Clark Gable biography:
Clark Gable was an American film actor best known for his role as Rhett Butler in the epic ‘Gone with the Wind.’ One of the top most Hollywood stars in the 1930s and 1940s, he was often referred to as “The King of Hollywood” or just simply as “The King”. Having starred as a leading man in more than 60 motion pictures in a career spanning over three decades, he was the reel-life heartthrob of thousands of American women and a notorious womanizer in real-life. The son of an oil-well driller, Gable was a teenager when he decided that he wanted to become an actor instead of working on farms as his father wished. After struggling for a few years he finally found work in theater companies and began his career as a stage actor. A theater manager named Josephine Dillon became his mentor and helped him enter Hollywood where he started appearing in silent films.
Childhood & Early Life
William Clark Gable was born in Cadiz, Ohio, on February 1, 1901, to William Henry “Will” Gable and his wife Adeline. His father was an oil-well driller and farmer. His mother died when Clark was just a baby.
His father eventually remarried. His stepmother Jennie played the piano and gave lessons to Clark. She also raised him to be a well-dressed and well-groomed young man.
From a young age he was drawn towards language and persuaded his father to buy him a 72-volume set of ‘The World’s Greatest Literature.’
As a 17 year old he saw the play ‘The Bird of Paradise’ which inspired him to become an actor.
He struggled for a few years, working in odd jobs before he found work with second-class theater companies. Along with his acting career he also worked as a necktie salesman in the Meier & Frank department store. There he met Laura Hope, an actress who encouraged him in pursuing an acting career.
Still a struggling actor, he became acquainted with a theater manager in Portland named Josephine Dillon, who was 17 years his senior. Dillon became his mentor and helped him in grooming himself for a career in films. She guided him in developing a better body posture and trained him gain a better resonance and tone in his voice. After a period of rigorous training, she helped him enter Hollywood.
He began his film career with roles in silent films and continued appearing in stage performances until he gained a strong foothold in the film industry. By 1930, he was beginning to gain popularity as a stage actor which led to film offers.
His first leading role was in ‘Dance, Fools, Dance’, with Joan Crawford in 1931. From here it did not take him long to establish himself as a much sought-after actor. He followed it up with ‘Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)’ with Greta Garbo, and ‘Possessed’ again with Joan Crawford, the same year.
His string of successes continued throughout the 1930s with movies like ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934) which won him an Academy award, and the epic film ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939) which went on to be regarded as one of the best American films ever made.
Gable suffered a personal tragedy in the 1940s when his wife Carole Lombard was killed in an airplane crash in 1942. Following her death, he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as his wife had suggested prior to her death that Gable enlist as part of the war effort.
He trained as an aerial gunner and flew five combat missions over Europe over the course of his military career. He also made a propaganda film for the Army.
After being discharged from the army in the mid-1940s, he returned to his film career. His fans were happy to see him back and flocked to the theaters to see him when the film ‘Adventure’ was released in 1945. But the film was panned critically and Gable’s career was never the same again.
He continued appearing in films throughout the 1940s and 1950s but had by now lost the charms of his younger days. Aging and weary, he could no longer weave the magic he was once capable of. The last film Gable appeared in was ‘The Misfits’, which was released in 1961, a few months after his death.
Personal Life & Legacy
Clark Gable was known to be a notorious womanizer. His first marriage was to his mentor Josephine Dillon who he married in 1924 and divorced in 1930. His second marriage to Maria Langham also ended in divorce.
In 1935, during the filming of ‘The Call of the Wild’, he impregnated the film’s lead actress, Loretta Young. She hid the pregnancy from the public eye, gave birth in secret, and later presented her biological daughter to the world as her adopted child.
Gable tied the knot for the third time with Carole Lombard in 1939. She died in 1942 leaving him aggrieved. Another short-term marriage followed—he wed Sylvia Ashley in 1949 and divorced her in 1952.
His final marriage was to Kay Williams in 1955. She was pregnant at the time of Gable’s death in 1960 and gave birth to a son, John Clark Gable, a few months later.
Clark Gable died on November 16, 1960, from an arterial blood clot, ten days after a severe heart attack. He was 59.