Clark Gable would’ve celebrated his 118th birthday on February 1, 2019. The Oscar-winning matinee idol starred in dozens of films before his untimely death in 1960, but how many of those titles are classics? In honor of his birthday, let’s take a look back at 12 of Gable’s greatest movies, ranked worst to best.
After appearing in bit parts in a number of films, Gable shot to stardom with his performance in “A Free Soul” (1931) as a gangster who bewitches a young woman (Norma Shearer) whose attorney father (Lionel Barrymore) helped him beat a murder rap. From there forward, the actor’s persona as a raffish leading man who’s every guy’s best friend and every gal’s dream became cemented in a number of subsequent roles.
He won an Oscar just three years later for Frank Capra‘s screwball classic “It Happened One Night” (1934), in which he played a newspaper reporter traveling with a spoiled socialite (Claudette Colbert). The film became the first to sweep the five major Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat only repeated by “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991).
His next bid came for “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935), a high seas adventure about an uprising against a tyrannical British Navy captain (Charles Laughton). Made before the introduction of the supporting categories in 1936, the film holds the record for most Best Actor nominations with three (Gable, Laughton, and Franchot Tone as a fellow seaman). All three lost to Victor McLaglen (“The Informer”), and “Mutiny” walked away with a lone Best Picture win.
Gable’s third and final nomination came for what is undoubtedly his most iconic role: the dashing Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind” (1939). His rebuttal to pampered Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) — “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” — remains the most memorable line in movie history. The box office behemoth swept the Oscars, winning eight prizes including Best Picture and Best Actress for Leigh. Sadly, Gable was overlooked for Robert Donat (“Goodbye, Mr. Chips”).
Tour our gallery of Gable’s 12 greatest films, and see if your favorite made the cut.
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