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Life and times of Hollywood heartthrob

Source: THE PLAIN DEALER, Monday, February 05, 2001

1901 - William Clark Gable is born Feb. 1 at 5:30 a.m., weighing almost 11 pounds, to William H. Gable, who worked in the oil fields of Cadiz, and his wife Adeline (who dies of epilepsy when her son is only 9 months old). His father remarries in 1903 and moves to Hopedale, Ohio, where Clark is raised by his stepmother, Jennie Dunlap.

1917 - After his father leaves Hopedale to start a farm in Ravenna, Gable drops out of school and takes a job at the Miller Rubber Co. in Akron. There, he sees his first stage play and falls in love with the theater; working backstage and making his first walk-on, three-word ("Good evening, sir") acting debut at the Akron Music Hall. His father never loses his stated belief that "actors are sissies."

1921 - A succession of jobs - in lumberyards and oil fields, selling neckties and working as a telephone repairman - takes Gable across the country where he meets Josephine Dillon, drama coach for an Oregon theater company, while fixing her phone. She grooms Gable as an actor, and becomes his first wife.

1924 - Work as a stage actor and movie extra leads to a screen test before Darryl F. Zanuck at Warner Bros., who rejects Gable, saying, "His ears are too big. He looks like an ape."

1931 - Gable establishes his screen persona as a gruff, manís man, after roughing up Norma Shearer in "A Free Soul" and sharing steamy love scenes with Jean Harlow in "Red Dust" (1932). He becomes MGMís top male star.

1934 - Gable gets an Oscar for his role in "It Happened One Night," in which he shares a cabin with Claudette Colbert (their beds discreetly divided by a blanket slung on a rope) and nearly kills the undershirt industry by revealing that he doesnít wear one.

1939 - If a 1938 national newspaper poll didnít establish Gable as "the King" of Hollywood (a monicker predating Elvis), his role as Rhett Butler in the epic "Gone With the Wind" cemented that title, and an Oscar nomination.

1942 - After his third wife, actress Carole Lombard, is killed in an airplane crash, Gable enlists in the Army Air Forces and flies combat missions in B-17s out of England.

1953 - Gable continues to star in box-office hits, such as "Mogambo" and "Command Decision," and marries for the fifth (and last) time to Kay Spreckels .

1960 - Shortly after finishing his 67th film, "The Misfits" (co-starring Marilyn Monroe), Gable suffers a heart attack and dies. Pallbearers include Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy and Robert Taylor. A son, John Clark Gable, is born four months later.

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