clark gable

This article about post-MGM Clark was syndicated in newspapers in 1955.

After a quarter of a century in the movie business, William Clark Gable, the acknowledged king of the actors, has decided at the ripe age of 54 to go on his own.

“From here on in,” Gable confided recently in Durango, Mexico, where he was on location for The Tall Men, “I’m through working for salary. I’ve been on salary since 1930, and I’ve got less to show for that kind of security than most people think.

“The thing for an actor to do nowadays is to work for a share of the picture’s profits. You’ve gotta take a chance. Fellows like Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper—they had the right idea years ago. Today they’re well-fixed. Why? Because they were willing to gamble, willing the spread the risk.

“If a film’s no good, you wind up with little. You’ve invested your time and talent. If it goes over big, you’ve got a bundle spread over a period of years.

“Take Gone with the Wind,” Gable continued, “Know how much that picture has grossed since 1939? About $35 million. In order to get me for the Rhett Butler part, David Selznick had to give up 50 percent of the film to MGM. Know how much I got? Maybe 30 or 40 thousand in salary.

“Now, suppose I had 10 percent of the gross.” This is Gable’s current deal on Solider of Fortune and The Tall Men, both released via 20th Century Fox. “I’d be set!

“Yes sir, my salary days are over. From now on, it’s a percentage deal with me. Should’ve done it years ago. But I was tied up with a studio contract until last year.”

Oddly enough, MGM, which had Gable under contract from 1931 to 1954, offered “The Moose” a share-the-profits deal prior to his leaving, but he turned it down.

“Eddie Mannix [MGM’s general manager] came over to London a year or so ago,” Gable told me, “and offered me a unit of my own. ‘You can pick your own stories,’ he said. ‘Cast your own pictures. Make anything you want up to 2 ½ million. We’ll back you and we’ll work out the split.’

“It was a good offer, a fine offer, but I didn’t want a company of my own. That kind of thing can become a headache. You get charged with the studio overhead, and every actor in town comes up asking for a job.

“I said to Mannix in London, ‘Thanks for everything, Eddie, but as regards Metro, I think I’ve had it. No more long term studio deals for me.’ We shook hands, and that was really the end of my relationship with MGM. A few months later I came back to Culver City, did a little work, then checked off the lot.

I think Clark is still nursing his wounds over how his relationship with MGM ended, but of course never would admit that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: While I agree he should have set on his own earlier, he didn’t do a great job at picking his own film projects.

Now, for Clark Gable to talk thus about any subject for publication is far from typical. For years his press relations have been affably close-mouthed. He is one actor not given in bright remarks. Ordinarily he limits himself to one-sentence answers—particularly where finances or women are concerned.

As we say on the veranda of his Durango hotel, I said as much to him. “Last time I saw you,” I added, “you were in Venice with that French model, Susan Dadolle.”

“I remember,” Gable nodded. “You wanted to know if I was going to marry the girl. I told you there was nothing to it, just friendship, but you didn’t want to believe it.”

“Every time you say you’re just friends with a girl,” I offered, “you wind you marrying her. That’s the trouble with you. I’ll bet you get married to Kay Spreckels within the next few months.”

Gable tossed back that handsome head of his and grinned widely. “Everyone knows more about me,” he said, “than I do myself. Right now I’m not getting married. After I finish this picture, I’m through working for a year. I’m heading for Alaska and some hunting. Don’t get me wrong, I think Kay Spreckels is a swell girl. But she’s had enough of marriage, too. She’s a three-time loser. Matter of fact, I think that’s what we have in common.”

Clark and Kay were married a month after this article was published….so something changed in that short period of time!

Diplomatic and tactful, he shies away from practically all questions concerning his leading women. Over the years he has played opposite virtually every top-flight actress from Greta Garbo to Grace Kelly. Joan Crawford starred opposite Gable in eight movies from 1931 to 1940 and once told me, “I was very much in love with him but was afraid to admit it. I always had the feeling that he was the kind of lover who cared more for the chase than the prize.”

Quite a quote from Crawford!

You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.