Clark Gable

Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Accomplished actor and military officer William Clark Gable was born on this day, Friday, 1 Feb., in 1901. Born in Cadiz, Ohio, Gable was the son of William Henry “Will” and Adeline Gable.

Frequently referred to as being “The King of Hollywood,” Gable began his acting career not on the big screen as people might expect but as a thespian treading the boards of live theatrical productions.

In a career spanning almost four decades, Gable undoubtedly proved he had serious acting ability. When Gable discovered his stage name W. C. Gable was not working for him as he would have liked, he changed it to Clark Gable.

Like many noteworthy actors, in respect to his early film career, Gable appeared as an extra. Relatively speaking, since this was the silent era of film production, it would not have mattered if the actor had had lines in these early productions, no one in the movie theater audience would have heard Gable’s voice.

By 1931, Gable had progressed to supporting roles. Despite this point, the shallowness of the entertainment industry became readily-apparent when the Warner Bros. executive Darryl F. Zanuck described Gable derogatorily.

When testing Gable for the lead of the 1931 Mervyn LeRoy directed action crime drama “Little Caesar,” the Warner Bros. executive said of Gable, “His ears are too big and he looks like an ape.”

The title role in “Little Caesar” went to Edward G. Robinson. Robinson, an excellent actor in his own right, was no oil painting.

Gable was one of only a few actors to not suffer the loss of career at the transition from the silent era to talkies. The actor’s first role in a talkie came in 1931 when he portrayed the unshaven villain in the Howard HigginTom Buckingham co-directed Western “The Painted Desert.” In the same year, Gable played the villain in the William A. Wellman directed crime dramedy “Night Nurse.”

Because of his powerful performances in both “The Painted Desert” and “Night Nurse,” Gable was inundated with fan mail. Obviously, considering the period in which Gable worked, there was no such thing as email. The mail the actor received, mostly handwritten, was what we now refer to as snail mail.

Gable’s popularity with moviegoers did not go unnoticed by the studio. In the following year, Hollywood producers finally saw Gable’s potential.

Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performances in “It Happened One Night” (1934), “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) and “Gone with the Wind” (1939), Gable picked up the award for the work he did in the 1934 production.

The Many Faces of William Clark Gable

Aged only 59, Gable died in Los Angeles, California on Wednesday, 16 Nov. 1960. Three months after the actor’s death, Gable’s final film was released.

Gable’s final film appearance came in 1961 when he played Gay Langland in the John Huston directed Western romantic drama “The Misfits.” This production is notable in that it also starred Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach and James Barton.

Further to Gable, other entertainment professionals born on this day include:

For a more comprehensive list of entertainment persons born on this day, click the provided link.