A Golden Shotgun in the Golden Age of Hollywood
During the happy years of their marriage, not only did the couple enjoy tending to their own livestock, they also were active hunters. Gable even had in his contract with MGM that he would make “no pictures during the hunting season.” A quick online search will reveal no shortage of photos showing both husband and wife hunting together, most often for ducks or upland birds. Gable owned numerous firearms, some of which were gifts from Carole, who quickly picked-up the hunting bug after the two were married. A period article in “Ladies Home Journal” recounts that on her first duck hunt with Clark, she bagged more ducks than he did, and he couldn’t have been happier about it. It should come as no surprise then that in 1940 he presented this extravagant and rare golden shotgun to the woman who was his hunting buddy as well as the love of his life.
Even at a distance, this O/U shotgun is striking; it’s bright gilt parts contrasting sharply with the blued barrels and rib. The receiver, single trigger, trigger guard, and release lever are all lavishly gold plated and have been set wonderfully into deluxe stock complete with fleur-de-lis checkering on the forend and wrist. Stippling texture covers the receiver, rib, break lever, and trigger guard, while a diamond-shaped gilt plaque on the right forend indicates the shotgun’s provenance with a simple inscription: “1940, To Carole. Love, Clark.”
However, it is this same forend that gives the viewer the first hint that it is not a typical fowling piece. A closer inspection reveals this to be a side-opening shotgun, one of just 14 hand-made by gunsmith and Erich Klebe.
Klebe was born in Berlin on September 23, 1893 and served as a gunsmith’s apprentice at the age of 13. After 5 years, he began work for a gun dealer in his hometown and quickly found himself handling and repairing the hunting pieces for Paul von Hindenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and other high ranking German officials. Klebe tells of building guns with curved stocks for men with a blind eye so they could sight their rifles with their good eye, and building iron frames on which a taxidermist could mount the Kaiser’s trophies. He also served as an armorer during The Great War. In August of 1923, he and his family emigrated to the United States, and took up residence in Minneapolis, MN. There he worked in residence at sporting goods store Kennedy Sports rent free due to the amount of customers he attracted to the business. It is even said that baseball great Ted Williams owned one of Klebe’s custom shotguns.
Read the rest of RIA’s post on the gun below.