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OF COURSE, BOTH Clark Gable and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson were part of the American entertainment scene: These days, I regularly hear Anderson’s gravelly voice as Rochester van Jones, valet, butler, and pal of comedian Jack Benny, on Sirius XM’s “Radio Classics.” In 1937, Anderson was the first African American to have a regular role on a nationwide radio program. In 1943, he starred as Little Joe in the Hollywood version of the musical comedy Cabin in the Sky.
And just recently I enjoyed (not for the first time) Clark Gable starring with Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night on Turner Classic Movies. This 1934 pre-Code flick is a fine example of screwball comedy, considered one of the greatest films ever made. (It swept all five major Academy Awards that year.)
Another Commonality. In addition to evident celebrity, both Gable and Anderson had cars featured in pre-ampersand Road and Track. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits concerning these two appearances, in March 1950 and March 1951.
Gable’s Favorite Sports Car. In March 1950, the magazine published No. 3 in a “My Favorite Sports Car” series: the Jaguar XK-120 owned by Clark Gable. (Nos. 1 and 2 were “By Our Readers,” enthusiasts not quite as renowned as Gable. For instance, No. 2, in the magazine’s December 1949 issue, was the 2.3 Short Chassis Alfa Romeo owned by Secondo Guasti.)
Gable wrote, “To call the XK ‘My Favorite Sports Car’ is putting it mildly…. I’ve alway been a bug on cars, especially fast ones. From Duesenbergs to and thru hopped-up popular makes, I’ve owned and/or driven most of them.”
Indeed, the tale of a Gable Duesenberg has appeared here at SimanaitisSays.
“When the 120 was first announced,” Gable wrote, “I was driving a Mark IV Jaguar so I already knew what the name implied. The general appearance and specifications of the car were enough to make me want it like a child wants candy. I wasn’t alone in wanting an XK-120, but I was fortunate to be among the early birds in becoming an owner.”
Assessing the Jaguar’s Top Speed. “As this was shortly after the car had set a world record of over 132 miles per hour for stock production cars, I lost no time in seeing just what mine, which I KNEW as strictly stock, would do.”
“So,” Gable continued, “I decided to try a clocked run at one of the dry lakes here in Southern California. To make a long story short, we went through the measured mile course at (the studio will probably cut this out) 124 mph (the studio didn’t—ed.).”
Real Gable? Or studio P.R.? Se non è vero, è ben trovato. (It may not be true, but it’s a good story.)
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see what Rochester swaps in place of driving Jack Benny’s fabled Maxwell. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022