Movies Clark Gable Almost Passed On

Even the great Clark Gable had doubts about his ability to pull off certain roles.

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Originally published October 5, 1957

It Happened One Night:

I’d been told, “Report to Frank Capra,” so I reported to him.

“I’d like to talk to you about our story,” Capra said, and I said, “I don’t want to talk to you about it. Just give me the script. I’ll read it. Then I’ll talk to you.”

Frank is a nice guy, and he was tolerant of my attitude, which, to put it mildly, wasn’t good. I took home the script of It Happened One Night and I read it. I had a couple of drinks and thought, It can’t be that good. I’d better look at it later. So I had dinner and read it again. It was still good. The next morning I called.

Frank and said, “I want to apologize for my behavior yesterday. I was rude and I had no reason to be. You’ve got a fine script. Why you’ve chosen me to be in it I don’t know.”

Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty:

I didn’t want to be in it, because it was a story about a crew of Englishmen, and since I obviously wasn’t English, I felt badly miscast. I told everybody who’d listen, “I stink in it.” I didn’t realize I was wrong for several months [until] I got a cablegram from producer Irving Thalberg. “The movie is wonderful. We’re proud of it. You’ll like yourself in it.”

Gone with the Wind:

That novel was one of the all-time bestsellers. People didn’t just read the book; they lived it. They visualized its characters, and they formed passionate convictions about them in their minds. All of them had already played Rhett in their minds. Suppose I don’t come up with what they already had me doing? Then I’m in trouble. If they saw one thing I did that didn’t agree with their remembrance of the book, they’d howl. [But] the night we opened in Atlanta, I said, “I guess this movie is in.”

—“I Call on Clark Gable” by Peter Martin,
October 5, 1957

This article is featured in the July/August 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening PostSubscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.


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