Clark Gable was didn’t become a five-times-married “King of Hollywood” without stepping on a few “peasants.” As the foremost leading man of Golden Age Hollywood, Gable is best remembered for his role as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. To those close to him, he was much more complicated, ambitious, lustful…yet sometimes even brave or generous. Give a damn to these 42 controversial facts about Clark Gable.
Ladies’ Man at Birth
Born on February 1, 1901, in Cadiz, Ohio, “William Clark Gable” was mistakenly registered as a baby girl at birth. Few would make that mistake about manly-man Gable again.
One Big Unhappy Family
Just 10 months after his birth, Gable lost his mother to either a brain tumor or an epileptic fit. The young Gable would shuffle between his Protestant maternal family, his Catholic father, and a stepmother who would give the future actor is his early education in gentlemanly graces and music.
Dread to Read
Gable was a lifelong Shakespeare fan. As a young boy, he recited sonnets for fun. His dad even indulged him a 72-volume set of The World’s Greatest Literature, which was a bigger deal in those pre-Internet times. According to Gable’s father, unfortunately, his son was never seen actually reading it.
Cleanliness is Next to Handsomeness
Gable was something of a germaphobe. He never took a bath because the very idea of sitting around in your dirty water shook him to his core. The actor opted for several showers a day instead.
Keeping the Chemistry On-Screen Only
Gable couldn’t charm every lady in Hollywood. For one, Greta Garbo famously hated him as her co-star in 1931’s Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise). Garbo thought he was a bad actor, and Gable shot back that Garbo was a snob.
Not My Time…Yet
At age 17, Clark Gable saw a production of The Bird of Paradise, which first inspired him to become an actor. Of course, he didn’t actually take an honest stab at the stage right away. A handsome inheritance from his grandfather gave the Ohio boy the freedom he needed to give it a Hollywood try.
Gable owes his career to his first wife, Josephine Dillon. 17 years Gable’s senior, Dillon was a stage manager and acting coach who built up her young beau from nothing. Dillion nourished Gable, trained him in posture, body control, paid for his new teeth and hair, and even trained him to speak in a lower register—he had a naturally higher voice. They married in 1924 and moved to Hollywood to start Gable’s film career.
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