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Clark Gable (1901-1960) was the American actor who played Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939). Contrary to the role of Scarlett O'Hara, which was notoriously difficult to cast, Clark Gable was the instant crowd favourite, who directors and producers also approved of. He himself was initially hesitant to accept the role.

In Gone With the Wind[]

Gable only considered the role after his wife Carole Lombard bought him a copy of the book Gone With the Wind with an attached note. He auditioned and got the part, which was Oscar-nominated, but never read the book. Gable was very worried that he wouldn't live up to people's expectations of the character as the audience felt so passionately about how the characters of Scarlett and Rhett should look and feel.

Clark Gable initially tried to get both his wife Carole Lombard and his long-time mistress Joan Crawford the role of Scarlett O'Hara, but it eventually went to Vivien Leigh. Vivien and Clark got along greatly, though she hated kissing scenes with him because of the bad smell his dentures caused. They often played Battleship behind the scenes.

Supposed homophobia and troubles with George Cukor[]

There have long been rumours that Clark Gable had something to do with the dismissal of director George Cukor with his long-time friend Victor Fleming. Gore Vidal recounted that Gable demanded that Cukor be fired off Wind because, according to Vidal, the young Gable had done sex work and that Fleming had been one of his male clients. This has been confirmed by Hollywood biographer E.J. Fleming, who has recounted that, during a particularly difficult scene, Gable erupted publicly, screaming: "I can't go on with this picture. I won't be directed by a fairy. I have to work with a real man."

Fighting for integration and tolerance on set[]

When Clark Gable found out that the set toilets were segregated, with dozens of Black extras having access to only a small outdoor toilet, he was furious. He rang up Victor Fleming and told him that if he didn't get the "white" and "coloured" signs down, he would leave the picture. His request was granted.

He befriended Hattie McDaniel and their friendship would last a lifetime. During the scene in which Rhett and Mammy celebrate the birth of Bonnie Butler, he slipped in real alcohol in the drinks and by the end of filming, they were both giggling drunk. He was furious when he discovered that Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen weren't invited to the premiere of Gone With the Wind because it was in a white-only theatre. McDaniel eventually convinced him to go, but not before he was sure that both of them were invited to the Academy Award ceremony. Though she had to sit seperately, McDaniel won an Academy Award that night and thanked Clark Gable.

Friendship with Olivia de Havilland[]

Other than Hattie McDaniel and Vivien Leigh, Gable also was very amiable towards Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Hamilton). During the scene in which Gable picks up Melanie after she's almost died in childbirth, de Havilland tied a block of concrete around her waist to prank Gable. He was very surprised when he wasn't able to lift her.

During the scene in which Rhett Butler learns of Scarlett's miscarriage, which he caused, it was de Havilland who convinced him to cry. Men generally didn't cry on camera. Telling him "You can do it. I know that you can do it and you will be wonderful", he did one take of the scene while crying and that's the one that made it into the film.

Trivia[]

  • He was one of the biggest fighters for racial justice on the set of Gone With the Wind.
  • Despite their often-praised on-screen romance, Vivien Leigh is one of the few co-stars Gable didn't have an affair with.
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