Gable, Clark: MGM’s Creation–Fabricated Star and Screen Image

Clark Gable

Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were literally the fabricated creations of MGM’s publicity machine, from their physical looks to the parts that they played to the public screen image that viewers came to expect from them. 

With few exceptions, Gable fully cooperated with his studio because he wanted to be a successful star and he knew that he could not achieve that without the studio’s active sponsorship. 

For the first two decades of his career, Gable was a model of cooperation, never giving anybody trouble, always on time for photo sessions and always polite to the press.  And he accepted what the studio told his to do; in fact, his contract denied him choice of roles.  “I just work here,” he once said, “I try to work well and hard.  It’s my business to work, not to think.” 

Gable benefited from MGM’s tight control because he was not a very good judge of his abilities, even when given the choice.   He spent 23 of his 30-year-career at MGM, which created a charming screen image for him and promoted his popularity through extensive exposure.  Gable was even told how to lead his romantic life and spend his leisure time–and he listened. 

 In 1955, however, he decided to become freelance, as was the fashion at the time, but none of the 9 films he made until his untimely death, with the exception of ”The Misfits,” was superior in any way to his MGM formulaic movies. 

Gable realized that without the studio’s machine, his career was not viable. 

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