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Clark Gable: The King of Hollywood


LawrenceA
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Clark Gable (1901-1960) was born in Ohio, where he acted in regional theater, joining  touring companies performing throughout the U.S. He had benefited from a personal coach who paid to have his teeth fixed and trained him in composure and vocal work. He arrived in Hollywood in 1924, and worked in minor extra roles for the next few years before returning to the stage. It was there that he met Lionel Barrymore, who further helped Gable hone his craft. 

 

After a few good notices for his stage work, he made his true acting debut in 1931's The Painted Desert, a minor B Western. Gable appeared in an astonishing 11 more films that year, and 7 more over the next two years, including the hit Red Dust. A loan-out to Columbia pictures in 1934 for Frank Capra's It Happened One Night proved to be a colossal hit, critically, commercially and culturally. Gable had achieved true superstardom. His work kept him in the top echelon of Hollywood stars through the rest of the decade, including the starring role in 1935's Best Picture winner Mutiny On the Bounty, the MGM spectacular San Francisco in 1936, and the hit 1938 film Test Pilot.

 

Gone with the Wind was arguably the biggest film of the studio era, and rarely has an actor and a character matched so well. Gable's turn as Rhett Butler has become one of the all time screen personas, matched with equal serendipity by his co-star Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. Gable himself was heard to remark that he felt his career had peaked, and everything else would be downhill. During this time, Gable married his third wife, movie star Carole Lombard, and theirs was one of the most publicized Hollywood love stories. Gable would be devastated when Lombard was killed in a plane crash in January of 1942. To take his mind off of the tragedy, and to serve his country, the 41 year old Gable joined the Army Air Force. He trained as an aerial gunner, and flew in a handful of combat missions, but by mid-1944 he was discharged honorably due to his age.

 

His postwar career never matched his pre-war one, although he continued to find regular roles in modest hits. Gable would go on to marry two more times, fathering (at least) 2 children. His final film came in 1961 with the much discussed John Huston film The Misfits. Strenuous stuntwork that Gable insisted on doing himself is believed to have triggered a heart attack that took his life at the age of 59.

 

Gable was an actor of limited range, but what range he had, he mastered. He had an easy charm when he wanted, and a masculine presence that drew a viewer to him on the screen. He had a slight undercurrent to menace in many of his roles, no doubt sparking the "bad boy" attraction for some of his fans. He was also skilled in light comedy, and I wish he had made more films in that genre. He was an actor of his age, and it's hard to imagine him in films of the mid to late 1960's, let alone now. But in his time, in the 1930's specifically, he was the King.

 

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I've seen 53 of the 66 films Clark Gable appeared in. My ten favorites are:

 

It Happened One Night

Gone with the Wind

Mutiny On the Bounty

Manhattan Melodrama

San Francisco

Test Pilot

Boomtown

China Seas

Red Dust

Strange Cargo

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I agree with you that, while Gable's acting ability was limited, he mastered what he did. His wife Carole Lombard was the same - she was not an acting powerhouse, but her charm and 'certain something' made her memorable to audiences. She made screwball comedy, in particular, her own.

 

It's interesting in that they starred together in 'No Man of Her Own' in 1932, and while they weren't even dating then their strong chemistry jumped off the screen, at least to me.

 

Of the many Gable pics I've seen, my favorites are (no order):

 

Mutiny on the Bounty

No Man of Her Own

Strange Cargo

Red Dust

It Happened One Night

 

Special mention: his role in Night Nurse. "Ahh, shaddap!"

Lol!

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"Dear Mr. Gable: You Made Me love You - I didn't want to do it....."

 

What a song for Judy Garland to sing and introduce to the world by singing to the King of Hollywood.

 

I may have mentioned  -  ;)

 

 

Clark Gable and I were born exactly 75 years apart and he is my favourite actor born on the same day of the year as I was.

 

He wasn't called The King of Hollywood for nothing.  And he was not the person who gave him that nickname either - unlike The King of Pop who gave himself that nickname.

 

 

I want to see everything Gable ever did.

 

The first time I saw Gone With the Wind the movie was in panned and scanned VHS - two videos.

 

I have seen 39 of his movies, including films where he was uncredited such as playing himself in Calloway Went Thataway.

 

Here are *some* of my favourites - no order except for the first two:

 

GONE WITH THE WIND

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT - his eating a carrot was the model for Bugs Bunny

RUN SILENT RUN DEEP

RED DUST

MOGAMBO

BOOMTOWN

NO MAN OF HER OWN

NIGHT FLIGHT

MISFITS - yes it was his last and sad, but I watch it whenever it is on

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY

TEST PILOT

STRANGE CARGO

 

 

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When I first saw Gable, I wasn't that big a fan.  I don't know why.  He just didn't "grab" me like others do.  However, I think the movie that was the turning point for me was The Misfits.  In spite of this being his last film, Gable was so great in this movie and didn't seem like he was a walking heart attack.  I loved his gruff and tough exterior, while also being a bit of a softy on the inside.  He was most definitely a manly man, no doubt about that, but he also had a vulnerability about him.  It's a shame that Lombard died in that tragic plane crash only a few years after they married.  She was no doubt the love of his life.

 

I also amuses me that before movies, Clark Gable worked in the Meier & Frank department store (now Macy's) in downtown Portland.  I've been to that store multiple times and like to think about how I'm walking through the same room where Gable once stood, selling neckties.  He also worked as a logger in the coastal town of Seaside, OR (about 1.5 hrs west of Portland).  I've also been to the Historic Wolf Creek Tavern in Southern OR where Gable and Lombard were known to spend time (Gable was friends with the inn keeper).  I've even been in the "Clark Gable Room" at the Inn (where he and Lombard stayed).  I did not stay there however.

 

Of his films, I've seen:

 

(my favorites in BOLD)

 

Night Nurse (This movie cracked me up)

Red Dust

Dancing Lady

It Happened One Night

Manhattan Melodrama

China Seas

Wife vs. Secretary

San Francisco

Saratoga

Test Pilot

Idiot's Delight *Not a favorite, but I love Gable's "Puttin' on the Ritz"

Boom Town

The Hucksters

To Please a Lady

Mogambo *I've tried watching this multiple times, and I get bored! 

Teacher's Pet

The Misfits

 

Movies on my DVR that I have yet to see:

 

Call of the Wild

Forsaking All Others

It Started in Naples

The Secret Six

Never Let Me Go

Hold Your Man

A Free Soul

 

I have also never seen his big film, Gone With the Wind (I know).  But of course, I know his famous line.

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When I first saw Gable, I wasn't that big a fan.  I don't know why.  He just didn't "grab" me like others do.  However, I think the movie that was the turning point for me was The Misfits.  In spite of this being his last film, Gable was so great in this movie and didn't seem like he was a walking heart attack.  I loved his gruff and tough exterior, while also being a bit of a softy on the inside.  He was most definitely a manly man, no doubt about that, but he also had a vulnerability about him.  It's a shame that Lombard died in that tragic plane crash only a few years after they married.  She was no doubt the love of his life.

 

I also amuses me that before movies, Clark Gable worked in the Meier & Frank department store (now Macy's) in downtown Portland.  I've been to that store multiple times and like to think about how I'm walking through the same room where Gable once stood, selling neckties.  He also worked as a logger in the coastal town of Seaside, OR (about 1.5 hrs west of Portland).  I've also been to the Historic Wolf Creek Tavern in Southern OR where Gable and Lombard were known to spend time (Gable was friends with the inn keeper).  I've even been in the "Clark Gable Room" at the Inn (where he and Lombard stayed).  I did not stay there however.

 

Of his films, I've seen:

 

(my favorites in BOLD)

 

Night Nurse (This movie cracked me up)

Red Dust

Dancing Lady

It Happened One Night

Manhattan Melodrama

China Seas

Wife vs. Secretary

San Francisco

Saratoga

Test Pilot

Idiot's Delight *Not a favorite, but I love Gable's "Puttin' on the Ritz"

Boom Town

The Hucksters

To Please a Lady

Mogambo *I've tried watching this multiple times, and I get bored! 

Teacher's Pet

The Misfits

 

Movies on my DVR that I have yet to see:

 

Call of the Wild

Forsaking All Others

It Started in Naples

The Secret Six

Never Let Me Go

Hold Your Man

A Free Soul

 

I have also never seen his big film, Gone With the Wind (I know).  But of course, I know his famous line.

I have The Secret Six recorded and waiting for me to see for the first time.

 

Don't worry about not having seen Gone With the Wind yet.

 

Do you know what famous films I have not seen?

 

The Godfather

The Godfather II

ET

 

 

I saw GWTW really early because I LOVE Clark Gable. I sought the movie out.

 

As for The Misfits and his heart attack:

 

Well, you know you can see that he did his own stunts - especially when he rolled off the car. There was no way that a 59 year old man should be doing that.

 

But he did.

 

He was very protective of Marilyn Monroe and the fact that he knew her marriage to Arthur Miller was crumbling and that the reason he was getting script changes to make her role smaller and irrelevant.

 

He was not about to let that happen.  He made sure that there were no changes to the script or he would walk off the set.

 

He did the same type of thing during the production of Gone With The Wind

when he was shown segregated toilets.

 

There would be NO segregated toilets on the set or they could get another Rhett Butler.

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I have The Secret Six recorded and waiting for me to see for the first time.

 

Don't worry about not having seen Gone With the Wind yet.

 

Do you know what famous films I have not seen?

 

The Godfather

The Godfather II

ET

 

 

I saw GWTW really early because I LOVE Clark Gable. I sought the movie out.

 

As for The Misfits and his heart attack:

 

Well, you know you can see that he did his own stunts - especially when he rolled off the car. There was no way that a 59 year old man should be doing that.

 

But he did.

 

He was very protective of Marilyn Monroe and the fact that he knew her marriage to Arthur Miller was crumbling and that the reason he was getting script changes to make her role smaller and irrelevant.

 

He was not about to let that happen.  He made sure that there were no changes to the script or he would walk off the set.

 

He did the same type of thing during the production of Gone With The Wind

when he was shown segregated toilets.

 

There would be NO segregated toilets on the set or they could get another Rhett Butler.

A healthier 59 year old could probably handle it, but I'm sure a lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking did a number on his heart as well.  Combine that with the physicality of the stunts and I'm sure that's what triggered it.  I believe that he ended up doing his own stunts because Marilyn Monroe's personal drama kept her from showing up to work on time and Gable got bored waiting for her and ended up doing his own stunts as a way to pass the time. 

 

I do appreciate his activism and condemnation of segregation.  That definitely boosts him in my eyes.  I know that Bogart felt the same way when his neighbors threatened to make trouble for Lena Horne when she moved into his neighborhood.  He sent her a card saying something to the effect of: "If anyone tries to make trouble for you, let me know." 

 

I have seen The Godfather and ET and while I would definitely not tell anyone what they should and should not watch, I can definitely say that you're not missing much.  I found both The Godfather and ET to be boring.

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Speedy:

 

Yes, smoking and drinking took their toll.

 

Regarding his stunts- he was not a trained stuntman.  You compare that to someone like Steve McQueen that did most of his own stunts in cars and on a motorcycle - and of course McQueen was only 50 when he died.

 

Thanks for the recommendations about The Godfather and ET.

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"Dear Mr. Gable: You Made Me love You - I didn't want to do it....."

 

What a song for Judy Garland to sing and introduce to the world by singing to the King of Hollywood.

 

I may have mentioned  -  ;)

 

 

Clark Gable and I were born exactly 75 years apart and he is my favourite actor born on the same day of the year as I was.

 

He wasn't called The King of Hollywood for nothing.  And he was not the person who gave him that nickname either - unlike The King of Pop who gave himself that nickname.

 

 

I want to see everything Gable ever did.

 

The first time I saw Gone With the Wind the movie was in panned and scanned VHS - two videos.

 

I have seen 39 of his movies, including films where he was uncredited such as playing himself in Calloway Went Thataway.

 

Here are *some* of my favourites - no order except for the first two:

 

GONE WITH THE WIND

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT - his eating a carrot was the model for Bugs Bunny

RUN SILENT RUN DEEP

RED DUST

MOGAMBO

BOOMTOWN

NO MAN OF HER OWN

NIGHT FLIGHT

MISFITS - yes it was his last and sad, but I watch it whenever it is on

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY

TEST PILOT

STRANGE CARGO

To quote my own post here:

 

Speedy - Mogambo and Red Dust are the same film but different versions.

 

Lawrence;

 

What do you think about my list of favourite movies of Dear Mr. Gable?

 

If TCM did not air 3 days of Oscar, I would spend 24 hours of programming on Clark:

 

Gone With The Wind

Gone With the Wind documentary

It Happened One Night

The Misfits

Mutiny on the Bounty

Boomtown

Strange Cargo

No Man of Her Own

A Free Soul

Night Flight

Test Pilot

 

 

and various shorts in between with him.

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Movies High on My List of To-See Films of Clark Gable:

 

1. The Secret Six - I have this recorded

2. It Started in Naples

3. But Not For Me

4. Band of Angels

5. To Please a Lady

6. Call of the Wild

 

Some of these are among the few I haven't seen as well.

 

Here are the ones I have taped but haven't watched:

 

Strange Interlude

Call of the Wild

Idiot's Delight

H onky Tonk

Lone Star

It Started In Naples

 

I haven't seen, and do not have taped:

 

The Finger Points

No Man of Her Own

The White Sister

Saratoga

Homecoming

Key to the City

But Not for Me

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My favorite Clark Gable films are:

 

GWTW

Boomtown

San Francisco

It Happened One Night

China Seas

The Misfits

Band of Angels

Mogambo

Any number Can Play

Dancing Lady

 

 

I don't know about the mean Gable but he is sexy--

 

A Free Soul

Night Nurse

 

 

Gable was a great movie star. He always gave a first-rate professional performance.

 

He never lost his sexual magnetism throughout his career. Certainly his last film The Misfits displays that very well.

 

He knew how to handle women on screen. He made the women in the audience want to be on the screen with him.

 

Fred Astaire had that same ability when he danced with a woman.

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To quote my own post here:

 

Speedy - Mogambo and Red Dust are the same film but different versions.

 

 

I am aware of that.  However, Red Dust was a much better film.  Maybe it was the interplay between Jean Harlow and Gable that made it more fun.  Perhaps it's the fact that it's a pre-code that allows the film to get away with more.  I don't know.  I like the cast: Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Gable, but Mogambo just didn't do it for me.  But kudos to Gable for being able to play the same role some 20 years later.

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I am aware of that.  However, Red Dust was a much better film.  Maybe it was the interplay between Jean Harlow and Gable that made it more fun.  Perhaps it's the fact that it's a pre-code that allows the film to get away with more.  I don't know.  I like the cast: Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Gable, but Mogambo just didn't do it for me.  But kudos to Gable for being able to play the same role some 20 years later.

Well, I just meant that you already knew the plot.

 

By the way, Gable and  Kelly had an affair during the filming of Mogambo.  and yes, Red Dust was the better movie.  For one thing, jean Harlow was in it.

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Some of these are among the few I haven't seen as well.

 

Here are the ones I have taped but haven't watched:

 

Strange Interlude

Call of the Wild

Idiot's Delight

H onky Tonk

Lone Star

It Started In Naples

 

I haven't seen, and do not have taped:

 

The Finger Points

No Man of Her Own

The White Sister

Saratoga

Homecoming

Key to the City

But Not for Me

 

Saratoga is not really that great of a film, it's probably the weakest of the Harlow/Gable pairings.  However, this film is notable in the fact that it was Harlow's last film and she died while the film was still in production.  The studio wanted to replace Harlow with Jean Arthur, but Harlow's fans complained.  To placate Harlow's fans, MGM used a body double and had another woman dub in Harlow's voice.  The body double was only filmed from the back.  For me, the film is worth the watch just as a curiosity.  

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Clark Gable is the personification of the studio era male movie star. He exudes charm and masculinity, is handsome enough to be a matinee idol, and works well with his costars, male or female. He could do any genre believably, whether period or contemporary.

 

Gable was great with the various women stars with whom he'd be teamed more than once: Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner. Some of these were pairings became well-known screen teams, and their films were highly anticipated.

 

He was bestowed the title The King of Hollywood, around 1937, due both to his massive popularity in general, but more specifically, for the year which had just elapsed; the Queen was Myrna Loy (runner up Loretta Young). The title stuck, and he remained the King, unlike with Loy, or a subsequent set of winners, Tyrone Power and Jeannette MacDonald.

 

After the war, he came back visibly aged. His films were hit and miss affairs, with audiences and critics. At first they were all big hits:ADVENTURE, THE HUCKSTERS, HOMECOMING, etc. (although the first one did nothing for anyone, and Gable hated the slogan:"Gable's Back and Garson's Got Him!"). But by the end of the 40s and into the 50s, his studio, MGM, was unsure of his continuing popularity, and they tried to keep him in adventure films and westerns, which usually did well. They overlooked him for seemingly natural roles like KING SOLOMON'S MINES, or the part played by Kirk Douglas in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. In 1953, they let it be known that they would not renew his contract when it expired, after over 20 years there (this was happening at all the studios at that time). Then along comes MOGAMBO in late 1953, a boxoffice smash, and MGM changes its mind. But Gable, feeling slighted and hurt, refuses to even discuss it. He moves into freelancing for the last half dozen or so years of his life, still popular and having hits.

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Yes, I have seen Night Nurse. I've  only seen it once, though.  Yes the role was quite a departure.

NIGHT NURSE was made at the very beginning of Gable's career, before he becsme a star, or more importantly, before his image had gelled. So it is only a departure in hindsight, since the popular Gable persona came afterward.

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MGM did another version of RED DUST, CONGO MAISIE with Ann Sothern. Ironically, Jean Harlow was to do the original Maisie movie, but did not live to do it. The studio offered Sothern a contract because they were suddenly in need of a blonde sex symbol, although Lana Turner would become that soon enough.

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While Gable did make a few good films at MGM (Red Dust, Mutiny on the Bounty, China Seas, San Francisco) for the most part his home studio, knowing how huge he was as a box office king no matter what they gave him, didn't try overly hard to make anything other than successful commercial products with him, rather than any kind of major cinematic achievement. As a result, Gable appeared in few really good movies at MGM.

 

As a reflection of that, the two films for which he is best remembered today were made at other studios: Gone with the Wind (Selznick International) and It Happened One Night (Columbia), and the latter, at that, turned out to be a happy accident of which no one expected much.

 

I have always enjoyed watching Gabe when he played a more ordinary "common man" type in the Capra film. He is engaging and very likable as the wise guy reporter who, in spite of himself, falls for the spoiled society girl. He and Colbert have a delicious rapport, not that Gable didn't enjoy strong chemistry with a lot of other leading ladies. But, somehow at a small studio under Capra's direction, he seems more approachable to me as more of a "regular" guy.

 

But at the MGM ranch he was always being promoted in his film roles by that studio as a leering superstar stud and all round sexual Olympian, pure catnip to the ladies (though some, initially, tried to resist his rakish charms). That obviously played a large role in his being regarded for years as "the King," yet it was the one time he worked with Capra that his more everyman portrayal remains one of his most endearing, in my opinion.

 

Having said that, I would never deny that his greatest portrayal of them all was when he was in full superstar stud mode as Rhett Butler.

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While Gable did make a few good films at MGM (Red Dust, Mutiny on the Bounty, China Seas, San Francisco) for the most part his home studio, knowing how huge he was as a box office king no matter what they gave him, didn't try overly hard to make anything other than successful commercial products with him, rather than any kind of major cinematic achievement. 

 

On another note, I've read here and there that Gable didn't have a lot of confidence in his own acting ability.  I did some Internet searching and found these quotes that he supposedly said:

 

"I worked like a son of a ***** to learn a few tricks and I fight like a steer to avoid getting stuck with parts I can't play."

 

"I'm no actor and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me."

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On another note, I've read here and there that Gable didn't have a lot of confidence in his own acting ability.  I did some Internet searching and found these quotes that he supposedly said:

 

"I worked like a son of a ***** to learn a few tricks and I fight like a steer to avoid getting stuck with parts I can't play."

 

"I'm no actor and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me."

That reminds me somewhat of what Robert Mitchum thought of acting as a career for men.

 

He referred to himself - a  sexy man who was very dangerous an  underrated actor - as an *actress.*  He did not mean he played sissy roles, of course.

 

He believed that real men should be out digging ditches.

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I just read this fun little story about a blind date that Clark Gable went on.

 

http://dearmrgable.com/?p=10966

 

I also like the story because it also involves Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Lucy and Desi, if you weren't aware, were friends with Gable and Carole Lombard.

I like that site. :)

 

Adding to Speedy's post, something I'm sure she already knows, that after Lombard's death a distraught Gable sought out Lucy for consolation, because Carole and Lucy were close friends and Lucy could sympathize with Clark.

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