From the Archives: Clark Gable Dies at 59
Clark Gable died at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital Wednesday at 11 p.m.
The 59-year-old star had been hospitalized since he was stricken with a heart attack Nov. 6.
B.J. Caldwell, hospital administrator, said it was assumed that another heart attack took the actor’s life.
“He appeared to be doing fine,” said Caldwell. “He was sitting up, then he put his head back on the pillow and that was that.”
A private duty nurse was the only other person in the room when death came. Dr. Fred Cerini, Gable’s personal physician, was at the actor’s side “in a matter of minutes,” but it was too late to do anything, Caldwell said.
Gable’s wife, Kay, was asleep across the hall when the actor died. She has been staying at the hospital since her husband was stricken and they had eaten dinner together a few hours earlier.
Mrs. Gable was reported bearing up “reasonably well” from the shock.
Gable, who was stricken at his San Fernando Valley home, had been reported resting comfortably earlier in the evening.
Gable was eagerly awaiting the birth of the baby he and his wife expected in March—his first child.
“This is a dividend that has come too late in life,” Gable recently told a reporter during film shooting in Nevada.
“When I wind up this picture I’m taking off until after the baby is born. I want to be there and I want to be there a good many months afterward.”
The actor’s death followed by only 11 days the deaths of actor Ward Bond and pioneer movie maker Mack Sennett, 81. Both men also died of apparent heart attacks.
The couple had returned to their home in Encino earlier this month after Gable had finished final scenes for “The Misfits,” in which he stars with Marilyn Monroe.
Highly Paid Star
He reportedly was paid more that $48,000 a week in overtime payments for the three weeks of extra work on the film.
Gable was long the undisputed “king” of movieland and one of its highest paid stars.
A native of Cadiz, Ohio, Gable broke into the movies after a fling as a roustabout in the Texas and Oklahoma oilfields.
Under the tutelage of his first wife, Josephine Dillon, who operated an “acting clinic” in Hollywood coaching stage actors for the movies, Gable acquired acting “polish” that soon shot him to stardom.
The actor divorced Miss Dillon on April 1, 1930, and later married Mrs. Rita Langham in 1931. They were separated in 1935 and were subsequently divorced in March, 1939.
Then came his marriage to Carole Lombard.
The couple were married in Kingman, Ariz., in 1939 and after the marriage drove back to Los Angeles and went back to work.
Gable and Miss Lombard, each with a lusty sense of humor, quickly became a Hollywood legend.
Shortly after World War II broke out, the actress went on a bond selling tour and on her return home was killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas.
In 1949 the actor married Douglas Fairbanks’ widow, Lady Sylvia Ashley. She divorced him in 1952.
He took his fifth wife, Kay Williams Spreckles, a 37-year-old divorcee, in 1955.
Gable’s film career included an Academy Award winning performance in “It Happened One Night,” and he achieved tremendous success in such other movies as “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Gone With the Wind.”
Among other well known pictures in which he appeared were:
“Hell Divers,” “Strange Interlude,” “Call of the Wild,” “The Hucksters,” “Command Decision,” “Teacher’s Pet,” and “Too Hot to Handle.”
A few months after the United States entered World War II, Gable enlisted in the Army as a private at the age of 41.
He later entered the Army Officer’s candidate school at Miami Beach. He emerged from the school a second lieutenant in 1942 and won his wings as an aerial gunner.
He later went overseas and was awarded the Air Force Air Medal for “exceptionally meritorious achievement” in five combat missions.
Known as ‘Loner’
He returned to the United States in late 1943 to assemble a film subject for the Air Force. In the latter part of 1944, Gable, then a major, resume civilian life.
Gable was known in Hollywood circles as a “loner.” Despite his brash movie roles and rugged, he-man appearance, the mustachioed actor was a bashful man who was nervous in crowds.
On the screen he made females swoon in the days before anyone ever heard of bobby-soxers. He once said he had received 5,000 marriage proposals in the mail.
The actor was the son of William Gable, an oil field worker, and Adeline Hershelman, a farm girl who died when Clark was 1 year old.
When Gable was 4, his father married Jennie Dunlap. The family moved to Hopedale, Ohio, and later to Ravenna, Ohio, where his father took up farming.
Slept in Wings
Young Gable took his first job in a rubber factory in Dayton when he was only 15 and while working there saw his first play.
He was stagestruck at once. He gave up his night course in medicine at the University of Akron and got a job as a call boy in the theater at no salary.
He slept in the wings and ate with the money the actors tipped him.
He was doing walkon parts when he was called home because his stepmother was dying. After her death, Gable and his father went to the Oklahoma oil fields to work.
Gable left the oil fields after two years of toil there and took a $10 a week job with a stock company theater which folded in Butte, Mont., on a subzero night in 1922.
The young actor grabbed a freight train for Oregon and went to work there in a lumber camp. He later sold neckties in a department store and for a while was a telephone lineman in Portland.
It was while he was repairing telephone wire at the Little Theater of Portland that he met Miss Dillon, who hired him and later helped him join the Forest Taylor stock company.
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