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Clark Gable Supporting Roles: 5 Times the Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor

Image: Clark Gable Supporting Roles: 5 Times the Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor
Actor Clark Gable studies his script for a CBS Radio Network performance of "Screen Guild" in this undated photograph. (CBS/Landov)

By    |   Monday, 06 Apr 2015 08:04 PM

For most of his illustrious 30-year career, Clark Gable anchored his films as leading man, earning the title of the “King of Hollywood” for his box office prowess. But the Ohio-born actor rose to movie star status behind a handful of early supporting roles that captivated the public’s imagination for his acting chops and on-screen charm.

Here are the five supporting roles that Gable used as stepping stones to Hollywood stardom.

1. "The Painted Desert"(1931)

Besides a few cameo appearances in silent films, “The Painted Desert” was Gable’s first substantial movie appearance, according to Turner Classic Movies. The 29-year-old actor was cast as cowboy Rance Brett in the RKO Radio Pictures Western, starring William Boyd in a feud between cowboys romantically infatuated with Mary Ellen (Helen Twelvetrees).

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Boyd went on to star as Hop-Along Cassidy in the famed movie serial.

Gable’s performance earned him a series of additional supporting roles in the early 1930s.

2. "The Easiest Way" (1931)

Gable’s next role was a supporting part in “The Easiest Way,” a melodrama starring Constance Bennett as Laura Murdock, a woman “kept” by a rich businessman (Adolphe Menjou). Gable played a blue-collar laundry worker, Nick (Gable), who marries Laura’s sister, Peg (Anita Page), according to the fan site Dear Mr. Gable.

Unlike “The Painted Desert,” Gable got the opportunity to play a protagonist here. His character even invites Laura to live with his family after she loses everything she has due to a series of unfortunate decisions.

3. "Dance, Fools, Dance" (1931)

Gable’s next film was his first of eight performances with Hollywood leading lady Joan Crawford.

“Dance, Fools, Dance” was about a reporter (Crawford) investigating a gang’s involvement in the murder of a fellow reporter. Gable plays gang boss Jake Luva, who is suspected of planning the reporter’s death. Gable’s tough, charismatic performance as the film’s villain helped the movie earn over $500,000 for MGM.

4. "A Free Soul" (1931)

Gable played another ruthless gangster, Ace Wilfong, in MGM's “A Free Soul,” headlined by Norma Shearer and co-starring Leslie Howard, who won the Oscar for Best Actor and went on to co-star with Gable in “Gone with the Wind.” The movie proved so popular that it netted the studio nearly $1 million and helped catapult Gable into starring roles beginning in 1932.

5. "The Secret Six" (1931)

One of Gable’s last supporting roles was as a newspaper reporter in “The Secret Six.” The movie starred Wallace Beery and paired Jean Harlow and Gable together for the first of six successful film collaborations, according to TCM. The movie turned another profit for MGM, which cast Harlow and Gable again in “Red Dust” a year later to rave reviews and public adoration.

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For most of his 30-year career, Clark Gable anchored his films as leading man, earning the title of the “King of Hollywood." But the actor rose to movie star status behind a handful of early supporting roles that captivated the public’s imagination for his acting chops and on-screen charm.
clark gable, roles, star, shined, supporting
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2015-04-06
Monday, 06 Apr 2015 08:04 PM
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