Clark Gable's Tragic Love Story With Carole Lombard

According to The Saturday Evening Post, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were two of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the 1930s. Biography writes that Gable became a leading man after he starred in 1934's "It Happened One Night." As for Lombard, she was known for her comedies, including "Twentieth Century" and "My Man Godfrey" (via TCM). Britannica reports that the pair met in 1932 while filming their only project together, "No Man of Her Own." It was not love at first sight; at the time, Gable was married to Maria Langham and Lombard to actor William Powell (per The Vintage News).

Per Country Living, Lombard later told a friend, "[We] did all kinds of hot love scenes ... and I never got any kind of tremble out of him at all." Fate, however, had other plans. In 1936, Lombard hosted the Mayfair Ball, a gathering known for its glitz, glamour, and Hollywood elite invitees. There, she was reunited with Gable and the pair spent the night flirting. By this point in time, Lombard had divorced Powell, and Gable was separated (but not divorced) from his wife. Gable and Lombard began a secret relationship that became public once his divorce from Langham was finalized in 1938.

The pair were inseparable

Gable and Lombard married soon after on March 12, 1939 (via Country Living). Gable was given a break in the midst of filming "Gone with the Wind." The Saturday Evening Post writes that the couple took advantage of this time off and eloped in Kingman, Arizona. They settled into domestic life at a ranch in Encino, California, where they had a slew of farm animals. Gable and Lombard were said to have loved the outdoors and spent their time hiking and camping. Per The Vintage News, they rarely spent time apart. And when they did, they sent each other goofy gifts.

However, their marriage was not all sunshine and rainbows. According to Closer Weekly, Lombard was determined to start a family with Gable but she struggled to become pregnant. Moreover, Gable was allegedly unfaithful to Lombard. In January 1942, it's believed that Gable and Lombard got into a row over his infidelity (per the New York Post). A day later, Lombard left for her home state of Indiana. The Saturday Evening post explains that Lombard was supporting the war effort and was on a war bond tour. Her mother, Elizabeth Peters, and Gable's publicist, Otto Winkler, joined her on the trip.

Carole Lombard's untimely death

Before the three left on the tour, Country Living writes, Lombard and her mother visited a psychic. She reportedly told the actress to stay off planes. Lombard did not heed the warning. Per The Saturday Evening Post, Lombard ended up raising $2 million in war bonds. She was then determined to go home and patch up her marriage with Gable. Although Lombard, Peters, and Winkler had originally planned to return to California from Indianapolis via train, Lombard wanted to get home as soon as possible. Despite Peters and Winkler both being afraid to fly, a coin toss sealed their fate; they were all to get on TWA Flight 3.

Nevada Public Radio reports that Lombard and her entourage almost got booted off the flight in favor of military servicemen. In fact, the military did not want Lombard flying home at all due to safety concerns regarding possible German spies. However, she refused to get off the flight. The plane stopped to refuel in Las Vegas. Soon after, disaster struck. About 15 minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed into Nevada's Potosi Mountain (via The Vintage News). All 22 people onboard TWA Flight 3 died. Carole Lombard was only 33. The crash was later determined to have been caused by pilot error.

Clark Gable never got over Carole Lombard's death

Upon learning that Lombard's plane had crashed, Gable was devastated (via The Saturday Evening Post,). He was hoping for a miracle but ultimately had to face the truth: His beloved wife was dead. According to Country Living, Gable flew to Nevada to see the site of the plane wreckage for himself. Officials attempted to deter him from doing so and explained to him that the hike there was perilous and difficult, even for experienced locals. Despite this, Gable trudged on until he arrived at the wreck. He encountered pieces of the plane and was later made to turn back when he got too close to the remains of Lombard and the others (per Photoplay Magazine).

Closer Weekly writes that the crash permanently changed Gable. He was guilt-ridden and grief-stricken. Gable stayed in Nevada for a time and told friends that "I don't want to go back to an empty house in Encino." The Vintage News reports that he began to drink, smoke, and ride his motorcycle without taking safety into account. In August 1942, Gable joined the U.S. Army Air Force. It's believed that when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Lombard had asked him to enlist but Gable thought that at age 40, he was too old. After her death, however, it seems that he changed his mind.

Clark Gable's time in the army

Den of Geek reports that Gable was 41 at the time he joined the air force. He became an aerial gunner and later made a military film using footage he had filmed with the help of a cinematographer titled "Combat America " (via Military). Although many of Gable's fellow pilots and gunners doubted that he would see any action, he later proved them wrong. According to History, he took part in air raids over Nazi Germany. Additionally, Gable came close to death when a German shell pierced a part of his plane and his boot. He also took over when other gunners were injured or killed.

In the end, Gable attained the rank of major and was awarded an Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross. More importantly to him, he earned the respect of his fellow servicemen. Gable returned home in October 1943 and was discharged in June 1944. Ultimately, many believe that he joined the army as a form of self-destruction regarding his grief over Lombard's death (per Country Living).

Before he enlisted he had told friends that "I'm going in, and I don't expect to come back, and I don't really give a hoot whether I do or not." Gable survived. He refused to go on planes after the war and preferred to travel by ship (via Den of Geek).

Clark Gable's final wish

After his military service came to end, The Saturday Evening Post reports, Gable continued his acting career. However, his popularity began to diminish and his films became less successful (via Den of Geek). Although he never truly got over Lombard or her death, he did remarry twice more. From 1949 to 1952, he was married to Lady Sylvia Ashley (per Legendary Clark Gable). From 1955 to 1960, he was married to Kay Williams Spreckels. The Life and Times of Hollywood writes that many believed that Lombard and Spreckels looked similar in appearance.

By all accounts, the marriage was a happy one. In 1960, Spreckels became pregnant. Gable learned the news while he was filming "The Misfits." Sadly, the film would be the last for both Gable and his co-star Marilyn Monroe. According to Biography, 59-year-old Clark Gable died of a heart attack on November 16, 1960, just days after the film was finished. He never met his son with Spreckels, John Clark Gable. His final request was to be buried beside the love of his life. Per Country Living, he was buried next to Lombard at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.