Clark Gable and his WW2 death wish

The king became heartbroken, despondent and eventually disillusioned enough to enlist in the US Army Air Corps. To this day, some say he went to Europe with a death wish, and in at least one bombing, Capt. Gable almost granted it when a Luftwaffe grenade passed right between his feet.

Clark Gable and his WW2 death wish
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard pose for photographers shortly after their 1939 wedding.

The King and Queen of Hollywood

Women were always easy for Clark Gable, and for a time women were. The first Mrs. Gable was Josephine Dillon, 17 years his senior, and she was introduced to him as an acting coach by another woman who was his then-fiancée. A handsome, if unrefined son of an Ohio farmer, 23-year-old Gable was the perfect clay for Dillon. She turned him into her greatest apprentice and taught him how to lower his voice and hold your attention. As his patron and wife, Dillon also introduced Gable to all of her Broadway connections and the adjacent stock companies. It was even as the star of one of those companies that he met Maria Langham, a wealthy widow and oil heiress who was also 17 years his senior.

As the second Mrs. Gable, Ria introduced Gable to high society and the fine life of Manhattan, teaching him social etiquette and the value of a finely tailored tuxedo. One woman taught him how to play as an actor, and the other taught him how to play as a gentleman. They served their purpose and they were both wiped out.

But Lombard? He could never brush her off.

The first time Clark met Carole, it was a surprisingly chaste affair. The two were cast as the lead actors of 1932 No own husband. Unlike many of his leading ladies in the 1930s, Gable didn’t make strides with Lombard, who at the time was married to movie star William Powell and planned to stay that way. Still, it clicked, as the breathless Lombard did with almost everyone.

Gable wasn’t “the king of Hollywood” yet, but he was well on his way. Two years later, he would star in the movie that popularized screwball comedies. It happened one night (1934), which won him an Oscar for Best Actor, and two years later he would direct the grandfather of all disaster movies, San Francisco (1936). He was already Tinseltown royalty in ’38 when then-gossip columnist Ed Sullivan Gable’s drinking buddy and sometimes rival, Spencer Tracy, affectionately referred to him as “king.” Sullivan immediately came up with the idea of ​​conducting a national poll for the “King and Queen of Hollywood.”

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