How a Country Bumpkin Turned Into the King of Hollywood

Clark Gable always seemed bigger than life in his most popular movies. He was the suave, masculine leading man who knew what was he wanted and knew how to get it. Women melted when they saw him. But that image didn't come easily. When he started his career, he had little going for him other than dreams and ambition.    

In 1924, a 23-year-old ruffian from small-town Ohio named Billy Gable moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a studio extra and as a garage mechanic while he pursued his dreams of acting. The deck was stacked against Billy’s Hollywood dreams: He was lanky and somewhat effeminate, with big ears and unattractive teeth. His acting résumé consisted mostly of a handful of theatrical productions in Portland, Oregon, where he had also worked as a logger and necktie salesman.

Ten years later, Billy — now the über-masculine Clark Gable — won an Oscar for best actor and was anointed the “King of Hollywood,” a title he would hold for more than three decades. Gable starred in some of Hollywood’s best films, including It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty and, of course, Gone With the Wind. But stardom itself did not happen one night. It was the result of a lengthy personal and physical transformation, one that took years — and many attempts — to perfect.

Gable didn't do it alone. His image was a project for his first two wives and at team at MGM studios. Read how they molded Clark Gable into a star at Ozy.

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