Clarke Gable epitomized the Golden Age of American film—he’s known as the “King of Hollywood.”
But he wasn’t born a star. The handsome and debonair man we remember today was once an awkward young boy from a small town in Ohio with big ears, bad teeth, and poorly coiffed hair.
At sixteen, Gable saw his first play and knew he wanted to become an actor. He dropped out of school and began traveling to different cities, trying to join a theatre company. In Oregon, he met a theatre manager who took a strong interest him, became his acting coach, and even paid for him to have his teeth fixed. The two eventually married and moved to California.
In Hollywood, Gable continued to struggle. Casting agents thought his ears were too pronounced and didn’t believe he was a leading man. He finally landed his first big role on screen in 1931 in the film The Painted Desert. After seeing him on camera, MGM studios offered him a contract.
That same year he landed his first leading role opposite Joan Crawford in Dance, Fools, Dance. From that moment forward, Gable was a star. Over the next ten years, he starred in some of his most memorable roles, like It Happened One Night and Gone with the Wind.
In 1942, Gable’s career was derailed by the unexpected death of his third wife, Carole Lombard, in a plane crash. Distraught by this loss, he left his acting career behind to enlist in the United States Air Force. Gable was discharged two years later, and he returned to his craft. He went on to act for the next twenty years, right up until his death in 1960. Just two days after he finished shooting his final film, The Misfits, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Throughout his successful career, Gable was a watch collector. He wasn’t loyal to one particular brand, and he had a diverse collection: a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, a Cartier Tank, a Patek Philippe Triple Date Moonphase, and a Mathey-Tissot Chrono. Gable wore his array of timepieces both on and off screen. Most notably, you can spot his Rolex in the 1953 film Mogambo.
In 2012, Bonhams sold Gable’s iconic Rolex and Mathey-Tissot Chrono. His Rolex, along with a reproduction photograph of Gable wearing the watch and a copy of Mogambo, ultimately sold for a whopping $28,750 to a private collector.
Image Credits: Header,1; Wikimedia Commons. 2; Nate D. Sanders Auctions.