Bright Side

The Story of a Hollywood Heartthrob Who Truly Loved Only One Woman (Even After Her Death)

One of the most popular Hollywood actors was also the hottest man in the USA. There was no woman who could resist his charm. Clark Gable had a lot of romances, he was even married 5 times, but he truly loved only one woman — Carole Lombard. His heart belonged to her even after her tragic death.

Bright Side is going to give you some facts about this Hollywood King’s life full of love, drama, and adventure, which could become an inspiration for a series or a novel.

William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio. Clark’s mother, Adeline, who suffered from epilepsy, died before his first birthday. After a few years, his father, William Henry Gable, married Jennie Dunlap who devoted a lot of time to Clark’s upbringing.

She taught him good manners, to pay attention to his appearance, and to play piano. By the age of 17, Gable used to play music, read Shakespeare, and was a good mechanic. At that time, he started thinking about becoming an actor.

After his step-mother’s death, he worked selling ties, as a woodcutter, and as a telephone operator. Then he worked as a laborer in a theater, dreaming about being on stage. His dream came true when he was 20: he played his first role as a female cook. But the director didn’t like Clark’s acting at all, and he wasn’t invited to take part in plays anymore.

Once, Gable found himself in Portland, where he met acting teacher Josephine Dillon. She thought he was pretty talented and decided to turn him into a star. She payed for his dental treatment, chose a haircut for him, and taught him how to control his posture and body. They worked on his speech and voice and Clark even managed to make it lower.

Josephine Dillon

Soon they fell in love with each other and, in 1924, after moving to Los Angeles, they got married. By the way, Josephine was 17 years older than Gable. She was his manager, she persuaded him to quit using his first name (William), found secondary roles in silent films for him, and gave him the nickname “The King of Hollywood.” By the way, several years later, he did become the king.

Clark and Josephine had lived together for 6 years. He had roles in several films and started gaining popularity: fans loved his powerful voice and appearance. Clark divorced Josephine in 1931 and married Maria Langham, a socialite and the daughter of an oil tycoon. Surprisingly, she was 17 years older than Clark.

Clark and Maria Langham

Maria wanted her husband to be an incredibly famous star, so she started investing a lot of money in his career. In 1931, he took part in 12 films, and in 1934, Clark took part in It Happened One Night, which made him really popular. What’s more, for the role of Peter Warren, he got his first and only Oscar.

Gable became an idol of a courageous and strong man, and each American man wanted to be like him. It’s the reason women loved him. He used his charm and had a lot of romances. His wife used to tolerate his “adventures” but, all in all, they divorced in 1939. Maria managed to sue Gable and get half of his money.

Gable wasn’t depressed since he loved a different woman. A month after his divorce, he married popular actress Carole Lombard. Later, the actor confessed that she was his only love, whom he remembered for the rest of his life.

They met on the in 1932 and didn’t like each other at first. In 1936, they met again and managed to find common ground. After a few months, they spent some time together at a fashionable club, then in a restaurant, and then their love story began.

Since Clark was married to Maria when their relationship started, the couple had to meet in secret. But one month after their divorce, during a production break on Gone with the Wind, Gable married Carole. After the wedding, the young spouses started living an ordinary life on a ranch not far from Hollywood.

They lived a life that differed from the lives of other celebs: they didn’t have a tennis court, a swimming pool, or a movie theater. Carole had horses, Clark raised chickens, and they also had a lot of cats and dogs. They loved to spend nights in a tent. The couple was really happy, and Gable wasn’t interested in other women. They even called each other Pa and Ma, and planned to have kids. Unfortunately, both of their tries failed: Carole had 2 miscarriages, and after visiting different doctors, it became clear she wouldn’t be able to have children. The actress stopped taking part in comedies and preferred to play dramatic roles.

They had lived together for 5 years when World War II began. When the US took part in it in 1941, the government asked celebs to take part in a charity program for the military. Carole tried to convince Clark to travel with her, but he couldn’t travel since he already had a contract with a film studio.

The actress, together with her mother and Clark’s press agent Otto Winkler (he was also a family friend), went to her home state of Indiana to take part in a meeting. After the event, they decided to go back by train since both her mother and Otto were afraid to travel by plane. But Carole wanted to see her husband as soon as possible and persuaded them to go by plane (she offered to toss a coin and won).

On January 16, 1942, they were on board the aircraft. It had one refueling stop in Las Vegas but after takeoff, the pilot failed to gain altitude, and the aircraft crashed into a mountain. All 22 people on board died.

When Gable was told what happened, he went to Las Vegas and tried to get to the bodies of his wife, mother-in-law, and Winkler, but he wasn’t allowed to approach the accident site. One of Gable’s friends was with him and gave him ruby earrings, which the actor had given to Carole recently. After a few days, the actress was buried next to her mother. Then Gable decided he wanted to be buried next to Carole.

After his beloved wife’s death, the actor didn’t stop taking part in movies, but “he wasn’t the same Clark Gable,” said actress Esther Williams. “He was devastated by Carol’s death.” He started living all alone, drinking all the time, and lying on a pillow that still smelled like his wife’s perfume. He wouldn’t even allow his servants to remove the dust from Carole’s room. On August 12, 1942, a haggard Clark Gable joined the U.S. Air Force.

Gable underwent training and joined the 351st Bomb Group. He spent all of 1943 in England, flying 5 combat missions, including one to Germany. Once, the actor’s plane was attacked, one crew member was injured, and 2 were killed. One bullet made a hole in Gable’s shoe. All his fellow soldiers used to say that he looked desperate and like he was trying to die just like Carole.

But MGM studio had a contract with Gable and did everything to help the actor come back home. In June 1944, he returned to his ranch. He started drinking again and riding a motorcycle at high speeds.

By the way, he continued to take part in filming and was still dating. He even married Sylvia Ashley, a model and actress famous for her marriages to movie stars. Clark and Sylvia couldn’t truly fall in love with each other and, in 1952, after 3 years together, they divorced.

Clark and Sylvia Ashley (left) and Kay Williams (right)

Then he dated Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Lana Turner, Nancy Davis (Ronald Reagan’s future wife), and others. In 1955, Gable married for the 5th time. A young woman named Kay Williams became his wife. She had a lot in common with Carole, that’s why Clark proposed her. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find the love and happiness he had with Carole.

As a true “Hollywood King,” Gable died of a heart attack on the set of The Misfits. By the way, this film was the last for Marilyn Monroe as well. Kay Williams buried her husband where his heart belonged — next to his 3rd wife, his only love — Carole Lombard. 4 months after her husband’s death, Kay gave birth to John Clark Gable, the only official child of the actor.

It also turned out that Gable was the illegitimate father of Judy, actress Loretta Young’s daughter who was born in 1935. The actor never publicly acknowledged the truth about his daughter and he only met her once. Young didn’t tell anyone he was her daughter’s father either, though when she grew up, she and Gable were like 2 peas in a pod. Judy found out the truth about her father only after Gable’s death. The information became public in 2011, after Judy’s death.

Judy Young (Lewis) with mom Loretta Young

Did you know this actor had such a bright yet tragic destiny?

Preview photo credit Everett Collection / East News