Clark Gable commands a mythic status when it comes to Old Hollywood celebrities, and it’s easy to see why. Words like dashing and debonair seem almost designed for him, with his classic good looks, impeccable dressing sense, and incredibly emotive acting. Clark Gable achieved an incredible amount of professional success and was renowned for his style and grace. Effortlessly shining on camera, it was clear that he was a natural in show business.
Although he led a turbulent personal life, he left behind an incredible legacy that continues today. Movies like Gone With The Wind have cemented his classic masculine style in Hollywood history. Known for his sharp and clean look, that famous mustache and a rugged, manly mystique, Clark Gable is truly a classic man of style.
Luckily, he was also involved in theater and his stage career helped get him noticed. He received a few parts but they all tended to be the same. Often cast in supporting roles or as a villain, it was starting to seem like he would never quite get that leading man role he so desperately wanted. In fact, a legendary MGM boss once told him that he was “too elephant-eared and unattractive” to get those kinds of parts. But soon, that would all change, as his fan base continued to grow.
Within a decade, Gable had starred in some of the most iconic movies ever made in Hollywood, earned an Oscar for best actor, and was deemed the “King of Hollywood” – a title he held on to for many decades. Gone with the Wind, of course, is probably the first Clark Gable movie that comes to mind, but he had several classics. It Happened One Night and Mutiny on the Bounty were some of his best works. And he starred with some of the most famous women in Hollywood including Greta Garbo, Jean Crawford, and Jean Harlow.
Throughout his career, Gable married many times but the greatest love of his life was Carole Lombard. Known for her beauty and sharp wit, she was the perfect companion (and opponent) that challenged him with her brash, outspoken nature and Gable loved her for it. One of the happiest periods of Gable’s life, it was cut far too short when Lombard died tragically in a plane crash just a few years after their marriage.
Devastated, Gable left Hollywood and enlisted in the US Army Air Service as an aerial gunner. During that time, he earned many military accolades but eventually made a comeback. Initially, he was met with a lot of success but eventually, his star waned. His final performance was in The Misfits, with Marilyn Monroe.
Clark Gable is a great example of the fact that style isn’t always this innate “thing” that someone just has, but it’s something that’s cultivated over time and it takes a lot of hard work. Gable went through a lot of personal and physical transformation to become the classic style icon that he is, and studios helped craft that rugged masculinity he’s so well known for now with meticulous care and a lot of personal grooming.
There are some interesting stories about him during that time like how MGM had his ears (or “flops,” as he affectionately called them) taped back to build that look–to which he told the studio to leave his “flops” alone.
A little known fact about Old Hollywood is that the traditional “wardrobe” didn’t really exist. There weren’t racks of clothing for stars to choose from while filming. Stars really just wore their own clothing when shooting movies, which is likely why Gable became such a style icon. He was known for his clean and elegant suits, sophisticated casual wear and of course, for single-handedly killing the undershirt.
When we’re talking about Clark Gable’s iconic Hollywood status, it’s usually in relation to his dashing looks, rakish charm, and of course, who can forget that signature mustache of his, and the slick pomade hair. He was the epitome of masculinity, with his rugged good looks and effortless style.
But ultimately what made Clark Gable an icon was his confidence. He knew that style was much more than the clothes he wore, but also how he adapted to his surroundings, and how he made a look his own. It was about infusing your own personality into the look, and being confident in that. His acting prowess is undisputed, and you can see that talent shine when you see him on-screen. He’s natural and effortless, and his style reflects that.