We’ve all seen the sprawling estates that many Hollywood actors call home — extravagant mansions about 10 times the size of a normal house. Although it seems to be a Hollywood trend to own lavish homes with more space than anyone could possibly use, that wasn’t always the case. Back in the ’30s, many well-known actors were opting for smaller, cozier, more personable homes.
Clark Gable and his wife Carol Lombard were one couple who did not feel the need to build an ostentatious house to flaunt their success. Instead, they opted for a charming ranch home set on 20 beautiful acres of land in Encino. The home in question had actually belonged to another wildly successful actor — Mickey Rooney.
Gable bought Mickey Rooney’s house for $50,000 in 1939
In 1939, Gable married his beautiful wife, Carol Lombard. The couple moved to Encino, which was a quiet town at the time. According to Country Living, they purchased their new home for $50,000, and it happened to be the former home of the legendary Mickey Rooney. Rooney was a young star at the time, taking Hollywood by storm.
Architectural Digest describes the rural estate as having a nine-room house, plus citrus groves, alfalfa fields, stables, and a pigsty (with no pigs). Lombard worked on redecorating the home while Gable was filming Gone With the Wind. The white brick and wood facade was bright and inviting, and red brick terraces added a splash of color to the grounds.
Lombard had the interior of the home decorated with Early American influences. A sunny yellow and white color scheme made the rooms open and airy, and comfortable oversized couches and chairs were perfect for Gable (he was a big guy). The only part of the home that oozed luxury was Lombard’s bathroom. She departed from the cozy theme of the rest of the home and instead chose to make the bathroom an opulent space with white marble walls, huge mirrors, and silver and crystal light fixtures.
Gable’s wife died in a tragic accident in 1942
Gable and Lombard loved country living, and their publicists used the beautiful home to make Gable seem more down-to-earth. He was photographed performing a variety of tasks, including milking cows, fixing fences, and riding his tractor. The couple was very happy until tragedy struck in 1942, just a few short years after they moved into the house.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Lombard was returning from a war bond drive to support her country during WWII when her plane crashed and exploded on Potosi Mountain. The crash was horrific, a fiery explosion that sent wreckage flying everywhere. Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the site, only to find that no one could have survived the crash.
The fateful trip was the result of a coin toss. Lombard was in a rush to get home but was also traveling with her mother and Gable’s press agent–neither of whom liked to fly. So she suggested a coin toss to determine how they would travel–if she won, they’d fly home on the next flight. If they won, they’d take a train.
After winning the coin toss, Lombard learned that there were three open seats on the next flight, due to cancellations. A few last-minute changes in the flight plans resulted in a tragic accident that took the lives of the 22 people on board.
The home sold in the 1970s for $587,500
Upon hearing of the crash, Gable immediately raced to Las Vegas. He prayed for a miracle while the rescue teams sifted through the rubble. The actor was absolutely crushed when rescue workers recovered his wife’s remains, and many say he never fully recovered from her death.
Soon after Lombard died, Gable left their home behind to join the armed forces. He spent the next two years as an Army Air Corps pilot, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and obtaining the rank of Major. People speculated that he had given up on life, and flew those planes so that he would die the same way she did.
Despite his anguish, Gable eventually returned to the Encino home and lived there until he died. According to Britannica, Gable married his fifth wife, Kay Williams, just a few years before his death. The actor died while filming his last movie, The Misfits. The house sold in the 1970s for $587,500 — more than 10 times what Gable and Lombard had paid for it.
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