Gable, Clark: Rosalind Russell about the Star’s Qualities

ROSALIND RUSSELL

“The nicest thing about working with Clark Gable was his humor, and by that I mean not only his personal witticisms, but his humor about himself.  He was one of the few actors I ever knew who had genuine humor about himself.  He actually, I believe, considered himself rather ludicrous at times, having to do certain things that he considered awkward or possibly unnatural.  He was a totally natural human being.  He was a rarity in many ways, but perhaps the rarest of all his characteristics was that at all time he was himself — Clark Gable….

“I met him on the set of China Seas, our first picture together, and he made a comment about feeling silly about having to be made up.  He didn’t like makeup and wouldn’t let it be put on him.  I know that he had tremendous influence on bringing about the fact that actors today wear little or no makeup.  Only perhaps for character work.  Clark just wouldn’t have it.  He had the attitude that it was not natural.

“I don’t believe that he really considered himself an actor, per se.  I think that he thought of himself purely as a man, and that his work was acting.  He did a job and did it with heart, professionally, without cheating.  He was direct with an honesty from within.  So many people try to be something other than what they are, rather than developing their own resources.  Clark merely developed his own resources possibly better than any other actor.  This was one of the secrets to his success.

“I don’t believe that he was a manufactured personality.  I think it was the other way around.  He was himself, and the studio, MGM, was wise enough and smart enough to realize that they had a wonderfully vibrant and natural personality in this man.  And they created his public image from himself.  This is something you don’t see very often, and this is what his true greatness was.

“Years later when we did They Met in Bombay, he was just as real and natural as he had been years before.  And so wonderfully helpful.  He again was very generous in working.  He always shared, never upstaged his marks or the other performers.  There was nothing small or petty about him.  He was as big as he was physically.

 

“So many things were said about Clark being ‘Ze Great Lover,’ when he was just tremendously graceful.  No director ever had to give him directions in a love scene.  There was never any toe-to-toe for a screen kiss.  He was a very graceful person with his body, and there wasn’t all this enormous clinching and awkwardness.  Much like a ballet dancer in a sense, he had rhythm and timing.  He was beautiful to play a love scene with.

“He certainly lived his life and colored it with experience.  He filled his horizons with other things than just his work.  And that’s another reason for his success, I think.  The balance between the private and the professional.  He had a great deal more to give to his work.”

Source: The Films of Clark Gable by Gabe Essoe.

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