CAROLE LOMBARD AND CLARK GABLE: A TRAGIC END TO A PASSIONATE MARRIAGE

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“You can trust that little screwball with your life or your hopes or your weaknesses, and she wouldn’t even know how to think about letting you down” ( Clark Gable on Carole Lombard )

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Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were one of Hollywood’s most celebrated couples. He was the king of the movies. She was the queen of Screwball Comedies and together they endured a glorious marriage that was to last forever until tragedy tore them apart.

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A lot has been said about the marriage between Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. For a marriage that lasted not even three years, the real life partnership between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard has become the most talked about subject in cinema history.

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The story of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard dates back to 1926 when both stars appeared as extras in the film The Johnstone Flood. At the time neither Gable or Lombard were fully established in motion pictures. Clark Gable was in the middle of an ineffective period in silent films and was attaining more experience on the stage while seventeen year old Carole Lombard whose status would enhance the following year through Max Sennett was just starting to feel her way back into movie making after being involved in an automobile accident.

The Johnstone Flood failed to make a dent on either stars resumes and even though the two played small cameo roles in the film, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were required on the set on different days and were never introduced.

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Fast forward to six years later. The year was 1932. Carole Lombard and Clark Gable now had ingrained statures in the movie business and were ready to embark on a new project together titled No Man Of Her Own, a racy Pre-Code production that was to be their only collaboration.

In No Man Of Her Own, Gable and Lombard play a newly married couple who face numerous difficulties due to the prolific gambling life that Gable’s character Babe leads. As his wife, Connie is determined to help Babe break free of his habit and will do anything she can to rid him of his scheming ways.

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Prior to filming No Man Of Her Own, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard had often collided on Hollywood’s social circuit, but these meetings were nothing more than a brief discussion that was usually interrupted by the spouses of each star. It wasn’t until the two made No Man Of Her Own that they would be able to engage themselves in a proper conversation that were often business intercourses and would lead to no friendship gatherings after work.

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard both described each other of being respective and possessing a cordial nature, but their amiable greetings that were exchanged on the set was as far as it went. Carole Lombard certainly wasn’t interested in Clark Gable. At the time of filming Lombard was married to William Powell who was sixteen years her senior. Even though they would file for divorce a year later Lombard was deeply in love with Powell and continued to maintain a lifelong affectionate friendship. Clark Gable certainly didn’t display any enthusiasm in Lombard either for he was currently trying to survive an unhappy marriage with Ria Langham that seemed doomed from the start, so as much as some sources tend to state, no romance between the two eventuated while shooting No Man Of Her Own, except for the playful penning of the nickname that would be christened by Carole and Clark. He called her Ma and she called him Pa.

On the last day of filming No Man Of Her Own, Clark Gable presented Carole Lombard with a pair of ballerina slippers that was accompanied with a card that read “To a true primadonna.” In return Carole gifted Clark with a large ham adorned with his photo on it. These exchanging of presents were what you call a token of appreciation, and at the end of the day Carole Lombard and Clark Gable went their own separate ways without trading contact details. For Gable and Lombard any sign of romance was not yet on the horizon.

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Six years later in 1936, the two now had a different perspective on life and were ready to plunge into whatever journey destiny had in store for them. As legend has it fate would come calling on the night of January 25th when Clark Gable was invited to the White Mayfair Ball at the Victor Hugo Restaurant in Beverly Hills, an event which was organized by Carole Lombard. Gable who was euphoric about being separated from Ria Langham was enjoying his married bachelorhood and attended the evening with Eadie Adams, a blond singer who dubbed for a plethora of notable MGM stars. Lombard on the other hand was escorted by her close friend, Cesar Romero, but due to her involvement in the party Lombard lost him in the assembled crowd of notable stars and eventually landed in the arms of Clark Gable who had been showing considerable interest in Lombard from the moment he became fixated in the sight of Carole Lombard sporting a clinging white silk gown.

After dancing most of the night away, Clark Gable suddenly decided that he needed some fresh air and suggested that he take Lombard for a ride in his shiny new Duesenberg convertible. Lombard implored Gable that she had party obligations and must stay behind, but Gable insisted and promised her that he will bring her back in ten minutes. Carole automatically agreed and together they entered into a blissful passionate love affair.

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For Carole Lombard and Clark Gable this was a new adventure, a road that would lead them to a magical destination that Gable would never have dreamed of when he was living with Ria Langham, but firstly they had to be content with the dating circuit until Gable could get his divorce finalized with Ria.

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Following the Mayfair Ball, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard began dating pretty much straight away. The morning after this memorable evening, Gable awoke with a severe hangover only to discover that a prank had been played on him during the night while he was asleep. The mastermind of the gag was no other than Carole Lombard who had arranged for a pet store owner to deliver Gable a pair of doves while he lay asleep. Little did Clark Gable know it then but this was the start of the practical jokes that would dominate most of his marriage with Carole Lombard.

In truth Gable and Lombard resembled each other, and as their romance progressed it didn’t take them long to realize that. As soon as they became a couple, Clark Gable witnessed a unique quality in Carole Lombard that he saw in no other. Lombard was not the average movie star who let fame and money go to their head. She was the most down to earth person you would ever meet, and if you were lucky enough to make friends with Carole Lombard you had a friend for life. Clark Gable knew that, but what he observed during their romantic outings was much more than that.

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To Clark Gable, Carole Lombard was a real life version of the maniacal characters that she quite often portrayed on screen. Her whole life was something out of a Screwball Comedy. She was witty and she loved pulling practical jokes, but tucked away inside the lively body of this vivacious human being was a vulnerable side to Carole Lombard that Clark Gable spotted instantly. She had the capacity to love and the flooding of affection that she attained from Gable, Lombard would give it in return. After years of searching for a woman who would adore him for who he was, Clark Gable had finally found that ideal person in Carole Lombard.

Carole Lombard noticed an admirable quality in Clark Gable. To the rest of the world he was the king of Hollywood, and he acquired so much sex appeal that a plethora of women were wanting him, but underneath his alluring charisma, Clark Gable was a little boy at heart who was craving for attention. Away from the fame and the spotlight, Gable loved nothing more than playing with toys and simple things that most guys would repudiate. This was a characteristic of Gable’s that Lombard would hold in high regard and would constantly remind her that they were so much alike.

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Carole Lombard also made a new man out of Gable, and after spending time under her powerful spell a resurrection of Clark Gable emerged. Clark Gable hailed from a family of struggles. His mother died when he was ten months old, and his father refused to raise him as a Catholic, which meant that Gable would be lumped onto his Uncle Charles when he was still only a small child. A few years later his father would remarry, and Gable would be sent back to live with him and his new wife in their newly furnished house, but this did nothing to stimulate Clark Gable who was a shy child and spent most of his days without any friends to play with.

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Clark Gable’s background sums up most of his adult years. Gable who led a tormented childhood remained serious right up until the day he fell in love with Carole. With Lombard, Gable allowed himself to run freely. Howard Strickling stated, “It’s the first time I think he’s ever really played in his life. He’d had a very serious life when you stop to think about it- his early life, his father, his stepmother. He had to make his own way. Nobody gave him anything on a silver tray. He earned every dime he made.”. Delmer Daves also noted that Carole Lombard laughed all the time and Clark was laughing along with her and really enjoying what life had to offer.

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For Carole Lombard life couldn’t get much better. She had a convivial and supportive relationship with Clark Gable which was accompanied by her recent success at the movie studio. In 1936, Lombard received an Academy Award nomination for her critically acclaimed performance in My Man Godfrey. By the end of the year Lombard’s career was ascending and with the triumphant results that she attained for the predecessor Lombard returned to Paramount where she would complete her seven year deal.

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Carole Lombard was not only Clark Gable’s prized possession, she was now Hollywood’s greatest asset, but coupling her gratifying present life was one obstacle that needed to be vanquished. Clark Gable was not yet divorced from his wife Ria Langham. He had been separated from Langham for a few years, but he was not compared to give up most of his earnings for Ria. Carole Lombard however was yearning to move on. She desperately wanted to marry Clark Gable and was more than ready to start a new life with him.

The convoluted barrier that was stopping their marriage came to a head when Photoplay magazine published an article that listed the unmarried couples of Hollywood. Seeing their name in print piqued an interest in both Lombard and Gable, but this underlying problem was still in their way. Finally MGM and Louis B. Mayer demanded that they become respectable married people and went as far as raising Gable’s salary so a divorce between him and Ria could go into action.

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Shortly after in January 1939, Clark Gable began work on Gone With The Wind, the highly extolled classic that surpassed anything that had ever been produced in motion picture history. In the meantime MGM were working tirelessly behind the scenes in trying to dissolve “The Gable Mess”, but fortunately the mayhem that ensued ceased when Ria announced that she was humiliated by the constant plastering of the article that exposed her husband violating their marriage while flaunting intimacy with Carole Lombard. Gable was hurt by the publication and offered an apology to Ria, saying that he will seek a divorce, but before he knew it Ria was on her way to Reno to expedite divorce proceedings.

Now that the divorce was being finalized, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable began to map out their life together. They had always envisioned their dream home to be situated away from the press in the San Fernando Valley. Their shopping was complete when they found Raoul Walsh’s horse ranch, a grandiose twenty acre property nestled in the community of Encino. This was exactly what they were looking for, but after paying out the excessive divorce settlement Gable realized that he couldn’t afford it so Lombard who sacrificed a lot for people willingly put up the $65,000 for their long awaited dream home.

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On March 29th, 1939 Carole Lombard married Clark Gable in Kingman, Arizona. MGM press agent, Otto Winkler who was also a close friend of Gable’s served as his best man while a local Methodist minister conducted the ceremony with two strangers to stand as witnesses. After the ceremony, Gable and Lombard departed for their honeymoon in the mining town of Oatman.

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As soon as the newlyweds returned to California they started establishing their twenty acre Encino ranch with stables, chicken houses, barn yards, kennels, work shops along with fields of citrus and alfalfa. In their free time they adorned the interior and at Carole’s request they decked it out with oversized furniture.

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Married life meant a lot to Carole Lombard, and she was determined to work hard at keeping it conversable for her and for Clark. To further fulfil her goal of maintaining a healthy and contented lifestyle she wanted a child of her own, so she tried every month to get pregnant, but it just wasn’t happening. Making problems worse was Carole’s menstruation cycle which she always seemed to have trouble with. Finally she did fall pregnant right when she was due to travel with Clark to Atlanta for the premiere of Gone With The Wind, but sadly Lombard had a miscarriage when she went horseback riding. After numerous visits to the specialist, and one miscarriage, Carole Lombard soon realized that there will be no new little additions gracing their happy family.

Carole’s problems falling pregnant didn’t deter her away from her marriage. While her initial goal was to have a baby and retire from acting to stay at home to be a full time mum, Lombard still sometimes thought about abandoning her career to take care of her ranch and to be a proper wife. She wanted Clark to be the major bread winner in the family, and she wanted to take care of him when he arrived home from work each day, but lurking deep down in her mind was the question on whether or not to quit the movies.

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Carole Lombard was enjoying a successful tenure in motion pictures. It was only recently that Lombard had decided to step out of her boundaries by taking on dramatic roles that would prove her artistry as an actress. In 1939, the same year that she married Clark Gable, Lombard starred in Made For Each Other and In Name Only, two films that would allow her the chance to explore her talents. The following year she stuck to the outside of the perimeter when she was cast in Vigil In The Night, a solid drama film that focuses on the nursing profession. Sadly the film was panned on it’s release and Carole returned to the Screwball Comedy genre.

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A lot was in store for Carole in the 1940’s. After her highly commended performance in In Name Only, Myron Selznick began planning future picture deals for Carole Lombard. There was also plans of doing a sequel to My Man Godfrey with Carole playing the role of Irene Bullock again. That same year Lombard teamed up with Robert Montgomery in the Alfred Hitchcock directed comedy, Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith was an immediate hit among audiences, and it swayed Carole herself into realizing that Comedy was her forte and that was where the public would accept her the most. With the accolades she acquired for her performance, Lombard was adamant about what roles to accept and would really delve into them before giving them her approval from now on in.

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Now that Carole Lombard had the influence to incite Alfred Hitchcock into doing comedy, she had the power to approach eminent directors or filmmakers into casting her in their upcoming productions. When it was announced that a proposed film titled To Be Or Not To Be was scheduled to go into preparation, Lombard heavily campaigned for the role while her agent Nat Wolff made sure that he got her a salary of $75,000 along with a net profit of 4.0837. Lombard also admired the director, Ernst Lubitsch, whom she had been in awe of since her days at Paramount. Lubitsch however had always marveled over the talents of Carole Lombard and couldn’t envision anyone but Carole in the role of Maria Tura.

While Carole Lombard was appetent about working with Ernst Lubitsch, Clark Gable was less enthused. Gable had been suspicious of Lubitsch for years and tried to implore his wife not to go ahead with the assignment, but Carole who held Lubitsch in esteem was not about to let her husband dissuade her from working with one of cinema’s most acclaimed directors. Several more problems arose for Gable once Lombard delivered the news that her close friend, Robert Stack, whom she had known since a teenager was going to star in the picture. Clark Gable was more than aware of Carole’s association with Stack years earlier, and now that he was to portray her lover on screen he felt that he was compelled to keep a close eye on Lombard.

Even though To Be Or Not To Be was considered risky, the film was expected to be lauded for it’s plot development and it’s assembled group of stellar players. For Lombard the road of success wasn’t going to stop there either. After To Be Or Not To Be, Carole Lombard was to embark on another auspicious journey into the world of her beloved comedy genre that would lead to her procuring roles in They All Kissed The Bride followed by a sequel of My Man Godfrey titled My Girl Godfrey, but sadly for Lombard this was not meant to eventuate.

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During the filming of To Be Or Not To Be, Carole was at her happiest. She looked forward to returning home to attend the preview and to reunite with her friends, Jack Benny and Robert Stack, but now her light that was once gleaming brightly over Hollywood was extinguished at the young age of 33.

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By the fall of 1941, Carole Lombard had it all. She was at the zenith of her career, and things were only going to improve. After years of acting, Lombard had produced an illustrious resume of films that was abounded by her proliferating beauty and accompanied by her storybook marriage with Clark Gable which was to last a lifetime.

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But just when everything seemed so serene and perfect for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, disaster struck at the end of 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered into World War II. With the nation fighting endlessly in the blitz, Hollywood underwent changes to help support the war effort. During this time a plethora of stars traveled the country to raise money by selling War Bonds while others aided the cause by assisting with the Hollywood Canteen that was founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield in 1942.

Among the stars who went on tour was Carole Lombard. This event wasn’t easily achieved for every actress, but for Lombard timing was ideal. She had just finished filming of To Be Or Not To Be, and the production wasn’t due to sneak preview until Monday January 19th, 1942, so with that short hiatus, Lombard had ample time to travel by train to her home state of Indiana to sell War Bonds and arrive back the night before in time for the preview.

That was exactly what she did and nothing was going to stop her from doing patriotic duties for her country. Accompanying Lombard on the journey was her mother, Elizabeth Peters and Clark Gable’s close friend and press agent, Otto Winkler.

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The cross country trip commenced on January 12th, 1942. Two days later Carole Lombard had endured a triumphant War Bond rally and raised over two million dollars in defense bonds in one evening. Following her success Carole and her entourage were scheduled to travel back to California by train, but Lombard insisted that she wanted to reach home sooner, so she implored her mother and Winkler who were terrified of flying to fly back with her. After much hesitation they agreed to toss a coin and Lombard won the toss, which meant that Elizabeth and Otto were to come in close encounter with one of their biggest fears called flying.

“Before I say goodbye to you all, come on – join me in a big cheer – “V for Victory!”. ( Carole Lombard’s final words to the public before leaving on a fundraising flight for the war effort )

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Back in California, Clark Gable was euphoric about Carole’s homecoming. For the entire time that Lombard was away, Gable had been busy preparing gags and spending his money on extravagant gifts for Ma. He couldn’t wait for her arrival and on the evening of the 16th, he left home early and went to pick Carole’s brother, Stuart up so they could drive to Burbank Air Terminal together to meet Carole when her plane comes in, but unfortunately that was not to be.

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On the morning of January 16th, 1942, Carole Lombard, her mother and Otto Winkler boarded TWA Flight 3 to return home to California. After refueling in Las Vegas, the plane took off at 7:07pm, on Friday, January 16th, 1942. Less then twenty minutes later, TWA, Flight 3, crashed into Potosi Mountain. All 22 passengers on board the plane were killed instantly.

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The years following Carole’s death, Clark Gable spent the rest of his shattered life looking for another Carole Lombard, but nobody would ever replace the vivacious spirit of his beloved Ma that he lost so tragically. Even though he would marry twice more, inside Clark was hurting and was suffering immensely. He would never get over the catastrophe that caused the premature death of his wife.

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After eighteen years of living with emotional Burden, Clark Gable finally reunited with his beloved Carole Lombard on November 16th, 1960 when he passed away at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center following complications from an Arterial Blood Clot and a massive heart attack which he had suffered ten days earlier. Gable is interred next to Carole Lombard in the Sanctuary of Trust in Forest Lawn, Glendale.

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The following article is an interview by Carole’s photographer Myron H Davis during the War Bond Rally.

INTERVIEW WITH MYRON H. DAVIS. CAROLE LOMBARD’S PHOTOGRAPHER FROM THE WAR BOND RALLY.

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Can you talk about the context in which these images were made?

Well, you have to remember that there was a huge amount of patriotism at that time. People were shocked about Pearl Harbor and believed that we were an innocent country that had been viciously attacked. Lombard was very patriotic herself, and was, I believe, the first big Hollywood star to sell raise money for the war effort. Later, of course, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were noted for traveling to overseas bases and putting on big stage shows for the soldiers. But this was the first war bond rally in the country, and I think Lombard’s death inspired other Hollywood stars to follow her example.

Take me through some of her activities on this tour.

Lombard didn’t like flying, and had taken a train from Los Angeles that was bound for Chicago. The train made a brief stop in Salt Lake City on January 13, where she spoke to people waiting on the platform and sold some war bonds.

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A photo of Lombard with two servicemen in Salt Lake City on Jan. 13.

Then she got back on the train and proceeded to Chicago, where she sold more bonds and did some interviews. From Chicago she flew to Indianapolis on Wednesday evening, and met her mother at the train station the next morning.

Her first official appearance that day was at the Indiana statehouse. Also attending were the governor [Henry F. Schricker], the publisher of theIndianapolis Star [Eugene C. Pulliam] and Will Hays, who was responsible for the notorious Hays Code of film censorship. The governor made a speech while Lombard stood on a stepstool and personally performed the flag-raising ceremony. She was wearing a fur coat, on account of the cold weather, but she was very down to earth. She didn’t have any “actress” airs about her. After the flag-raising, she signed the first shell fired by the United States in World War I, gave a short speech and then signed autographs for the crowd. I remember that she and the governor and Hays stood in a row at one point and gave the “V for victory” sign for a newsreel camera crew.

Lombard raises the flag as Indiana Gov. Henry F. Schricker addresses the crowd.

Then everybody went inside the statehouse building, where Lombard sold war bonds for about an hour or so. She was very good with the crowds, and very spontaneous. She handed out special receipts to everyone who bought a bond. These receipts had her picture and signature printed on them, plus a special message. I still have one, in fact. It read: “Thank you for joining me in this vital crusade to make America strong. My sincere good wishes go with this receipt which shows you have purchased from me a United States Defense Bond.”

The Lombard war bond rally receipt.

She was then driven to the Claypool Hotel, where she was staying, for another flag-raising event. I think it might have been to commemorate the opening of an armed forces recruitment center. After that she went to the governor’s mansion for a big formal reception — busy day! And then that evening, she appeared at another war bond rally at the Cadle Tabernacle, where she gave a patriotic speech to get the crowd fired up. The last thing she did was to lead the crowd in singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Did you have much personal interaction with her during the tour?

I was with Lombard for three days, traveling all around. She put in a lot of long hours, and I tried to go wherever she went. We passed a few words here and there, but she knew enough about photography to just let me do my job, and I just let her do her thing and documented it.

Your most famous shot of Lombard is the one in which she’s singing the national anthem onstage.

I knew that the Cadle Tabernacle was the last place that she was to perform publicly before heading back to the West Coast. It was this huge auditorium that was standing room only and filled with patriotic signs put up everywhere. When I got up on the stage I saw way back on the far wall this big sign that read, “Sacrifice, Save and Serve.” That pretty much summed up the mood of the country right then, and I said to myself, “Wow. I’ve somehow got to get that sign as part of the image.”

What equipment did you use for this image?

I used my Speed Graphic and Eastman Kodak Double XX film. I had a battery-powered Heiland flashgun on my camera fitted with a reflector and a #3 Wabash Super flash bulb, which was the most powerful one on the market back then. I framed the shot to illuminate both Lombard and part of the audience to her left. I also had a couple of stagehands point flashtubes with #3 flashbulbs at the front and middle rows to help light what was a really large crowd. Fortunately I got a pretty good negative, but when I had to make an 11 x 14 print for Life magazine, I had to dodge and hold back some of the sign in the background to make it legible.

I understand you had a close encounter with Lombard at the airport before she got onto her plane.

I was pretty doggone tired after taking that last picture of her, not realizing what a historical moment it was going to represent. I had to catch a plane at the Indianapolis airport at around three or four in the morning. I took a cab there and arrived early. I was practically the only passenger there. So I’m sitting on this wooden desk, half-asleep, when I sensed somebody come in and sit next to me. I felt a fur coat pressing against the side of my leg. Well, of course I knew it must be a woman, but I was so surprised when I opened my eyes and here was Carole Lombard sitting right next to me! We were so close together it was almost like we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I was so startled that it made her laugh, and then I laughed, too. I guess both of us were the kind of people who tried to see the sunny side of life.

Davis captures Lombard’s ability to connect with people from all walks of life.

I had sensed from the start of working with her that she was a wonderful, down-to-earth lady. Being in Hollywood and being a star and being married to Clark Gable hadn’t gone to her head. So we just sat there and talked about a few of the day’s events. I thanked her for being so cooperative and letting me follow her around and do my thing. And she said, “Well, I was happy to do it, Myron.” I don’t think I called her by her first name. I probably called her Miss Lombard. Being the kind of lady she was, she said early on, “Just call me Carole.” It was a very sincere personal exchange between the two of us thanking each other for working on a job that we both thought was necessary for the country at that time.

Her mother and a Hollywood press agent [Otto Winkler] were also there, standing in front of me. Neither of them spoke much. Carole and I were doing all the talking and laughing until they called her plane. We weren’t there together very long. I would say I talked to her for about five to ten minutes. Her plane was called shortly before mine, and then I got on my plane and fell asleep right away.

Did she talk about her fear of flying?

Yes. She told me she was really afraid of flying, but that she didn’t want to spend three days — and she used this expression — on a choo-choo train to go back to California. So this is another tragic part of it. It was almost like she had a premonition of some kind.

Ever the professional, Lombard held this V for Victory pose until Davis could make the shot.

You didn’t take any photographs of her at the airport?

No, my equipment was checked in, except for my Leica, but I wasn’t going to bother her anymore. I’d been following her around with my camera for three days and nights, and it was obvious that she and her mother were tired, like I was. I always tried not to impose on people.

So your Cadle Tabernacle pictures are the last ones that anyone took of her.

Yes, I’m convinced that’s true. I don’t remember seeing any other photographers at the auditorium. And I don’t think anybody else was at the hotel waiting to take her picture after the event wrapped up. I’m certain that the “Sacrifice, Save and Serve” picture Life ran was the last one taken of Carole Lombard while she was alive.

It must have been quite a shock to hear the news about her death.

I was married at the time and living on the south side of Chicago. We hadn’t been married all that long. I was still in bed trying to get some sleep from all this round-the-clock stuff, when my wife comes in, shakes me, wakes me up and says, “New York is on the phone. They want to talk with you.” It turned out to be Life magazine calling. They said, “Myron! You’re sleeping? Where are your Lombard pictures?” I said, “Well, they’re here with me. What about them?” “Oh, you don’t know? There was a plane crash and she was killed. We want those pictures here. Go downtown, develop the negatives and make four 8 x 10 prints. We’ve arranged for you to go to the Associated Press offices, and they will transmit the pictures to us. We’ll look at them and tell you which one we want. Then go back to the darkroom and make an 11 x 14 print, and then go down to the Donnelly printing plant — which was on 22nd Street just off the lake — and deliver this personally. And you’ve got to do that as fast as you can.” So that’s what I did.

Lombard puts on the charm at the governor’s mansion prior to her final public appearance.

Once the editors in New York knew that the plane had crashed and that Carole Lombard, her mother and her agent had all been killed, they stopped production of the issue they were working on. At that time the editions for the entire country were printed here in Chicago at the R.R. Donnelly printing plant, and then shipped to the New York and the East Coast and the West Coast. They stopped production on that entire issue until I did what they wanted me to do. That may be the one and only time that Lifestopped production on an issue.

As it happens, Life ran just the one image of Lombard. Did you try to do anything else with the pictures you took of her?

Some time after it had happened and after I had gotten over the shock of it, I went to the Life darkroom on the fifth floor of the Carbon and Carbide building on Michigan Boulevard. I spent hours making 11 x 14 prints that I had taken during her tour, maybe 25 or 30, boxed them up and sent them to Columbia Studios with a letter addressed to the top executives. The letter read: “This may not be the time to deliver these to Clark Gable. There may, in your opinion, never be a time to deliver these pictures to Clark Gable. But I’m leaving this up to your decision. If you think he might want to have these sometime, please deliver them to Mr. Clark Gable.” I never found out whatever happened to them. I never got a response, not from the studio, and certainly not from Gable. But I don’t believe these shots would have been tossed out.
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Some observations:

* It’s fascinating to hear Davis say Lombard was concerned about flying by air. particularly since we know she had regularly flown with Gable and, in the mid-thirties, even taken flying lessons. She may have been concerned about flying without Clark by her side, or perhaps it was because she was with her mother, who had never flown before.

* I’m not sure why Davis would have mailed the prints to Columbia, where Gable hadn’t worked since making “It Happened One Night” in early 1934. Might Lombard have been discussing her upcoming film, “They All Kissed The Bride,” a Columbia production?

* In Larry Swindell’s biography “Screwball,” he maintains this was the last photo ever taken of Lombard (with her mother):

I do not know whether Davis took this photo; it may have been taken at the Claypool Hotel after the rally and before they left, which would mean it wasn’t taken by him.

Dean Brierly interviewed Davis in 2009. Like Lombard, Davis would be victim to an accident, dying on April 17, 2010 from injuries incurred during a fire at his apartment in Hyde Park, Chicago. He was 90 years old.

Lombard singing God Bless America

Carole Lombard leads a packed house in singing “God Bless America” at the Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis on January 15th, 1942. The last full day of her life. Sadly Carole was killed alongside her beloved mother the very next day after this photo was taken. They boarded the TWA, DC3 plane, to return home to Los Angeles, but they never made it. The plane crashed into Potosi Mountain, and all 22 passengers on board the plane were killed instantly.

The following is my entry for the Star-Studded Couple Blogathon, hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Click here to view the other articles being exhibited for the event.

Star-Studded Couple 5

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12 thoughts on “CAROLE LOMBARD AND CLARK GABLE: A TRAGIC END TO A PASSIONATE MARRIAGE

  1. Carol says:

    Very well-written, articulated, focused and well-constructed. What a fascinating story they had. I love them both. And oddly enough, I ‘miss’ them, without ever having met them, obviously. Ah, the power of old Hollywood.

    Like

  2. Carissa says:

    I knew very little about them on the whole until this article. They shared such a beautiful relationship and such a tragic ending. I guess nothing spares the stars from the tragedies that can strike anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Great job on your article.

    Like

  3. Phyl says:

    So when should we expect this in published form? 😉 Fantastic article and well worth the wait!!! I so wish Carole would have lived! I would have loved a sequel to My Man Godfrey!!! I’ve always wondered what the rest of her career would have been like. I bet she would have made some pictures during the war, then retired, making an occasional movie. It’s so sad that Clark had such a sad life, have a few years of happiness, then sadness again. You’re so right that just because they were stars doesn’t mean they had a charmed life!! I’m so glad you included so many photos!! I hadn’t seen a couple of them before!!! And the interview was great!! I came across it last year.

    Thanks for this amazing contribution!!!! 🙂

    P.S. Love all of Carole’s shoes, especially the peep toes!!!!

    Like

  4. Little Bits of Classics says:

    Wow, such an exhaustive look at their life, you must have had a lot of work with this article, and it was totally worth it! Thanks to this blogathon I learnt so much about Old Hollywood’s star couples, including Clark & Carole!

    Like

  5. The Flapper Dame says:

    I love this post about Clark and Carole- they are one of my favorite real life couples. I learned a lot through the interview- really interesting tidbits. So sad- Carole was amazing person who had the tragic life cut too short story- I would have loved if her and Clark to go on together. At least they are together now- always and forever!

    Like

  6. Mike says:

    Excellent article!! So well written and with much detsil, most new to me . If you had written the screenplay for Gable and Limbard it wouldn’t have been s bomb, lol

    Like

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