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Clark Gable

Signature on Autograph Album Page - 1936

Autograph in pencil on album page, signed by Clark Gable in 1936 while he was filming San Francisco with Spencer Tracy for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. From the collection of another actor of the same period.

CLARK GABLE (1901-1960) was an American film actor, nicknamed "The King of Hollywood" in his heyday. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Gable seventh among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.

Gable's most famous role was Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh. His performance earned him his third nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor; he won for It Happened One Night (1934) and was also nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). Later memorable performances were in Run Silent, Run Deep, a classic submarine war film, and his final film, The Misfits (1961), which paired Gable with Marilyn Monroe in her last screen appearance.

In his long film career, Gable appeared opposite some of the best and most popular actresses of the time. Joan Crawford, who was his favorite actress to work with, was partnered with Gable in eight films, Myrna Loy was with him seven times, and he was paired with Jean Harlow in six productions. He also starred with Lana Turner in four features, and with Norma Shearer in three. Gable was often named the top male star in the mid-30s, and was second only to the top box-office draw of all, Shirley Temple.

Gone with the Wind

Despite his reluctance to play the role, Gable is best known for his performance in Gone with the Wind (1939), which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Carole Lombard may have been the first to suggest that he play Rhett Butler (and she play Scarlett) when she bought him a copy of the bestseller, which he refused to read.

Gable was an almost immediate favorite for the role of Rhett with both the public and producer David O. Selznick. But as Selznick had no male stars under long-term contract, he needed to go through the process of negotiating to borrow an actor from another studio. Gary Cooper was Selznick's first choice. When Cooper turned down the role, he was quoted as saying, "Gone With the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I'm glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling flat on his nose, not me." By then, Selznick was determined to get Gable, and eventually found a way to borrow him from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Gable was wary of potentially disappointing a public who had decided no one else could play the part. He later conceded, "I think I know now how a fly must react after being caught in a spider's web." It was his first film in Technicolor. Also appearing in Gone With The Wind in the role of "Aunt Pittypat" was Laura Hope Crews, the friend in Portland who had coaxed Gable back into the theater.

Gable also reportedly was friends with African-American actress Hattie McDaniel, and even slipped her a real drink during the scene they were supposed to be celebrating the birth of Scarlett and Rhett's daughter. Gable also tried to boycott the Atlanta premiere because McDaniel was not allowed to attend, and only attended after she pleaded him to go. He remained friends with McDaniel and always attended her Hollywood parties, especially when she was fundraising for the World War II effort.

Gable didn't want to shed tears for the scene after Scarlett (Leigh) has a miscarriage. Olivia de Havilland made him cry, later commenting, "... Oh, he would not do it. He would not! Victor (Fleming) tried everything with him. He tried to attack him on a professional level. We had done it without him weeping several times and then we had one last try. I said, "You can do it, I know you can do it and you will be wonderful ..." Well, by heaven, just before the cameras rolled, you could see the tears come up at his eyes and he played the scene unforgettably well. He put his whole heart into it."

Decades later, Gable said that whenever his career would start to fade, a re-release of Gone with the Wind would instantly revive everything, and he continued as a top leading man for the rest of his life. Gone with the Wind was given theatrical re-releases in 1947, 1954, 1961, 1967 (in a widescreen version), 1971, 1989, and 1998. In addition, Gable was one of the few actors to play the lead in three films that won an Academy Award for Best Picture.


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