/ : Clark Gable

Birth Name: William Clark Gable
Date of Birth: February 1, 1901
Place of Birth: Cadiz, Ohio
Date of Death: November 16, 1960
Gable Photo

The son of an Ohio oil driller and farmer, American actor Clark Gable had a relatively sedate youth until, at 16, he was talked into traveling to Akron with a friend to work at a tire factory. It was in Akron that Gable saw his first stage play, and from that point on he was hooked; even though he was forced to work with his father on the oil fields for a time, Gable used a $300 inheritance he'd gotten on his 21st birthday to launch a theatrical career. Several years of working for bankrupt stock companies and crooked theatre managers and doing odd jobs followed until Gable was taken under the wing of veteran actress Josephine Dillon. The older Dillon coached Gable in speech and movement, paid to fix his teeth, and became the first of his five wives in 1924. As the marriage deteriorated, Gable's career built up momentum as he appeared in regional theatre, road shows and movie extra roles. He tackled Broadway at a time when producers were looking for rough-hewn, down-to-earth types as a contrast to the standard cardboard stage leading men. Gable fit this bill, though he'd been imbued in certain necessary social graces by his second wife, the wealthy (and again older) Ria Langham.

A 1930 Los Angeles stage production of The Last Mile starring Gable as Killer Mears brought the actor to the attention of the film studios, though many producers felt that Gable's ears were too large for him to pass as a leading man. Making his talkie debut in The Painted Desert (1931), the actor's first roles were as villains and gangsters. By 1932, Gable was a star at MGM where, except for loan-outs, he'd remain for the next 22 years. On one of those loan-outs, Gable was "punished" for insubordination by being sent to Columbia Studios, then a low-budget factory. The actor was cast by Columbia's ace director Frank Capra in It Happened One Night (1934), an amiable comedy which swept the Academy Awards in 1935--one of those Oscars going to Gable. After that, except for the spectacular failure of Gable's 1937 film Parnell, it seemed as though the actor could do no wrong. In 1939, Gable--despite his initial reluctance --was cast as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939), leading him to be dubbed "The King" of Hollywood.

A happy marriage to wife number three, Carole Lombard, and a robust off-camera life as a sportsman and athlete (a he-man image created by the MGM publicity department which Gable happened to enjoy and decide to perpetuate on his own) seemed to bode well for Gable's future contentment. But when Lombard was killed in a 1942 plane crash, a disconsolate Gable seemed to lose all interest in life. Though well-over draft age, he entered the Army Air Corps and served courageously in World War II as a tail-gunner; what started out as a death wish renewed his vitality and increased his popularity (ironically, he was the favorite film star of Adolf Hitler, who offered a reward to his troops for the capture of Gable--alive).

Gable's postwar films for MGM were for the most part disappointing, as was his 1949 marriage to Lady Sylvia Ashley. Dropped by both his wife and his studio, Gable ventured out as a free-lance actor in 1955, quickly regaining lost ground and becoming the highest paid non-studio actor in Hollywood. He again found happiness with his fifth wife, Kay Spreckels, and Gable continued his career as a box-office champ, even though many of the films were toothless confections like Teacher's Pet (1959). In 1960, Gable was signed for the introspective "modern western" The Misfits, which had a prestigious production lineup: co-stars Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach, scripter Arthur Miller and director John Huston. The troubled and tragic history of this film has been well-documented, but despite the on-set tension, Gable took on the task uncomplainingly, going so far as to perform several grueling stunt scenes involving wild horses. The strain of filming, however, coupled with his ever-robust lifestyle, proved too much for the actor. Clark Gable suffered a heart attack two days after the completion of The Misfits and died at age 59, a scant few months before the birth of his first son. Most of the nation's newspapers announced the death of Clark Gable with a four-word headline: "The King is Dead."

Gable and Crawford
Judy Garland's Hollywood (1997)
Dear Mr. Gable (1991)
The Lost Stooges (1990)
The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind (1989)
Arthur Miller on Home Ground (1979)
That's Entertainment 2 (1976)
MGM's The Big Parade of Comedy (1964)
Candid Hollywood (1962)
The Misfits (1961)
It Started in Naples (1960)
But Not for Me (1959)
Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
Teacher's Pet (1958)
Band of Angels (1957)
The King and Four Queens (1956)
Soldier of Fortune (1955)
The Tall Men (1955)
Betrayed (1954)
Mogambo (1953)
Never Let Me Go (1953)
Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Lone Star (1951)
Key to the City (1950)
To Please a Lady (1950)
Any Number Can Play (1949)
Command Decision (1948)
Homecoming (1948)
The Hucksters (1947)
Target Tokyo (1945)
Adventure (1945)
Combat America (1944)
Wings Up (1943)
Show Business at War (1943)
Somewhere I'll Find You (1942)
Honky Tonk (1941)
They Met in Bombay (1941)
Boom Town (1940)
Strange Cargo (1940)
Comrade X (1940)
1939: The Movies' Vintage Year - Trailers on Tape (1939)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Idiot's Delight (1939)
Test Pilot (1938)
Too Hot to Handle (1938)
Saratoga (1937)
Parnell (1937)
Love on the Run (1936)
San Francisco (1936)
Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
Cain and Mabel (1936)
China Seas (1935)
Forsaking All Others (1935)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
After Office Hours (1935)
The Call of the Wild (1935)
Chained (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Men in White (1934)
Dancing Lady (1933)
Hold Your Man (1933)
Night Flight (1933)
The White Sister (1933)
No Man of Her Own (1932)
Red Dust (1932)
Strange Interlude (1932)
Hell Divers (1932)
Polly of the Circus (1932)
Dance Fools Dance (1931)
A Free Soul (1931)
Laughing Sinners (1931)
Night Nurse (1931)
The Painted Desert (1931)
Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931)
The Possessed (1931)
The Easiest Way (1931)
The Finger Points (1931)
The Secret Six (1931)
Sporting Blood (1931)
North Star (1925)
The Plastic Age (1925)
The Merry Widow (1925)
Declassee (1925)
Forbidden Paradise (1924)
The Iron Horse (1924)
White Man (1924)



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