"This 'King' stuff is pure bullshit. I eat and sleep and go to the bathroom just like everybody else. There's no special light that shines inside me and makes me a star. I'm just a lucky slob from Ohio.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I had a lot of smart guys helping me - that's all."
If that quote portrayed Clark correctly - I'd have to say Clark was as orginal to his roots as mashed potatoes and gravy. It doesn't however .. the fact is - Clark was ENAMOURED with himself, and the image MGM created for him! To a "T" if ever there was one!! As for ME - when I think of Clark Gable .. I picture old western scenes from Gone With the Wind, and Mammy at sunrise makin' sweet grits in the kitchen! Ahh - I LOVE that move .. and I LOVE Atlanta .. but HATE the Margaret Mitchell Home Tour! A big Y for YAWWWNSVILLE! From all accounts, you'd think Margaret lived a pretty dull life as a recluse! Maybe she did - but I am not one to judge .. just to hand out a fair warning if you 'are' indeed ever in Atlanta .. AVOID that tour! The Georgian Terrace Hotel (site of the Gone With the Wind premiere party,) is nice though .. as documented every 4th of July by yours truly! (see video below, and if you likes .. by all means sub to my youtube page:)
Annnnyways .. young Clark was born William Clark Gable on February 1, 1901 .. in Cadiz, Ohio. On a bright side it was a sunny day according to census .. on the shitty side, he was mislabled on his birth certificate as a girl. OOPS! As if THAT wasn't bad enough, his mother died when he was just 10 months old of a brain tumor.
As a child, Clark was a tall, albeit, shy kid with a loud voice. After the death of his mom, his father met and married a lady from the next small town over. This would become the only mom Clark knew. She would cater to his interest in music and literature. She dressed him well (better than other kids of the time) and thus he stood out. In high school, Clark really came into his own and decided to seek work away from the farm arm of his father. He had a keen interest in cars (building and tearing down), and was goooood at it! He thought of perhaps venturing for a job doing that. He managed to snag a job working at a local B.F. Goodrich tire shop.
At age 17, he saw a local production of "Birds of Paradise." It left a lasting bug inside him eating to be an actor. It seemed nothing else would make him happy after being 'bit' by the bug. At 21, he decided to persue a carrer in acting and got a job at a theater company. This job was new to young Clark, and like many of the theatrical jobs of the day .. required travel for the touring schedule. Whilst touring, an argument ensued between the theater company and Clark - he left them and settled in Portland, Oregon. He garnered work as a necktie salesman in the Meier & Frank department store. While there, he met an actress who encouraged him to go back to the stage and into another theater company. His acting coach was a skilled theater manager in Portland, Oregon. The actress paid to have his teeth repaired and his hair styled. She guided him in building up his chronically undernourished body, and taught him better body control and posture. She spent considerable time training his naturally high-pitched voice, which Gable slowly managed to lower, and he gained better resonance and tone. As his speech habits improved, Gable's facial expressions became more natural and convincing. While I am a HUGE believer that talent can't be learned - I believe this actress helped young Clark hone his acting potential. After the long period of rigorous training, she eventually considered him ready to attempt a film career.
In 1924 - the two traveled to Hollywood, where the actress became his manager. He assumed the stage name W.C. Gable and got bit roles in some silents before getting a job with the theater group The Laskin Brothers Stock Company in Houston, where he played many roles, gained considerable experience and became a local matinee idol. It was 1930, and 'talkies' were becoming ever more popular. With the ever-increasing popularity of 'talkies,' Clark was excited about the idea of being in a fresh market. With that fresh start in mind, doing it right - meant heading back to L.A. - which he did and it was there, in 1930. during a stage production of The Last Mile, that Clark caught the eye of MGM. He was offered a contract and was launched!!
The film, The Painted Desert, would be his first with MGM, and his first talkie. It was met with a cult following of women, and LOTS of fan mail the studio took notice of. Of course, rival studios, had opinions too! ALWAYS have - ALWAYS will! I love the quaint ways studios have of backtracking words. He was asked to be contracted out by Warner Bros., executive Darryl F. Zanuck .. the same Zanuck who had said months earlier during a screen-test of Clark .. ""His ears are too big and he looks like an ape." Ultimately, Clarks heart was ALWAYS with MGM, and his star power would be as well. Clark's timing in arriving in Hollywood was excellent as MGM was looking to expand its stable of male stars and he fit the bill .. and that it did as proof in Clark's hearty resume. 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.
Gone With the Wind, would ultimately be the film Clark would come to be most identified with .. and much to his horror. He reluctantly played the part .. and refused to read the initial script! You could however, find him glancing at the book for publicity!! Money & contracts work wonders! As history would have it - he did play the part and Gone turned Gold and had a huge following amongst the movie going crowd. His worst fear of being typecast became reality. During the filming of the movie, Vivien Leigh complained about Clark's bad breath, which was apparently caused by his false teeth. Otherwise, they got along well. I'm sure Clark's response was most likely his classic ironed line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". Just .. you know .. if I had to guess!! That line, as you are I'm sure well aware - became synonamous with Clark! He did not want to shed tears for the scene after Scarlett (Leigh) has a miscarriage. Olivia de Havilland made him cry, later commenting, "... Oh, he would not do it. He would not! Victor (Fleming) tried everything with him. He tried to attack him on a professional level. We had done it without him weeping several times and then we had one last try. I said, "You can do it, I know you can do it and you will be wonderful ..." Well, by heaven, just before the cameras rolled, you could see the tears come up at his eyes and he played the scene unforgettably well. He put his whole heart into it."
Needless to say - 'Gone' would be the lead-in to his heyday. Office here. He lived here.Drove this. (here is what it looks like now-a-days.) I LOVE IT! Decades later, Gable said that whenever his career would start to fade, a re-release of Gone with the Wind would soon revive his popularity, and he continued as a top leading actor for the rest of his life. In addition, Gable was one of the few actors to play the lead in three films that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
As the years rolled on, Gone With the Wind would prove to have staying power and would prove to be "just the beginning" of an illustrious carrer for Clark. Racking up 67 leading roles in his Hollywood presence. Although 'Gone' would always prove to be his most famous and a trademark, there was no denying his presence in the other film - pegging him "The King of Hollywood" in his heyday.
In all, he was married 5 times. On November 6th, 1960 .. Clark suffered a severe heart attack and was rushed by EMT's to the hospital. He was in poor health from years of heavy smoking (three packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day over thirty years, as well as cigars and at least two bowlfuls of pipe tobacco a day). Until the late 1950s he had been a heavy drinker. His preferred drink was whisky. HELL YES! It should also be noted that he had blown up like a balloon and was no longer the thin poster man.
After being at the hospital shortly, he was released at his own recognance & went home (up this drive.) He stayed sick due to mild chest pains for 10 days until the fatal heart attack struck, on November 16th, 1960. You can read more on his death at my buddy Scott's find a death site. He was 59 years young. His friend Robert Taylor summed it up best .. Gable "was a great, great guy and certainly one of the great stars of all times, if not the greatest. I think that I sincerely doubt that there will ever be another like Clark Gable, he was one of a kind."
To leave virtual flowers and a message for Clark, click here!