LOS ANGELES -- A lawsuit claiming Clark Gable's name and image were illegally used to reap millions of dollars in profits belonging to the late actor's son seeks more than $40 million in damages from MGM, Turner Entertainment Co. and others.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday by Wells Fargo Bank, contends the contract Gable signed with MGM to perform in the film classic "Gone With the Wind" allows the use of his name and image only to promote the film.
However, the use of Gable's name and image on collectors' plates, greeting cards, dolls, beach towels, jigsaw puzzles, stereo advertising and other products was not covered by the contract and illegally netted MGM and Turner millions of dollars in illegal products, the suit alleges.
"We think all this merchandise is for profit, not for promotion of 'Gone With the Wind,' " said Eugene Landau, the lawyer representing Wells Fargo Bank.
Wells Fargo contends that before Gable died in 1961 he willed the interest in his name and image to his widow, Katherine Williams Gable, and his son, John Clark Gable. The bank said the two established trusts for the profits, which Landau says now belong to John Clark Gable, since his mother has died. MGM and Turner lawyers were unavailable for immediate comment.
The suit seeks more than $40 million in punitive damages, an unspecified amount in actual damages and a judgment stating that the bank, in trust for John Clark Gable, has the right to profits from the film star's name and image.
The dispute centers over a clause in Gable's contract with MGM for "Gone With the Wind," which MGM and Turner contends gives them the rights to the profits. Wells Fargo, however, claims the clause requires the two companies to seek the bank's approval before using the late actor's name and image.
Landau said MGM has refused to give the bank a copy of the original contract, providing only a copy of the disputed clause.