told her to be ready to leave for Kingman, Arizona that night. 
Clark and Carole during the press conference on the day after their wedding.
On March 29, 1939, at half past three in the afternoon, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married by Reverend Kenneth M. Engle at the Saint John's Methodist Episcopal Church. They had wanted to marry in peace, without the usual press circus that surrounded celebrity weddings. However, Clark's press agent, Otto Winkler, had accompanied them to Kingman, supposedly to solve any difficulties the couple might encounter while there. Immedialy after the ceremony, he called MGM's head of publicity, Howard Strickling, who then proceeded to plan a press conference for the following morning at Carole's home in Bel Air.  
Happy with their quiet elopement, the newlyweds had a peaceful drive back to Los Angeles — only to be welcomed back by a horde of photographers, reporters and cameramen who were gathered on Carole's front lawn. The press showered them with questions about the ceremony, the ring (which Clark had been carrying in his pocket for two months), the honeymoon and their plans for the future. They said they would not have a honeymoon, at least not just yet, as he had to go back to filming Gone with the Wind and she was about to start working on In Name Only (1939) at RKO. As for the future, Carole hinted at the possibility that she might retire from the film industry to build the family she and her husband had both always wanted.
Clark and Carole at their ranch in the San Fernando Valley (c. 1940)
As a married couple, Clark and Carole were as happy as ever. They purchased a 20-acre ranch in the quiet town of Encino in the San Fernando Valley, where they settled a few months after their wedding. Besides the nine-room main house with creamy white wood interiors, the property featured stables, a workshop, a barn, kennels, chicken houses, a pigsty, a vineyard, an alfalfa field and citrus groves. The house had belonged to their good friend and director Raoul Walsh and, apparently, Clark had been trying to buy it from him for years. 
The playfulness also remained a constant. Carole continued sending her husband gag gifts to celebrate his success. During the filming of Idiot's Delight (1939), wherein Clark had to perform a song-and-dance routine to «Puttin' on the Ritz,» Carole got him a spangled tutu with his initials on the front, a pair of ballet shoes and even a bunch of pansies.
Carole and Clark with their horses at their ranch (c. 1939-1940).
However, Carole also showed some jealously over the fact that Clark's co-star in Idiot's Delight was Norma Shearer, whom she had never forgiven for wearing that red dress to the White Mayfair Ball three years before. After the death of her husband, MGM production chief Irving Thalberg, Shearer had become known around Hollywood as the «Merry Widow» and Carole did not like the fact that she was with Clark for more of the day than she was. 
Despite wanting to keep an eye on her Clark, Carole did not cope well with having too much time on her hands. Thereby, she agreed to star alongside James Stewart in David O. Selznick's Made For Each Other (1939), which proved to be a great critical success for her. After years of being one of the best comediennes in the industry, she had decided to return to dramatic roles in hopes of getting the Academy Award she was so eager to win. She had been nominated for her performance in My Man Godfrey (1936), which made her one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, but had lost to Luise Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld (1936).
LEFT: Clark Gable and Norma Shearer in Idiot's Delight. RIGHT: James Stewart and Carole Lombard in a publicity still for Made for Each Other.
CHAPTER VI. Love in a time of war
In December 1941, the United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Many movie stars, including James Stewart, Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., were willing to sacrifice their careers to serve their country. Those who, for some reason or the other, were unable to join the armed forces, turned their energies to supporting the war effort. For instance, Bette Davis and John Garfield founded the Hollywood Canteen; Myrna Loy joined the Red Cross; and a large contingent of stars signed up with the USO to perform for American troops, both at home and overseas.

Clark wanted to enlist as well, but MGM chief Louis B. Mayer pleaded with him to stay. Instead, he appointed him as chairman of the Hollywood Victory Committee, an organization created to provide a means for performers that were not in military service to contribute to the war effort through bond rallies, hospital tours and shows at training camps.
LEFT: Clark and Carole at the first meeting for the Hollywood Victory Committee. RIGHT: Clark and Carole arriving at the Greek War Relief Benefit gala in January 1941.
One of Clark's first decisions as head of the Victory Committee was to enlist Carole's help to sell war bonds. A request had come in from Indiana for a star to launch the state's participation in the national campaign to raise money for the war effort, so Clark naturally thought of his Hoosier-born wife. Being a patriotic citizen, she was thrilled by the prospect of helping her country in its time of need and instantly agreed to make the trip. Although her final destination was Indianapolis, she would travel from Los Angeles by train, making short stopovers at Salt Lake City and Chicago en route and at Kansas City and Albuquerque on the return trip.
This was not only a difficult time for the nation, but also a difficult time for Carole personally. She had decided to slow down her filming schedule to have a baby and finally start a family, but after she suffered two miscarriages, parenthood seemed to elude the Gables. This caused Carole and Clark a great deal of stress and inevitably put a strain on their marriage.
Carole and Clark at the Greek War Relief Benefit gala in January 1941.

The day prior to Carole's departure to Indianapolis, the couple quarreled over Clark's upcoming work reunion with Lana Turner in the war drama Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). The young starlet already had a reputation of being «as easy to conquer as the Maginot Line» and Carole worried that her husband would give in to Turner's charms. Clark was so furious by Carole's unfounded jealously that he walked out and spent the night elsewhere. 
Before leaving for her tour, Carole handed her secretary a series of notes she had written for Clark, which were to be given to him at a rate of one a day. In her typical wacky fashion, she also left him a naked blonde dummy in their bed with a tag tied around its neck that said, «So you won't be lonely.» When Clark returned home the next day and found it, he laughed. To even the score, he phoned a friend in the MGM prop department and asked him to prepare a male dummy, with a huge erect phallus, to surprise Carole upon her return.
Clark Gable and Lana Turner in Somewhere I'll Find You.
CHAPTER VI. Why did Ma have to go?  
On January 12, 1942, Carole arrived at the Los Angeles Union Station and boarded a train to Indianapolis. She was accompanied by Otto Winkler and her mother, Bessie Peters. Due to their quarrel, Clark was not there to wave his wife goodbye, which left Carole visibly upset. When she arrived in Salt Lake City, she immediately phoned Clark and they patched things up. She called him again from Chicago and, according to her secretary, they sounded like lovebirds.
The rally in Indianapolis on January 15 was a triumph. Carole incited so much passion from the crowds that she ended up raising over $2 million for the war effort. They were supposed to take a train back to Los Angeles the following day, but Carole decided that she wanted to go home to Clark immediately — by plane. Winkler agreed to cancel the remainder of the tour and succeeded in getting them on a TWA flight that left Indianapolis at four in the morning. It had originated from New York and had seven fuel stops scheduled, so it would only arrive at its final destination at Burbank Airport in Los Angeles late that evening. Carole did not care.
LEFT: Carole raising the flag upon arrival in Indianapolis. RIGHT: Carole singing «The Star-Spangled Banner» at Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis.
The last refueling stop was to take place in Boulder City, Nevada, but at the last minute the flight was rerouted to Las Vegas. The plane landed at 6:36 p.m. to take on fuel and was to depart on the final leg to Los Angeles half an hour later. At around 7:20 p.m., the aircraft flew directly into a near vertical cliff on Mount Potosi. The gasoline tank, located under the passengers, exploded violently with the crash, killing everyone on board instantly.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Clark was impatiently waiting the return of his wife. Before leaving Indianapolis, Winkler had informed him of Carole's change of plans. At about 8:00 p.m., Howard Strickling received a call from the Burbank Airport telling him that Carole's plane had gone down in Las Vegas. He then phoned MGM executive Eddie Mannix, who phoned Clark. His call reportedly came just after Clark had told his household staff, «It'll sure be nice having Ma back. Life without her ain't hardly worth living.» Mannix kept Clark in the dark about what he already knew, that Carole was dead, but «Pa» sensed what had happened.
LEFT: A group of rescuers searching the scene 36 hours after the plane crash. RIGHT: The front page of the Los Angeles Times, dated January 18, 1942, confirms Carole's death.
Strickling immediately charted a plane to fly everyone to Las Vegas, and dozens of the Gables' friends and co-workers raced to the scene by car. By the time they got there, rescue operations were already well underway, so all that was left to do was wait. A distraught Clark desperately tried to climb up the mountain with the next rescue group that left, but Mannix talked him out of it and decided to go himself instead. Clark spent the rest of the night in his room at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel. Although Strickling stayed with him, he hardly spoke a word. He just paced around the floor, trembling and smoking one cigarette after another.  
Early the following morning, Mannix sent Clark a telegram from a miners' way station near the peak of Mount Potosi. It read, «No survivors. All killed instantly.» Clark crushed the message in his hand and plunked down in a chair, inconsolable and lost. «Why did Ma have to go?» he kept asking. «Did you ever see anyone more beautiful? There was never a person in the world who was so generous, so full of fun. God damn it, why Ma?»
Clark leaving Las Vegas with Eddie Mannix and his close friend Al Menasco.
By the night of January 20, all the bodies had been brought down from the mountain. Carole's remains were identified only by her blonde hair and a small portion of a diamond-and-ruby clip that her husband had given her for Christmas the previous year. Clark left his hotel room for the first time in almost three days to choose Carole's casket and make arrangements for the transport of his wife's, her mother's and Winkler's bodies back to Los Angeles.  
Carole Lombard's death was mourned across the nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Clark a condolence telegram and later awarded Carole a medal as «the first woman to be killed in action in defense of her country against the Axis Powers.» Many friends and colleagues expressed their shock and sorrow, and «Taps» was sounded around Hollywood in her memory. 
Carole Lombard was only 33 years old when she died.
On January 21, 1942, a service for both Carole and her mother was held in the Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Despite the Army being in a favor of a military funeral because of the patriotic nature of her tour, Clark obeyed Carole's wishes, expressed in her will, of a private ceremony with just a few close friends and family. She was interred beside her mother under the name Carole Lombard Gable. 
Clark was completely devastated by Carole's death. He shut himself from the world, drank heavily and struggled to finish the sadly ironically titled Somewhere I'll Find You. In the weeks that followed the tragedy, he lost 20 pounds and would spend hours roaming around the ranch with Carole's dog following in his trail. He also instructed the household staff to keep everything exactly as it was on the day that Carole left. Prior to his return from Las Vegas, they had decided to spare him grief by disposing of the male dummy that he had planted for Carole as a joke. When the rooms were cleaned, her clothes were put back in the same place, and even a book that she had been reading was left open on a page that she had marked.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard's ranch in Encino, San Fernando Valley.
CHAPTER VIII. Forever and a day
In August 1942, a grief-stricken Clark joined the Army Air Forces. Carole had urged him to sign up several times when the United States entered World War II. After attending training courses in Miami Beach, Florida, he was assigned to the 351st Bombardment Group and sent to England as head of a six-men motion picture unit to film aerial gunners in combat. Commissioned as a Captain, he spent most of 1943 at RAF Polebrook and took part in five combat missions, including one to Germany, as an observer-gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress. The tiny diamond shard found in the plane wreckage where Carole had died found its way into a piece of jewelry that Clark wore around his neck, along with his dog-tag, at all times. 
During the raid on Germany, Clark's aircraft came under heavy fire and he was nearly killed by flak that went through his boot and narrowly missed his head. When MGM learned about this, studio executives pressured the Army Air Forces to reassign him to non-combat duty so as not to risk losing their most valuable star. Clark returned to Hollywood in November 1943 and joined the First Motion Picture Unit, whose job it was to produce propaganda and training films. 
LEFT: Clark aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress (June 1943). RIGHT: Clark in uniform in 1944.
On January 15, 1944, Clark attended a ceremony to christen the Liberty ship SS Carole Lombard, named for his wife in honor of her extraordinary contribution to the war effort. As Irene Dunne, Carole's close friend, broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the ship's bow, Clark stood at attention, with tears running down his face. He was never the same after the loss of his beloved «Ma.» Although he remarried twice more and found some happiness towards the end of his life, he would forever be haunted by Carole's ghost. Upon his own death, on November 16, 1960, he chose to be interred beside the only woman he had truly, genuinely loved.

About Carole, Clark once said,
«You can trust that little screwball with your life or your hopes or your weaknesses, and she wouldn’t even know how to think about letting you down. She’s more fun than anybody, but she’ll take a poke at you if you have it coming and make you like it. If that adds up to love, then I love her
This post is part of my contribution to The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Carole & Co. 
To view all entries, click HERE.

Clark Gable: A Biography by Warren G. Harris (Three Rivers Press, 2002)
Clark Gable: Biography, Filmography, Bibliography by Chrystopher J. Spicer (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002)
Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen (GoodKnight Books, 2017)
Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood by Emily W. Leider (University of California Press, 2011)
Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director by Marilyn Ann Moss (The University Press of Kentucky, 2013)
The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons by Samantha Barbas (University of California Press, 2006)
The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine by E. J. Fleming (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005)
«Vivien Leigh, Rhett Butler and I» by Clark Gable (Photoplay magazine, 1940)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Golden Couples: Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal

It was April 1948 when director King Vidor spotted 22-year-old Patricia Neal on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A drama graduate from Northwestern University, she had just arrived in Hollywood following a Tony Award-winning performance in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest . Impressed by Patricia's looks, Vidor approached the young actress and asked if she would be interested in doing a screen test for the female lead in his newest film, The Fountainhead (1949). Gary Cooper had already signed as the male protagonist, and the studio was then considering Lauren Bacall and Barbara Stanwyck to play his love interest.          Neal liked the script and about two months later, she met with the director for sound and photographic tests. Vidor was enthusiastic about Patricia, but her first audition was a complete disaster. Cooper was apparently watching her from off the set and he was so unimpressed by her performance that he commented, « What's that!? » He tried to con

Golden Couples: Henry Fonda & Barbara Stanwyck

In the mid- and late 1930s, screwball comedy was in vogue and practically every actress in Hollywood tried her hand at it. Barbara Stanwyck never considered herself a naturally funny person or a comedienne per se , but after delivering a heart-wrenching performance in King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937), she decided she needed a « vacation » from emotional dramas. In her search for a role, she stumbled upon a « champagne comedy » called The Mad Miss Manton (1938), originally intended as a Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as Melsa and Peter in The Mad Miss Manton .   Directed by Leigh Jason from a script by Philip G. Epstein, The Mad Miss Manton begins when vivacious Park Avenue socialite Melsa Manton finds a corpse while walking her dogs in the early hours of the morning. She calls the police, but they dismiss the incident — not only because Melsa is a notorious prankster, but also because the body disappears in the meantime. Sarcastic newspaper editor

Films I Saw in 2020

For the past four years, I have shared with you a list of all the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 , so I thought I would continue the «tradition» and do it again in 2020. This list includes both classic and «modern» films, which make up a total of 161 titles. About three or four of these were re-watches, but I decided to include them anyway. Let me know how many from these you have seen. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favorites. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire and Joe Keaton The Crowd (1928) | Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman and Bert Roach Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) | Starring Henry Fonda, Alice Brady and Marjorie Weaver Brief Encounter (1945) | Starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) | Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman The Girl He Left Behind (1956) | Starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Gidget (1959) | Starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson an

Wings of Change: The Story of the First Ever Best Picture Winner

Wings was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, it has become one of the most influential war dramas, noted for its technical realism and spectacular air-combat sequences. This is the story of how it came to be made.   A man and his story The concept for Wings originated from a writer trying to sell one of his stories. In September 1924, Byron Morgan approached Jesse L. Lasky, vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky, a component of Paramount Pictures, proposing that the studio do an aviation film. Morgan suggested an «incident and plot» focused on the failure of the American aerial effort in World War I and the effect that the country's «aviation unpreparedness» would have in upcoming conflicts. Lasky liked the idea, and approved the project under the working title «The Menace.»   LEFT: Byron Morgan (1889-1963). RIGHT: Jesse L. Lasky (1880-1958).   During his development of the scenario with William Shepherd, a former war correspondent, Morga

80 Reasons Why I Love Classic Films (Part II)

I started this blog six years ago as a way to share my passion for classic films and Old Hollywood. I used to watch dozens of classic films every month, and every time I discovered a new star I liked I would go and watch their entire filmography. But somewhere along the way, that passion dimmed down. For instance, I watched 73 classic films in 2016, and only 10 in 2020. The other day, I found this film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. that I had never heard of — the film is Mimi (1935), by the way — and for some reason it made me really excited about Old Hollywood again. It made me really miss the magic of that era and all the wonderful actors and actresses. And it also made me think of all the reasons why I fell in love with classic films in the first place. I came with 80 reasons, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Most of them are just random little scenes or quirky little quotes, but put them together and they spell Old Hollywood to me. Yesterday I posted part one ; here i

Top 10 Favourite Christmas Films

Christmas has always been a source of inspiration to many artists and writers. Over the years, filmmakers have adapted various Christmas stories into both movies and TV specials, which have become staples during the holiday season all around the world. Even though Christmas is my favourite holiday, I haven't watched a lot of Christmas films. Still, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 10 favourites, based on the ones that I have indeed seen. Here they are.  10. Holiday Affair (1949) Directed by Don Hartman, Holiday Affair tells the story of a young widow (Janet Leigh) torn between a boring attorney (Wendell Corey) and a romantic drifter (Robert Mitchum). She's engaged to marry the boring attorney, but her son (Gordon Gebert) likes the romantic drifter better. Who will she choose? Well, we all know who she will choose.   Holiday Affair is not by any means the greatest Christmas film of all time, but it's still a very enjoyable Yule-tide comedy to watch over the holi

The Gotta Dance! Blogathon: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland

In 1940, up-and-coming Broadway star Gene Kelly was offered the lead role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's new musical Pal Joey , based on the eponymous novel by John O'Hara about an ambitious and manipulative small-time nightclub performer. Opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Christmas Day of that year, the show brought Gene his best reviews up to that date. For instance, John Martin of The New York Times wrote of him: «A tap-dancer who can characterize his routines and turn them into an integral element of an imaginative theatrical whole would seem to be pretty close, indeed, to unique .»   One of Gene's performances in Pal Joey was attended by established Hollywood star Judy Garland , who requested to meet him after the show. Gene agreed and then accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother Ethel and several press agents, to dinner at the newly-opened Copacabana nightclub, at 10 East 60th Street. They sang and danced until 3 a.m., after whi

Films I Saw in July & August

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in July and August, which make up a total of 18 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Resistance (2011) | Starring Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha and Michael Sheen Siberian Education [Educazione siberiana] (2013) | Starring Arnas Fedaravi čius The Last of Robin Hood (2013) | Starring Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning The Water Diviner (2014) | Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Yılmaz Erdoğan Holding the Man (2015) | Starring Ryan Corr, Craig Stott and Anthony LaPaglia The Last King [Birkebeinerne] (2016) | Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju The Pass (2016) | Starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene Access All Areas (2017) | Starring Ella Purnell, Edward Bluemel and Georgie Henle

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

  In January 1944, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer happened to see a young crooner by the name of Frank Sinatra perform at a benefit concert for The Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles. According to Nancy Sinatra, Frank's eldest daughter, Mayer was so moved by her father's soulful rendition of « Ol' Man River » that he made the decision right then and there to sign Frank to his studio. Sinatra had been on the MGM payroll once before, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Ship Ahoy (1942), although it is very likely that Mayer never bothered to see that film. Now that Frank was «hot,» however, Metro made arrangements to buy half of his contract from RKO, with the final deal being signed in February of that year. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in  Anchors Aweigh Being a contract player at the studio that boasted «more stars than there are in the heavens» gave Frank a sudden perspective regarding his own talents as a film performer. The «g

Films I Saw in May & June

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in May and June, which make up a total of 16 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Pelle the Conqueror [Pelle Erobreren] (1987) | Starring Pelle Hvenegaard The Elementary School [ Obecná škola] (1991) | Starring Václav Jakoubek Female Agents [Les Femmes de l'ombre] (2008) | Starring Sophie Marceau Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Vor der Morgenröte] (2016) | Starring Josef Hader ❤ Cold War [Zimna wojna] (2018) | Starring Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig and Borys Szyc Dreamland (2019) | Starring Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund Mr Jones (2019) | Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard Official Secrets (2019) | Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith an