Favorite Actor

Over nearly twenty five years of writing a community column, I have composed stories about everyday people of all ages and persuasions, and devoted numerous columns in honor of famous movie and film stars, however I realized the other day that I have never penned a column about one of my favorite actors.   He was born February 1, 1901, was involved in countless love affairs, married five times, and died at age fifty nine from complications of a heart attack suffered while filming a movie with Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift. 

He landed his first leading role in a motion picture in 1930 and continued to be the leading man in films for the next three decades.  He might be remembered for countless starring parts but none of them can ever be more legendary than his leading role in “Gone with the Wind”.  Countless actresses were considered for the part of Scarlett O’Hara, famous women and unknowns alike auditioned and campaigned for the leading female role, but Clark Gable was the one and only choice for the part of Rhett Butler. 

Clark Gable began his acting career in silent films, which were also filmed in black and white, and was one of the actors who successfully moved into the newer realm of entertainment with speaking parts and then into colorized presentations.  He was lifelong friends with such legends as Lionel Barrymore, Spencer Tracy and Ward Bond.  During the filming of GWTW, Gable became close friends with Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy, and he planned to boycott the opening ceremony in Atlanta because she was not allowed to attend because she was African American.  Hattie was the one who convinced Clark to attend and the two remained close until his untimely death. 

His third marriage to Carole Lombard was rumored to be a perfect match; Gable was still married when they fell in love in 1939 and reportedly used most of his salary from GWTW to obtain a divorce so he could marry Carole.  When she was killed in an airplane crash while selling war bonds during World War II, Gable enlisted in the US Army Air Forces, attended Officers’ Candidate School and served in the Army Air Corps as a gunner on a B-17 bomber.  He was promoted to Major before Hollywood insisted he retire from service.   

Clark Gable smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, was fond of bourbon and at the time of his death, owned over half a million dollars worth of firearms.

I find it ironic that the gentleman who was one known as the “King of Hollywood” was accidently listed as a female on his birth certificate.  It was widely rumored that the sale of men’s undershirts dropped significantly after he took off his shirt during the filming of “It Happened one Night” and was captured on film as bare-chested. 

Another interesting fact is that not only was “The Misfits” the last film completed by Gable, it was the last completed performance for Marilyn Monroe.  

 

Brenda S. Brown 

 

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