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Clark Gable's Acting Credentials: Awards and Highlights of Storied Career

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By    |   Monday, 06 Apr 2015 08:28 PM

Today, Clark Gable might be remembered more for his charisma, good looks, and larger-than-life personality than his acting. But the longtime Hollywood leading man’s staying power — performing in 67 films over 30 years, mostly in starring roles — required a gift for his craft that went far beyond mere public popularity, and it earned him several awards as a result.

Gable’s peers and film critics recognized his acting credentials, such as his Best Actor nominations in a comedy or musical for Golden Globes in 1959 for “Teacher’s Pet” and in 1960 for “But Not for Me.” But the “King of Hollywood,” as Gable was dubbed, was particularly lauded in the 1930s, when he received the Academy Awards Best actor nomination three times and won the Best Actor Oscar once.

1. "It Happened One Night" (1934)

After only three years in Hollywood, Gable snagged his one and only Academy Award for his performance as out-of-work reporter Peter Warne in “It Happened One Night.” Gable nearly didn’t get the opportunity to perform in the Frank Capra-directed romantic comedy. Under contract to MGM, Gable was loaned to Columbia Pictures, then a small and struggling studio, as punishment for his health issues that caused delays in filming “Dancing Lady” and caused the movie to go far over budget, according to Hollywood’s Golden Age.

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“It Happened One Night” became a surprise hit with moviegoers and Oscar voters alike. The movie was the first to win all five major Oscar categories: Best Actor (Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Directing (Capra), Best Writing – Adaptation (Robert Riskin) and Best Picture. The film sent Gable’s career soaring to new heights, leading to a series of top roles and movie projects over the next several years.

2. "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935)

Gable’s portrayal of Fletcher Christian, second in command of the British naval ship the HMS Bounty, in the original “Mutiny on the Bounty” earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Victor McLaglen won the Oscar for his performance in “The Informer,” perhaps partly due to Gable and Charles Laughton splitting votes (Laughton was also nominated for Best Actor for his depiction of the sadistic Captain Bligh in “Bounty”). The movie was a runaway success with filmgoers and critics, more than recouping its $2 million price tag, the most expensive film to date at the time, according to Classic Movie Favorites.

3. Gone With the Wind (1939)

Gable’s role as Rhett Butler remains the signature performance of his fabled career. Gable landed his third Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his multi-layered portrayal of the suave but complicated Butler alongside Vivien Leigh’s passionate Scarlett O’Hara in the epic Civil War historical melodrama.

“Gone with the Wind” is the highest-grossing film adjusted for inflation in movie history largely because Gable assumed the role of Butler at the behest of his adoring fans.

Gable was initially reluctant to sign on to the picture for fear that his take on Butler would not meet the public’s expectations for the character in the beloved novel by Margaret Mitchell on which the film was based. But, according to Gold Derby and other reports, some critics believed Gable should have been awarded the 1939 Oscar over Robert Donat, who took home the prize for his performance in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

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Today, Clark Gable might be remembered more for his charisma, good looks, and larger-than-life personality than his acting. But the longtime Hollywood leading man’s staying power required a gift for his craft that went far beyond mere public popularity, and it earned him several awards as a result.
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