The son of an Ohio oil driller and farmer, American actor Clark Gable had a relatively sedate youth until, at age 16, he was talked into traveling to Akron with a friend to work at a tire factory. It was in Akron that Gable saw his first stage play, and, from that point on, he was hooked. Although he was forced to work with his father on the oil fields for a time, Gable used a 300-dollar inheritance he'd gotten on his 21st birthday to launch a theatrical career. Several years of working for bankrupt stock companies, crooked theater managers, and doing odd jobs followed, until Gable was taken under the wing of veteran actress Josephine Dillon. The older Dillon coached Gable in speech and movement, paid to have his teeth fixed, and became the first of his five wives in 1924. As the marriage deteriorated, Gable's career built up momentum while he appeared in regional theater, road shows, and movie extra roles. He tackled Broadway at a time when producers were looking for rough-hewn, down-to-earth types as a contrast to the standard cardboard stage leading men. Gable fit this bill, although he had been imbued with certain necessary social graces by his second wife, the wealthy (and, again, older) Ria Langham.
A 1930 Los Angeles stage production of The Last Mile starring Gable as Killer Mears brought the actor to the attention of film studios, though many producers felt that Gable's ears were too large for him to pass as a leading man. Making his talkie debut in The Painted Desert (1931), the actor's first roles were as villains and gangsters. By 1932, he was a star at MGM where, except for being loaned out on occasion, he'd remain for the next 22 years. On one of those occasions, Gable was "punished" for insubordination by being sent to Columbia Studios, then a low-budget factory. The actor was cast by ace director Frank Capra in It Happened One Night (1934), an amiable comedy which swept the Academy Awards in 1935, with one of those Oscars going to Gable. After that, except for the spectacular failure of Gable's 1937 film Parnell, it seemed as though the actor could do no wrong. And, in 1939, and despite his initial reluctance, Gable was cast as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, leading him to be dubbed the "King of Hollywood."