On The Road With Clark Gable
To commemorate Clark Gable’s 105th birthday, we’ve decided to join him on his thousand-mile road trip to film the big new Metro outdoor epic, Across The Wide Missouri, and we’ll be posting these updates on our progress as we head for the Colorado location with Clark. Well, first of all, here’s the car. Metro publicists described it as a "speedy gas buggy", but we’re going to defer to one of you experts among our readership to tell us just what make of a vehicle this is. Clark likes it fine, but we think maybe that stuff on the roof could stand to be secured a little better, as he’s prone to lean on that gas pedal from time to time --- ask any speed-cop back home in Encino. Clark’s happy to get away from the ball-and-chain for a while, even though she’ll be waiting for him when he gets to the location. Boy, was that marriage a big mistake --- all he remembers is those cocktails and that loud Hawaiian shirt she bought him just before they --- say, just where and when did that wedding happen? Anyway, we gotta stop for gas. Maybe Gary Cooper’s old trick will work at this station. He’s used it a thousand times. You fill up the tank, then you pay for it with a personal check. The gas jockey gets one squint at that bold signature and you can tell from his bug-eyes this check ain’t never going in with the deposit bag. Thanks for the free top-off, champ! We’ll do it again sometime.
Just a little background here. Clark Gable’s career at Metro was winding down at the time (1951) he made Across The Wide Missouri, surprisingly his first in Technicolor other than Gone With The Wind. His pictures were still profitable, but they were paying him upwards of $7500 a week, and it wasn’t easy finding suitable material for an aging romantic idol, especially with so many younger ones busting out of the starting gate after the war. Gable wasn’t happy either. He knew he was getting the short end at MGM. They’d passed on The Fountainhead for him a few years before, even though he’d expressed a desire to play it, and a proposed teaming with director Preston Sturges was scotched around the same time. Meanwhile, the pictures he was doing weren’t stirring up much excitement. New stars like Stewart Granger were on location in Africa doing Technicolor specials like King Solomon’s Mines, while Gable was back on the lot doing black-and-whites like Any Number Can Play and Key To The City. Not that his post-war pics are bad. I happen to like them a lot, but I think it’s safe to say the bloom was off the rose. On top of all that, Gable’s home life wasn’t so hot. He’d married, in haste (to repent at leisure), a woman who’d already scooped up several marital fortunes, including one from Doug Fairbanks, Sr. Her name was Lady Sylvia Hawkes Ashley Fairbanks etc. etc. (and forgive me if I’ve omitted a few). She was no Carole Lombard, that’s for sure, even though they say he married her because she looked like Carole. Well, you’ll get a chance to compare in Part 2. That’s when we arrive at the location for a good look at the new Mrs. Gable. Those stills are amazing. Talk about a guy not being able to hide his real emotions! One look at these and you’ll know why that marriage was kaput. Stay tuned.