Theirs wasn’t the stupendous and legendary romance yellowing movie rags would have us believe. According to Lombard’s biographer Larry Swindell, several of her friends interviewed made it clear that the famed union was just about kaput before Lombard’s death because of Gable’s chronic womanizing.
Gable wasn’t the love of her life. That distinction, she told a reporter from LIFE off the record during a 1939 profile, belonged to crooner Russ Columbo, a charming and handsome fellow moving up the Hollywood ranks when he was killed in a freak accident with an antique pistol. Devastated by his death, Lombard faithfully wore the jewelry he’d given her even after marrying Gable and had bought a crypt at Forest Lawn just a few feet away from her dead lover’s. After her death in 1942 (while allegedly wearing the ruby pendant Columbo had given her, seen in the photo above,) Gable had to scramble to buy the crypt next to the one she already owned.
CREEPY SIDE NOTE: Among the artifacts recovered at the crash site were the mangled ruby and diamond clips Gable had given her the previous Christmas, which he had fitted into a locket and supposedly wore for the rest of his life. For years after her death, Gable supposedly sent search teams and offered a hefty reward to whoever found her wedding band. Apparently, Lombard’s left hand was never found.