William Clark Gable (February 1, 1901 – November 16, 1960) was an American actor in The Golden Age of Hollywood. His three most famous roles are Peter Warne in It Happened One Night, Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty and Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind; all three earned him Academy Award nominations, and he won for It Happened One Night. He was named the seventh greatest actor in American history in a poll by the American Film Institute.
At one point he was Hollywood's top male box-office draw, second overall only to Shirley Temple. He was nicknamed "The King of Hollywood". Joe Shuster named Superman's alter-ego after Gable and fellow leading man Kent Taylor.
Ironically, for all the confident leading men roles he played on screen, Gable was noted in private to be somewhat shy and insecure; he outright abhorred unplanned public speaking, often relying on his much more confident long-term girlfriend and later wife, actress Carole Lombard, to guide him through red-carpet appearances. Lombard's sudden death in a plane crash in 1942 is noted as the event that took much of the wind out of Gable for the later part of his career, and left him in a depressive funk for years, during which he enlisted in the U.S. Army to join the war effort in Europe and took a three-year absence from the screen. And even though he later returned to acting, and even remarried twice (to actress Sylvia Ashley in 1949 and actress Kay Williams in 1955), many of his friends and colleagues noticed how the loss of Lombard always hung over him like a shadow for the rest of his life.
Gable eventually passed away from a heart attack in late 1960. His last appearence on film, The Misfits, posthumously released in 1961, would also be Marilyn Monroe's last completed film.
According to rumor, Gable (unintentionally) made one other lasting imprint on pop culture: There's a scene in It Happened One Night where his character is talking while chewing on a carrot. The Looney Tunes creators, being fans of the film, affectionately parodied this trait in the character of Bugs Bunny, for whom it quickly became a trademark.
Clark Gable films on TV Tropes include:
- The Finger Points (1931)
- A Free Soul (1931)
- Night Nurse (1931)
- Possessed (1931)
- The Secret Six (1931)
- Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931)
- No Man of Her Own (1932)
- Polly of the Circus (1932)
- Red Dust (1932)
- Strange Interlude (1932)
- Hold Your Man (1933)
- Forsaking All Others (1934)
- It Happened One Night (1934)
- Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
- Men in White (1934)
- The Call of the Wild (1935)
- China Seas (1935)
- Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
- San Francisco (1936)
- Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
- Saratoga (1937)
- Test Pilot (1938)
- Gone with the Wind (1939)
- Idiot's Delight (1939)
- Boom Town (1940)
- Strange Cargo (1940)
- The Hucksters (1947)
- Homecoming (1948)
- Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
- Lone Star (1952)
- Mogambo (1953) — remake of Red Dust
- Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
- Teacher's Pet (1958)
- The Misfits (1961)
Tropes associated with Clark Gable's work include:
- Cat Smile: His cute, boyish grin◊. Another Gable trademark, even when he wasn't trying. It's associated with Gable so much, when other actors made a similar face, people then and now joke that they were trying to imitate him. His smile was said to have made women swoon.
- Hunk: His characters carried this persona, even if they weren't "manly", such as his numerous journalist roles. He had the odd shirtless scene and many female admirers, and was trained by the studios to learn how to hunt and fish. Despite adapting exceptionally to this persona, behind the camera, he was a Big Softy, who loved to read, especially poetry and Shakespeare sonnets.
- Magnum Opus Dissonance: Mutiny on the Bounty was his favourite role, in contrast to some of the more famous ones.
- Manly Facial Hair: His signature appearance is sporting a pencil moustache, which added to his manliness. TCM once made an amusing promo in which they "interviewed" his mustache when Clark was the Star of the Month.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: He was not confident in his ability to do accents, so he chose to keep his familiar Midwestern accent to play the English Fletcher Christian and the South Carolinan Rhett Butler.
- Old Shame: His biggest starring role film flop was the biopic Parnell. It was the punchline to much of Carole Lombard's teasing.
- Rated M for Manly: Was the epitome of this throughout his career. Also helps that he served during World War II and participated in real combat missions.
- Romance on the Set:
- He had an affair with Loretta Young while filming The Call of the Wild in 1935. This affair produced a child Judy Lewis, who Loretta claimed was adopted to prevent the scandal from ruining her career. However, according to Young's daughter-in-law Linda Lewis, Young had confided before her death that Judy was conceived after Gable allegedly raped her.
- He also had a brief fling with Joan Crawford while they filmed Dance, Fools, Dance.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Many of his roles. Rhett Butler is even the page image (ironically, Clark also wore heels in that role, most likely to appear even taller).
- Those Two Actors: He did six films with Jean Harlow.
- The Lovable Rogue was his thing.
- He also played a newspaper reporter in nine different films.
- Unusual Ears: As noted he was handsome, but those ears of his.. stood out. He had plastic surgery to pin them back.
- What Could Have Been:
- He nearly played the title role in Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932. But because he was unknown at the time, Johnny Weissmuller was given the role instead.
- MGM wanted very much to cast him alongside Angela Lansbury in a drama called Angel's Flight. Clark disliked the story and the film was cancelled.
- A big criticism of His Girl Friday in the weeks after its release was that Cary Grant was horribly miscast, with many film critics saying that Gable should've replaced him.