We look back at the life and career of silver screen icon Clark Gable.
Clark Gable (1901 – 1960) is one of the most famous leading men of Hollywood’s golden age. Here’s a by the numbers look at the silver screen icon’s life and career.
Gable had one daughter born out of wedlock to actress Loretta Young with whom he’d had an affair on the set of The Call of the Wild (1934). When Young found she was pregnant, she went to Europe to keep her pregnancy a secret from the Hollywood community. After the child, a girl named Judy, was born, Young claimed to have adopted her. Though Judy’s parentage was widely known, Gable met her only once and never publicly acknowledged that she was his daughter. Young admitted to her biographer that Gable fathered Judy, but with the stipulation that the book not be published until after her death. Gable’s only son was born five months after the actor’s death.
Gable was nominated three times for the Academy Award for best leading actor. He won the Oscar in 1934 for his performance in It Happened One Night. His Oscar statue later sold at auction for more than $600,000 and the winning bidder, Steven Spielberg, donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Gable also starred in three films that won the Academy Award for best picture — It Happened One Night (1934), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), and Gone with the Wind (1939).
He was leading man to Lana Turner in four movies, with the pair billed as “the team that generates steam.” Gable was 20 years Turner’s senior when they first worked together on 1941’s Honky Tonk and was not pleased with the pairing as he felt Turner was, at that point in her career, an amateurish actor. Gable’s third wife Carole Lombard was also not pleased – she approached studio head Louis B. Mayer and told him to warn Turner that Gable was off-limits when it came to romance.
After Lombard died in a plane crash returning from a trip to sell war bonds and was named America’s first female casualty of World War II, Gable enlisted at age 40. He was stationed mostly in Great Britain and flew five combat missions aboard a B-17 as a gunner/observer. Adolf Hitler knew of his enlistment and offered a sizeable reward for any soldier who could capture him alive. By the time he completed his service, Gable had earned an Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His discharge papers were signed by one Captain Reagan, who would later be better known by a different title — President Ronald Reagan.
Gable made six movies with Jean Harlow, the earliest of his serial leading lady collaborators, beginning with 1932’s Red Dust. Harlow died of kidney failure during production of their last movie together, Saratoga, in 1937.
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Gable the seventh greatest male star of all time.
Gable starred opposite Joan Crawford eight times during his career and was on record saying Crawford was his favorite actress to work with. They enjoyed an on and off affair for years and lived together for a short time following Crawford’s third divorce.
Gable’s first starring role came in his ninth movie (discounting those where he appeared only as an extra), 1931’s Sporting Blood. The film is based on a true-life event surrounding a race horse scam by the same racketeer responsible for the 1919 World Series Black Sox Scandal.
Gable died Nov. 16, 1960, 10 days after suffering a severe heart attack. He was 59.