Clark Gable, one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men was born on this day in 1901. His career spanned almost four decades and over sixty films. He was a leading man for thirty years of his long career. Gable starred alongside some of the most popular actresses of his time.
To celebrate Clark Gable’s birthday we’re going to look back the the Hollywood icon’s rise to fame and his biggest roles.
Clark Gable’s Humble Hollywood Beginnings
Before he was a leading man, Clark Gable served as an extra in several silent motion pictures. Gable failed to land any major roles. As a result, he stepped away from the silver screen and returned to the stage. He moved to Texas where he acted with the Laskin Brothers Stock Company. There, he became a local celebrity. After his success in Texas, Gable moved to New York City. Soon, Gable was starring in Broadway plays where he would garner rave reviews from critics.
After moving to Los Angeles, Clark Gable was finally able to land larger roles. MGM Studios signed him to a $600 a week contract. He was well on his way to stardom at this point. During this time, he took supporting roles in films such as “Hell Divers” and “The Secret Six.”
MGM found that audiences liked seeing the incredibly masculine Clark Gable paired with established female leads. Joan Crawford specifically requested that he play the male lead alongside her in “Dance, Fools, Dance” in 1931. This was his first starring role. The studio heads as well as audiences loved the paring of Crawford and Gable. They would go on to star in several films together.
Clark Gable was cemented as a leading man after starring in “Free Soul” later that year.
Gable Wins an Oscar
Just three years after landing his first leading role, Clark Gable took home the Oscar for best actor. The film “It Happened One Night” swept the Oscars that year. Besides Gable’s win for best actor, the film won awards for best actress, best screenplay, best director, and best picture. It was the first film to sweep that many major categories. Only two have done it since – “Silence of the Lambs” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“Mutiny on the Bounty”
Clark Gable starred in the 1936 classic film “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Based on a true story, the film follows the cast of the HMS Bounty. Gable stars as Lieutenant Fletcher Christian who leads the crew of the Bounty in a mutiny to overthrow their cruel captain.
“Mutiny on the Bounty” won the Oscar for best picture. It also holds the record for most nominees for lead actor with three actors nominated. Clark Gable was among those nominated.
Clark Gable’s Most Iconic Role
Without a doubt, Clark Gable’s most iconic role is that of Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind.” Not only is it one of his best performances but it is also his most memorable role. While many movie fans may not know about his other films, “Gone With the Wind” is a true classic. It continues to be a favorite of film fans.
Near the end of the film, Clark Gable delivers the most iconic movie quote of all time. When Scarlett O’Hara tearfully asks what she will do if Rhett leaves he calmly replies, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” before walking away.
The film won eight Oscars. Unfortunately, Clark Gable was once again overlooked for the best actor category.
The film may not have brought Gable his second Oscar win, but it did propel him to the status of film icon. His long and illustrious career might have been forgotten by all but fans of classic Hollywood films if not for his performance in “Gone With the Wind.”
“The Misfits” – Gable’s Final Film
“The Misfits” was Clark Gable’s final film. In fact, it was released in 1961, the year after his death. Gable starred alongside the iconic beauty Marilyn Monroe as a cowboy who falls for a young divorcee. The film was also Monroe’s final role before her death.
While the movie did not do well critically or at the box office, it found a place in history because of its ill-fated cast. Fans of classic Hollywood can see the final performances of two of the era’s biggest stars in the film. That alone makes it worth noting.
Clark Gable came from humble beginnings to be one of the most iconic leading men in the history of cinema. Even four decades after his untimely death, that is definitely something worth celebrating.