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Clark Gable

Clark Gable

Black and white photo of Clark Gable

Early Life

William Clark Gable was born in Cadiz, Ohio, on February 1, 1901. He was the son of an oil-well driller, William Henry Gable, and Adeline Hershelman. Gable’s mother died when he was ten months old. In 1903, his father married a woman named Jennie Dunlap.

At the age of thirteen, Gable was raised as a well-dressed and well-groomed kid who played brass instruments. He was also engaged in repairing cars and in literature, especially Shakespeare’s sonnets. In 1917, after their financial difficulties, they moved to Palmyra Town and decided to put up a farm. Although his father asked him to work on the farm, Gable worked on an American tire company.

At an early age of seventeen, Gable was inspired to be an actor after he had seen the play ‘The Bird of Paradise.’ In 1920, Gable’s step-mother died.  His father went back to the oil business and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Gable then found a job as a salesman in Meier and Frank, a department store in Portland, Oregon. While in Portland, he met the film and stage actress, Laura Hope Crews. Crews encouraged Gables to join theatre and later on became the protégé of Josephine Dillon, an actress, and acting teacher.

Life as a Star

In 1924, Dillon and Gable prepared an attempt to film careers in Hollywood. Despite the seventeen-year age gap between Dillon and Gable, they married. Dillon became Gable’s wife, as well as his manager. In the following year, Gable first appeared as an extra in silent films. His first silent film appearance was in The Forbidden Paradise (1924), followed by The Merry Widow and The Plastic Age in 1925. He wasn’t offered any major roles back then, so he decided to go back to stage acting. In 1927, Gable gathered acting experiences in Texas as he played in local theatres. However, Gable moved to New York after Dillon sought him a job in the Broadway. In 1928, Gable received a positive review on one of his plays, “Machinal.” He was viewed as vigorous, young, and brutally masculine. In 1929, Gabled started another play in New York titled “Hawk Island.” Following the beginning of his career in New York, Gable and Dillon divorced in March 1929. After the finalization of their divorced in the year 1930, Gable married a socialite named Maria Franklin Langham. Gable and Langham moved to California, and later in the year 1931, they remarried.

After his appearance in the 1930s The Last Mile play, Pathe Picture offered Gable a contract.  He was given his first sound picture role in the 1931 film, The Painted Desert. However, after the financial crisis faced by the studio, Gable soon moved to Warner Bros. In an American Crime Drama distributed by Warner Bros., Gable was offered a villain role in the film, The Night Nurse. His next film was with the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s film The Secret Six and Hell Divers. After seeing Gable’s potential, Howard Strickling, the MGM’s publicity manager, developed Gable’s image in a U.S. magazine, Screenland. In the film Dance, Fools, Dance, directed by Harry Beaumont, Gable was given his first starring role with Joan Crawford. Seeing the chemistry between the two actors, MGM re-created the film, “Complete Surrender” starring Gable and Crawford. It was then renamed as “Laughing Sinners” after Clark Gable replaced John Mack Brown. After the audience recognized Gable’s performance in the film, A Free Soul, he never played another supporting role again. Gable’s popularity increased as he got a starring role in the films, Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise), and Possessed.

Gable started a real-life relationship with Joan Crawford, who was then married to an American actor and producer, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Fearing a scandal in Hollywood, Louis B. Mayer, the co-founder of MGM, threatened to terminate Gable and Crawford’s contract. They were separated for a while, and Gable co-starred with Marion Davies in the 1932 film, Polly of the Circus. Also, Gable starred in an American Drama film “Strange Interlude” and on “Red Dust,” opposite with Jean Harlow.

The chemistry between the sex symbol, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable forced MGM to star both of them in the upcoming films. From the year 1933 to 1937, MGM paired Gable and Harlow in the movies including, Hold Your Man (1933), China Seas (1935), Wife vs. Secretary (1936), and Saratoga (1937). Gable’s and Harlow’s last film, Saratoga, was a big hit. Although it was ninety percent completed before Harlow died due to kidney failure, a double was hired to finish it. In 1934, Gable was offered a role by Columbia Pictures. It was in a romantic comedy film titled It Happened Once. Gable played the role of a newspaper reporter and was paired with the actress, Claudette Colbert. This film obtained five major Academy Awards, including the Best Actor Award for Gable and Best Actress Award for Colbert.

In 1935, Clark Gable starred in the film Mutiny on the Bounty with the film actor, Charles Laughton. This film, directed by Frank Lloyd, earned positive reviews from the critics as well as eight Academy Award nominations. Furthermore, Gable made three films with Spencer Tracy in the year 1936 up to 1938. These films they have starred together were San Francisco, Test Pilot, and Boom Town. In 1939, Gable played the role of Rhett Butler with Vivien Leigh in Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind. It was a Civil War melodrama film that won Oscars for best picture. Moreover, in the year 1939 up to 1942, Gable starred in a couple of films including, Strange Cargo (1940), Honky Tonk (1941), and Somewhere I’ll Find You (1941).

Gable reunited with his co-star, Carole Lombard, through a party in 1936. Though they have met in their 1932 film, No Man of Her Own, it was not until they met again that love found its way. Gable and Lombard married in 1939. However, in January 1942, Lombard died on a plane crash.

On August 12, 1942, to 1945, Gable enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. After he was discharged from the service, Gable continued starring in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. Some of these films were:The Hucksters (1947), Mogambo (1953), Band of Angels (1957), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), Teacher’s Pet (1958) and It Started with Naples (1960).

Death        

On November 6, 1960, Gable suffered a heart attack and was sent to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Although Gable’s condition seemed to be improving, he died on November 16 at the age of fifty-nine, after his second heart attack.

Clark Gable was buried next to Carole Lombard in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Filmography

Here are some of Clark Gable’s Films:

(1931) The Painted Desert

(1931) The Easiest Way

(1931) Dance, Fools, Dance

(1931) The Finger Points

(1931) The Secret Six

(1931) Laughing Sinners

(1931) A Free Soul

(1931) Night Nurse

(1931) Sporting Blood

(1931) Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)

(1931) Possessed

(1931) Hell Divers

(1932 Polly of the Circus

(1932) Red Dust

(1932) Strange Interlude

(1932) No Man of Her Own

(1933) The White Sister

(1933) Hold Your Man

(1933) Night Flight

(1933) Dancing Lady

(1934) It Happened One Night

(1934) Men in White

(1934) Manhattan Melodrama

(1934) Chained

(1934) Forsaking All Others

(1935) After Office Hours

(1935) The Call of the Wild

(1935) China Seas

(1935) Mutiny on the Bounty

(1936) Wife vs. Secretary

(1936) San Francisco

(1936) Cain and Mabel

(1936) Love on the Run

(1937) Parnell

(1937) Saratoga

(1938) Test Pilot

(1938) Too Hot to Handle

(1939) Idiot’s Delight

(1939) Gone with the Wind

(1940) Strange Cargo

(1940) Boom Town

(1940) Comrade X

(1941) They Met in Bombay

(1941) Honky Tonk

(1942) Somewhere I’ll Find You

(1945) Adventure

(1947) The Hucksters

(1948) Homecoming

(1948) Command Decision

(1949) Any Number Can Play

(1950) Key to the City

(1950) To Please a Lady

(1951) Across the Wide Missouri

(1952) Lone Star

(1953) Never Let Me Go

(1953) Mogambo

(1954) Betrayed

(1955) Soldier of Fortune

(1955) The Tall Men

(1956) The King and Four Queens

(1957) Band of Angels

(1958) Run Silent, Run Deep

(1958) Teacher’s Pet

(1959) But Not for Me

(1960) It Started in Naples

(1961) The Misfits

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