" Lovemaking never felt with anyone like what it did with Clark." ~ Joan Crawford
Some say that Clark Gable was the love of her life. Some even say that the two were close to being married. Some speculate the affair never happened at all. Whatever the case their was no denying the onscreen chemistry between Crawford and Gable. Their affair lasted off and on for over 20 years and they remained close right up until Gable's death in 1960. The two stars were so much alike, cut from the same cloth and had both been huge stars at MGM. It is a shame they are not referred to as such big on screen duos like: Hepburn & Tracy and Rogers and Astaire. Crawford & Gable were just as big as any one-screen duo. Regardless of the lack of mention of their pairing on screen the two stars would go down in history as legends.
Above: Salvation Army officer, Gable, rescues a depressed woman, Crawford, in "Laughing Sinner."
Above: Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in the 1931 hit, "Laughing Sinners."
Let's start in saying Crawford and Gable were two of a kind-they were both from mid to lower class families, both not very educated and both were extremely insecure people. Crawford first encountered Gable while watching him on the set at MGM and she predicted he would become a huge star. She was right. She requested him for their first picture together, "Dance, Fools, Dance" (1931.) Joan hated this film but there was no denying that Crawford and Gable clicked in this movie. An affair had started almost immediately between the two stars. Everyone at MGM, especially Louis B. Mayer, saw this and he was anxious to get them teamed up in another picture. "Laughing Sinners" (1931) was already being filmed and Mayer fired Johnny Mack Brown and replaced him with Gable. "Laughing Sinners" was a hit for the two of them, mostly due to the amounting onscreen chemistry between them. Their next film, they would explode.
Above: A picture says a thousand words. In this picture, Joan Crawford sings, "How Long Will it Last"
Above: The fireworks can be seen in the above photo from "Possessed '31".
"Possessed" (1931) was probably one of Joan's best pictures of the 1930's. Her look had changed showing off a new hairstyle and makeup. It was a stunning look for Joan. Joan also fell in love while making "Possessed" with Clark Gable. Joan at the time was married to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Gable was married at the time to a much older woman. It is rumored that the two talked about marriage but they both knew they were too much alike to get married. The affair was hot and heavy with trips and secret getaways planned. "Possessed"(1931) would go on to be one of the best films the two icons made together. In one scene in the film, Joan sings a song to Gable called "How Long Will it Last?" it was rather ironic that this song was used but it came across so very meaningful when Joan sang it...I believe she meant every word of it. In 1932 Joan wanted Gable to star opposite of her in the film "Letty Lynton" but Mayer flat out said "No", he was worried that the affair the two were having would ruin Joan's career and her marriage to Fairbanks Jr., so Nils Asther starred with Joan in "Letty". The public was hungry for another Crawford/Gable combo and Mayer gave in, he knew their onscreen chemistry meant big box office dollars.
Above: This swimming pool scene is from the 1934 movie "Chained."
Above: Joan was so impressed with the lighting on the set of "Chained'" and how it made her look,
The next film the duo would make together was "Dancing Lady"(1933) by this time Joan and Gable had somewhat cooled, Joan had filed for divorce against Fairbanks Jr. and she had started a romantic relationship with her future second husband, Franchot Tone. Joan knew her and Gable would never be a true "couple" and on the set of her 1932 movie "Today We Live" she met Tone. Tone was very different than any man she had been with before; he was very educated and mature. He introduced Joan to new and exciting things and this attracted Joan. "Dancing Lady" teamed Joan up with her lover, Gable and her other lover Tone, she was enjoying both men while filming "Dancing Lady." Joan also was reported to have had several miscarriages with Fairbanks and Tone some even speculate with Gable. Some question the reason she was having miscarriages was because of a few abortions she had with Fairbanks Jr. child or was it Gables child? At any rate, Joan would never have any children of her own, we all know she adopted but a little Clark Jr. would have been nice:-) Joan originally did not want to star in the movie but reconsidered when she was challenged whether she could pull it off and was threatened to be replaced by Jean Harlow. "Dancing Lady" would go on to be one of MGM's biggest blockbusters for many years to come. "Chained"(1934) soon followed and once again the Crawford/Gable sexual magnetism was alive on the screen. There was no denying that these two had feelings for each other and it showed in "Chained." Joan and Gable had cooled yes, but Joan still loved Gable even though she was ready to head down the aisle with Franchot Tone. In 1935, Joan did marry Tone and she also made another picture with Gable, "Forsaking Al Others" (1934) right before that marriage. The affair had cooled off and Joan once again was playing the happy wife but how happy was she really? Was Tone filling the void that Gable should have been filling?
The hot Hollywood duo in 1934 in the movie "Forsaking All Others."
Crawford and Gable pictured above from the 1936 movie "Love on the Run."
By now, Crawford and Gable had made six films together; all had been great successes for both of them. Also, their affair had pretty much had come to a halt at this point. Joan was wrapped up in her new marriage to Franchot Tone, which was already starting to fall apart. Crawford's career was strong and Tone's would never compare and Tone resorted to alcohol. Gable was falling in love with Carole Lombard but in 1936 MGM teamed up the famous team for their seventh film "Love on the Run." By this time Gable's career was starting to surpass Crawford's. That chemistry that was once so apparent was not to be found in "Love on the Run." Comedies did not suit Crawford well but the picture still made money and was yet another hit for them. After the movie cleaned up at the box office and pretty much everything Joan had done from "Our Dancing Daughter"(1928) to "Love on the Run"(1937), Joan was named "Queen of the Movies" by Time magazine. This only fueled Tone's jealousy of his wife's career and the marriage started to crumble and so would Crawford's career.
Above: Their best acting performance together in "Strange Cargo."
Above: Old friends reunite on their last film together in 1940, "Strange Cargo."
Above: A rare photo of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable in 1947.
By 1938, Joan had made a string of bad pictures and had lost her crown as the "Queen of Hollywood" and now was labeled "Box Office Poison." The same could not be said for Gable. Gable was on the up and up and he was now cast to star in the movie "Gone with the Wind." Joan was actually the first choice to star with Gable since all of their prior movies had been hits but Joan needed a hit to save her career and war movies were not doing well, so she didn't spend too much time on trying to get the part. Some believe that if she really wanted to star in "Gone with the Wind" she would have got the part. Joan had her eyes set on another film, "The Women"(1939.) Both films, as we know, were monster hits. "Gone with the Wind" being ranked the #1 movie of the year and believe it or not "The Women" was the #2 grossing movie of that year. Once again the iron was hot and MGM paired the old flames together for what would be their final film together, "Strange Cargo"(1940.) It had been four years since the two had stared together and Gable was hotter than Crawford. Gable was to get top billing and Crawford put up a fight and won top billing over Gable's name. Both stars were now very different people. Crawford had just divorced her second husband, Franchot Tone and Gable was now married to film actress, Carole Lombard. "Strange Cargo" was a huge hit for the two and is my personal favorite of all eight movies they made together. This movie showed Joan in a new light, more stripped down and raw. Gone were the Adrian gowns and heavy make-up, her acting is what was shining in this picture. The two were still very much friends and that was pretty much it, Gable was madly in love with Lombard and Joan respected the relationship. After, the filming of "Strange Cargo", Joan's career was on the up and up and she remained life long friends with Gable. In January 1942, Joan received a phone call from Gable, he was crying, his wife, Carole Lombard had died in a plane crash. Crawford was the first person Gable called for comfort. The two were pretty close after the death of Lombard and would talk daily. Joan asked to replace Lombard on the movie she was filming "They All Kissed the Bride"(1942) and all the money she made on the film was donated in Lombard's memory. Gable ended up drinking heavily and his career suffered for that. Gable died in 1960. Crawford was once asked who the love of her life was. Crawford's response was "Clark Gable was the only man I ever loved."
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