Actress Carole Lombard and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy were both attractive, intelligent and talented women. One was married to the "king of Hollywood", Clark Gable and the other to the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. But what they shared in common most of all was the fact that they were both married to unrepentant serial philanderers.
If you look at their many photos from the time of their famous marriages both women are invariably shown wearing wedding rings. Yet their husbands are not -- not even on their wedding days. Both women apparently loved their husbands yet both also had serious reservations about their conduct.
Both of these men continually took risks that jeopardized their marriages. And both did so in a way that disrespected their wives. In the memoirs of the summer intern who had an affair with JFK, she states very clearly that she was seduced initially in Jackie Kennedy's own bedroom in the White House and on her very bed.
Clark Gable was notorious for sleeping with just about any available script girl and hat check girl in Hollywood. On their first date he invited the woman who became his fifth wife into his home and said to her "why don't you go upstairs and take off your clothes?" Now there were only two bedrooms in Gable's home, his and the one that his wife had used. Carole was dead, but sending someone up to disrobe in her bedroom was not the sign of respect for his date nor that of being a deeply grieving widower.
Both men felt a need for constant sexual activity and felt entitled to it. Yet when married they both expected their wives to be loyal and respectful of them and understanding of their needs.
There certainly were compensations that both women were well aware of.
From an article by Julia Stuart
Clark Gable and John F. Kennedy, like so many serial philanderers, possessed of transcendent charm. But like so many men - and women - time and again drawn to infidelity, the colourful charade cloaks the stark reality. This is a psychological condition with dark consequences for the individual and those around them. The stage set is real; sex with others when you've made serious promises to do otherwise, is not entertainment but a potentially life-shattering cataclysm. Cheating is a serious psychological condition.
Sex addiction is not only a male phenomenon. History has thrown up some eye-watering female examples. Catherine the Great was celebrated for having sex with everyone including her own horse. Messalina, wife of Emperor Claudius, challenged the chief of Rome's prostitutes in a public contest as to who could have the most men in a day, retiring exhausted.
Commonly though, women who whisk their way through endless lovers thrive on attention and adulation. "Women are immensely flattered by being desired,' remarks Dr Apter. "Sex can become the arena where they feel the most powerful." This certainly applies to Nora. Gorgeous and lissom in her late twenties, she calculates she has had dozens of men, but maintains a steady boyfriend in what she calls a "companionable relationship".
Both psychologists agree that this kind of addiction, what they prefer to call compulsive sexual activity, is ultimately self-destructive. "It is often an infantile inability to repress any desire," says Dr Apter. Ominously... she adds, "The very privileged often do not develop this self-control and become self-indulgent, feeling entitled to make constant sexual requests."
And it clearly is not all fun on the sex circuit. Big time Fifties womaniser David Niven bemoaned his constant search for sex as "like being tied to a mad parrot" ( reported mistakenly by a friend as "like being tied to a mad carrot") and Michael Douglas, had the indignity of having the treatment for his "condition" trumpeted to the world. Errol Flynn, Clark Gable all confessed in their era to a compulsion for sex that had begun to take control of them.
Clearly life for these women was not a bed of roses. For Lombard the great love of her life, Russ Columbo, was dead. She made the most of her marriage to Clark Gable. Jacqueline Kennedy had children and was the first lady. Whether her marriage to John Kennedy would have lasted past their term(s) in the White House, we shall never know.