Gable’s Last Movie: Prelude to Tragedy
LOOK magazine, January 31, 1961
To Clark Gable, The Misfits meant full circle to a long career. He was once more playing the footloose, carefree type of man he liked and understood. This time, his role was a present-day cowboy named Gay who refuses to give up his individuality as “the last of the free men”. “Isn’t Gay a wonderful man?” Gable would ask his friends. He was also elated with playwright Arthur Miller’s first movie script and his teaming with Marilyn Monroe, his most combustible leading lady since Jean Harlow. His happiness was multiplied by his wife’s pregnancy—his first child. “I want to be with that baby all the time,” he said. But The Misfits was The King’s farewell appearance. Within days after the film was completed, the most respected star of them all was dead.
GABLE: His virile hulk towered over the movies for 30 years. He was a six-footer with hefty shoulders, narrow hips, ham-sized hands. At 59, the lines in his face had grown deep, his hair had grayed, but he still had his figure—after dieting off 35 pounds to his usual 192 for The Misfits. In a profession that engenders jealousy, Clark Gable was never attacked. An actor who has worked in Hollywood for 20 years says of him, “I have never heard anyone say an unfriendly word against him. In our business, this is about the finest tribute you can expect.”
MONROE: In The Misfits, she is the last of the great film beauties to whom Gable made love. The screenplay, her estranged husband’s long-promised “ode to Marilyn”, gave her the chance that every female movie star always hoped for. She says, “When I was growing up, Clark Gable represented everything I idealized—and to find that that ideal was all I ever dreamed of, plus so much more—more human, warmer! I am sorry he didn’t always receive the recognition for his acting that he deserved—because he cared so very much…”
THE TRAGEDY: Gable’s death was also a tragedy for the movie industry. He occupied a place no one will ever fill. A worker until the end, he did stunts in The Misfits that no man of his age should have tried, but he was a professional, and the scenes required realism. He stood upright on the hood of a car, fell across it, tumbled to the ground. He ran 100 yards for the camera at high altitude in 106-degree heat and repeated this action several times. In another scene, while wrestling with a wild stallion, he was tied to a rope and dragged along the ground face down.
“Isn’t it wonderful—an old bloke like me going to be a papa!” he said, announcing the news. His five years with last wife, Kay, were among the most fulfilling of his life. After The Misfits, he turned down all work. “When our baby is born in March,” he said, “I don’t think I’ll be wanting to work until September, 1961.”