William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio. Shortly after his birth, his mother died of epilepsy and he was left motherless. He went to live for a while with his grandparents, but soon his father remarried and he then went to live with his father and stepmother, Jenny Dunlap. Clark's father was an oil driller and farmer and wanted Billy, as he was known in his youth, to follow in his footsteps.
Although Billy was on the baseball team and played french horn in the school band, he quit school with two years left to go to finish high school. Much against his father's wishes, he went to work in a factory in Akron, Ohio. While in Akron, he saw a play, "The Bird of Paradise", which fascinated him and sparked his interest in theater.
When Clark became 21 he inherited $300 from his grandfather, and although his father disapproved, he went to Kansas City, where he joined a traveling troupe, the Jewel Players. Unfortunately, they went bankrupt and Clark had to take any job he could get to survive ending up selling men's ties in a department store. While working as a salesman he joined a little theater group and there he met his first real love, Franz Dorfler.
The duo were penniless and had to stay at Franz' parents farm, but since Gable had no money, Franz left to join another traveling troupe and Gable went to Portland doing odd jobs. He joined a little theater group and there met his first wife Josephine Dillon. Although she was much older, she knew how to help Gable aspire to his ambitions. They moved to Hollywood and Josephine taught him everything she could about acting. At this time, he dropped the Billy and started using Clark as his first name. Josephine is also responsible for fixing his bad teeth which proved to be a fantastic transformation enhancing his already good looks. At this point, Gable was getting small parts as extras in many MGM silent films.
However, Gable felt he wasn't right for films since he wasn't a suave leading man like John Gilbert of Rudolph Valentino, so he left Josephine and went back to the theater. On tour he met Ria Langham, another older woman who could help Gable achieve his goals. He started getting leading roles and Ria arranged that he play the lead in the play, The Last Mile, which was seen by Lionel Barrymore who thought Gable would be good in films and set up a screen test. This test was seen by MGM and Gable was cast in a western, The Painted Dessert, with William Boyd. His next film was Night Nurse where he received attention by MGM and received a bit part in The Easiest Way with Constance Bennett. After this Clark was given a contract with MGM.
In the early 1930's, Clark did as many as ten films a year. Some of his more notable films of this period were, Red Dust, A Free Soul, and Hold Your Man, with Carole Lombard. He was loaned out to do a film It Happened One Night which proved to be one of his best and won him the Academy Award.
In the later 1930's he did some exceptional films and this was his most productive period. Some of the most memorable films of this time are Mutiny on the Bounty, Call of the Wild, San Francisco, and of course, Gone With the Wind in 1939.
During this time, he had been separated from Ria and started a relationship with Carole Lombard and they fell in love. He was finally was able to divorce Ria and marry Carole on March 29,1939. Finally, Gable seemed to find the woman of his dreams. Lombard was the ideal wife, changing herself to please Gable by being interested in everything he was such as, hunting, camping and fishing. She also turned a blind eye when Gable was reported to be having some casual affairs with other women. However, all seemed to be perfect and they were very happy and lived in a ranch in Encino. Carole tried to have children, had one miscarriage, but they kept trying. During this period, the war broke out and Lombard, being very patriotic wanted Gable to join up and immediately went on a bond drive without Gable. She was anxious to get back to him when the tour was over and took a plane rather then take the train. Unfortunately, the plane crashed and all onboard were killed.
Gable was so shaken by her death, that he joined the Army Air Corps as a private. He flew missions as a gunner and also was assigned to make films for to help the war effort. When discharged, he went back to work for MGM and starred in his first post war film, Adventure, which was much touted with the advertising phrase "Gable's back and Garson's Got 'im". Unfortunately, the film wasn't one of his best, but there were better ones to come.
Gable started seeing women again and began a relationship with Lady Sylvia Ashley. They were married on December 21, 1949. Very soon, the marriage seemed doomed. Lady Ashley completely renovated the Encino ranch removing all traces of Carole Lombard. Gable wasn't happy about it, and amongst other problems, they were just too different to stay married, so they divorced.
Gable got back into films and the 1940's and 1950's did a steady stream of films. To show how much staying power he had, he did a remake of Red Dust in 1953, re titled "Mogambo". Gable played the same part and the film was a huge hit. He did films every year throughout the 1950's and during this time he met and married his fifth wife, Kay Spreckels on July 7, 1955. Gable and her children formed a happy family and Gable was thrilled to learn that Kay was expecting their first child. Gable had started production of "The Misfits", his last film. The film, was full of the best talent, written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Houston. The film required a lot of physical exertion from Gable and also proved to be a trying experience since the other lead, Marilyn Monroe caused much turmoil on the set by her un-professionalism. However, Gable considered The Misfits to be his best film since Gone With the Wind.
Once the film was done, two days later Gable had a heart attack and died on November 16, 1960. Shortly thereafter, in the same hospital where Gable died, Kay gave birth to their son, John Clark Gable.
Gable will be remembered as probably the greatest star of the 20th century and to this day, people know his name and still think of him as "The King".