Dead Hollywood legends are a curious subject. Admiration and reverence have to go hand in hand with conjecture and idle gossip. There’s a book out by David Bret called Clark Gable: Tormented Star that is very heavy on the latter. One of the most respected of all early Hollywood stars, he earned the moniker “King of Hollywood” in the late 1930’s. Gable won an Academy Award for the classic It Happened One Night (and the urban legend still persists that after he was seen shirtless in the film, sales of men’s t-shirts plummeted). He was nominated again for Mutiny on the Bounty, but of course, he is best known for one of the most iconic roles in history, Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind.
He was linked to many women, and married to one of the greatest comedic actresses of all time, Carole Lombard until her tragic death. But according to Bret’s
biography, Lombard turned a blind eye towards his affairs with men. Carole was known to be one of the most gay friendly of all Hollywood stars, and Bret “suggests” that her gay BFF, the acclaimed silent film star/interior-designer-to-the-stars William Haines had an affair with Clark.
There is little actual proof of any of this, and some common terms in the book are “Alleged” and “It could be”. He also “alleges” that early in his career, Gable was “gay for pay”, and would regularly prostitute himself, and to keep the secret of his homosexuality, would out other men to throw suspicion off himself. The New York Times has a
scathing review of the book out, and it’s typical of the response. Hey, I’m all for conjecture and idle gossip (I read and re-read Hollywood Babylon 1 & 2 so many times growing up, the pages fell out), but there’s a difference between good trash…and this.