Character Witness: Clark Gable: Rhett Butler vs. Peter Warne


One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.

But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Peter Warne

Neither Clark Gable nor Claudette Colbert was first-choices for their respective roles in It Happened One Night. Colbert turned it down flat, not wanting to work again with director Frank Capra. (And after filming she remarked “I just finished the worst picture in the world!”) Like Colbert, Gable did not think very highly of the script. But screenwriter Robert Riskin polished it up, creating what is now famously known as the “screwball comedy.” In the end, Riskin’s writing skills, Capra’s on-set improvisation techniques, Colbert’s sexy smart heiress, and Gable’s roguish reporter with boyish charms transformed a pedestrian short story (Night Bus) into a movie classic—for which each and every one would win an Academy Award.

The case for Rhett Butler

Reluctant to take on the lead role, Gable felt that no actor could live up to audience expectations of the Rhett Butler character from Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind. Not true. Gable was fantastic in it, a loveable cad with a glint in his eye. You’d think it was effortless for him. Again, not true. Gable: “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.” No Oscar this time; Gable would have to settle for being crowned King of Hollywood, achieving Hollywood immortality in the process. Not a bad trade-off.

Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!