Suzanne Dadolle’s story starts like a romance novel. A beautiful girl meets a charming movie star. They fall in love, spend many weeks together and enjoy a stunning courtship. Yet, unlike most romance novels, it ends on a bitter note. Well, that happens when you romance Clark Gable in the 1950s!
Suzanne Dadolle D’Abadie was born in 1926 in Turkey. She grew up in Algiers (then a French colony) where she spend the early years of WW2. In 1944 she returned to Paris, was enrolled as a Wave in the French Navy and was soon promoted to a member of the personal entourage of general Charles De Gaulle, the future president of France.
After the war was over, Suzanne chose to work in the hostess industry. For a season, she worked as a hostess at the Deauville Casino and then returned to Paris and started modeling full time. In 1951, she wen to the United States to demonstrate French luxurious products and dresses under the patronage of Frank Burd, a hosiery firm executive. The article, dating from 1951, described her as a “ice cool blonde”, very diplomatic in her approach to people. Of New York, she said: “I love it here. I feel, for some reason, safe. This is a beautiful city, and any time of day you can see the blue sky, and your nylon lingerie, it is superb”.
Suzanne appeared in only one movie, and she was a mature woman by that time, not a youthful starlet. The movie is a fashion plate movie (you expected something else?) . The name: A New Kind of Love. Except Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, a stunning Hollywood couple if there ever was one, we have Thelma Ritter, Eva Gabor and George Tobias. Add to this impressive roaster of actors a solid script, great jazz music and some snazzy wardrobe, and you get a above average viewing experience. No, it’s not a masterpiece like Citizen Kane or Gone with the wind, but it certainly holds its own.
Suzanne never made another movie again (what a shame!)
Now comes the meaty part of Suzanne’s life. Her affair with Clark Gable. I have to admit, the more I read about Clark and his affairs, my opinion of the man plummeted. I still think he was a good man and devoted fiend, and he sure did not treat his women nicely.
Lets start from the beginning. We all know the basics: Clark Gable was a real life Rhett Butler (whom he played so masterfully in Gone with the wind). Women adored him. He was married twice to older women, but constantly strayed. He liked his ladies to be blonde, athletic but feminine and sophisticated. He enjoyed steamy affairs with Joan Crawford and Loretta Young (who bore him a daughter, out of wedlock). Yet, the firts wife who truly stood toe to toe with Clark was his third, comedienne Carole Lombard. Sadly, she died in January 1942 in an airplace accident. He never truly got over this tragedy. He went into active military duty, serving in the air force. After he returned to Hollywood in 1945, he dated up a storm with a large number of women. Terribly lonely and with a drinking problem, he impulsively married in Lady Sylvia Ahsley in 1949. Despite a short period of happiness, the marriage was a fiasco. In May 1952, Clark sailed on the to Europe, not planning to return until December 1953.
Suzanne met Clark on a cocktail party in September 1951 (as she later claimed). Now this is some sketchy information, as he was not in Europe at that time, and the only chance of this really happeneing was that she was in the States back then. Suzanne was for sure in the States in January 1951, but in September? Have no idea. But, for appearances sake, let’s believe it. They re-met when he came to Paris in May 1952. He had a month off before starting a new picture. She was an Elsa Schiaparelli model at the time. He fell in love with her at first sight and asked her out right away. The early stages of courtship started. So, how did Clark woo Suzanne?
He plunked down $3,000 for a Schiaparelli – designed evening gown which Suzanne was modeling for the famous Parisian designer in her celebrated salon in Paris. Glamorous Susie got the gown, Clark got the kick out of surprising her with it. How can a girl resist such advances? It was easy to see why Clark fell for Suzanne. Tall, willowy and chic, she was a true haute cuture mannequin. As I already wrote, Clark had a strong preference in women: blonde, high born, sophisticated, but with a wild side. Suzanne fit this model, physically, to a Tee – however, like his former wife, Sylvia Ashely, she was a lover of jewelry and a fashion plate in real life. That was not such a good combo (Clark was notoriously tight fisted when others were concerned).
What followed were magical months where Suzanne and Clark lived the Parissiene life to the fullest. I quote this great site about Clark Gable, Dear Mr. Gable: “They cruised around Paris, dined alfresco at cafes, drank wine, walked arm in arm down the street like tourists”. Suzanne introduced him tot he lively nightlife of the capital, but also tried to work on cultural upbringing -she took him to the opera, museums and recitals. The also boated around the Seine frequently, like any other couple in love. In mid June, he had to move to London to start filming a movie with Gene Tierney.
Clark got himself a sports car, one of a kind Jaguar, while in England, and had fun driving it around. He got on splendidly with Gene Tierney, his co-star, but did not forget Suzanne- he went down to Paris almost every free weekend he had to meet with her again. They spend Bastille Day together, dancing on the streets, drinking wine, shouting with the crowds in the cafes, and going for onion soup the morning after. Clark returned to France on September 20, bringing his Jaguar with him. He and Suzanne started a slow descent to Rome by car, crossing Switzerland. They stayed for three weeks at the exclusive Villa d’Este on the lake Como, where he played golf and she took it easy, sunbathing and swimming. They finally got to Rome and spend a few days there as carefree tourists. Sadly, Sam Zimbalist called Clark in the middle of their idyllic sojourn, and he had to fly to Nairobi on October 31 to start filming Mogambo. Suzanne was left to return to Paris alone.
The pair made headlines for the first time in the US in November 1952, after they separated for the time being. They were spotted together in a restaurant in Rome. Since Clark was away in Africa filming, no further news were given of them for a long time. While I have no idea what Suzanne was doing during that time, Clark was romancing Grace Kelly on set. Grace fell hard for Clark, but he did not return the sentiment – he was there to see her off on May 19, 1953, when she boarded the plane from London to New York. Clark returned to Paris right away, and continued to tour European sights with his old friends, the Menascos, and Suzanne. They visited Switzerland, France and Italy (especially Florence), and often stopped at small towns to soak up the atmosphere.
Later in May, they were photographed in the Hostarirr Dell Orso, prestigious night club in Paris. By July, Clark installed hismelf in the Hotel Rapahel in Paris, he and Suzanne going as strong as ever.
Soon, the upper classes of Paris were sure that Gable was going to marry Suzanne – but Dorothy Killgallen, ever the acerbic wit, branded them hopeless romantics and said she very much doubted Clark would do it. It sounded very harsh and much too unkind at the time, when everything was still possible, but sadly, Dorothy knew Clark too well. Indeed, he would never marry Suzanne, and the story ended on a bitter note.
Clark was not the only one trying to get into Miss Dadolle’s good graces – Aly Khan, the notorious playboy dating Gene Tierney (who was o staring with Clark in the movie Never Let Me Go), was also interested in her. Allegedly Suzanne resisted as long as she could, but gave in after some persuasion, and went on a few dates with the dashing Prince. There was s rumors that Gene Tierney walked out on Aly Khan in Paris when he walked into a cocktail reception at the American Embassy with Suzanne on his arm.
After Clark returned to Paris full time, he introduced Suzanne to Hedda Hopper – both looked stunning as they returned from a Capri holiday. Suzanne affinity for wearing pants during the day and toreador pans for the evening was also noted in the press, calling her a modern day Marlene Dietrich. Louella Parsons called Suzanne one of the prettiest women she had ever seen. In August, they departed for the Medoc house of Alexis Lichine, to escape from the heat and the snoops. It all seemed fine and dandy between the couple.
When they returned to Paris later in the month, Clark started to call her “my future wife.” I can very much see why Suzanne really tough that she had snagged her man. Who calls a woman this and then breaks off with her on the first sight of trouble? In September, there were early reports that Suzanne had accepted Clark’s proposal of marriage, and that it would all be made official in two weeks. In early October, Suzanne gave off the first interviews where she coyly talks about marriage, not denying nor confirming it. She claimed Clark had to wait a bit before getting his final divorce decree, which was not valid information since he was already divorced by that time from Sylvia Ashley.
An entirely different kind of girl is Suzanne Dadolle. She seems to be the one most in love and most
interested in marriage. She has devoted her time to Clark Gable for over a year, and although he was reserved about her at first, they were later seen together constantly. Toward the end of last summer, you could find them practically any evening, dining out at any of the cafes in Paris along the Champs Elysees.
There are friends who say that Clark intends to make his Suzanne the fifth Mrs.
Gable, that as recently as September he was introducing her to friends in Paris as “my future wife.” Others insist it’s just a fling. “I’ll give you even money,” a friend of his says, “that when Gable shows up in South America for his next picture — that is, if he does show up— he will be still single. I know the guy and I’m telling you that he was burned in his last marriage and he doesn’t want to try it again.”
However, Clark himself said he had absolutely nothing against marriage and that if the right girl came along — “someone sophisticated, attractive, and of course, someone with whom I was in love, I wouldn’t mind getting married one bit.”
Clark was in Amsterdam, Holland, making his last movie for MGM. But, if Suzanne expected Clark to dash from Amsterdam to Paris and make a joint statement, she was to be bitterly disappointed. Clark literary backstabbed her by claiming Suzanne was just after a bit of publicity, saying he was not in love with anybody and that he would certainly not get married any time soon. I have no idea if the two ever met again during the rest of his Europe trip, but Clark soon went back to the US (back to his farm), and Suzanne was left behind in Paris. Yet, rumors stubbornly persisted as to the fact that he would take Suzanne with him and make her his bride early in 1955. No such luck.
Now, time for a short analysis. What exactly happened? Well, Clark did. Trust me, after seeing Gone with the wind for the first time back in the early 2000s, I adored him. Who didn’t find Rhett Butler exciting? But, the more I grew up and matured, and of course the more I read about Clark, I changed my mind drastically. Yet, he was charming and alluring, but Clark was one difficult personality. I personally could never warm up to his kind of a man: traditional, hard as stone, set in his ways, expecting a woman to bend to him. It was no secret that Carole Lombard did everything to make him happy, expected little in return, and tolerated his extra marital adventures. The more I read about them, the more I asked myself: what did Carole see in him? She was a such a vivacious, charming, unusual woman, she could have had any man she wanted. Behind the Rhett Butler facade, Clark Gable was far from a perfect man. His career came first and even his romances took the back seat to it. Well, to each his own – there is no doubt there were were partners who could be perfectly suited for Clark, but the problem is that he was attracted to strong, high born, independent women who were not the ideal candidates for a man like him. Joan Crawford, a lioness in her private life and career, and a great love of Clark’s, saw this early in the relationship and refused to marry him because of it. All for the best, IMHO – they would have ended up divorced before the years was out. So, let’s be a bit brutal – Clark led Suzanne on, living a highly romanticized, idyllic life for almost a year, and when she wanted something more, he brutally dropped her. While there is a possibility that he told her, point blank, he would never marry her, but she refused to believe him and thought to the last she could change him (ah, common mistake!), I somehow doubt it. The point is, Suzanne was given the sack after a great romance.
Suzanne lived in a half fantasy world for a time after, hoping that Clark WOULD marry her, even dreaming of Verona, Italy, as the perfect place for that. Yet, when Johnny Meyer, world class cad and Howard Hughes’s right hand man, came to Paris, they had a brief but passionate fling. By Late December, there was no hope for a reconciliation. In January, the papers were abuzz with the news that Suzanne was coming to the US to join Clark. False! With every new interview Clark just cemented what Suzanne must have known by then – he would not marry her. Yet, in June 1954, Suzanne, perhaps hoping against every reason, sailed for the US. She was to stay with Johnny Meyer, her old flame.
Suzanne landed in New York, and did good as a model. Clark allegedly long distanced her and even asked her to visit him in California, but she refused, quite liking it in New York. Then, in December 1954, she finally did go to Los Angeles, to try her hand at TV and continue modeling. She had a uneasy encounter with Kay Spreckles, the former model who would become Clark’s Wife Nr. 5, at the Beverly Hills hotel. Clark was in Hong Kong at the time, filming Soldier of Fortune with Susan Hayward.
Eve after Clark returned, nothing big happened. Taken from this great site (with a good page about Suzanne!!!)
To date, The King and Suzanne have encountered each other only twice. Once on the set at 20th Century Fox where Gable was doing a luncheon scene in a Hong King restaurant with Susan Hayward (late that day he drove Hayward home) and once in La Rue’s restaurant. Gable was dining there with Kay Spreckels when Suzanne came in with contractor Hal Hayes.Since Hayes used to date Kay, and Gable used to date Dadolle, there might have been some embarrassment. But Kay handled the situation tactfully. She walked over to Hayes’ table and was introduced to Suzanne. Gable nodded pleasantly, and the encounter came off without incident.
Luckily, Suzanne was far from idle while in Los Angeles. She modeled for Orry Kelly and was active romantically. Her newest swain was producer Brynie Foy, and they became serious quickly – the papers reported their matrimonial intentions as early as January 1955. Sadly, the relationship was soon broken, and she went on to date socialite Dick Cowell. In April, she was taken to Nassau by a new ardent admirer, Lord Astor. However, she was soon back with the ever loving Cowell.
In May, she was seen with Irving “Swifty” Lazar. By August 1955, Suzanne was the highest paid model in the US. However, at some point, Suzanne returned to Paris and worked in the fashion magazine industry. She wrote articles for Harper’s Bazaar, among them a guide to traveling in Provance.
Sadly, I have no idea what happened to Suzanne afterwards, or if she is alive today.