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CLARK GABLE

By Evelyn Goble Steen

Recently I spoke to William Elmer “Bill” Goble of Portland, Oregon on the occasion of his 91st birthday.  He asked if I knew anything about Clark Gable.  He had read stories over the years written in the Oregon newspapers and told me some of what he knew.  That spurned my interest.  Below is the result of my research following that talk.

Clark Gable was born February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio, as William Clark Gable.  He was the son of William "Bill" Henry Gable, a wildcat oilman.  His mother was Adeline Hershelman or Hershelm who died seven months after Clark was born.

Bill Gable moved and settled in Hopedale, Ohio. In 1906, he  married Jennie Dunlap. Clark immediately fell in love with his new stepmother.  In an interview he said, "she was the kindest, most loving, and tender person," he had ever known. She impacted his life greatly and encouraged him to play instruments and follow his dreams.

In 1916, at the age of 16, Clark dropped out of his sophomore year in high school and moved to Ravenna, Ohio. His first night in Ravenna, he met some actors from The Clark-Lilly Players. The group befriended him and invited him backstage to watch a performance. He was so inspired that he decided to enter the theater and become an actor. He was hired as a backstage callboy, but wasn't paid a salary. The company moved to Portland, Oregon and Clark joined the troupe there. Gable sometimes slept at the theater and occasionally found shelter at the local Young Men's Club of America (YMCA). Gable loved the theater work and eventually the troupe gave him some bit parts in their productions.

To earn a living, Clark did outdoor jobs. The movie star once worked as a logger in the woods near Portland.  He was also a copy boy for The Oregonian newspaper and took a job in the classified department in the early 1920s, reportedly so he could look over the "help wanted" ads before they were published.

At 22 Gable met the second most influential woman in his life. Josephine Dillon was an actress and was in the process of forming a new theater group in Portland. She saw something special in Clark and took him under her wing. Dillon became Clark's drama coach and taught him how to dress while schooling him on his appearance.  At the time, Gable was dating a fellow actress named Franz Dorfler. Clark and Franz were in love, but both were very ambitious about their careers.

In 1924, Dillon went to Hollywood and founded The Dillon Stock Company and an acting school. Gable followed her to California and got a part in the production of "Miss Lulu Bett". Later that same year, on December 18, Clark Gable married his drama coach and mentor Josephine Dillon. She was 17 years his senior.

In 1928 Clark and Josephine separated and in March of 1930, just days after his divorce was final he married Mrs. Ria Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham.  She was also 17 years his senior. Clark and Ria separated in 1935 when it was rumored that Clark had an affair with Loretta Young, having a daughter and by 1939 he was married to Carole Lombard.

In January 1942, just shy of their 3rd wedding anniversary, Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash coming back from a War Bond selling tour. Clark was devastated and six months after her death he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private. He flew five bombing missions over Germany and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. In 1944 he was promoted to Major and in June he was discharged.

In 1949, he married for the fourth time to Lady Sylvia Ashley. But in 1951 after eighteen months of marriage they parted.

In July of 1955 Clark married for the fifth and final time to Kay Spreckles. In 1960, he started production on his final film, “The Misfits.” Midway through the film he found out that he and Kay were gong to have a baby. He was very excited at the prospect of having his own child and talked about it frequently on the set. Unfortunately, Clark Gable died of a heart attack on November 16, 1960, just two weeks after completing "The Misfits" and 4 months before his only son, John Clark Gable was born on March 20, 1961.

Clark Gable was one of Hollywood's leading men for three decades. He won an Oscar for "It Happened One Night" in 1934 and is best remembered for his portrayal of Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind," released in 1939.

It’s quite possible that Gable is connected to one of our lines.  Pennsylvania was home to both the German and the Thomas Goble line in the 1700s.  Below is Clark’s ancestry as far as I have been able to determine.  Let me know if you have additional information.

    George GABLE  b: Abt. 1773 ( may have been a German immigrant or could be son of Henry Goble and Lydia Conger)    d: Unknown
    +Catherine __  b: Abt. 1775    d: Unknown
.    John George GABLE  b: February 22, 1798 Saint Matthews Lutheran Church, Hanover, York Co., PA    d: Unknown
.    +Sarah FRANKFIELD  b: Unknown PA  m: Abt. 1812 in /Of, Crawford, Pennsylvania  d: Unknown
.....    Charles GABLE  b: November 03, 1830 York County, PA or Woodcock Twp., Crawford, PA    d: January 29, 1898 in Meadville, Crawford Co., PA
.....    +Nancy Ann STAINBROOK  b: September 10, 1834 Meadville, Crawford Co., PA  m: April 27, 1857 in Woodcock, Crawford, Pennsylvania  d: April 13, 1927 in Marion, Grant Co., IN  (age 90)
........    William "Bill" Henry GABLE  b: Bet. 1862 - 1870 Crawford or Meadville, Pennsylvania    d: August 04, 1948 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
........    +Adeline/Adelia HERSHELMAN/HERSHELM  b: Bet. January 03, 1869 - 1870 (thought to be of German ancestry)  m: 1900 in Meadville, Crawford, Pennsylvania/Meadville Cadiz, Harrison, Ohio  d: November 14, 1901
............    William Clark GABLE  b: February 01, 1901 Cadiz, Harrison Co., OH  (Gone with the Wind)    d: November 16, 1960 in Los Angeles, Hollywood, California
............    +Franz DORFLER  b: Unknown (lived together engaged, but never married)  m: Abt. 1922 in Oregon  d: Unknown
............    *1st Wife of William Clark GABLE:      
............    +Josephine DILLON  b: Abt. 1884 (Clark's drama coach)  m: December 18, 1924 in California  d: November 10, 1971
............    *2nd Wife of William Clark GABLE:      
............    +Ria Franklin Prentiss Lucas LANGHAM  b: January 17, 1884  m: Bet. March 30, 1930 - June 19, 1931 in Houston, TX  d: September 24, 1966
............    *Friend of William Clark GABLE:      
............    +Gretchen Loretta YOUNG  b: January 06, 1913 Salt Lake City,,Utah  m: Abt. 1935 in Never married  
...............    Judith GABLE  b: Abt. 1935 Salt Lake City,,Utah    
...............    +Joseph Lewis TINNEY    m: June 21, 1958 in Beverly Hills,,California  
...................    Maria TINNEY      
...................    +Daniel DAGIT    m: April 04, 1986 in Gladwyne,,Pennsylvania  
......................    Michael Joseph DAGIT      
......................    Gregory Daniel DAGIT      
............    *3rd Wife of William Clark GABLE:      
............    +Carol LOMBARD  b: Unknown  m: March 1939  d: January 16, 1942 in (killed in a plane crash) Las Vegas, Nevada on treacherous Table Rock Mountain
............    *4th Wife of William Clark GABLE:      
............    +Lady Sylvia ASHLEY  b: Unknown  m: December 20, 1949  d: 1977
............    *5th Wife of William Clark GABLE:      
............    +Kay Williams Capps de Alzaga Unge SPRECKELS  b: 1916 (also seen as Kathleen)  m: July 11, 1955 in Minden, Nevada  d: 1983
...............    John Clark GABLE  b: March 20, 1961    
...............    +__ TRACY  b: Unknown    
...................    Unknown GABLE  b: Unknown    
...................    Kayley GABLE  b: Unknown    
........    *2nd Wife of William "Bill" Henry GABLE:      
........    +Jennie DUNLAP  b: Abt. 1874  m: 1906 in Hopedale, Ohio  d: January 1920 in Ravenna, Portage Co., OH
........    *3rd Wife of William "Bill" Henry GABLE:      
........    +Edna  b: Abt. 1874    d: June 19, 1948

SOURCES:

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