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As with so many movie stars (Orson Welles, Marlon Brando), the last portion of Clark Gable's career was riddled with odd performance choices -- and weight gain. After the death of his wife, the actress Carole Lombard, in a plane crash, in 1942, Gable enlisted in the Air Force and fought in World War II. After his return, he pursued a series of flings with notable (and less notable) actresses, among them Grace Kelly, Betty Chisholm, and Dolly O'Brien. He also ended his longtime partnership with MGM and became a free agent.
The Tall Men, one of the first films Gable made after gaining his independence, is among his best Westerns. But, in what would become a habit, he had to go on a crash diet before filming. Later, the Doris Day vehicle Teacher's Pet was lensed in black-and-white to better shroud his swelling torso. Gable's other notable roles during this late period included Peter Warne in Frank Capra's screwball comedy It Happened One Night and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, both of which suited to his aging demeanor.
His last movie, John Huston's Misfits, is an all-out masterpiece. It features two other wounded stars, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe. Gable deliveres one of his greatest performances in this dark, cynical picture, which he could never have made under contract with MGM. He died of a heart attack three days after it wrapped.
Get a look at the beginning of the end for Gable when The Tall Men screens on AMC.