Date of Birth : Feb 1st 1901

William Clark Gable (February 1, 1901 – November 16, 1960) was an Academy Award-winning American film actor. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Gable seventh among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. He has been nicknamed “The King of Hollywood.” His most famous role was in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh.

Gable was inspired to be an actor after seeing a life-impressing play The Bird of Paradise, but he was not able to make a real start until he turned 21 and inherited money left to him. By then, his stepmother Jennie had died. He toured in stock companies and worked the oil fields. Deciding not to follow his father, Clark found work with several second-class theater companies and worked his way across the Midwest to Portland, Oregon, where he found work as a necktie salesman in the Meier & Frank department store. While there, he met actress Laura Hope Crews, who encouraged him to go back to the stage and into another theater company. His acting coach was a theater manager in Portland, Oregon, Josephine Dillon (17 years his senior), who had his teeth fixed and after some rigorous training, eventually considered him ready to attempt a film career.

“His ears are too big and he looks like an ape.” So said Warner Bros. executive Darryl F. Zanuck about Clark Gable after testing him for the lead in Warner’s gangster drama Little Caesar (1931). After several failed screen tests for Barrymore and Zanuck, Gable was signed in 1930 by MGM’s Irving Thalberg.

His unshaven lovemaking with bra-less Jean Harlow in Red Dust (1932) made him MGM’s most important star. After the hit Hold Your Man (1933), MGM recognized the goldmine of the Gable-Harlow pairing, putting them in two more films, China Seas (1935) and Wife vs. Secretary (1936). An enormously popular combination, on-screen and off-screen, Gable and Jean Harlow made six films together, the most notable being Red Dust (1932) and Saratoga (1937). Harlow died during production of Saratoga of kidney failure. Ninety percent completed, the remaining scenes were filmed with long shots or doubles; Gable would say that he felt as if he were “in the arms of a ghost”.

Gable had a reputation as an outdoorsman. At first, it was an image conceived by the MGM publicity department, but Gable found that he liked the lifestyle, and spent time in the outdoors whenever he could.

According to legend, Gable was lent to Columbia Pictures, then considered a second-rate operation, as punishment for refusing roles; however, this has been refuted by more recent biographies. MGM did not have a project ready for Gable and was paying him $2000 per week, under his contract, to do nothing. Studio head Louis B. Mayer lent him to Columbia for $2500 per week, making a $500 per week profit.

Another persistent legend has it that Gable had a profound effect on men’s fashion, thanks to a scene in this movie. As he is preparing for bed, he takes off his shirt to reveal that he is bare-chested. Sales of men’s undershirts across the country allegedly declined noticeably for a period following this movie.

Gable won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1934 performance in the film. He returned to MGM a bigger star than ever.

Gable also earned an Academy Award nomination when he portrayed Fletcher Christian in 1935’s Mutiny on the Bounty. Gable once said that this was his favorite film of his own.

Gable’s marriage in 1939 to his third wife, successful actress Carole Lombard, was the happiest period of his personal life. They purchased a ranch at Encino and once Clark had become accustomed to her often blunt way of expressing herself, they found they had much in common. This was despite the fact that Gable was a conservative Republican and Lombard a liberal Democrat.

On January 16, 1942, Lombard, who had just finished her 57th film, To Be Or Not To Be, was on a tour to sell war bonds when the twin-engine DC-3 she was traveling in crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas. Gable flew to the site and had to be forcibly restrained from climbing the snowcapped mountain himself in an effort to rescue her. After her body was recovered, he sobbed, “Oh, God! I don’t want to go back to an empty house…” Lombard was declared the first war-related female casualty the U.S. suffered in World War II.

Gable became increasingly unhappy with what he considered mediocre roles offered him by MGM, while the studio regarded his salary as excessive. In 1953, he refused to renew his contract, and began to work independently. But his subsequent films did not do well at the box office.

Gable died in Los Angeles, California in November 1960, the result of a fourth heart attack. There was much speculation that Gable’s physically demanding Misfits role, which required yanking on and being dragged by horses, contributed to his sudden death soon after filming was completed. In a widely reported quote, Gable’s wife Kay blamed it on stress caused by “the endless waiting… waiting (for Monroe)”. Monroe, on the other hand, claimed that she and Kay had become close during the filming and would refer to Clark as “Our Man”. Monroe’s claim is supported by her being specifically invited by Kay to Gable’s funeral, where contemporary newsreels showed the two of them sitting together in the church.

Gable is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, beside Carole Lombard.


The Misfits ( 1961 )

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