Clark Gable: Stories And Trivia About The King Of Hollywood
Marilyn Monroe Kissing Clark Gable on the set of 'The Misfits' (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
He was known as the King of Hollywood in his heyday -- you just couldn't get any bigger than Clark Gable. Stories and trivia about the Gone With The Wind star's life abound, because like any entertaining king, he lived on a grand scale. He had five wives and numerous affairs. He flew bombing raids in World War II, and partially inspired both Clark Kent and Bugs Bunny. He won an Oscar -- but gave it away.
Clark Gable was born February 1, 1901 and on his birth certificate, he was mistakenly recorded as female. His mother died 10 months after his birth and he was raised by his father and stepmother, who helped to educate him to be a gentleman.
Clark Gable Had Big Ears And Bad Teeth
Gable dropped out of school at 16 and worked at a tire factory in Akron, Ohio. He saw a play and decided to be an actor, but when his stepmother died, he moved to Oklahoma, where he lived for three years before joining a traveling theater company, eventually ending up in Oregon, where he met Josephine Dillon, who was a theater manager.
Josephine Dillon, who was 17 years older than him became his first wife; they married in 1924 and moved to Hollywood. She was an acting coach who trained him in posture, body control, and lowering his speaking voice. She also paid for his new teeth and hair. She was not his last older woman; he had affairs with other older women who could advance his career. One affair, with Pauline Frederick, who was 18 years older than him, helped him land a role in Madame X.
In Hollywood, he was rejected at first because his ears were too big.
He Was Both A Reader And A Fighter
Gable loved Shakespeare and read Shakespeare’s sonnets for fun. He was, however, dyslexic and reluctant to be photographed reading on set because he was concerned that it would damage his masculine image.
He spent two years in World War II as a bomber gunner in Europe. When he originally joined the army, he was part of the First Motion Picture Unit, to make movies for the air force. While in a fight in Germany, a bullet went through his shoe and just missed his head. He had another close call of sorts; Adolf Hitler was a fan of his and offered a reward to anyone who could capture him. He did attain some success during the war when he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.
He met Carole Lombard in 1926 on the set of The Johnstown Flood. Their paths crossed again and their romance really ignited in 1936, at the Mayfair Ball, which Lombard hosted. She would become his third wife. He divorced his second wife, Ria Langham and married Lombard while on a production break from Gone with the Wind. He married Lombard and three weeks later, his divorce from Langham was finalized.
Gable Was Unable To Be Faithful
Gable had a reputation for his infidelity; he allegedly raped Loretta Young, which resulted in the birth of a daughter, Judy Lewis.
Despite his love for her, he was unable to remain faithful to Lombard, whom he cheated on with Lana Turner, his co-star in Somewhere I’ll Find You. In 1942, Lombard died in a plane crash, which led to heavy drinking and his enlistment in the military.
Clark Gable Lost His Wife On The Flip Of A Coin
Lombard initially was not going to be on the plane that crashed, and was instead supposed to be taking the train instead. She was anxious to return home to work on her marriage. She was traveling with mother and the MGM publicist, Otto Winkler, none of whom wanted to take the flight. She won in the coin toss and they boarded the doomed plane.
After the crash, Gable climbed the 7,800 foot peak where the plane crashed to try to recover his wife’s body.
Clark Gable Just Kept Getting Married
He married a fourth time, to a woman named Lady Sylvia Ashley, who was Douglas Fairbank’s widow and that marriage lasted only three years.
Before that marriage, he allegedly proposed to Nancy Davis, who would later marry Ronald Reagan and go on to become the First Lady.
The Fifth Time's The Charm
He had an affair with Grace Kelley before marrying for the fifth time, to Kathleen Williams. She was pregnant with his only legitimate child when he died.
More Than Just The King Of Hollywood
Gable was very close with Hattie McDaniel and routinely stood up for her when she faced racism, even nearly boycotting the premier of Gone with the Wind, which McDaniel was not allowed to attend because she was an African American woman. He was generous in other ways as well; he gave his Oscar for It Happened One Night to a child who thought the statue was pretty.
Don't Stand Too Close To Clark Gable
Gable had horrible breath. An infection in 1933, pyorrhea, led to the loss of nearly all of his teeth. The fake teeth led to halitosis. He was also quite concerned with cleanliness. He took several showers a day, refused to take baths, and his sheets were changed daily.
His Trademark Pipe Was Not Such A Great Idea
Clark Gable was in more than 60 films during the course of his career, beginning as an actor in silent films. His final appearance was as an aging cowboy in The Misfits. This was a posthumous appearance, as the film was released in 1961.
He died from a heart attack on November 16, 1960, believed to have been caused by years of hard drinking and pipe smoking; he smoked at least two bowls a day. To this day, he has pipes inspired by him.
Clark Gable Inspired Two Big Fictional Characters
We're all familiar with the image of Bugs Bunny leaning on a fence, wisecracking and chewing on a carrot. The pose, prop and manner was based on Clark Gable’s character Peter Warne, from It Happened One Night. Gable's name also inspired half of Superman’s name, Clark Kent.
A Sorrowful Legacy
Clark Gable's descendants have faced some tragedies of their own. His son was arrested on suspicion of a DUI and his son’s girlfriend was found dead at his home.
His grandson, who had been a reality tv star for the show Cheaters, died of an accidental opioid overdose.
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