Just after their 1939 marriage, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable purchased a 20-acre ranch in then-sparsely populated Encino, California. While her husband filmed Gone With the Wind, the actress oversaw renovations, creating warm, unpretentious rooms with pine paneling, comfortable furniture and bright, cheerful colors.
The pair met on the set of 1932’s No Man of Her Own, but romantic sparks didn’t fly until they danced together at a ball four years later. A meeting of opposites: Carole was a bold, boisterous woman, while Clark was calm and cool. But the road to marriage was complicated by his second wife, who didn’t want to lose him, and it’s said that Clark accepted the role of Rhett Butler so he could afford to divorce.
Carole and Clark moved to the Encino ranch, where they jokingly called each other “Ma” and “Pa” and frequently went out on hunting and fishing expeditions. “Clark would potter around with his old cars and farm work, and Carole was quite happy to help out,” says Michelle Morgan, author of Carole Lombard: Twentieth-Century Star. “They lived a peaceful life. I think she was pretty content on the ranch.”
Their life together wasn’t perfect — Carole mourned her inability to have children — but the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 gave the patriotic star a higher sense of purpose. At her urging, Clark became the head of the Hollywood Victory Committee. Carole helped the war effort by agreeing to go on a fundraising tour of her native Indiana.
On January 16, 1942, Clark planned a surprise party to welcome his wife home. Carole, 33, never made it. Her plane had crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board. “Clark adored her. She was the light in his eyes,” their friend Elaine Barrymore said. “That light never returned.”