He was certainly a womaniser a serial seducer and philanderer, and he ruthlessly used his attractivenness to women

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Clark Gable’s image, even 55 years after his death, is still that of the handsome romantic, the rogueish charmer, a Rhett Butler sweeping beautiful women off their feet. The reality of Gable’s life is somewhat less romantic.

He was certainly a womaniser, a serial seducer and philanderer, and he ruthlessly used his attractivenness to women, particularly older women who held powerful positions in Broadway and Hollywood, to make his way to the top. He was a toyboy before the name had been coined.

Once established as a star he continued his womanising ways. With Loretta Young he fathered an illegitimate child whom he never acknowledged, and even when married to his soulmate, Carole Lombard he conducted an affair with Lana Turner. The sudden, tragic death of Carole Lombard in an air crash traumatised him and pushed him into the arms of a host of other women in a desperate search to recreate the happiness he had known with Carole.

Josephine Dillon was 15 years Gable’s senior and was an experienced stage director. She became Gable’s acting coach and saw a spark of acting genius in him that others had missed, and soon she became his patron, paying from her own pocket to have cosmetic work on his teeth, his hair groomed, as well as coaching him in speech and movement. Gable ended his engagement to Franz and he and Josephine moved to Hollywood in 1924 and they were married on December 12 of the same year. Gable always claimed that the marriage was never consummated.

As for Dorfler, she never got over Gable. “I never went to his pictures because I knew him. I knew all of his expressions, his gestures, the raising of one eyebrow, the crooked smile, his dimples and wink. He never really changed. A bit polished, but still the same…Sometimes I wished that I hadn’t met him because I was unable to accept any of the other proposals I’d had. I couldn’t marry someone else while I still loved Clark.”

After appearing as an extra in several silent movies, Gable was dissatisfied with his progress in Hollywood and he returned alone to New York and the Broadway stage. He spent time working as a stage gigolo, squiring older, rich, well-connected women who could help further his career, around town. Actress and playwright Jane Cowl gave him a walk-on role in her production of Romeo and Juliet; Laura Hope Crews, 21 years his senior was a successful stage and movie actress as was Pauline Frederick, 18 years his senior, with whom he had a 2 year affair. Pauline cast him in her revival of ‘Madame X’, and as a nightclub owner in ‘Lucky Sam McCarver’. She bought him a new suit and paid for the further extensive dental treatment he needed.

By the end of the decade his marriage to Josephine was crumbling. He had become famous on Broadway but not in Hollywood and he needed help with his Hollywood ambitions. Again he found an older, rich woman to provide it. In 1930 he divorced Josephine and married Texas socialite Ria Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham. He explained to Josephine quite candidly that he wished to marry Ria Langham because she could do more for him financially. “He is hard to live with because his career and ambition always came first,” said Josephine wistfully.
or a while they kept apart and Gable shifted his attentions first to Loretta Young whom he met on the set of ‘The Call of the Wild’ in1935, and then to Marion Davies, his co-star in ‘Cain And Mabel’ in 1936.

Gable first met Carole Lombard in 1925 when they were both working as extras on the set of ‘Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ’. They later starred together in ‘No Man of Her Own’ in 1932, but did not become romantically attached until 1936. They lived together for 3 years and then got married in March 1939 just 3 weeks after his divorce from Ria was finalised. Lombard, whom he called his ‘little screwball’, was lively, younger than him, foul-mouthed and irreverent. “I love Pappy,” she once said, “even though he’s not the greatest lay.”

‘Gone With the Wind’ was released near the start of their wedded life. Gable’s stock in Hollywood, already skyhigh, went stratospheric. He was immensely famous, immensely rich and it seemed he had been blessed by the Gods. For three years he lived an idyll with his wife who shared his enthusiasm for outdoor pusuits like hunting and fishing and who tolerated his philandering lifestyle which he was unwilling or unable to stop. He began an affair with Lana Turner, his co-star in 1942’s ‘Somewhere I’ll Find You’.

In January, 1942, the plane in which Carole Lombard was traveling crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas. All on board were killed, including Lombard, her mother, and her MGM staff publicist Otto Winkler.

Gable was traumatised but returned to his and Lombard’s empty house where he continued to live for the rest of his life. After a month he returned to the studio to complete ‘Somewhere I’ll Find You’. He began drinking heavily and to his friends he seemed to lose interest in life and was never the same man afterwards.

Although

e was well over draft age he volunteered, seemingly as a death wish, for the Army Air Corps and saw active comabat as a tail-gunner in Europe in World War II. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of Major and when he returned to the screen it was as a returning hero.

Immediately after his discharge Gable returned to his ranch to recuperate and it wasn’t long before his eye started wandering again. He resumed a pre-war relationship with the MGM actress, Virginia Grey and dated numerous other starlets. After Joan Crawford’s third divorce in 1946, she and Gable resumed their affair and lived together for a short time.

Gable continued to make movies, averaging about one per year but his post-war film career was mainly undistiguished and he never again repeated his astonishing pre-war successes although for each of the nine years from 1947 he was in the top ten of Hollywood money makers. His performance in ‘The Hucksters’ in 1947 was praised and he followed it with a brief but very public affair with Paulette Goddard. In 1948 he dated and is also believed to have proposed marriage to, Nancy Davis, the future Mrs Ronald Reagan.

Gable’s fourth marriage was his most unsuccessful. Lady Sylvia Ashley was an English actress and model and had had been married three times previously, including most recently to Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

They first met in the summer of 1949 when Gable attended a party with socialite Dolly O’Brien as his date but spent most of the evening talking and dancing with Sylvia. They were married in December of that year. Gable confided to friends that she was a “wildcat in the sack,” but it didn’t take long for him to tire of her extravagant ways.

She was constantly shopping for clothes, had her own personal maid and gave frequent handouts to her teenage nephew whom Gable disliked. She also liked to throw lavish formal dinner parties and attend Hollywood social events, none of which Gable liked. They grew more and more distant and Sylvia moved back to England. After nearly a year of separation, the divorce was finalised in April, 1952.

Shortly after the divorce Gable started filming ‘Never Let Me Go’ opposite Gene Tierney. She was one of his favorite actresses and he was very disappointed when she went to Europe and began a romance with Aly Khan. In ‘Mogambo’ in 1953 Gable’s on-location affair with Grace Kelly ended after filming was completed .

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