CLARK GABLE Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio. The only child of William H. Gable, an oil driller and farmer, and Adeline Hershelman Gable, both of German ancestry. When Clark was seven months old his mother died suddenly and Clark was left in the care of his grandparents until the age of two at which time his father remarried and moved the family to Hopedale, Ohio. His stepmother was Jennie Dunlap. She loved Clark very much and raised him as her own. Clark idolized her and later in life described her as “one of the most tender human beings I’ve ever known".


Clark dropped out of High School in his third year, under his father’s protest, to work in a tire factory in Akron, Ohio with his best friend Andy Means. It was during this time that Clark fell in love with the theatre. He saw a production of “The Bird of Paradise” at the local playhouse and was so taken that he obtained an unsalaried position as a backstage call boy with the stock company


Shortly thereafter, Clark received bad news from back home. His stepmother Jennie was dying. He rushed back home to be by her side and within days she was gone. It was a terrible time in young Clark’s life. He was seventeen with no prospects or direction and he has just lost the woman who had inspired him to follow his heart in life. His father came down hard on him because he despised the acting profession. He felt that he was wasting time and so he refused to let Clark return to Akron. Instead, he took him to Oklahoma to work with him in the oil fields. Clark hated the dirty work of the oil fields and still dreamt of someday becoming an actor. On his twenty-first birthday he received a small inheritance from his grandfather. He took the money and struck out on his own in search of his dream. His father was very angry and disappointed that he didn’t speak to Clark for nearly ten years.


During this time he worked in the lumberyards, sold men’s ties, strung cables for the telephone company and fell hopelessly in love with an aspiring young actress named Franz Dorfler. They met while performing with the Astoria Stock Company in Oregon. The two quickly got engaged and Clark went to live with Franz and her family. She loved him but refused to marry him because he was penniless and so it wasn’t long before Franz hit the road with another traveling theatre troupe, without Gable.


Depressed and alone in Portland, Oregon, Clark focused on his career once again. He learned of a new theatre group that was forming headed by a well accomplished ex-Broadway actress named Josephine Dillon. He made an appointment for an interview and quickly became her star student. Even though Clark was not considered dashing and good-looking back then, she saw something special in him and took it upon herself to groom him for stardom. Not long after, at the ripe young age of twenty-three he headed off to Hollywood with thirty-seven year old Josephine where on December 13, 1924 they were married.


It was clear from the start that this was not a union of love but rather one of convienence. Later, Clark once admitted that the marriage was never consumated. She did play a very important role in his life. For she was instrumental in transforming him into the Hollywood heartthrob that he later became. She fixed his teeth and taught him proper ediquette. It was Josephine who suggested that he drop his first name and use his middle name “Clark” instead. She did a lot of networking and landed him several bit roles in Silent Films. Due to his size and ruggedness, Clark was constantly over looked for leading roles. He became disenchanted with Hollywood, and Josephine, so he separated from her and in 1928 headed for the Broadway stages of New York.


Life in New York was no easier. He did some plays and hooked up with various traveling theatre troupes, but New York was changing as well. Soon Clark’s luck began to turn. There became a demand for rugged leading men and Clark was there to answer the call. While on tour in Houston with a theatre company, he met wealthy socialite Mrs. Ria Langham. Although she was seventeen years his senior, the two became constant companions. She picked up where Josephine left off by smoothing out his rough edges and introducing him to influencial social crowds.