Who is Clark Gable?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Clark Gable was a popular American film star in the 1930s, starring in It Happened One Night and Gone With the Wind, among many other films. His rugged features are well known and epitomize the sort of leading man who began to capture the public imagination in the 1930s and the war years. Clark Gable is often considered to be one of the greatest film stars of all time, and he still has a loyal following thanks to the many famous films he starred in.

Clark Gable won an acting Oscar for "It Happened One Night."
Clark Gable won an acting Oscar for "It Happened One Night."

Clark Gable was born William Clark Gable in Ohio in 1901. His mother died before he turned one, and Clark Gable found himself under the care of relatives for several years before his father, an oil driller, came to take him back, having since remarried. In high school, Clark Gable dropped out to work for a tire factory and began to be interested in an acting career. Jennie Dunlap, his stepmother, encouraged Clark Gable to pursue his dreams and clearly played a large role in his young life. As Clark Gable began to explore his newfound interest in the stage, his stepmother died and he found himself back at home again.

After his role as Rhett Butler in the film "Gone with the Wind," Clark Gable was crowned the King of Hollywood.
After his role as Rhett Butler in the film "Gone with the Wind," Clark Gable was crowned the King of Hollywood.

Clark Gable's father did not approve of a career in acting, and Clark Gable found himself working in the oil fields alongside his father, a job he despised. He worked in the oil fields for almost four years, until he received an inheritance from his grandfather at the age of 21 and decided to strike out on his own. He worked in a variety of menial jobs before once again attempting to build an acting career, moving to Hollywood in the early 1920s.

Clark Gable's first attempt at breaking into Hollywood was not successful. His features were not the sort that made a popular leading man in the 1920s, and he found himself routinely passed over for film roles. Growing frustrated, he moved to New York to pursue Broadway roles, where he also struggled. Splitting his time between California and New York, Gable fought for stage roles and finally caught his break in 1930, when he starred in The Last Mile, a Los Angeles stage production. He caught the eye of casting agents and was picked up by Pathe Studios.

In only a few months, Clark Gable went from being a man who struggled to find stage roles to a Hollywood star, acting in 12 feature films in 1931. In 1934, he appeared in It Happened One Night, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. In 1935, he took the part of Fletcher Christian in Mutiny of the Bounty, another wildly popular film.

Clark Gable is probably most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, produced in 1939. He was crowned the King of Hollywood and embarked on his third marriage, to Carole Lombard. His previous two marriages had been made largely for convenience, but evidence seems to suggest that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were truly in love and probably would have remained married had she not died in a plane crash in 1942.

In honor of his dead wife, Clark Gable joined the military in 1942. He flew several bombing missions over Germany and won numerous medals, being honorably discharged in 1944. He returned to Hollywood, but never managed to attain his earlier popularity. He made a handful of films before dying in 1960, shortly after filming The Misfits.

Clark Gable is remembered as a gentle and kind man who spent much of his life looking for a family and a stable, loving relationship. He is still considered one of the finest actors of all time and is a vital part of Hollywood history.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Clark Gable won an Academy Award for his performance in “It Happened One Night”, but he gave it away to a young kid because the kid thought it was pretty. Clark commented that he thought winning the award was more important than owning the award.


@oceanswimmer: I thought I would add a couple of more facts to your list:

Clark Gable was a little obsessed with cleanliness. Clark was known to shower several times a day. He never took a bath because the thought of himself sitting in dirty water repulsed him. He also had his sheets changed every day.

It has been said that Clark Gable had an affair with Loretta Young in the making of the movie “The Call of the Wild” which resulted in a daughter, Judy Lewis. Loretta, shortly after, disappeared and denied that the baby was Gable’s. She told everyone that she adopted the baby. However, Judy apparently favored Clark considerably, especially the ears. When Judy was 7 years old, she had surgery to make her ears less prominent.


Here are a couple of interesting facts about Clark Gable I learned from reading a Clark Gable bio:

When Clark was born in 1901, he was accidentally listed as a girl on his birth certificate. When he first started out in in Hollywood, he went by the name W.C. Gable, as his given name was William Clark Gable.

By the time he was 32, he had almost a full set of dentures. He had a serious gum infection in 1933 and had to have most of his teeth removed. He suffered from chronic halitosis. While he was filming “Gone With the Wind”, Vivien Leigh complained about his bad breath on more than one occasion. Other than that, they got along very well.

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