After a long and tedious shooting schedule for The Misfits, Clark Gable was ready for a rest. He was set on not doing another movie until after his child was born, in March. On November 6, 1960, he spent what would be his final day at his beloved ranch. He toiled away the day working with his hunting dog, playing with his step-children, and relaxing. He told his wife Kay he felt tired and went to bed early. He tossed and turned all night. At about 8:00am, Kay awakened to see Clark standing in the doorway, pale and sweating. “Ma, I have a terrible pain.” he said simply. He told her not to worry, he thought it was indigestion and that he didn’t need a doctor. Kay disagreed and sent for a doctor right away. The instant the doctor arrived and saw Clark, he called for an ambulance.
He was diagnosed with coronary thrombosis and was admitted to the hospital. Kay stayed in an adjoining room and rarely left his bedside. The doctors seemed confident he would recover but warned he would have to rest for a few months before he could resume his normal activities. Kay brought him books and read him the many telegrams and letters he received from people all over the world. Clark borrowed the doctor’s stethoscope and listened to his baby’s heartbeat. “You must have Mr. America in there,” he told Kay.
“The tenth day makes all the difference to a heart patient,” Kay was told by the doctor. She was becoming confident in Clark’s recovery on that tenth day, as he was in good spirits. The hospital barber came and gave him a shave. after which she and Clark had dinner together in his room. She felt her angina (Kay had ongoing heart problems) acting up and decided to lay down but told him she would be back to drink buttermilk with him before bed.
Next thing Kay knew she was being awakened by Dr. Robert Clark, her obstetrician, who was accompanied by a sobbing nurse. He was trying to tell her that Clark was gone. “What?….I must go to him,” Kay struggled to her feet. They tried to stop her and offer her sedatives but she pushed them aside and went to her husband’s room, where he lay, motionless. He was apparently joking with the nurse and then started reading a magazine. Suddenly he closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the pillow, and died, at 10:50pm on November 16, 1960.
Goodbye to My Dear Friend
by Louella Parsons
I still can’t believe he is gone, although reams and reams of copy have been written about his death, more than has appeared about many heads of State.
Since that heartbreaking moment, a few minutes after he died on the night of [November 16] at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, when I was awakened by the shocking message, “Clark is dead”–there has been an unshakable feeling of unreality about his loss I have seldom felt about any other actor, no matter how close the friendship.
In the first place, Clark was the healthiest person I have ever known. He never even caught colds. During the thirty years I knew him, I never knew of his entering a hospital–even for a check-up–except once when he had his appendix removed. Then, he recovered so fast the nurses almost had to chain him down to keep him in bed.
For all his fifty-nine years, Clark carried his vitality, strength, he-manliness, and radiant health right up to the last eleven days of his life. And his personality abounded with good humor, jokes, laughter.
You don’t think of a man like this as dead–perhaps I never shall.
After those first tears of shock and grief had been shed, I read and re-read reports of the last minutes of his life:
The hospital was quiet. Visitors had left the floor. His beautiful and devoted Kay, carrying his only child, had dined with him, sat and talked until she noticed Clark was drowsy, and then she tiptoed across the hall to her room to retire. Clark’s private nurse watched her safely inside, then turned to her patient who seemed to be recovering so rapdily from his heart attack of ten days previous. It was a bare second to 11:00pm.
“He just put his arms behind his head, slowly leaned back against his pillows, sighed gently–and died.”
The thought comes to me that Clark died much as he had lived–no fuss, no big production, no dramatics.
The King is dead–and there is no hailing another, because there will never be another career like his. Or a star like Clark Gable.