• Home
  • Clark Gable was King of Hollywood - but he filmed three times at Elstree Studios

Clark Gable was King of Hollywood - but he filmed three times at Elstree Studios

Clark Gable was King of Hollywood - but he filmed three times at Elstree Studios

This week I am going to concentrate on just one star of yesteryear because in the 1930s he was dubbed the King Of Hollywood and filmed in Borehamwood three times in the 1950s. I refer to Clark Gable, whom I suspect younger readers will never have heard of unless they are a film buff.

Clark came from a humble background but broke into Hollywood via bit parts and some say the casting couch, which was not just used for would-be starlets. He was signed by MGM and soon gained starring roles. At one point he annoyed the studio boss Louis B Mayer, who lent him out to a lower studio called Columbia as a punishment for a film called It Happened One Night. The irony was he won an Oscar for his performance and by not wearing a vest in one scene caused the sales of such underwear to plummet.

The 1930s were certainly his golden years, culminating in his role as Rhett Butler in the classic Gone With The Wind, which made him an enormous star. He was reluctant to take the role as the book had been such a success and he felt his portrayal might let audiences down. In fact he was great but afterwards felt annoyed on two counts. Firstly, he lost out on an Oscar, which went instead to Robert Donat for Goodbye Mr Chips, and secondly, MGM never let him financially benefit from the re-releases.

He married the love of his life, fellow-star Carole Lombard, but tragedy lay ahead. She was killed in an air crash so Clark enlisted when the Americans entered the war and was stationed in England to make training films.

When he returned to MGM he had aged badly and was a heavy drinker. He married twice more but continued to have affairs with his leading ladies, from Joan Crawford to Grace Kelly - albeit they both had a similar reputation with their leading men. In those days the studios and the press colluded to cover up such matters. Today, who would care?

Clark made three films at MGM in Borehamwood in the mid 1950s and three-time Oscar winning cameraman Freddie Young once told me: "You had to be careful when filming Gable as he developed a slight shaking of the head, but he was great."

After his last film at Borehamwood, MGM decided to cancel Gable's long-term contract after 20 or so years of loyal service. The film was called Betrayed and they did not even give him a farewell party back in Hollywood. He freelanced with less success but had a great swansong with The Misfits, giving a great performance with a lot of patience alongside mentally disturbed and drug-addicted co-stars Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift.

Just after filming completed, Clark suffered a heart attack and died in hospital while in bed reading a magazine. His then wife was expecting his son, who was born a few months after he died. With him ended an era. Other Hollywood greats all died within a couple of years of Clark, like Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power and Gary Cooper.

When I was naming the roads on the old MGM backlot I wanted to name one Gable Close in memory of him but alas there was already a road named Gable elsewhere in the town and the Post Office objected. Well that is enough of memory lane from me, so until we next meet try and slip into a conversation "frankly my dear I don't give a damn". That is one for us old timers to understand.

Recent London News

[latest][3][recentright]

Subscribe Via Email

Popular Posts