Clark Gable was a Hollywood icon and one of the most popular male sex symbols of the 1930s. He was officially crowned by Ed Sullivan as “The King of Hollywood” and starred opposite some of the most popular actresses of the time, including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Harlow, Claudette Colbert, Loretta Young, Rosalind Russell, Vivien Leigh, and Norma Shearer. In his final film, The Misfits, he appeared alongside Marilyn Monroe. Many of his co-stars claimed that they had affairs with him.
He was born on February 1, 1901, in Cadiz, Ohio to William H. Gable, an oil-well driller, and his wife Adeline. When Clark was only ten months old his mother died and he spent the next year with his grandparents until his father remarried to Jennie Dunlap and took him to live with them in Hopedale, Ohio.
He showed interest in acting in his teenage years, but his father never supported Clark’s decision to become an actor, saying that acting was a ‘sissy’ occupation. However, Gable was determined to follow his dream, and when he was twenty-one years old, he decided to head west and pursue an acting career.
He never became the finest actor, but his deep voice, seductive smile, and charisma made him popular with and admired by both women and men alike. In a short period, he managed to establish himself as a top star and became a Hollywood icon.
The “King” appeared as an extra in 13 films between 1924 and 1930 and acted in a total of 67 theatrically released motion pictures. However, it was his role as Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind that defined Gable’s image for all time.
Gable was not popular just in the United States, he was also a global star. One of his biggest fans was Adolf Hitler, who loved to watch Gable’s movies at private screenings. During World War II, Hitler offered a 5,000 dollar reward to anyone who could capture Clark Gable and bring him to Germany unscathed.
Gable’s life changed forever when his beloved wife Carole Lombard died in a plane crash on January 16, 1942. She was killed in the crash of a DC-3 airliner on her way home from a war bonds tour and was declared to be the first war-related American female casualty of World War II.
Gable was never the same again. He was emotionally devastated and started drinking heavily. He thought that joining the army would help him recover and decided to write a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking him for a role in the war effort. Roosevelt advised him to stay in the United States, but Gable was determined to join the army.
Gable enlisted into the U.S. Army Air Corps on August 12, 1942, as a gunner. He completed the 13-week training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. At the time, the US Air Force needed a propaganda film that would help to recruit gunners so Gable was assigned to go to Britain to make a film entitled Combat America.
When the Germans were informed that Gable was in Britain, they immediately announced they would be seeing him soon in Germany, hoping that they will manage to capture him. But Gable was not an easy target. He took part in many combat missions and almost lost his life during one bombing raid in Germany, but the Nazis were never able to capture him.
Hitler was frustrated that the Germans weren’t able to capture Gable alive and directed Hermann Goering to offer a reward to any pilot who could shoot Gable down. The information that there was a price on his head was depressing to Gable and he was afraid that the Germans might capture him, put him in a cage like a gorilla, and send him on a tour of Germany.
However, he was never captured and eventually was promoted to major. During his service, he earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.
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He was granted a discharge on June 12, 1944, at his request, and came back to the United States where he continued his reign as “The King of Hollywood.”