I’m no actor and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me.
It is an extra dividend when you like the girl you’ve fallen in love with.
[in 1958] My days of playing the dashing lover are over. I’m no longer believable in those parts. There has been considerable talk about older guys wooing and winning leading ladies half their age. I don’t think the public likes it, and I don’t care for it myself. It’s not realistic. Actresses that I started out with like Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck have long since quit playing glamor girls and sweet young things. Now it’s time I acted my age. Let’s be honest. It’s a character role, and I’ll be playing more of them. There’s a risk involved, of course. I have no idea if I can attain the success as a character actor as I did playing the dashing young lover, but it’s a chance I have to take. Not everybody is able to do it.
[on Jean Harlow] She didn’t want to be famous. She wanted to be happy.
They see me as an ordinary guy, like a construction worker or the guy who delivers your piano.
It’s a chain of accidents. When you step into Hollywood, you wind yourself into thousands of chains of accidents. If all of the thousands happen to come out exactly right – and the chance of that figures out to be one in eight million – then you’ll be a star.
[In 1932] I have been in show business for 12 years. They have known me in Hollywood but two. Yet as picture-making goes, two years is a long time. Nevertheless, my advice has never been asked about a part in a picture. I found out I was going into “Susan Lenox” in Del Monte. Read it in a paper. When I walked on the set one day, they told me I was going to play “Red Dust” in place of John Gilbert. I have never been consulted as to what part I would like to play. I am paid not to think.
I don’t want a lot of strangers looking down at my wrinkles and my big fat belly when I’m dead.
The only reason they come to see me is that I know that life is great – and they know I know it.
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[on his preference for brothels] When it’s over it’s over. No questions, no tears, no farewell kisses.
Hell, if I’d jumped on all the dames I’m supposed to have jumped on, I’d have had no time to go fishing.
[about “The Misfits”] This is the best picture I have made, and it’s the only time I’ve been able to act.
Single men never have any problems. I suppose that the public builds some kind of idea from what they’ve seen of me on the screen.
Every picture I make, every experience of my private life, every lesson I learn are the keys to my future. And I have faith in it.
[on playing Fletcher Christian in “Mutiny on the Bounty”] The character is a pansy. And I’m not going to be seen wearing a pigtail and knickers.
[on his acting ability] I worked like a son of a bitch to learn a few tricks and I fight like a steer to avoid getting stuck with parts I can’t play.
This power that I’m supposed to have over women was never noticed when I was a stage actor on Broadway. I don’t know when I got it. And by God, I can’t explain it.
[on “The Misfits”] The title sums up this mess. [Arthur Miller, [Marilyn Monroe]and [Montgomery Clift]–they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. We don’t belong in the same room together.
I was pretty sore because they insisted on taping my ears back. One day, in a scene with [Greta Garbo], the tape snapped loose and one ear flapped in the breeze. That was the end of the taping.
[on Carole Lombard] After we got married, I asked her what she wanted more than anything. We were looking over the property and she said, “I’d like manure for the bottom thirty.” And she meant it, too.
I was scared, when I discovered that I had been cast by the public. I felt that every reader would have a different idea as to how Rhett should be played on the screen, and I didn’t see how I could please everybody.
Types really don’t matter. I have been accused of preferring blondes. But I have known some mighty attractive redheads, brunettes, and yes, women with grey hair. Age, height, weight haven’t anything to do with glamour.
I don’t discuss women at all with anyone. There are good qualities in all women. Some may be lacking in some of these qualities and should have them. I’m liable to say so and hurt their feelings, and it wouldn’t be meant that way at all.
This “King” stuff is pure bullshit. I eat and sleep and go to the bathroom just like everybody else. There’s no special light that shines inside me and makes me a star. I’m 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.
The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence. He’s got to have some inner standards worth fighting for or there won’t be any way to bring him into conflict. And he must be ready to choose death before dishonor without making too much song and dance about it. That’s all there is to it.
The public interest in my playing Rhett [in “Gone with the Wind”] puzzled me. I was the only one, apparently, who didn’t take it for granted that I would. I found myself trapped by a series of circumstances over which I had no control. It was a funny feeling. I think I know now how a fly must react after being caught in a spider’s web. Scarlett doesn’t always love Rhett. It’s the first time that the girl isn’t sure that she wants me from the minute she sets eyes on me.
[about Gary Cooper] Coop is a right guy, the kind you like to hunt and fish with and not talk about making movies. I laid it on him one time about his romance with Carole [Carole Lombard, Gable’s wife] and he got pale as hell. She told me about it during a drunken argument we had. After that, Coop and I didn’t hunt together so much and when we did, we kept an eye on each other. She used to throw him up to me in my face and that was hard to take, especially since I didn’t know the whole truth until years later. I got to admit I was jealous.
[“Miami News” article 1939 on public reaction to “Gone with the Wind”] Damn it. I never conceived of this. When I rode through Atlanta’s streets today it wasn’t like an opening at Grauman’s Chinese at Hollywood. It wasn’t like anything I ever experienced in my life. It was almost too big for me to take. For the first time I actually realized I wasn’t Clark Gable to Atlanta, but Rhett Butler [laughs] . . . and I hope to heaven when I leave here tomorrow night, after everybody has seen the picture, that I leave as Rhett Butler and not Clark Gable.
I don’t believe I’m king of anything, but I know why they like to think I am. I’m not much of an actor, but I’m not bad unless it’s one of those things outside my comprehension. I work hard. I’m no Adonis, and I’m as American as the telephone poles I used to climb to make a living. So men don’t get sore if their women folks like me on the screen. I’m one of them, they know it, so it’s a compliment to them. They see me broke, in trouble, scared of things that go bump in the night, but I come out fighting. They see me making love to Jean Harlow or Claudette Colbert and they say, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,’ and figure it’ll be fun to go home and to make love to their wives.
[on playing Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind”] I discovered that Rhett was even harder to play than I had anticipated. With so much of Scarlett preceding his entrance, Rhett’s scenes were all climaxes. There was a chance to build up to Scarlett, but Rhett represented drama and action every time he appeared. He didn’t figure in any of the battle scenes, being a guy who hated war, amid he wasn’t in the toughest of the siege of Atlanta shots. What I was fighting for was to hold my own in the first half of the picture–which is all Vivien’s [Vivien Leigh]–because I felt that after the scene with the baby, Bonnie, Rhett could control the end of the film. That scene where Bonnie dies, and the scene where I strike Scarlett and she accidentally tumbles down stairs, thus losing her unborn child, were the two that worried me most.
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