November 16, 2007

November 16 | Clark Gable

February 1, 1901 - November 16, 1960: Age 59

"His ears are too big and he looks like an ape." — Daryl Zanuck after testing Clark Gable for the lead in Little Caesar.

During the 1930s and 1940s Clark Gable was the biggest male star in Hollywood. Although he claimed that he was just a guy from Ohio who stumbled upon some lucky breaks, Clark Gable (whose name really was Clark Gable, or rather William Clark Gable) worked very hard for his success. As a kid he had a loud, high-pitched voice. He trained many years with acting coach (also his manager and wife) Laura Dillon in Oregon, working on lowering his voice, improving his resonance, posture, body movements and facial expressions.

When he was thought ready to try Hollywood, he impressed some but not others and returned to theatre in the 20s after a few film roles. In 1931 he returned to Hollywood and a good agent, good publicity management, Gable's native talent and looks, and his hard work gained him key roles that rocketed him to fame. His most famous role, that of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, was one he resisted strongly, fearing that the combination of public pressure to cast him with the probability (in his mind) that the movie would be a giant flop would destroy his career.

It did not, the movie was a hit, and every time his career showed signs of flagging afterwards there would be a re-release of Gone with the Wind and it would revive. Click here for a clip.

His personal life was complicated. He married 5 times and had a number of high-profile affairs. His happiest time was when he married the brilliant Carole Lombard, a witty, down-to-earth woman who although many years younger was a good match for him in strength of character. Unfortunately Lombard died in a plane crash during the war. He was never the same.

His role as Gay Langdon in The Misfits is considered his best ever, but it was a stressful shoot. Marilyn Monroe was a difficult co-star; Gable's life-long tobacco smoking, drinking, and more recent diet pill binges were affecting his health. The role required a lot of hard physical work, pulling and being pulled around by horses. Gable had a heart attack (his fourth) 3 days after the movie wrapped and died eleven days later.

Source: Wikipedia stories on Clark Gable, The Misfits, and Marilyn Monroe.

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