Born in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio, Feb. 1,1901, to an itinerant family, (William) Clark Gable became an American motion-picture actor, best known for his portrayal of Rhett Butler in the film Gone With the Wind. Gable dropped out of school early and at age 21, after having held a variety of jobs, joined a traveling theatrical troupe. For several years he toured in stock theater productions and found work intermittently in silent films.
Despite a Broadway performance in the 1928 play, Machinal, Gable's first "big break" came in 1930 when he achieved critical success in a Los Angeles production of the play The Last Mile in 1930. Screen tests soon followed, though none initially proved fruitful. In 1931, however, Gable was offered his first motion-picture role in a Western, The Painted Desert, where he was cast as a villain. Gable's smile and magnetic personality staring out from the screen captured movie-goers almost instantly, and he immediately became in great demand, turning out 12 films that year. Among them was Sporting Blood in which he had his first lead role.
Once catapulted into movie stardom and under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Gable played opposite nearly every MGM female star including Greta Garbo, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Myrna Loy. In 1934, he was loaned to Columbia Pictures to star opposite Claudette Colbert in the romantic comedy It Happened One Night. His performance in the hit film earned him his only Academy Award and also launched a string of successful films that followed including Call of the Wild and Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935, San Francisco in 1936 and Saratoga in 1937 and Idiot's Delight in 1939. By the end of the decade, he was Hollywood's most popular actor and had been accorded the nickname "The King."
His best-known and most-admired performance, however, was yet to come when he was cast in the role of Rhett Butler in David O. Selznick's, Gone with the Wind. Ironically, Gable initially was uninterested in the role. The year 1939 also was a memorable one for Gable personally for it was then that he married Carole Lombard, his occasional costar.
Throughout the early 1940s, Gable continued to make a number of successful pictures. In 1942, however, Lombard died in a plane crash that deeply affected Gable. Although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. entered World War II, Gable enlisted as a private in the U.S. Air Corps on Aug. 12, 1942 in Los Angeles. He attended the Officers' Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla., and graduated a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school and in Feb. 1943 on personal orders from Gen. Arnold went to England to make a motion picture of aerial gunners in action. He was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook and although neither ordered nor expected to do so, Gable flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s to obtain the combat film footage he believed was required for producing the movie entitled "Combat America."
In 1945, having been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, he returned Hollywood and resumed his acting career, appearing in films throughout the '40s and '50s. Directed by John Huston, Gable gave a memorable performance in The Misfits, what would be his last motion picture. Within a few days of the film's completion, Gable died of a heart attack on Nov. 16, 1960. Sadly enough, his son, John Clark Gable, whom he never got to see, was born March 20, 1961.
Gable also is the father of a daughter born to Loretta Young.