Movie Stars: Luck, Fate, Accident, and Coincidence

Research in Progress: June 2, 2021

Luck, Fate, Coincidence:

Clark Gable

Gable had never trusted the public, even when he was successful.  He believed that he was as good as his latest picture.

He always felt doubt and self-doubt about the level of his acting, its range, and his career.

First, he never believed that he would make it as a star in the first place.

Second, he never believed that he would stay on (if he made it), knowing how fickle the public is, how precarious is filmmaking, and how vulnerable is the very profession of acting.

He said in an interview in October 1960 (quoted in Lynn):

“You know,  this king stuff is pure bullshit. i eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom, just like everyone else. there’s no special light that shines inside me and makes me a star.”

I’, just a lucky slob from Ohio. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I had a lot of smart guys helping me–that’s all.”

Gable did get help from Howard Strickling, head of MGM publicity machine: “I was just lucky, if it had not been for people like Howard Strickling, I’d probably ended up a truck driver.”.

Gable wanted his epitaph to read: “He was lucky, and he knew it.:  He called himself Joe Lucky.  He had hung in his dressing room all kinds of mementos pf the days when he was a struggling actor, and across the mementos, he has written: “Just to remind you, Gable (Current Biography).

Gable had never refused to sign an autograph: “I never forget what it was like to be poor, so I’m grateful that people still pay attention to me.”

He was sensitive to the public and to the screen image that he had projected to them, knowing that his stardom was utterly dependent on the public.

That said, Gable did not like to be reminded of his background, which may explain why he never visited his hometown in Ohio, and never went back to Portland, Oregon, where he had started. Some interpret this conduct as a sign or fear of experiencing again the poverty of his childhood.

This recollection of poverty had never disappeared completely, and it made him–and other stars like him–insecure.

In 1931, when he signed a contract with MGM at age 31, for $350 a week, it  was the first time in his life that he gained steady/regular income.



Betty Grable

When Alice Faye, Fox’s big musical star, became ill-disposed  to appear in Down Argentine Way, in 1940, due to appendicitis, she was replaced by Bette Grable, who’s been around for a decade. This movie catapulted Grable to major stardom, which lasted for a decade or so.

As fate would have it, in 1953, Grable herself was succeeded by Fox’s younger blonde, Marilyn Monroe. Grable and Monroe made one movie together, How to Marry a Millionaire, which co-starred Lauren Bacall.