Helena White’s 1984 booklet, Sixty Bloomin’ Years: A History of Creston, British Columbia contains this statement on page 21: “Moviegoers were thrilled to learn that Clark Gable had been recognized in the area. The actor was on holiday at Kootenay Cottages on the lake.”
Intrigued, I asked Creston Museum manager Tammy Bradford about it. She quickly found the source, an item in the Creston Review of Aug. 11, 1939.
Bradford adds: “I took a quick look at the local and personal columns that week and the two following; there wasn’t a column from Kuskanook, and neither Wynndel, Sirdar, nor Boswell had a word to say about him. I’m a tad skeptical!”
At first blush, it does seem unlikely. But look at this item from a syndicated column in the Vineland, New Jersey Daily Journal of July 27, 1939, datelined Hollywood.
Unfortunately, it didn’t say where there the trip took them. The Edmonton Journal of July 22, 1939 reported that Gable and Lombard were to have joined Van Nuys mayor Andy Devine on his 10-day visit to Cliff Lake, near Kenora, Ont., but Lombard wasn’t feeling well. So they did have Canada on their mind, but would they really have gone so far with Lombard ailing?
(Nevertheless, Rita German told me she thinks it’s likely: “My aunt Kathleen (Hughes) German, formerly of Nelson, told us the story of Clark Gable walking into Birks in Vancouver where she worked during World War II. She was a pretty girl and he held her chin and paid her a compliment!”)
The weeks after they returned home were eventful: Gable overpowered an 18-year-old man found hiding in his dressing room closet at his home in Van Nuys, who confronted him with one of Gable’s own antique pistols and demanded money.
“The madame thought it was quite funny, and she laughed when I called her at the studio,” Gable said in a news report that appeared in the Windsor Star on Aug. 1. “She has a swell sense of humor, at all times.”
Days later, Gable rushed Lombard to hospital in Hollywood for an appendectomy.
One other interesting note: although the reported sighting happened in 1939, Gone With the Wind hadn’t been released yet; it premiered on Dec. 15. But Gable was certainly a movie star, with 38 film credits on his resume.