February 1, 1901 – November 16, 1960
At seventeen, Gable was inspired to be an actor after seeing the play The Bird of Paradise, but he was not able to make a real start until he turned 21 and inherited money.
In 1930 Gable's performance in a Los Angeles stage production of The Last Mile brought him to the attention of Hollywood producers. Although he failed his first screen test at MGM in part because producers thought Gable's ears too big for a leading man his supporting performance in the low-budget western The Painted Desert (1931) convinced MGM executives of Gable's talent and screen presence.
Gable's screen presence was largely nonthreatening: his magnetic smile and playful winks rendered him a charming rogue who did not take himself too seriously. Although Gable himself maintained a self-deprecating attitude toward his own talent throughout the years, he often proved himself most competent in demanding roles and was equally deft at romantic comedy and epic drama.
After two failed marriages, Gable found his perfect mate in actress Carole Lombard. The two were married in 1939, but Gable's happiness was short-lived when in 1942 the gifted comedienne was killed in a plane crash while returning home from a war-bond rally. The business of making movies suddenly seemed frivolous to the devastated Gable, who walked away from his Hollywood commitments to join the Army Air Corps, even though he was well past draft age. He served as a tail gunner during the war, making him a greater hero than ever in the eyes of his fans, and attained the rank of major.
Gable made several good films during the 1940s and '50s, but none rank as classics. His final film, The Misfits (1961), was his best in many years and features one of Gable's finest performances, but it is a film clouded by tragedy. It was the final film for both Gable and Marilyn Monroe, two of Hollywood's most enduring icons, and it was one of the last films for the gifted Montgomery Clift. Gable, who insisted on doing his own stunt work for grueling scenes involving the roping of wild horses, died of a heart attack within days of the film's completion