Clark Gable: Tall, Dark, & Handsome
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Clark Gable WAS the King of Hollywood. The screen's ultimate romantic rogue, he was both an adventurer and a lady-killer. As the documentary Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome (1995) puts it, "he was cool before the word was invented. The model of heroism who never breaks a sweat. A man's man women go crazy about [and] men want to be just like." Off-screen, Gable had a multi-faceted personal life to rival his on-screen persona and the documentary, hosted by Liam Neeson, explores this more intimate side of Gable. It also takes a behind-the-scenes look at the many women in Gable's life, potential scandals which his studio covered up and the films that made him a star.
He was born William Clark Gable on February 1, 1901 in rural Ohio. His mother died when he was just 10 months old. At 15, Gable quit school and left home to work in an Akron tire factory. It was in Akron that he saw his first play and decided to become an actor. Gable later joined a touring stock company and met a mentor in actress Josephine Dillon. Though Dillon was some fourteen years his senior, Gable and Dillon married in 1924. The marriage took them to Hollywood where Gable soon got bit parts and in 1930, was signed by MGM. Though his career was on the rise, the actor's first marriage was at an end.
Marriage number two occurred in 1931 - Gable's busiest year in films. It was also his first year at MGM, during which time he made 12 movies. A notable early outing was Dance, Fools, Dance opposite Joan Crawford. Gable would make seven more films with Crawford, including: Chained (1934), Love on the Run (1936) and Strange Cargo (1940). Crawford and Gable would also begin a long-running affair during the making of Possessed (1931).
Another co-star that fell under Gable's spell was Loretta Young. The Young-Gable affair on the set of The Call of the Wild (1935) would produce a daughter, Judy Lewis. Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome includes an interview with Ms. Lewis where she describes meeting the actor for the first time when she was fifteen; she didn't learn Gable was her real father until she was in her thirties.
Another frequent Gable co-star was Jean Harlow. Gable and Harlow teamed for six pictures including the memorable Red Dust (1932) and Wife vs. Secretary (1936). But the actor's favorite leading lady in real life was Carole Lombard. The couple married in 1939 and, once again, a new marriage (Gable's third) came hand-in-hand with a pivotal year in his career. In 1939, Gable would play a role he'd forever be associated with (one he didn't initially want) - Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. Throughout the early forties, the actor was riding high but in 1942 he experienced a great personal tragedy - the death of Lombard in a plane crash.
The loss of Lombard devastated Gable, who in his grief joined the Air Corps. His service included several bombing raids over Germany. After the war, Gable would marry two more times - first to Sylvia Ashley (the widow of Douglas Fairbanks) in 1949 and finally to Kay Spreckles in 1955. Spreckles was pregnant with Gable's son when the star died on November 16, 1960 after completing work on The Misfits (1961). John Clark Gable was born in March 1961.
Gable was buried beside Carole Lombard at Forest Lawn Cemetery and despite all the years that had passed, the 1936 poll, which proclaimed him the King of Hollywood, remained undisputed. Upon his death, many of the nation's headlines read, "The King is Dead."
Producer: Ellen M. Krass, Jeff Lieberman, Carl Lindahl
Director: Susan F. Walker
Screenplay: David Kim
Cinematography: Bill Megalos
Film Editing: Dennis J. Principe, Jr.
Art Direction: Joe Stewart, Kelly Van Patter
Music: Alan Ett Music Group
Cast: Clark Gable, Liam Neeson (host).
by Stephanie Thames