SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Actor James Craig, once touted as a successor to Clark Gable for Hollywood's top leading-man roles, has died of lung cancer, it was learned Tuesday. He was 73.
Craig, who died June 27 at Western Medical Center, began his film career in the 1930s and found himself playing Gable-like roles when Gable entered the armed services in World War II.
Film mogul Louis B. Mayer, who noticed Craig's resemblance to Gable, signed the mustachioed actor to a seven-year contract, forseeing the need for someone to fill Gable's shoes while the MGM star was in the military.
Among Craig's movies during this period were 'The Devil and Daniel Webster,' 'Lost Angel,' 'Marriage is a Private Affair,' 'The Human Comedy' and 'Heavenly Body.'
Born James Henry Meador in Nashville, Tenn., Craig made his way to Hollywood to study acting in 1934 and landed his first leading role three years later in the film 'Arizona Ames,' in which he took the name James Mead. Later, when he was cast in a planned film titled, 'Craig's Wife,' he became James Craig.
In the 1970s, Craig had several TV roles but then retired from show business to become a real estate agent.
Craig was married three times -- to Mary June Ray, Jill Jarman and Sumie Jassi. All three marriages ended in divorce.
He is survived by the three children from his first marriage, James Jr., Diane and Michael, and four grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were not disclosed.