11 January 2015

Clark Gable's letter to his Dad

When Clark Gable was seventeen years old, he knew he wanted to be an actor. His father William, an oil driller and farmer, didn't approve of his career choice at all feeling that acting was for sissies. But Clark Gable was determined to pursue his dream, and after several jobs (selling neckties, working in stock companies and oil fields) he had his first big success in 1928 with the lead role in "Machinal" on Broadway. The role had been secured for him by his acting coach and first wife Josephine Dillon. (Their marriage was one of convenience with Dillon teaching Gable the tricks of the trade and grooming him for his film career.) In 1930, Gable was finally noticed in Hollywood (by MGM), and within a few years his Hollywood career took off. But even after he had become a big star, his father would maintain that acting was for sissies.

Shortly after arriving in New York and just before getting the part in "Machinal", Clark Gable wrote to his father from whom he had just received a letter and whom he had not seen in years. Gable was quite desperate to restore their relationship and clearly wanted his father to be proud of him. Written in the fall of 1928 on hotel stationery ("The Shelton New York"), this is a heartwarming letter that gives us a glimpse into the life of 27-year-old Clark Gable.

Images courtesy of profiles in history.


Sunday Morn

Dear Dad:

Well at last I have heard from the Senior member of the family! There is so much to tell you that I hardly know where to start. I have been married since I last heard from you, but it didn't hold so we're separated. When I look at it now I am surprised it lasted the two years it did, she was twelve years my senior and why I did it is more than I will ever be able to explain. I am telling you this so you will understand what is to follow. We separated just a year ago this month when I was in Houston, Texas, working there in a Stock Company. In fact I was in Houston all last winter and nearly all of this summer. If I could have been in touch with you, then we could very easily have seen each other. Well to get on with the story, when we separated she came on here to N.Y. and was here last winter and this summer.

The letter you wrote on May 26th was delivered to me when I arrived in N.Y. Aug 1st, she had opened it, read it, and didn't have the decency to forward it to me. They gave it to her at the Actors Equity Ass'n on June 2nd. The only thing that interested her in the least was the inheritance you spoke of, and she immediately wrote Uncle Tom regarding it. He never answered so she dropped the whole thing until I arrived here in August and then she quite casually announced that she had a letter from you to me. I sent two letters Air Mail to San Angelo but they were both returned and that is the whole story. I too have been wanting to get in touch with you for a long time but not even Uncle Frank could give me your address, now that we are in touch with each other again I want it to continue, you must write me every week now so we won't lose each other again. Because you are my Dad and I love you.

I have taken up the stage as a means of making a living, and have been successful to a certain extent, although it is a very uncertain game in many ways, the compensation is high if you can hit. This is my first year in N.Y and naturally it is a hard one but I have a wonderful outlook here and I may be able to do something really big. If I should make a hit here in my next show it means that I will be practically independent of anyone. Now Dad, since you are going to California I have a little plan which may be good for both of us, it all depends on how things go here this winter. You take whatever you can get there this winter and I will try and get some money together here. If I have any luck at all this winter I should have three or four thousand dollars by next May. I will then come out to California next summer and see if we can't start some sort of a little business together, and I will help you during the summer and then get back into N.Y. for the fall season. That would give us both something to rely on in case of a slip up in the show business.

Of course that is only a rough outline of my idea but you can see that it is plausible and practical. It may be that things will be hard here this winter and I won't have the money next summer, but it is at least worth trying for. I know Southern California pretty well and I think you will like it very much. If I should make a hit here this winter will try the pictures again next summer and that game is unlimited if you can click. I will send you a set of pictures tomorrow so you can see what kind of a looking son you have. Nothing to brag about, but at least I am a man like my Dad. Now remember, write to me every week, and I will keep you informed how things are going here. Of course, my plan may be only dreams but there's nothing like trying. Lots of love Dad and don't forget to write every week.

Clark Gable and his father William: circa 1919 (left) and in later years.
Josephine Dillon (to whom Clark Gable was married from 1924 to 1930) was very important to Gable's career. Not only did she teach him how to act, but she also taught him how to move, trained his voice and had his teeth repaired.


  1. He clearly cared so much about his father!so touching!
    By the way, I just discovered your blog, what a brillant idea!!!

  2. How sweet -- and how well written! Your site shows us that many Hollywood greats were much smarter than anyone gave them credit for.

  3. Thanks for reading! I love that letter too.