Gable was obsessed with cleanliness

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“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Whoever wrote those words was clearly lacking two things: access to a dictionary, and any knowledge of the life of Clark Gable. A heavy-drinking party animal, Gable was probably the antithesis of everything his contemporaries would consider godly. Yet there was one aspect of his personality that was apparently close to the Lord Almighty. Gable was obsessed with cleanliness.

Warren G. Harris’ biography of Clark Gable includes interviews with an old Army buddy who leaves no doubt that Gable hated anything that even remotely smacked of dirt. He shaved his chest and armpits, not because he was an Olympic swimmer or because he had a 21st-century idea of male beauty, but because he hated the way a hairy body encouraged you to sweat more. He hated baths, too. This might seem odd in a guy who loved to be clean, but then you read his reasoning. For Gable, having a bath meant sitting in your own filth as it saturated the water. During his time in the army, Gable carried around his own jerry-rigged portable shower.

This is even more remarkable when you consider Gable’s on-set reputation for having atrociously bad breath. Vivien Leigh didn’t quite write that kissing him in Gone With the Wind was like sticking her head into a fetid sewer, but the implication was there. For all his determination to keep his body clean, it seems flossing was never high on Gable’s list.

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