These Old Hollywood Husbands Are The Absolute Worst

January 22, 2024 | Miles Brucker

These Old Hollywood Husbands Are The Absolute Worst

Constant affairs. Secret children. Attempted taking of a life. Old Hollywood had no shortage of leading men—but anyone unlucky enough to actually get their hands on one of these hunks was in for a rude awakening.

1. John Wayne Never Saw His Wife

Josephine Saenz married the young, up-and-coming John Wayne in 1933—but by the 1940s, Wayne was a bona fide movie star with lots of better things to do than be a good husband. Saenz saw less and less of Wayne, who worked constantly throughout the first decade of their relationship. But Wayne's absence was nothing compared to his betrayal.

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2. He Fell For His Co-Star

I'm sure Josephine sat at home and worried about her husband spending all his time with Hollywood's most glamorous actresses. Well, her worries would have been well-founded. In 1940, Wayne starred in the film Seven Sinners—and during production, he began one of the most intense and ruinous affairs of his entire life.

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3. She Liked What She Saw

John Wayne had reached the big time, and that meant he shared billing with some of the biggest actresses in the game—such as Marlene Dietrich, his Seven Sinners co-star. Before they'd even met, director Tay Garnett thought the pair of them might have chemistry, so he introduced them. Dietrich looked the Duke up and down like a piece of meat, then leaned over to Garnett and said, "Daddy, buy me that!"

Wayne landed the starring role in the film—and he got a LOT more than he'd bargained for.

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4. He Lived A Double Life

Marlene Dietrich offered John Wayne the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle that he'd only dreamed of before. He had a wife and three children back home, but they just couldn't compete with a firecracker like Dietrich. She was exactly the kind of woman Wayne adored: She was gorgeous and feminine, but would also accompany him to football games and on hunting trips.

For years, Wayne lived two lives: A simple, family life back home, and the life of a movie star with Marlene Dietrich. Something had to give—and Wayne was just getting started.

John Wayne factsSeven Sinners (1940), Universal Pictures

5. He Tried To Keep His Secrets Buried

John Wayne was obsessed with his image and he worked tirelessly to keep the sordid details of his personal life from getting out. However, in the decades since his passing, his dirty secrets have started to come to light. His affair with Marlene Dietrich had long been public knowledge—but there were far more scandalous trysts than that.

Marlene Dietrich FactsWikimedia Commons

6. He Allegedly Made A Naughty Tape

John Wayne's affair with Merle Oberon has created one of Hollywood's most shocking legends. Allegedly, the pair of them made a film together, but not some studio affair. No, their film was much more personal...and much more adult. Hollywood insiders have long insisted the film exists, and many have claimed to have seen it, but thus far, it has never seen the light of day.

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7. The Real Love Of His Life Stayed A Secret

Most people assumed that Marlene Dietrich was John Wayne's most passionate affair, but maybe that was just the one we'd heard about. According to Robert Mitchum's son Christopher, who worked with Wayne on a film, the real love of Wayne's life was another starlet: Maureen O'Hara. Mitchum claimed that Wayne was "truly in love with that woman," and that they were inseparable on set.

But, whether it was Merle or Maureen or Marlene, Wayne knew they weren't wife material. They were far too independent to allow him to control them, so he stuck to fooling around and never married any of them. Lucky them.

Maureen O'Hara FactsGetty Images

8. His Wife Found Out

John Wayne came home one day to find a strange man in his home. His name was Father McCoy, and Wayne's wife Josephine had invited him to provide marriage counseling. By now, Josephine was well aware of her husband's affairs; Marlene Dietrich was just one of many. She begged him to change his ways and come back to her—but there was no saving their marriage now.

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9. His Marriage Went Up In Smoke

Wayne and his first wife had a fourth child in 1940—well after his affair with Dietrich had begun—but their marriage couldn't recover. They divorced in 1945. By then, Wayne had already moved on from Marlene Dietrich and had a new girl. He didn't realize it yet, but this was the girl who would nearly shoot him in just a few short years.

John Wayne factsPicryl

10. He Found A New Love

The moment that John Wayne laid eyes on Esperanza Baur, or "Chata," as he called her, he fell in love. He was still married to his first wife at the time, and meeting Chata was the final nail in the coffin. Chata started calling him at home—the home he shared with his wife and children. For Josephine, that was the moment she decided enough was enough.

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11. She Kicked Him Out

Wayne came home (likely from a liaison with Chata herself) to find all of his things strewn about the lawn. Josephine had kicked him out of the house. They divorced soon after, but Wayne didn't mind too much. He married Chata almost immediately. He was in love and ready for his happily-ever-after. Little did he know, his new wife had a disturbing side he had not seen yet—but he was about to.

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12. His New Wife Was A Nightmare

John Wayne put it best when he said that his marriage to Esperanza Gaur "was like shaking two volatile chemicals in a jar". Their love ran hot—and it didn't take much for it to boil over. Wayne loved Chata's fiery side, but it came at a price. She was manipulative and jealous. She hated it when he went to see his kids, and she lived in constant fear that he was cheating on her.

To be fair, he was already married when they started going steady, so she had reason to be worried. That doesn't mean her response wasn't absolutely deranged.

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13. He Wanted It Both Ways

Wayne could be a great husband and father—when he felt like it. However, the allure of the Hollywood lifestyle was always there, and when he didn't feel like playing house, he went out partying with his movie star friends. One such night, Chata sat at home stewing, imagining her husband was out sleeping with one co-star or another.

She worked herself into a frenzy, and by the time Wayne came home, she had snapped.

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14. She Tried To Shoot Him

That night, a tipsy John Wayne stumbled into his home in the early hours of the morning. He opened the door, and found chilling sight waiting for him. There was his wife, awake in the middle of the night — and she had a lethal weapon aimed directly at him. No one knows for certain how the remainder of that night unfolded, but it's enough to note, Chata didn't actually resort to firing at him.

John Wayne was still alive and kicking. His marriage, though, was another story...

John Wayne factsWikipedia

15. They Called It Quits

After nine fiery years, John Wayne's second marriage burned out. I suppose the entire "aiming a weapon at him" situation was a step too far. They filed for divorce—but if Wayne was hoping for a nice quickie split like he got with his first wife, he had another thing coming. Chata was clearly not one to go quietly. What followed was one of the greatest scandals of John Wayne's career.

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16. She Dragged Him Through The Mud

John Wayne was an intensely private man—but Chata wanted to make sure all of his dirty laundry saw the light of day. Chata publicly accused him of infidelity, emotional harshness, and "clobbering". Wayne fought back, calling his wife a "drunken partygoer who would fall down and then accuse him of pushing her".

But while Chata went into the proceedings hoping to take Wayne for everything he had, she didn't realize that the Duke had a secret weapon.

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17. Her Secrets Came Out Too

Though John Wayne was one of the most beloved men in the country, Chata did everything in her power to ruin his good image. But, if you're going to dish it out, you've got to be ready for the backlash. During the divorce proceedings, it was revealed that Chata had been maintaining a liaison with renowned socialite Conrad Hilton Jr. who was reputed for his flamboyant and carefree lifestyle.

After this total mess of a divorce, you'd think Wayne would sit back and enjoy the single life for a while—but the Duke wasn't much of a bachelor, and he already had his eyes on his next trophy wife.

John Wayne factsFlickr, Insomnia Cured Here

18. He Found Another Love

When you're going through a divorce like THAT, work feels like a vacation. Wayne traveled down to Peru to scout locations for a film. He toured some local film sets, and on one of those sets, someone caught his eye. A gorgeous woman in a low-cut costume filmed a sultry dance scene by firelight. When the cameras stopped rolling, the director introduced her to him.

He looked at her up and down and said, "That was quite a dance". The rest of that night is lost to history, but use your imagination.

John Wayne factsFlickr, Insomnia Cured Here

19. He Divorced And Married On The Same Day

Her name was Pilar Pallete, and John Wayne knew he'd found his next wife the moment he saw her. Though very much still married to Chata, Wayne began a torrid affair with this Peruvian dancer. He knew she was the one for him, and the very day that his divorce from Chata became final, the two of them tied the knot.

Pallete must have thought she was living a fairy tale: One of the biggest actors in Hollywood came to Peru and swept her off her feet. Little did she realize, this was more like a horror story.

John Wayne factsWikimedia Commons

20. His New Wife Suffered

Pilar Pallete quickly learned that there's a big difference between dreams and reality. She may have dreamed of moving to Hollywood, but actually doing it wasn't quite as magical as she imagined. The cultural shift overwhelmed her with stress, and she began having trouble sleeping. She began taking sleeping pills—unaware that she was taking the first step down a dark path.

John Wayne factsWikipedia

21. She Hit Rock Bottom

Pallete soon became addicted to the sleeping pills—and it didn't help that Wayne insisted she remain at his side always. He dragged her from location to location, set to set, and it quickly took its toll. Finally, it reached a disturbing climax. While on location in Louisiana, Pallete took too many pills, began hallucinating, and slit her own wrists.

She had reached rock bottom—and Wayne's reaction didn't help.

John Wayne factsGetty Images

22. He Abandoned Her

Any of John Wayne's wives would tell you: Work always came first with him. His wife was clearly in dire straits, but Wayne had a movie to film! He hired some nurses to accompany his wife back to California, then kept on filming as if nothing had happened. John Wayne might have been a romantic, but he was no Prince Charming.

But while Pilar Pallete got a raw deal, I'd still say Esperanza Baur met the darkest fate of all Wayne's wives.

John Wayne factsPicryl

23. Her Life Fell Apart After The Divorce

Esperanza "Chata" Baur does not seem like she was the most...stable person in the world. Maybe it was the "trying to shoot her husband" thing, or the messy divorce, but that's at least the impression that WE got. Clearly, she had some issues—and it seems like John Wayne was the only thing that kept her grounded. After the divorce, Chata started spiraling.

She eventually ended up in a Mexican hotel, where she secluded herself in her room and drank excessively until she no longer drew breath. She was just 40 years old. John Wayne had completely and utterly ruined her—but he STILL wasn't as bad of a husband as Ryan O'Neal, Hollywood's most notorious lady's man.

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24. Ryan O'Neal Had A Mean Streak

Ryan O’Neal’s blonde, clean-cut hair and innocent blue eyes were a perfect disguise for his fiery disposition. When O’Neal was 18 he got into an argument with a stranger at a party. Instead of using his words, O’Neal did something much worse—he went on the attack. But this was no ordinary party fight—O'Neal was confined for 51 days as punishment for it. But this incident barely scraped the surface.

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25. He Was Half Of A Golden Couple

Once he returned home, O’Neal married the lovely actress Joanna Moore. Around the same time, he landed a coveted role on America’s first prime time soap, Peyton Place. O’Neal became a star overnight and he and his beautiful wife quickly became the talk of the town. Fans across America looked up to this perfect couple. But behind the scenes, life proved far from golden.

Tatum O’Neal FactsWikipedia

26. He Was Neglectful

O’Neal and Moore had two children—Tatum and Griffin. The children matured in Hollywood — the epitome of excess — where O'Neal and Moore prioritized their time with reckless indulgences rather than spending it with their own offspring. But their problems went beyond neglect...There was something much more sinister happening at the O’Neal household.

Ryan O’Neal FactsGetty Images

27. He Forgot Them

Because of O’Neal and Moore’s partying, the children were frequently forgotten. They often found themselves fading into the blurry background as the party raged on around them. But Tatum O'Neal paints an even darker picture of her homelife—she claims that because her parents weren’t around, friends of the family abused her. Sadly, this was just the beginning of the tragic childhood her father afforded her.

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28. His Homelife Was A Disaster

O’Neal and Moore’s partying spun out of control. It didn't assist matters that Moore sought to salvage her faltering career by escalating her dependence on harmful substances. Everything about their marriage fell into a downward spiral. There were also shocking allegations against O’Neal claiming he battered his wife. Life at the O'Neal residence turned overwhelmingly detrimental and Moore finally mustered the courage to pack up the kids and depart. But after leaving their father, the children faced an even darker nightmare. 

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29. His Children Lived in Squalor

When O’Neal and Moore split, it left Moore—struggling with addiction and now, depression—alone with the kids. Tatum O’Neal has some harsh memories of having little food and using the floor as a bathroom. But her worst memory of all?...Her mother’s teenage boyfriend beat her frequently. And what about O’Neal? Where was he during all of this?

Tatum O’Neal FactsGetty Images

30. He Got Married in Paradise

While O’Neal’s ex-wife and children were living a deplorable existence, O’Neal gleefully remarried in Hawaii. This time it was with his Peyton Place co-star Leigh Taylor-Young. Together, they had a son who they named Patrick, but once again, O’Neal proved that he wasn’t cut out for marriage. At the end of their relationship, Taylor-Young had some interesting words to say about her husband.

Ryan O’Neal FactsWikimedia Commons

31. His Wife Made Excuses

After their short marriage, the press asked Taylor-Young what she thought of her ex-husband O’Neal—"I could speak to parts of Ryan like temper and volatility and reactivity, but I deeply know his goodness". But while his ex-wife took the road of neutrality, O’Neal’s actions spoke for themselves. Oh, and he was only going to get worse.

Ryan O’Neal FactsWikimedia Commons

32. He Had No Discretion

Next, O’Neal dated Bond Girl Ursula Andress. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, but they had a problem in the bedroom...O’Neal’s daughter—Tatum—shared the bed with them. Apparently, Andress found it shocking to share her lover’s bed with a young child. But this wasn’t the most disturbing incident to transpire on O’Neal’s watch...His illicit habits paved the way for tragedy.

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33. He Couldn’t Protect Her

The O’Neal household overflowed with all sorts of bad influences for children. O’Neal’s drug habit meant that sketchy dealers frequently visited the home. On one occasion, a dealer came upon Tatum unsupervised. That’s when something terrible happened...The drug dealer molested Tatum. Devastated and distraught, she mustered up the courage to tell her father the terrible truth...

Tatum O’Neal FactsGetty Images

34. He Victim Blamed

When Tatum told her father about her horrific run-in with the dealer, O’Neal blamed his daughter, insisting that she must have led him on. And then O’Neal made matters worse—much worse...He kept the accused drug dealer on the payroll. In O’Neal’s mind, daughters were a dime a dozen, but a good dealer was hard to find. But luckily for Tatum, not all of her father’s friends were out to get her.

Ryan O’Neal FactsGetty Images

35. He Was An Enabler

O’Neal's parenting advice wasn’t just abhorrent, it was downright dangerous. When teenage Tatum O’Neal started to put on a few extra pounds, O’Neal swooped in with some fatherly advice. Given the abundance of illicit substances scattered about the house, he proposed that she inhale some of them to aid in reducing her weight. Her father’s poor judgment led Tatum down a dark and dangerous path.

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36. He Didn’t Care

O'Neal's daughter contended with various difficulties—her erratic father, her dependency on harmful substances, and her unstable home life. In a moment of despair, she made a perilous decision—to end her own life by slitting her wrists. Luckily, her attempt proved unsuccessful. To add to devastation, O’Neal failed to offer Tatum a single shred of empathy. Instead, O’Neal criticized her attempt—“You cut the wrong way".

That's it. That's got to be the end of Ryan O'Neal's bad behavior...right?

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37. He Dumped His Daughter

O'Neal's next conquest was none-other than Farah Fawcett, who he plainly swept away from her husband/O'Neal's co-star, Lee Majors. Fawcett separated from Majors and hooked up with her new lover. O’Neal, who’d been reluctant to move out of his own Malibu home, finally took the plunge for Fawcett's sake. But when he moved, he left Tatum alone to fend for herself. O’Neal turned his back on his daughter, and focussed on Fawcett. But how much of O’Neal’s attention could one woman take?

Ryan O’Neal FactsFlickr

38. He Was Caught Red-Handed

Even after all this time, O’Neal was still a terrible husband. Fawcett was one of the most sought after beauties in America and yet O’Neal had the audacity to cheat on her. Fawcett literally walked in on O’Neal in bed with another woman—model and actress—Leslie Ann Stefanson. But that wasn’t even the most upsetting part...O’Neal's defense sounded downright creepy.

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39. He Twisted The Story

Caught in the act, O’Neal told Fawcett that Stefanson was more like a daughter than a lover—“My own daughter had flown the coop, so here was this replacement". This was about a woman he was sleeping with. O’Neal always managed to twist his own wrongdoings into ridiculous cover ups. But at the end of the day, the story wasn’t twisted—he was.

Ryan O’Neal FactsShutterstock

40. He Refused To Take The Blame

O’Neal couldn’t bear to take the blame for his infidelity and blamed Fawcett—or rather—her body. Her menopause really cramped his style, and whatever changes she was going through, well, it wasn’t for him. O’Neal said he’d had it with divas and, in his words, “excused himself” from his almost two-decade-long relationship.

We expected nothing less from a guy like Ryan O'Neal. At least Clark Gable was a little bit better—though his affairs still rocked Hollywood.

Ryan O’Neal FactsShutterstock

41. Clark Gable Would Do Anything To Get To The Top

In his early years in the film business, Clark Gable had a dirty little secret. The “help” of an older mentor had already gotten him to Hollywood—so he repeated that pattern with anyone who would take him. Despite his marriage to his acting coach, Josephine Dillon, Gable had extramarital affairs with both men and women in order to further his career, including star William Haines and wealthy actress Pauline Frederick, who not only gave him a part in her play, but also bought him a car.

If you can believe it, this was just the start of his outrageously scandalous life as a notorious bachelor.

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42. He Found Another

Eventually, all of Gable’s bed-hopping took its toll on his marriage to Dillon, and the pair separated in 1929. Gable was doing whatever he could to climb to the top, and he showed no signs of slowing down. He finally got his first film contract, with Pathe Pictures, and even found another rich, older woman to seduce—an heiress named Maria Langham.

Their age difference? 17 years. You can’t say he didn’t have a type…

Clark Gable FactsThe Painted Desert, Pathé Exchange

43. He Moved Quick

Just days after the courts finalized Gable’s divorce from his first wife, he tied the knot with Langham. And at first, his eyes stopped wandering…but not for long. Gable’s first two marriages had been unions of convenience—at least, for him. Both of his wives were wealthy and could help his career, and he had needed the help. However, after his Oscar win, he didn’t need help anymore.

Still, a messy divorce in the middle of a victory lap wasn’t a good look, so Gable and his second wife drew up a separation agreement…and then sat on it for a few years. Why mess with a good thing, right?

Carole Lombard FactsFlickr,kate gabrielle

44. It Was An Open Secret

Gable started seeing his co-star, Carole Lombard, and they didn’t really try to hide their romance. However, not everyone was on board. Despite their separation, Langham, had expected that he’d come back to her eventually. She knew that he’d had scores of affairs, and she didn’t care—but this was different.

Even the tabloids began to embrace Gable and Lombard as a couple, painting Langham as the villain instead of the victim. Do you think she wasn’t about to let him get off that easy?

Clark Gable FactsGetty Images

45. They Got Rid Of Her

Langham had supported Gable through the rocky early years of his career—and now, he was the world’s biggest movie star. She wasn’t about to let that go. Gable pushed her to go through with the divorce, which only made her angrier. MGM also wanted him out of the marriage, hoping to avoid further scandal. Finally, they came up with an ingenious plan.

If Gable accepted the role of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, MGM would pay him so handsomely that an expensive divorce settlement would be a drop in the bucket. It was a win-win for everyone—everyone except Langham, that is.

Clark Gable Facts Wikimedia Commons

46. He Moved Quickly

Langham tried to make it difficult for Gable by filing for divorce in California, which would mean that he’d need to wait before marrying Lombard. Eventually, she relented, and the courts granted Gable and Langham a divorce. During a production break from Gone With the Wind, Gable finally wed Lombard—just 13 days after his divorce. The man didn’t waste any time!

Clark Gable Facts Wikimedia Commons

47. She Was The Love Of His Life

With Lombard, Gable could finally be himself. They laughed together and played pranks on each other, and had similar tastes. While she was no stranger to Hollywood parties, she was also fine getting into the stables with Gable or accompanying him on any of his hunting trips. They were a perfect match—but not every fairy tale was a happy ending.

Clark Gable Facts Wikimedia Commons

48. He Lost Her

In January 1942, Lombard had traveled to her home state of Indiana to appear at a WWII bond drive. She was returning home to Los Angeles with her mother and her press agent when a tragedy of the most devastating kind struck. Lombard’s plane crashed, taking the lives of everyone on board. When Gable found out, he rushed to the mountain in Nevada where it had happened.

His reaction was truly heartbreaking.

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49. He Was Grief-Stricken

Friends had to restrain Gable from scaling the mountain where the crash had occurred. When the search team finally located her body, he proclaimed through sobs: “Oh, God! I don't want to go back to an empty house". He proceeded to reside at the Encino home they had shared for the rest of his life. On paper, Gable may have moved on—but for the rest of his life, his heart was only with Lombard.

Clark Gable Facts Wikimedia Commons

50. He Found Love Again

In 1954, Gable reconnected with an old flame who had recently divorced her third husband. Her name was Kay Williams, and before long, they were off to the races. They eloped in Nevada, with just a few friends and family members present. This match was different from his other, ill-fated marriages—and he seemed happier, as he’d been with Lombard. However, once again, happily ever after wasn’t in the cards.

Clark Gable Facts Wikimedia Commons

51. He Wanted A Family

When the pair appeared together at one of his movie premieres in 1955, Williams was visibly pregnant—but sadly, tragedy struck and she miscarried soon after. Gable was a doting stepfather to her children, but he wanted one of his own, and they kept trying. Williams became pregnant again in 1960. Unfortunately, their bliss wasn’t meant to be.

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52. He Fell Ill

Two days after completing filming on The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable had a heart attack. Many had theorized about his deteriorating health on set, as his voice had drastically changed. The insurance company only endorsed his casting after he renounced his habits of indulging in drinking and other adverse lifestyle choices for a week. Gable wound up in the hospital, with his devoted wife by his side. While Gable was already 59, no one could’ve predicted what happened next.

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53. He Didn’t Make It

At first, Clark Gable’s condition seemed to be improving. One night, Williams left his side to get some sleep. A few hours later, a doctor woke her up to tell her the devastating news: Gable had passed on. He’d had a second heart attack, and his body simply couldn’t hold out. Williams was four months pregnant at the time.

In March of 1961, she gave birth to a boy, who she named John Clark—Gable’s only son, and one he never got to meet.

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54. She Blamed Someone Else

Following Gable’s passing, gossip columnist Louella Parsons spread a series of vicious rumors about the star’s final days. Parsons alleged that Marilynn Monroe had stirred up so many issues and postponements on the set of The Misfits that Gable was left infuriated—outright implying that the fair-haired starlet was to blame for the star's early demise. This story couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Hollywood factsWikipedia

55. He Had A Secret Love Child

Everyone in Hollywood knew Clark Gable was a womanizer—but after he passed, many of his darkest secrets came tumbling out. While making a film in the early 1930s, Gable had impregnated his co-star, Loretta Young. The studio covered it up, and Young went away for a few months, later pretending that she’d adopted the daughter she gave birth to. Gable never acknowledged the child. Young only told the girl about her true parentage after Gable had passed—but the story gets darker.

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56. Their Allegations Are Horrific

Loretta Young passed in 2000, and her daughter with Gable, Judy Lewis, lost her life to cancer in 2014. It was then that Young’s granddaughter-in-law revealed the family’s most disturbing secret. She said that Young had told her that her tryst with Gable hadn’t been consensual—a secret she’d hidden for nearly her entire life. The family chose to remain silent until after Young and Lewis were no longer alive.

Clark Gable Facts Getty Images

57. She Was Rushing Home For A Sad Reason

When Carole Lombard perished in a horrific plane crash, Clark Gable was devastated—but few know that he may have played a dark role in her passing. At the time, Gable was filming a series of movies with starlet Lana Turner, and soon, the gossip columnists began to spread rumors that the two were having an affair. Fearing the worst, Lombard immediately made plans to fly home to Los Angeles and confront Gable—but she never made it.

Had the rumors been true, Gable must have felt painfully guilty—but that was nothing compared to the guilt Henry Fonda felt for his wife's end.

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58. Henry Fonda Fell Head Over Heels

While working for University Players, Henry Fonda met the spitfire actress Margaret Sullavan, who would later become famous herself in Hollywood. It was a date with destiny. No longer the awkward teenage boy, Fonda fell in love with and wooed Sullavan, proposing to her shortly after. Still, the course of passion never did run smooth.

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59. He Had A Christmas Miracle

Fonda and Sullavan were young and in love, and they showed their affection with romantic grand gestures. The pair even decided to officially tie the knot on Christmas Day in 1931, with Sullavan barely in her 20s and Fonda only 26 years old. Unfortunately, the chic couple were also young and dumb, and the seams came apart quickly.

Margaret Sullavan FactsGetty Images

60. He Could Be Cruel

Where Fonda had spent his life learning how to keep his emotions hidden, Sullavan was a notorious hothead. Surprise, surprise: They clashed horrifically. On one occasion, Sullavan refused to chip in for some 4th of July fireworks. Fonda, ticked off, complained passive-aggressively to another actor in front of her—and Sullavan’s response was nothing short of explosive.

Henry Fonda factsWikipedia

61. His Wife Put Him In His Place

Without a moment’s hesitation, Sullavan got up from the dinner table she had been eating at, grabbed a pitcher of ice water, and dumped the ewer all over Henry Fonda’s beautiful head. True to his repressed upbringing, Fonda didn’t even make a sound. He just walked out, while Sullavan, now satisfied, plopped back down at the table and continued eating. Is it any wonder these two were doomed?

Margaret Sullavan FactsGetty Images

62. He Had A Quickie Marriage

Fonda and Sullavan tried their best to make it work, even moving to New York City to be together and look for work. Still, they met an embarrassing end. For all their efforts, they were only together for a paltry two months, separating before the honeymoon period was even over in early 1932. Oh, and it doesn't look like Fonda learned his lesson from failed marriage number one over.

If anything, the end of his time with Sullavan kick-started the most scandalous period of his life.

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63. He Had A Type

In 1936, Fonda jumped right back into marriage, now with the glamorous but fragile socialite Frances Ford Seymour Brokaw. This was...not the best idea. Brokaw was a recent widow and was still reeling from the loss of her husband. Once more, the emotionally unavailable Ford had hitched himself to a woman boiling over with anger and pain…and this time he wouldn’t get off so easy.

Jane Fonda factsWikipedia

64. His Children Were Famous

Despite this fundamental mismatch, Fonda was determined to become an honest family man, at least at first. He and Brokaw had two children together, the future actors Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda, and Henry even interrupted his filming schedule on his acclaimed film Jezebel to be at Jane’s birth in 1937. He tried his best in other ways, too, but as we'll see, things didn't go according to plan.

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65. He Wouldn’t Say “I Love You”

Fonda did a number on both his children in incredibly awful ways. While Peter Fonda claimed his father never said “I love you” or heard it back until Henry was elderly, Jane admitted that her father instilled in her the idea that, “Unless you look perfect, you're not going to be loved". So, yeah, he wasn’t the best father…but he was an even worse husband.

Henry Fonda factsFlickr, kate gabrielle

66. He Betrayed His Wife

Fonda was deeply unhappy in his marriage with Frances Brokaw, who, it became clear, was suffering from bi-polar disorder. It pushed him into the ultimate betrayal. Fonda was unfaithful, carrying on a long-term affair with society girl Susan Blanchard, a hot young thing who was two decades younger than him. And still, that wasn’t good enough for him…

Henry Fonda factsGetty Images

67. He Committed A Cruel Act

In 1949, after 13 miserable years and two children together, Fonda approached Brokaw and told her he wanted a divorce. Showing no consideration for others, he then twisted the metaphorical dagger even deeper. He admitted to her that he wanted to split because he wanted to be free to marry his mistress Susan. Ouch, Henry. His poor wife's reaction was beyond tragic.

Henry Fonda factsGetty Images

68. He Drove His Wife To An Asylum

Less than six months later, Brokaw was so distraught about the end of her marriage and her husband’s infidelity, she checked herself into the Austen Riggs Psychiatric Hospital for treatment for her depression. For months, Fonda’s wife tried to process the pain her cruel ex-husband had dealt her. Sadly, her suffering had only begun.

Henry Fonda factsWikimedia Commons

69. The Mother Of His Children Met A Tragic End

On April 14, 1950, just 10 days following her 42nd birthday, Frances Ford Seymour tragically ended her life while still undergoing treatment for her mental illness. Fonda must have been devastated at the horrific news, as well as what it meant for his young family—but all the same, his response to the tragedy has lived in infamy ever since.

Unsolved mysteriesUnsplash

70. He Lied To His Family

When Frances passed, Fonda’s children Jane and Peter were only 12 and 10 years old. Thinking he was protecting them, Fonda told them a horrific lie. Rather than acknowledging the real situation surrounding their mother's demise, Fonda insisted she succumbed to heart failure. Maybe that’s forgivable, but his next actions sure weren’t.

Henry Fonda factsWikimedia Commons

71. He Gave His Wife A Cruel Goodbye

Fonda was a man who did nothing by halves, and he took his dishonesty about Frances to the next level. Likely afraid of any “unnecessary” outpourings of emotion, Fonda didn’t even let his own children go to their mother’s funeral, instead putting on a hasty affair with just himself and his mother-in-law in attendance. Oh, but that wasn’t all.

Henry Fonda factsGetty Images

72. He Controlled His Children

Fonda’s final turn of the screw was a doozy. In order to completely hide the truth from his children, he cancelled all newspaper and magazine subscriptions to their house, lest they stumble across a story about it. Despite Fonda's efforts, he couldn't hide the truth. Young Jane found out about her own mother’s tragic end while thumbing through a magazine in a study hall.

As we'll see, however, there was still one bitter coda to Brokaw's story—contained in her final letters.

Jane Fonda factsGetty Images

73. His Wife Gave Him One Final Insult

When the dust settled on Brokaw's passing, the disturbed woman still managed to haunt Fonda. Prior to her tragic end, she had written at least six farewell letters to the loved ones in her life. But there was one bitter omission. She hadn’t written a single thing to Fonda himself. And Brokaw's therapist at the asylum thought she knew why…

Rebekah Harkness factsShutterstock

74. He Was “A Complete Narcissist”

Therapists are supposed to be objective, but apparently not when it comes to Henry Fonda. Brokaw's doctor got an incredibly chilling portrait of the actor through his late wife’s final sessions. Years later, the psychiatrist confessed that in her medical opinion, Fonda was “a cold, self-absorbed person, [and] a complete narcissist". Ouch.

Old Hollywood had a lot of terrible husbands, but it's going to be hard to top THAT one—though Sammy Davis Jr. sure gives Fonda a run for his money.

Joan Crawford factsDaisy Kenyon (1947), Twentieth Century Fox

75. Sammy Davis Jr. Dated A Beauty

In 1957, nearing the height of his fame, Sammy Davis Jr. became involved with Kim Novak, one of the stars of Hitchcock’s legendary thriller, Vertigo. Novak had a contract with Columbia Pictures and back in those days that meant Columbia exerted itself into your private life. The president of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, wanted to avoid the negative publicity of having a white woman date a Black man. What he did to end the relationship was downright cruel.

Sammy Davis Jr. facts Wikipedia

76. His Love Provoked A President

Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn had mob associations and wasn’t afraid to use them to intimidate Davis. Cohn, with his goal of ending the Davis and Novak affair, allegedly had Davis kidnapped in order to convince him to stop seeing Novak. That’s one story of how things went down—the other is even more bizarre.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsWikimedia Commons

77. They Threatened Him—With Marriage

Another story has Cohn hiring a gang member to threaten to break Davis’ legs or even remove his one good eye. But what was outrageous was what he had to do to avoid this punishment: He had to marry a Black woman—and he only had two days to do it. It didn't matter who it was, as long as she was Black. Luckily, Davis had someone waiting in the wings.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsFlickr, bunky

78. He Married White

Davis took the threats from the mob seriously, and turned to an ex-girlfriend to help him out. Loray White was 23 years old, divorced, and had a six-year-old child. Davis offered her a lump sum payment to marry him. Another condition of the marriage was that they would agree to dissolve it before the year ended. Obviously, this was no fairy tale wedding—but for White, it was even worse than she ever could have imagined.

Olive Thomas factsPexels

79. He struck his wife.

While it’s not unusual for a groom to have a few too many at the reception, Davis definitely went way over the edge. He pounded them back and became completely inebriated, likely because he was marrying a woman he didn’t love. That doesn't forgive what he did, though. Davis was walking his lovely bride to the honeymoon suite and on the way down the hall, he tried to choke her.

Luckily White managed to get free and flee, but Davis's horrible night wasn't over yet. It was about to get even worse.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsGetty Images

80. He Just Wanted To Live His Life

Later that same night, Davis’ personal assistant went to check up on him. What he found in Davis’ hotel room stopped him cold: Davis had a revolver pointed at his head. Davis looked at his assistant and cried: “Why won’t they let me live my life?” Luckily the assistant was able to diffuse the situation, and Davis divorced White the next year.

Sammy Davis Jr factsWikipedia

81. He Tried Again

Davis didn’t let this disaster with White/Novak put him off future relationships. In 1960, Davis married his next wife: a Swedish-born actor named May Britt. The fact that his wife was white still caused controversy. Luckily, the studios had no control over this relationship. But that didn't stop this union from going up in flames like all the others.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsFlickr, kate gabrielle

82. His Family Grew

Davis and his wife Britt had a daughter, Tracey, and they also adopted two boys: Mark and Jeff. During this time Davis was working nonstop and had very little time for his growing family. He had a restless energy that he could only satisfy with performing. Because of Davis’ crazy schedule, things weren’t looking good for the marriage. Davis's betrayal definitely didn't help matters.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsGetty Images

83. He Chose Lola

Davis was constantly on tour and doing TV appearances: He was definitely a work-a-holic. With this came the other pitfall of fame: affairs. Davis was handsome, famous, and talented. He could have his pick of many women—and he did. In 1968, he ended up picking singer, model, actor, Lola Falana. The affair ended his marriage and sent Sammy into a dizzying tailspin.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsFlickr, Tommy Japan 79

84. He Hit Rock Bottom

Davis’ life spiraled downward after his divorce from Britt. He indulged heavily in drinking and started using illicit substances. Nothing seemed to numb the hurt he felt from losing his wife and three kids. Even though he’d been a neglectful husband and father, he needed his family in his life. This feeling of loss led Davis down a very dark and dangerous path.

Divorce FactsShutterstock

85. He Had A Devilishly Good Time

The beverages and substances weren't enough. Davis needed something more to make himself feel better. He tried Judaism, but it wasn’t working. He then looked in the opposite direction: to Satanism. Davis joined The Church of Satan after being invited by his barber to attend one of their very risque parties. He didn't last long as a member—he said the parties got too wild.

Davis had had his walk on the wild side: He was ready to marry again.

Sammy Davis Jr factsGetty Images

86. He Felt Pressure

Earlier, it had been the white community that pressured Davis to marry a Black woman. This time, it was the Black community. So, in 1970, Davis married Black entertainer Altovise Gore. The book Deconstructing Sammy talks about how Davis only married Altovise Gore to please his Black fans. Surprise surprise, then that the marriage soon deteriorated into a sad humiliation.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsGetty Images

87. He Mistreated His Mrs.

Davis was in yet another marriage that wasn’t his choice. It’s safe to say that the marriage certainly didn’t please his wife either. In addition to the harmful substances, Davis had become addicted to vulgar films. And that led to Davis compelling his wife into some unconventional behavior. Poor Gore, stuck in a marriage of convenience with a man going more and more out of his mind. We’ll soon see how her life, even after Davis, eventually grew even worse.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsWikimedia Commons

88. He Shocked An Audience

While living with Gore, Davis would often host film screenings for his friends. Fellow rat packer Paul Anka relates a story of a screening that Davis invited him and 30 or 40 others to. The crowd was just settling into their popcorn when the controversial movie, Deep Throat, began to play. Seeing the dirty movie on the screen stunned and embarrassed the audience. It didn’t, however, stop with just the film.

Jason Bateman FactsShutterstock

89. He Brought A Star Home

Davis ended up befriending Linda Lovelace, the star of Deep Throat. He convinced his wife to join in on some escapades that were so wild even Sinatra found them disgusting—and Sinatra was certainly no goody two shoes. Life at the Davis mansion was truly out of control. But after years of womanizing and partying, the wheels were finally about to come off.

Frank Sinatra factsWikimedia Commons

90. His LIfestyle Had Consequences

Being a member of the Rat Pack meant your hands were always full: mostly with smokes and cocktails. These vices, however, have a way of catching up on you. First the drinking: Davis’s doctor said he had liver cirrhosis. Davis managed to get that under control, only to learn he had throat cancer—that was from the smokes. Davis’ time was running out.

Sammy Davis Jr factsGetty Images

91. The IRS Appeared

On May 16, 1990, Davis succumbed to his illness. The very next day, the cold-hearted IRS arrived at his mansion to seize his assets. It turns out that Davis wasn’t quite up to date on his taxes: He owed $7.5 million dollars. The IRS asked any family members to leave the premises and started on their job. The family added up what was left after the looting, and came to a grim conclusion.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsShutterstock

92. He Left A Debt

So, what did Davis’ third wife, Altovise Gore, get after being humiliated in a loveless marriage? She received a bunch of debt. She and Davis had filed joint tax returns, so that meant that she inherited what he owed in taxes. Gore made a deal with the IRS and paid most of it off by selling Davis’ properties and other assets. She, however, was left with nothing but a memory of living a glamorous life.

Google factsShutterstock

93. She Ended Up Penniless

Davis’ wife Gore no longer lived a life of excess—unless you count excess sadness. According to the book Deconstructing Sammy, Gore lived for a time in an apartment with no refrigerator and a serious cockroach infestation. Any income she had came from bottles she found in the neighborhood dumpsters. In 2009, a stroke ended her life.

Sadly, she just proved what many of the women on this list have proved—marrying an Old Hollywood star was a BAD idea.

Sammy Davis Jr. factsGetty Images

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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