Tucson Oddity: House spotlights Gable's presence here

2010-01-25T00:00:00Z 2014-09-05T15:01:46Z Tucson Oddity: House spotlights Gable's presence here Phil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 25, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Rumor has it Clark Gable once lived in Tucson. Whether that's true, the iconic midcentury actor did spend a lot of time here, long enough to break hearts as well as Cadillac fenders.

There's a large house near East Grant Road and North Alvernon Way with a sign labeling it "The Gable House." Neighborhood legend has it Gable lived there for a year as he mourned the death of his wife, Carole Lombard, who died in the crash of TWA Flight 3 in January 1942.

The story is only that, said John Riley, 79, a retired real estate agent who lived in the five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot home with a basement at 2324 N. Madelyn Circle in the mid-1950s.

"To my knowledge, he never lived there," Riley said, adding that Gable visited to spend time with Gilbert Duncan and his wife, whose name he didn't recall, and was a childhood friend of Lombard's. Riley said Gable continued to visit Duncan's wife after Duncan died of pneumonia in 1942.

Albert Cummings, an 82-year-old retired Realtor who used to deliver newspapers to the house and lived there from 1968 to 1997 is convinced that Gable lived there.

"He lived in that house for over a year," Cummings said. "He used to bring boys over there and let them swim in the pool. I'm certain he lived there."

Both men agree Gable never owned the home.

Real estate agent Lupita Arevalo, who currently owns the house, has it on the market for $579,000.

Gable might have bought a home if Lombard had not died, according to a Jan. 2, 1948, Star interview with Gable at the Arizona Inn, where he often retreated between films:

"Just before the death of his wife, Carole Lombard, stunned the nation, Gable and she were in Tucson shopping for a ranch. He said, however, that he has lost interest in living on a big ranch since that fatal plane crash," the article said.

It wasn't always the desert that called to Gable - once it was a court summons.

On Dec. 7, 1951, Gable totaled his 1950 Cadillac convertible in Marana while trying to pass a truck in the rain. He crashed into 44-year-old shop owner Mary Lemme, wrecking her 1947 DeSoto and injuring her back. She sued Gable for $20,000, then upped her claim to $40,000 in a suit that dragged on for several years.

Gable's many trips to Tucson for court appearances made headlines. The paper lauded him for his "common sense" demeanor on Dec. 20, 1951, in paying his $25 fine for illegal passing.

An eloping Army Master Sgt. Lyle D. Winney and his bride-to-be, Ginevera Jean Linsley, asked Gable to witness their wedding, and he complied, posing for a picture with the couple and kissing the bride.

The civil suit dragged on for years, and the Star would run stories coaching readers on when they might be able to see him, such as in a Jan. 6, 1954, story that said, in part: "Nobody knows whether or not he will show up or not, or if somebody knows that, somebody isn't telling."

The Star's final mention of Gable came two days later, when Gable testified, re-enacting the accident for the judge while admitting he had "one very small drink" just before lunch. Gable died of a heart attack at age 59 in 1960.

The resolution of the case could not be found in the Star's archives.

Got an oddity?

Is there something you've noticed while driving through Tucson that has piqued your curiosity to the point that you wish you could find out more about it? Drop us a line, and we'll look into it.

Call the Star newsroom at 573-4142, or send an e-mail to metro@azstarnet.com

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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