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Clark Gable: A Biography

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Clark Gable arrived in Hollywood after a rough-and-tumble youth, and his breezy, big-boned, everyman persona quickly made him the town’s king. He was a gambler among gamblers, a heavy drinker in the days when everyone drank seemingly all the time, and a lover to legions of the most attractive women in the most glamorous business in the world, including the great love of hi Clark Gable arrived in Hollywood after a rough-and-tumble youth, and his breezy, big-boned, everyman persona quickly made him the town’s king. He was a gambler among gamblers, a heavy drinker in the days when everyone drank seemingly all the time, and a lover to legions of the most attractive women in the most glamorous business in the world, including the great love of his life, Carole Lombard. In this well-researched and revealing biography, Warren G. Harris gives an exceptionally acute portrait of one of the most memorable actors in the history of motion pictures—whose intimates included such legends as Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Loretta Young, David O. Selznick, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy, and Grace Kelly—as well as a vivid sense of the glamour and excess of mid-century Hollywood.


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Clark Gable arrived in Hollywood after a rough-and-tumble youth, and his breezy, big-boned, everyman persona quickly made him the town’s king. He was a gambler among gamblers, a heavy drinker in the days when everyone drank seemingly all the time, and a lover to legions of the most attractive women in the most glamorous business in the world, including the great love of hi Clark Gable arrived in Hollywood after a rough-and-tumble youth, and his breezy, big-boned, everyman persona quickly made him the town’s king. He was a gambler among gamblers, a heavy drinker in the days when everyone drank seemingly all the time, and a lover to legions of the most attractive women in the most glamorous business in the world, including the great love of his life, Carole Lombard. In this well-researched and revealing biography, Warren G. Harris gives an exceptionally acute portrait of one of the most memorable actors in the history of motion pictures—whose intimates included such legends as Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Loretta Young, David O. Selznick, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy, and Grace Kelly—as well as a vivid sense of the glamour and excess of mid-century Hollywood.

30 review for Clark Gable: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I've been a huge fan of Clark Gable ever since I saw "Gone With the Wind" back when I was 17. This book filled me in on everything I ever wanted to know about him.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Clark Gable: A Biography" isn't a terrible book, but it's not a great one either. While Harris does an able job reporting on Gable's childhood and acting career and ascent in Hollywood, it seems just that - - reporting, and not a true in-depth examination of the man. Gable, as the King of Hollywood, reigned for thirty years as a celebrated actor, movie star and idol, and yet we don't get much insight into the man. It was refreshing to read of Gable's insecurities as an actor (he hardly considere Clark Gable: A Biography" isn't a terrible book, but it's not a great one either. While Harris does an able job reporting on Gable's childhood and acting career and ascent in Hollywood, it seems just that - - reporting, and not a true in-depth examination of the man. Gable, as the King of Hollywood, reigned for thirty years as a celebrated actor, movie star and idol, and yet we don't get much insight into the man. It was refreshing to read of Gable's insecurities as an actor (he hardly considered himself King of Hollywood) but there seemed to be an overall lack of information about Gable's movies themselves. I also found errors regarding the movies themselves, making me wonder if Harris actually watched all of Gable's movies or if he read reviews somewhere. Also, Harris didn't touch much on the subject of Gable's illegitimate daughter with Loretta Young. His seeming disinterest in the child might reveal quite a bit about the man, but Harris glossed over that. I think that Harris did a credible job in disecting Gable's marriage to Carole Lombard and speculating that Gable lost all will for life after Lombard's death - - his grief really seems to jump off the pages. Perhaps a minor point, but I was disappointed with the photo section in the middle. The photos seemed stingy and most I had seen before. With his thirty years in the public spotlight, I would think that Harris had a plethora of pictures to choose from. Only one picture of Lombard, the great love of Gable's life? And no pictures of John Clark Gable, the son born after Gable died? Disappointments aside, "Clark Gable" is good for a basic overview of the man's life, but not much of a look inside in his personal life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Liz Estrada

    OK, let me start by saying that if this biography were about anyone else besides Gable, I would have rated it 3 stars, for the writer is not what I would call prolific. Having said that, Clark Gable is such a likeable everyday fellow, that just for that he gets an extra star, since he was THE star of the Golden Age of Hollywood. "Stars" of today could learn a lesson or two from the King. Graceful, kind to his costars, and always humble, he never thought he deserved all this hoopla surrounding him OK, let me start by saying that if this biography were about anyone else besides Gable, I would have rated it 3 stars, for the writer is not what I would call prolific. Having said that, Clark Gable is such a likeable everyday fellow, that just for that he gets an extra star, since he was THE star of the Golden Age of Hollywood. "Stars" of today could learn a lesson or two from the King. Graceful, kind to his costars, and always humble, he never thought he deserved all this hoopla surrounding him. Yet, he was a product of his times and needless to say, a total "mad man" womanizer, but being Gable, what woman wouldn't want to have sex with this guy????? There didn't seem to be any sexual harassment of any kind. Women just wanted him and men wanted be like him. Charismatic to the tee, with a great attitude and amazing professionalism. I must admit I got a bit weepy when the love of his life, the smart, funny and very witty Carole Lombard died. He was never quite the same again (though he did remarry twice more). It was surprising that he was so loyal to MGM for so long and due to that got way underpaid; making much less than other stars with half his reputation. Maybe because he is my mother's favorite movie star of all times affected my reading, but, nevertheless, I came out liking him more than before, for I truly didn't know too much about this Ohio born guy. Totally salt of the earth. And died way too young....... (some blame it on Marilyn and her lack of professionalism while filming The Misfits. .....). Who knows.....?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    I got about 70 pages into it before it had to go back to the library...so far, so good. It's only up to the beginning of Clark's MGM movie career. I'll be grabbing this one from the library soon so I can finish it. Update 4-16-08: got it back from the library and will try to get it finished before it has to go back in 4 weeks. Update 5-20-08: finally finished it. Very good read on Clark Gable's life. It didn't gloss over details like a super-fan's bio might, but yet it didn't trash him to pieces li I got about 70 pages into it before it had to go back to the library...so far, so good. It's only up to the beginning of Clark's MGM movie career. I'll be grabbing this one from the library soon so I can finish it. Update 4-16-08: got it back from the library and will try to get it finished before it has to go back in 4 weeks. Update 5-20-08: finally finished it. Very good read on Clark Gable's life. It didn't gloss over details like a super-fan's bio might, but yet it didn't trash him to pieces like some bios might have. I learned a lot about Clark Gable...I already knew he was The King, but I learned a lot about his personal life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kirstin Dobson

    Although it was heavy on movie after movie details and romance after romance details I couldn't help keep reading. It was intriguing enough and paced well enough I couldn't even skim. My only true complaint was how the big events were just weaved into sequence of the smaller minute facts and thus difficult to separate them

  6. 5 out of 5

    Graceann

    I read Mr. Harris' book on Marilyn Miller, "The Other Marilyn," and found it interesting and enjoyable. I was thus encouraged when I found that he had written a book on Clark Gable, and hoped that it would provide a similar level of scholarship. In some ways, this biography does indeed cover Mr. Gable's life in an even-handed and informative way. We learn about his rough and tumble early years (which makes his later miserliness easy to understand), and his early marriages, which seem to have bee I read Mr. Harris' book on Marilyn Miller, "The Other Marilyn," and found it interesting and enjoyable. I was thus encouraged when I found that he had written a book on Clark Gable, and hoped that it would provide a similar level of scholarship. In some ways, this biography does indeed cover Mr. Gable's life in an even-handed and informative way. We learn about his rough and tumble early years (which makes his later miserliness easy to understand), and his early marriages, which seem to have been calculated to further his career rather than to warm his heart. There isn't a huge amount of time spent on his marriage to Carole Lombard, but interested readers would want to read about that in Mr. Harris' book devoted entirely to their all-too-brief time together anyway. What detracts from "Clark Gable: A Biography" has more to do with writerly style and point of view than anything else. There are strained witticisms that are unnecessary and worse, unamusing, and statements of irrelevant fact which have no bearing on the story at hand and have no support in any case. At one point an actress is described as a "known lesbian," which was meant to explain why Gable never chased after her. Firstly, I don't "know" any such thing and neither does Mr. Harris, and secondly, who cares? Then there are the exclamation points. One is too many in a non-fiction work, and this book is peppered with them (usually in conjunction with one of the aforementioned witticisms). This is Mr. Harris' preferred writing style for this book; fair enough. It is a matter of personal preference that exclamation points belong in a teenage girl's diary, not in a non-fiction work. They inject the author into the telling of a factual story, and the author should only be a conduit, not a character. I was heartened to find that Kay Spreckels made Clark Gable's final years happy ones, after so much sadness permeated his life. I was not terribly surprised by some of his negative behavior, especially with regard to his ignoring his daughter with Loretta Young and his constant skirt-chasing. However, I was encouraged and pleased by his thoughtfulness at other times. One actress complained to him that her feet hurt when she had to portray a ballerina in a film; the next time they saw one another, he provided her with some salve he'd purchased in France, telling her "they say it's the best thing for sore feet." That's a sweet guy. He wasn't sweet all the time, but he was just sweet enough, just often enough, for me to keep liking him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Margarita

    Harris does a solid job of compressing Gable's life and extensive career into under 400 pages. The writing is clean and articulate though riddled with gossip. I honestly felt like I contracted a venereal disease reading this book. Some insights though (for example - the major studios, contracts versus freelancing) were super interesting. These parts could've been better developed in lieu of the gossip.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jadine

    As expected and hoped for, I found out tons of stuff about Gable that I didn't know. There is tons of information in this book and much of it is discussed as fact and not opinion. There was maybe too much about Hollywood that I either knew, or didn't care about, but overall if you want to know the King of Hollywood this is an easy and comprehensive biography.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    I enjoyed the subject matter... Clark Gable is a fascinating man. But sometimes the book felt like a list of names, movie titles and dates that added too little to the story. I wanted to know more of the tidbits and the quirks and moments that contributed to his life and a little less of the filmography. I also wish more photos had been included in the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    This biography about Clark Gable provided a look into Hollywood during the time the legendary Clark Gable graced the silver screen. Gable was the biggest male actor of his time, earning him the title "king of Hollywood". Although the magnetic actor started a catch phrase, "Who do you think you are, Clark Gable?", I was intrigued that Clark himself had no idea what everyone found so appealing about him. Like so many big stars, several decision makers in Hollywood initially passed on Gable because This biography about Clark Gable provided a look into Hollywood during the time the legendary Clark Gable graced the silver screen. Gable was the biggest male actor of his time, earning him the title "king of Hollywood". Although the magnetic actor started a catch phrase, "Who do you think you are, Clark Gable?", I was intrigued that Clark himself had no idea what everyone found so appealing about him. Like so many big stars, several decision makers in Hollywood initially passed on Gable because they felt his features, including his ears, were too big to make him attractive to female movie goers. Those same features made him a heartthrob and a top box office earner a few years later. It Happened One Night is one of my favorite Gable movies and was one that really cemented him as a star. Not only did he manage to be comedic and dramatic opposite Claudette Colbert, but he had a huge impact on society. Men began to wear his thin mustache and stopped wearing undershirts after Gable was filmed in a scene with a bare chest. Ironically, I felt that I learned more about Gable in the portion of the book that recounted his experience on active military duty during World War II, than I did reading about his time in Hollywood. Gable was portrayed there as a deeply caring man who was genuinely concerned about those around him, even strangers who were serving next to him. That section of the book gave even more contrast to the earlier discussion of his life that read as too factual and without any insight into Gable as a person. My biggest issue with the book was that the author wanted to tell every detail about every aspect of a movie. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn about the history of everyone else on the movies Gable was in. I was trying to read about Gable! There were hardly any intimate details of Gable's life revealed. The small stories of him on a personal level were overshadowed by the mountain of facts. Gable was a ladies man who always seemed to have a new wife or girlfriend, but there wasn't a lot of information about their relationships included here. I just didn't feel that I got to know him that well after reading this. Instead, it was a general overview of his life with a great amount of information about other people and the production end of his movies. I enjoyed reading about Gable, but overall, this was not what I considered a good biography and I would not read any more books by this author.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

    With regard to his book Clark Gable: A Biography, Warren Harris obviously conducted an immense amount of research, including having first hand interviews with those that knew Clark Gable. First and foremost, for anyone that has an interest in the golden age of the motion picture industry, this book is very hard to put down. The author details most of the aspects of Gable's life including his childhood, his time on Broadway, his life in the motion picture industry, his marriages and his romances With regard to his book Clark Gable: A Biography, Warren Harris obviously conducted an immense amount of research, including having first hand interviews with those that knew Clark Gable. First and foremost, for anyone that has an interest in the golden age of the motion picture industry, this book is very hard to put down. The author details most of the aspects of Gable's life including his childhood, his time on Broadway, his life in the motion picture industry, his marriages and his romances (which differed from his marriages in some cases), his tragedies, his work ethic, his military service, and on and on. Nevertheless, the reader should realize that even in 400 pages, that much coverage is not going to provide specific day to day details of how he made certain movies. Consequently, if the reader wants precise details on Gable's involvement in the making of Gone with the Wind or the Misfits, this book is not for you. That doesn't mean he doesn't provide interesting anecdotes on the making of those movies. It just isn't ALL there. I found the book to be very interesting and enlightening. I thought Harris did an excellent job in not only identifying some of Gable's weaknesses and foibles, but also his strengths, his personality, his integrity in relation to his work, his amazing deportment, his vitality, and his masculinity. The book succeeded in showing how every man (and woman for that matter) has short comings, but they also have redeeming talents and virtues. I particularly enjoyed the impartial and nonjudgmental way in which Harris told Gable's story. Although he included opinions, they were not his but those who had lived and worked with Gable, and who had reported his life through the newspapers and gossip columns for many years. Consequently, Harris succeeds in providing all the aspects of Clark Gable's life in an unbiased manner that allows the reader to decide what type of person he was. I also found the book to be well organized chronologically so that it transitioned through the various phases of Gable's life. In addition, he discusses some parts of the actor's life that could be considered scandalous but he does so in a manner that are respectable and avoids delving into any salacious detail. Overall, I thought the book was an excellent description of Gable's life, and as I finished I came to admire the man notwithstanding some of his flaws.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    Clark Gable was exactly who I perceived him to be. The man's man. The guy next door. He was everything real and fantastical put together. Born into poverty and never knowing his mother had to have an effect on this very private elusive man. His father was always hard on him, never accepting Clark's decision to go into a " sissy" profession such as acting. Gable never let that deter him. He never let any obstacle or person sway him from his goal. I knew he was a lady's man but I never knew how mu Clark Gable was exactly who I perceived him to be. The man's man. The guy next door. He was everything real and fantastical put together. Born into poverty and never knowing his mother had to have an effect on this very private elusive man. His father was always hard on him, never accepting Clark's decision to go into a " sissy" profession such as acting. Gable never let that deter him. He never let any obstacle or person sway him from his goal. I knew he was a lady's man but I never knew how much until reading all his dalliances. How did the man have time to even make a movie? His appetite for sex was insatiable. Even his love for Carole Lombard didn't stop him from wetting his beak so to speak. His determination to go on despite set backs stuck with me. He was insecure around the few people he would allow, but he always had that steel like armor draped over whatever doubt plagued him. His escape was smoking and the drink like a lot of people during that era, but it doesn't make his untimely passing any less sad or tragic. Especially because he never got to know his son. Ironically, wanting to be an actor so much, he went great lengths to make sure he represented the every day guy. He didn't like pretentious company or frilly pampering. He liked the outdoors. He liked tinkering with cars and working on his farm, a place he couldn't wait to escape growing up. Clark Gable always seemed to be right in the viewer's reach and yet unreachable. He will forever be one of my favorite actors. Thanks for it all, Clark. You were truly one of a kind.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I thought this was an excellent book. I disagree with those who said it merely touched on incidents in his life. It would be impossible to include a HIStory of anyone's life in a book that's readable. I am a fan of Old Hollywood. I grew up watching films on television, and now I watch TMC, even the silent films on Sunday night. I have uncovered many film jewels. I saw Gable and Colbert in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, and the only reason I can think of why this won the Oscar was Gable's charisma. Mr. H I thought this was an excellent book. I disagree with those who said it merely touched on incidents in his life. It would be impossible to include a HIStory of anyone's life in a book that's readable. I am a fan of Old Hollywood. I grew up watching films on television, and now I watch TMC, even the silent films on Sunday night. I have uncovered many film jewels. I saw Gable and Colbert in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, and the only reason I can think of why this won the Oscar was Gable's charisma. Mr. Harris did a thorough research of Gable's life, death, and briefly his family's life after his death. If you have any interest in Gable or Old Hollywood and its spicy past, then read this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lori Weyrick

    The King of Hollywood A biography of Clark Gable from poverty to the undisputed King of Hollywood. Detailed expose of the early days of film with back stories on the stars, directors, producers and the underbelly of the film industry..Wish that I had left Clark Gable as a fond memory of his role as Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind". Although he was affable, fun-loving sportsman....he was also self-centered, womanizing, miserly and a drunk. He refused to acknowledge his daughter, Judy (by Loret The King of Hollywood A biography of Clark Gable from poverty to the undisputed King of Hollywood. Detailed expose of the early days of film with back stories on the stars, directors, producers and the underbelly of the film industry..Wish that I had left Clark Gable as a fond memory of his role as Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind". Although he was affable, fun-loving sportsman....he was also self-centered, womanizing, miserly and a drunk. He refused to acknowledge his daughter, Judy (by Loretta Young) and never contributed financially to her care...Don't think I can ever watch GWTW again...this ruined the myth of Clark Gable for me. PS.-could have used better editing for punctuation

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Oliver

    This biography of Clark Gable is very well written and admirably researched. The author does a good job of balancing Gable's good traits along with his bad. The "bad" are pretty considerable - he was a womanizer, a homophobe, drank excessively and ignored the fact that he had fathered a child with Loretta Young (who had to have been the biggest hypocrite in Hollywood). On the other hand, he was well-loved by his friends and family and although he fought tooth and nail to get the biggest salary h This biography of Clark Gable is very well written and admirably researched. The author does a good job of balancing Gable's good traits along with his bad. The "bad" are pretty considerable - he was a womanizer, a homophobe, drank excessively and ignored the fact that he had fathered a child with Loretta Young (who had to have been the biggest hypocrite in Hollywood). On the other hand, he was well-loved by his friends and family and although he fought tooth and nail to get the biggest salary he could, he always looked out for his co-workers who were sometimes overlooked and treated unfairly. His private life as well as career highlights are all covered extensively.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Why do women love the bad men? Why do we love that wicked look that they can give? I think that Anne of Green Gables said it best, “I wouldn't want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked." Clark Gable was wicked. I learned more about his lack of control with women than I cared to really want to know. But there was still a sensitive person that shone through all that charisma that the camera captured. I still agree with Anne. I wouldn't truly want to meet Mr Why do women love the bad men? Why do we love that wicked look that they can give? I think that Anne of Green Gables said it best, “I wouldn't want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked." Clark Gable was wicked. I learned more about his lack of control with women than I cared to really want to know. But there was still a sensitive person that shone through all that charisma that the camera captured. I still agree with Anne. I wouldn't truly want to meet Mr. Gable. But it was fascinating learning about him and old Hollywood.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    When you think of Clark Gable, what movie immediately pops into your mind? Yes, GWTW. The greatest movie ever made. My only quibble is that I wanted a LOT of dish on GWTW....and got very little. The author gave e more info than I wanted on various directors, but not even a paragraph on working with Leigh. Huh?? Anyway, well worth the 437 page read, if you’re a big Gable fan and you want facts and not guesses and hyperbole. Meticulous research and lots of detail.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pat Wade

    Author did a great job of describing the life of a great actor and life as it was in the entertaining world of stage and movies in the 30's and up to when Clark Gable died. I have been a fan of his all my life. Saw Gone with Wind as a young woman and have my own copy now. Read the book several times. Would think anyone that is interested the way of life in the making of movies and the politics that rule.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Swafford

    Eye Opening Growing up as one of the fans of Rhett Butler I was fairly in a row me dimensional groove as to who Clark Gable really was. This book served to enlighten me on him as a life and blood man as opposed to a good looking suave character from the big screen. It allowed me to see the frailties, excesses, and sometimes, as in the case of his daughter, the self preserving nature of the man as he truly was.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Deaton

    Well done biography Well written and researched biography of The King - Clark Gable. Contains lots of anecdotes about his movie-making and his love affairs. Covers his ups and downs and how he dealt with aging out of the Rhett Butler-type roles. I think anyone who is interested in the golden years of Hollywood or who is a Gable fan would enjoy this book

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark Myers

    Well paced story about the King of Hollywood. I've always been interested in the studio era and Clark Gable was the epitome of a studio star. Mr. Harris writes a easy to follow story that flows well, he leaves out all the boring details so many autobiographies are guilty of. Any fan of Clark Gable must read this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Hayes

    Maybe you have to be a woman of a certain age to really enjoy this book. I was a big fan of Gable so I was familiar with the highlights of his life,so this filled in some of the questions I had. If you wondered how he transformed his personality, voice and mannerisms into one of the most masculine and sought after men in the world, this is a good book for you.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peter C

    Informative and educational Although The King passed away before I was born, the early days in the movie industry and all the up and coming stars is an interesting tale. I would have given a five star rating, but the story is very detailed and to those under a certain age not memorable.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kimberley

    I really enjoyed this biography.. First I have loved Clark Gable since Gone With the Wind..One of my favorite movies..I really enjoyed and learned so much about him as a person and movie star..I also learned a bit about the old Hollywood and studio driven stars.. It was really enlightening..nice read ..about what seemed to be just as nice of a man..😊

  25. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Wetzel

    I have read many biographies about Clark Gable. This by far was the most in-depth ever of all. They never mentioned about his daughter with Loretta Young. Nor most of his earlier marriages,(with the exception of his to Carole Lombard). Have never been discussed. If you are a Clark Gable fan, this is a MUST READ for you

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert McKinley

    Good Gable Bio Read Disappointed to learn Claudette Coburn was apparently a lesbian according to the author. Too bad Carole Lombard didn't live longer. Gable clearly drank himself to an earlier grave than if she had been around to care for him.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Slightly salacious in the romantic details, but quite clear on the veracity of those details, thid book is an adequate bio of a man who tended to keep his private life as privte as he possibly could. A smattering of period photos add to the narrative.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jim Cullison

    A reasonably solid bio of one of the all-time icons of the big screen. Frequently too gossipy and prurient in lieu of furnishing insight, but overall, serviceable. Made me want to check out his movies, so that's in its favor.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert2481

    I'm a sucker for Hollywood bios, & this was a satisfying one. It wasn't as compelling as others I've read (Ava Gardner, Robert Mitchum, etc.) but it was fun & informative. I"m looking forward to seeing some Gable movies when I can.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Interesting. Specifically thorough without being overly graphic. He was considered by as friends as a very good man. I guess that would depend on how you define “a good man.”

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