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clark gable
(1901-1960)

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           clark
           gable

gable


c l a r k   g a b l e  :  b i o g  ]


"Gable learned more about the craft of acting from
Josephine Dillon than he did anyone else."

- Paul Page


biography | gallery | films | books | dvds | posters | videos
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clark gable
gone with the wind | it happened one night
olivia de havilland | leslie howard
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gable



    biography

    Remembered for:

      One of the movie icons of the 20th century. So many things to say about him, so little time. Gone with the Wind, Mutiny on the Bounty, the sadness of The Misfits, the wives, the lovers, the smile, the looks, the ears, the bad teeth...Clark Gable could be remembered for a thousand reasons but roll them up and put them into one reason and you can say that his were the fingerprints that touched the most beautiful women in the 20th century!

      And got paid for it. What a man!


      gable


      There was no nonsence with Clark Gable. He was rough, tough and ready for anything. And when it came to women...well, frankly, he didn't give a damn. But who would have guessed the King of Hollywood owed his early breaks as an actor to the care and encouragement of the women who wooed him?


    The Clark Gable Story

      When the age of talking pictures dawned in Hollywood, the two greatest romantic male stars of the silent era - Wallace Reid and Rudolph Valentino - were already a memory. Douglas Fairbanks Sr was ageing fast, so was Richard Barthelmess; and that other cavalier, John Gilbert, was in decline. The kings of the silents were all dead or dying. It was time to push the young princes forward and cry out 'Long Live The King!'

      The most promising heir apparent, ignored at first because he had peotruding ears, became the public's choice for king. Twelve Clark Gable pictures were released during 1931, and there was little doubt that MGM, the studio that made most of them, was grooming him for stardom. In the second of those films Dance, Fools, Dance,, Gable played a brutal gangster giving Joan Crawford a bad time, and in his seventh role that year, in A Free Soul, he beat up Norma Shearer. In the silent days, he would have been an out and out villain, but the film heroines of the Thirties were showing masochistic tastes, and thought of rugs as something not just to be walked on but dragged.

      William Clark Gable was born in Cadiz, Ohio on February 1, 1901, the only child of farmer and oil-driller William H.Gable and his wife Adeline. His mother died when he was just seven months old, and his grandparents looked after him for two years until his father remarried. William Jr's stepmother, Jennie Dunlap, was the best thing that could have happened to him; always a rough diamond, he learned from her the strength of tenderness. He worshipped her.

      gable

      it happened one night
      (1934)


      When young Gable finished his sophomore year at high school, he wanted to go to Akron with an older friend and work in a tyre factory, and his stepmother persuaded her husband to let him go. All through his life women (usually older ones) put him on the right track and helped him forward. It was in Akron that he saw his first stageplay, and he was entranced. He went backstage afterwards and got an unpaid job after hours as a call boy at the theatre and was sometimes given small parts with lines.

      Gable was hooked. Not even when his stepmother died and his father compelled him to come and work with him in the Oklahoma oil fields could he forget the magic of the theatre. When he was 21 his grandfather gave him $300 and he took off for Kansas City, where he joined a company known as the Jewell Players.

      The image everyone associates with Gable is such a virile one, and he played so many cowboys, reporters, oil-men, truckdrivers, auto-racers, boxers and soldiers in his time that he never had any trouble convining his audiences and fans that he was a hardworking male with square ideas. Certainly no-one would have guessed that at an early age he had drunk of theatre wine and really had little interest outside the stage. He was eager to learn more of the show world, and again it was the women he met who helped him along the way. Among them was Franz Dorfler, an aspiring young actress who took him home to her parwnts when his stock company failed in Oregon, and saw that he was looked after. He marked time in Portland where he was variously employed, first by a newspaper and then a telephone company, until he got a job with an acting group. It was headed by actress and stage director Josephine Dillon, 14 years his senior, who was aware of what he had to offer as an actor and helped him refine his talent. She took him with her to Hollywood, where, on December 13, 1924, they were married.

      gable
      boom town
      (1940)


      Gable learned more about the craft of acting from her than he did anyone else. She taught him physical grace so that he did not move about like an oil rigger; his deportment, both on and off stage was exemplary. She bought him clothes, took him to a dentist so that he could smile inashamedly, showing off the deep dimples at the sides of his mouth, and persuaded him to drop the name 'William' and call himself Clark Gable. She also got him his first roles in films - mostly as an extra, though he did receive his first screen credit when he played Alice Joyce's brother in White Man (1924), and also had a bit part in The Plastic Age (1925), with Clara Bow.

      Gable was aware that he needed more finesse as an actor and returned to the stage. He played juvenile for Lionel Barrymore in a production of The Copperhead. Then, separated from his wife, he let the ladies of his life take turns to sponsor him. Jane Cowl took him on as a spear carrier in her production of Romeo and Juliet; Pauline Frederick cast him as the public prosecutor in her revival of Madame X, and as a nightclub owner in Lucky Sam McCarver. Gable often accompanied Miss Frederick socially; she bought him a new suit and paid for the further extensive dental treatment he needed. Apart from acting he had other duties to perform, as he grumpily explained:

        'Miss Frederick is forever complaining she has a sore back, she likes me to rub it for her.'

      After other minor roles he made his debut on the Broadway stage on September 7, 1928, in Machinal, playing the star's lover and attracting very good notices. On tour with another play in Texas he met Ria Langham, a Houston socialite and several times a divorcee. She was very wealthy, and she liked what she saw when she looked at Clark Gable and followed him back to New York. Like others before her she took him on as a 'special project'. Josephine Dillon had given him the essentials, but Mrs Langham gave him the polishing touches. She took him to the best tailor, the best bootery, the best barber, the best everything. He developed manners, confidence, and ease. After they saw Spencer Tracy in the play The Last Mile, Mrs Langham decided that the role of Killer Mears was custom made for Gable. Reputedly she arranged for him to take part in the West Coast production of The Last Mile, and he was a sensation. As a result Darryl F.Zanuck tested him for Little Caesar but complained about the shape of his ears, and did not sign him to a contract. Minna Wallis, however, did. She was not only a top agent but she was also the sister of the producer Hal Wallis. She got him the role of a nasty young villain in a Pathe Western, The Painted Desert (1931) with William Boyd and Helen Twelvetrees. She then persuaded William Wellman to hire him for the part of a villainous chauffeur in Warner Brothers' Night Nurse (1931) in which he gave Barbara Stanwyck such a brutal beating that audiences were left gasping.

      gable
      red dust
      (1932)


      The release of Night Nurse was delayed for over a year, and by the time it came out Minna Wallis had got Gable a two year contract, with a small role as Anita Page's husband, a hardworking launrdryman in The Easiest Way (1931). His success in the part led him directly into The Secret Six (1931), in which he and John Mack Brown played reporters investigating underword crime. The studio was pushing Brown because he was a former top athlete and had big movie star potential. Frances Marion, however, the scriptwriter of The Secret Six and the highest paid person in her profession at that time, immediately saw Gable's galactic potential. Her husband George Hill, was the film's director, and they quietly decided to give the stronger lines and better scenes to Gable rather than Brown. The ruse worked. Gable's rough, tough, but sympathetic role was made to fit. Studio interest was diverted from Brown to Gable and the order went out to give him the big star build up...continued.



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biography | gallery | films | books | dvds | posters | videos
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clark gable
gone with the wind | olivia de havilland | leslie howard
vivien leigh | ava gardner | jean harlow
carole lombard | marilyn monroe

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