In the eyes of Golden Age audiences, Clark Gable was the epitome of masculinity. However, the movie star had to undergo a pretty serious transformation before Hollywood executives deemed him attractive enough to grace the silver screen. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Clark Gable wasn’t famous until he fixed his ears.
Clark Gable’s Early Life
Clark Gable was born in Cadiz, Ohio, on February 1, 1901. Before the child was even a year old, his mother passed away. As a child, the future star has some issues learning to read. He was dyslexic, and this caused him to quit school at the age of only 16. After quitting school, Clark found work for himself at a tire factory in his home state. However, he found a new passion after watching a local play.
It has been said that Clark Gable first got into acting after watching a production of the play The Bird of Paradise, which was being put on by a local stock theater troupe. Clark loved the production so much that it inspired him to become an actor himself. He started performing in local productions while still paying the bills with his tire-factory work. Clark’s work on the stage eventually led him out to Portland, Oregon, where there was a lot more theater work going on then in Ohio. This is where Clark met the woman that would become his first wife. This woman also helped Clark out a great deal when it came to his career, though the actor still had a ways to go before he would become a star.
Clark Gable’s first wife was a woman by the name of Josephine Dillon, and she was actually a theater manager that the actor worked with after moving to Portland. Josephine was nearly two decades older than Clark, but she saw a lot of promise in him. With her help, Clark moved out to Hollywood and started making his first bids at becoming a big star. In the meantime, he could be found working as a mechanic to pay the bills. Josephine may have seen promise in Clark, but she knew that the actor was going to require quite a bit of grooming before he could become famous.
Clark Gable Used His First Two Wives
Clark Gable and Josephine Dillon married in 1924 and moved to Hollywood together shortly afterwards. Josephine quickly started doing her best to transform Clark into the man that would later take cinema screens by storm. Josephine’s first step was to work on Clark’s voice. Clark had come of age a fairly effeminate man, but Josephine taught him how to talk with the more masculine tone that he would become known for. Josephine also helped make her new husband over in other ways, including fixing his crooked teeth.
Josephine Dillon certainly did a lot to help transform Clark Gable into the famous star that he would become. However, Josephine isn’t the only figure that deserves credit for forming the actor into the big-name celebrity that he ended up becoming. Clark divorced from Josephine before finding Hollywood fame. Clark and Josephine divorced in 1930, and the actor went on to marry another older woman the next year. That woman was a wealthy socialite by the name of Maria Langham. Many believe that Clark used his first wife for her power and influence, and he also did the same thing with his second wife. At this point in Clark’s life, the only thing that the future star was worried about was getting ahead. Clark and his second wife made a home for themselves in New York City, and Maria used her wealth a socialite connections to get her husband on Broadway.
Second wife Maria Langham continued the work that first wife Josephine Dillon had done in making Clark Gable presentable. The future star’s transformation continued over the course of his second marriage. After finding some success in New York City, Clark moved back to California with his second wife and made another bid at become a star on the big screen. This time, he was much more successful. However, there were still a few more physical changes that the actor needed to make before he was screen-worthy.
As the story goes, Clark Gable approached MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer with the hopes of becoming a star. Louis told Clark that he wasn’t attractive enough to be a leading man, but he did cast the actor in several smaller roles to see how he fared on the screen. Surprisingly, audiences took to Clark more than Louis had predicted. Louis began to see dollar signs, and he set about finishing the transformation of Clark Gable into the movie star that he was destined to become.
Louis B. Mayer Finalized Clark Gable’s Transformation
Clark Gable’s first two wives had already done a great deal in transforming the star by the time that he approached MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer. Like them, Louis saw a good deal of potential in Clark. However, Louis also felt that there was a good deal more work to be done. Clark’s first wife had already fixed the actors teeth, but Louis felt that they still weren’t quite good enough. Clark’s teeth were redone a second time, and the actor also had his hair restyled in order to cover up what Louis considered to be overly large ears.
As legend has it, Louis B. Mayer had attempted to tape Clark Gable’s ears back in order to make them appear smaller on camera. Clark wasn’t having any of it, so Louis came up with the new hairstyle instead. Another part of Clark’s physical transformation was a new gym routine. Louis wanted Clark to be much more masculine, and the transformation worked.
Clark Gable’s transformation at the hands of Louis B. Mayer was much more than just physical. Clark was also taught how to become an outdoorsman, with Louis believing that this would instill some much-needed rugged authenticity in the burgeoning star. All of this work paid off. When Clark was given the chance to perform his very first leading role, he took the audience by storm. Clark’s first leading role came in 1931’s Dance, Fools, Dance. The Clark Gable that could be seen on the screen in the film was a much different person than the Clark Gable that had first showed up in Hollywood so many years ago. He was the epitome of masculinity.
Audiences ended up falling in love with Clark Gable, but the Clark Gable that they fell in love with was a manufactured product. Clark found the success that he had always hoped for, but it came with the caveat that there was always something a little phony about him. In real life, Clark was far from being the masculine and rugged figure that he was on the screen. The actor suffered from a number of personal problems, and they ended up doing him in far too early.
Clark Gable Had Some Serious Personal Problems
As one might imagine, Clark Gable grew to be a fairly image-obsessed person by the time that he had finally found himself in the Hollywood spotlight. Given that much of Clark’s image was manufactured, it was oftentimes hard for the actor to keep up appearances. In 1933, the actor suffered a gum infection that resulted in having to get the majority of his teeth removed. In turn, this then made it so that the actor suffered from halitosis for much of his life.
Clark Gable was said to have suffered from halitosis so bad during the filming of 1939’s Gone with the Wind that costar Vivien Leigh could barely stand to be near him. This made Clark insecure, but there was little that he could do about it. With no ability to control the stench that was coming out of his mouth, Clark overcompensated by trying to be as cleanly as possible in other ways. The actor grew to suffer from some pretty serious OCD over the course of his lifetime. He developed the habit of taking several showers a day.
Clark Gable’s first two marriages had been born out of necessity, with the actor not feeling very much love for his first two wives. Clark divorced form second wife Maria Langham in 1939. After this, the actor was finally free to use his celebrity status to garner a lover that wasn’t well over a decade his senior. The same year that Clark divorced form Maria, he married actress Carole Lombard. The two met during the production of a film. This marriage only lasted for a handful of years, with the pair getting divorced in 1952.
Clark Gable Was Never Happy in Love
The reason Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were only married for a handful of years was because of Carole’s tragic death. The actress infamously died in a plane crash at an untimely age, meaning that Clark now needed a new wife.
A model by the name of Sylvia Ashley was Clark Gable’s fourth wife. They married in 1949 and divorced in 1952. Clark only married one more time before his own untimely death. Clark’s fifth and final wife was actress Kay Williams, and they were married from 1955 until Clark’s 1960 death.
Clark Gable may have been the epitome of masculinity on the screen, but he was actually a sickly and weak man in real life. He had a number of bad habits that affected his health, including smoking and drinking. Notably, the finally film that Clark Gable appeared in was also the final film that Marilyn Monroe appeared in. This film was John Ford’s The Misfits. Shortly after production on the film wrapped, Clark suffered a heart attack. Some rumors suggested that the heart attack came as a result of the troubled production, but Clark hadn’t been taking care of himself for a long time.
Though Clark Gable came to be known as the most masculine star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, those who knew him considered him to be effeminate and weak. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Clark Gable had to undergo a serious physical transformation in order to be dubbed screen-worthy, and that the masculinity he brought to the screen was an illusion? Comment down below!