A lady named Franz Dorfler was responsible for getting Clark Gable his first acting job, but he soon ditched her for acting teacher Josephine Dillon. Jo was 41, plain and matronly, but she took the 23 year-old aspiring young actor to Hollywood, and in 1924 they married. It was Jo who changed his first name from William to Clark.
In 1925, when Clark was a struggling young actor trying to gain a toehold in the industry, he participated in a brief sexual relationship with Hollywood star and notorious gay William Haines. Several people witnessed them together at the studio, and also at a party at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel where they engaged in a variety of sexual acts. It was all part of Gable’s relentless determination to make it as a famous movie star. Even his future lover Joan Crawford readily admitted that he and Haines had sex. Clark told her so years later, but she was also a close friend of Haines as well, so she already knew. Everyone did. It was simply a means to an end, nothing more. He was certainly not homosexual. Nor was he bisexual. On the contrary, in fact. He adored women of any age or type.
In 1926 he began an affair with another woman who was 20 years his senior. Her name was Pauline Frederick and she was an attractive nymphomaniac. She was also rich. Through her he got jobs, but she also bought him a car and paid to get his teeth fixed. Then, as he would do with all his mentors, he dumped her once she had outlived her usefulness.
Clark & Ria Langham
In 1928, along came 45 year-old Ria Langham. She was prettier than his wife and richer, so Clark hooked up with her for a couple of years. Before long he was cheating on both of them with another nymphomaniac, actress Joan Crawford. And all the while he was bedding every other woman he could lay his hands on. He and Ria were seen dating so often that most people assumed they were married to one another. Even LB Mayer assumed as much, but once he found out about Jo, Clark’s MGM boss ordered him to do three things immediately – divorce Jo, marry Ria, and lay off Joan. He publicly complied with the first two, but secretly ignored the third. He and Joan continued to meet secretly for years.
Gable, Crawford & Mayer
Meanwhile, his adoring public had no idea Gable was married to Jo, living with Ria and sleeping with Joan (and all the others). Nor did they know that Joan was pregnant with his child. It had to be Clark’s because she and husband Douglas Fairbanks Jnr were estranged, and had been for some time. An abortion was arranged, and the public were advised that Joan had taken a fall and lost Doug’s baby. According to the studio, the ‘happily married couple were devastated’.
Mr & Mrs Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Mayer had been receiving regular reports of Gable and Crawford spending most afternoons in her mobile dressing room on the MGM lot, the same one that Fairbanks had given her as a present. In fact, cuckolded Doug was still paying the thing off. The papers were starting to post ‘blind items’ about the romance as well, so Mayer ordered Doug and Joan to take an ‘extended European vacation’, a second honeymoon, so to speak.
His little dalliance with Haines aside, Gable was an unabashed womanizer who would sleep with any woman if the opportunity arose. A director friend said of him: ‘He would screw anything. She didn’t have to be pretty or clean’. Within a month of signing with MGM he had impregnated writer Adela Rogers St. John. She was sent on an ‘extended vacation’ to have his baby, not that he would ever own up to it being his.
In 1932 he was put into a film, Polly of the Circus, with William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies. Hearst was by then 65 years old and his relationship with Marion had become sexless, so she was soon involved with her leading man. Hearst and MGM fixer Howard Strickling knew Clark and Marion were sleeping together. They quickly and quietly offered him a pay rise from $650 a week to $2,000 a week, but only if he would stop seeing Marion. Exit Marion.
In 1933, Gable ran down a woman with his car while he was driving drunk. She was on a crosswalk and died at the scene. MGM fixers moved quickly, paying off police and the District Attorney, as well as slipping the dead girl’s family $125,000 to keep quiet. Then, the studio got an un-named mid-level employee to take the rap for their superstar. Offered a job for life with MGM, plus a cash settlement, the man said he was driving the vehicle and copped 10 months at an honor farm. His name has since been quietly expunged from the record, although there is a school of thought that believe he was a ‘nobody’ part-time director at the time – named John Huston.
1934 saw yet another Gable ‘issue’, when he put gorgeous Loretta Young in the family way during the time they made The Call of the Wild. Until his dying day he refused to acknowledge her little girl as his own. Neither did Loretta for that matter. She pretended the girl was adopted out of the goodness of her heart. Gable simply had nothing to do with the child – ever.
When Gable met Carole Lombard, whom he would eventually marry, her ‘best girlfriend’ was none other than Billy Haines. She treated him like a big sister, confiding in him regularly. On one occasion she stripped completely naked in front of him in her trailer, saying, ‘I wouldn’t do this if I thought you’d get aroused, Billy’. Gable soon terminated their friendship when she became his wife. After all, Billy was a constant reminder that the ‘King’ had a ‘one-off’ homosexual encounter with him way back when.
In 1949 Clark married Sylvia Ashley, after his marriage proposal was turned down in 1948 by Nancy Davis, who later married Ronald Reagan and became America’s First Lady. Sylvia was an English model and actress formerly married to Douglas Fairbanks Senior. She was 45 when she wed Gable. The union lasted just two and a half years.
His final wife was Kay Williams, a 49 year-old actress who was still wed to him when he suffered his life ending coronary in 1960. They had one child, born after Gable’s death. The story that it was Marilyn Monroe’s behavior during the shooting of his last film The Misfits that brought on his fatal heart attack is totally untrue. He was already very ill and was actually changing a tire on a jeep when he collapsed.
and with Kay Williams