Clark Gable died 55 years ago today, at the age of 59. A heart attack struck him just days after finishing his final film, The Misfits, and a second one stilled his heart ten days after that.
You can read more about his death and funeral here.
See where he is buried here.
The Misfits hit movie screens on February 1, 1961, on what would have been Clark’s 60th birthday. Clark had seen a rough cut and had declared it the best thing he’d ever done. Director John Huston and co-star Marilyn Monroe were both interviewed by the press around this time, and shared their memories of the late great Clark Gable.
Director John Huston Pays Warm Tribute to Clark Gable
by Bob Thomas
Associated Press, January 17, 1961
Hollywood–John Huston had just put the finishing touches on his two-hour tribute to Clark Gable.
The director had viewed the final version of “The Misfits” and made a few minor changes. Then it was sent to the labs to rush prints for a mass release next month. His work finally behind him, he relaxed over marinated herring and a beer and talked about what turned out to be the most publicized film in recent years.
“I think Clark is great in it,” said Huston, a man with a long, weathered face and a gray skull cap of hair. “He liked the part. He thought it was the best he had had in 20 years.
“Our first desire was to get the picture out in time for the Academy Awards because I felt sure he’d be nominated. It would have been nice to have it happen while his memory was still fresh. but the picture would have suffered if we had hurried that much. So next year he can be nominated.
“Marilyn Monroe is excellent in it, and Monty Clift is fantastic. Yes, I am very happy with the picture.”
Would he work again with Marilyn?
“I don’t think there’s much I can add to the vast literature about Marilyn,” he said evasively. “I can’t cure the world’s ignorance on this matter. When people talk about her, they are generally talking about themselves. They don’t really know her.”
About Gable, Huston said: “I had known Clark for a number of years but never very well. I had the impression of him as having a kind of implacability, even a lethargy. I discovered in working with him that this was only a facade.
“Underneath he was very earnest, even eager to please. Whenever he had a call, he was always on the set a half-hour early, always ready with his lines. Only once did he ever blow up.
“That was due to a misunderstanding about whether he was called for a rehearsal. His wife had to fly from Reno to Los Angeles to see the baby doctor, and he wanted to go with her; he was more excited about having a baby than anything in the world. She went alone, and he found out he wasn’t needed on the set after all. He blew sky high.
“The rest of the time, everything went smoothly. We started at 10:30 in the morning because of Marilyn and he was always there at 10. He worked until 6 but would have stayed later if we needed him. He was in his best shape in years and seemed extremely happy in marriage.”
Clark was not nominated for The Misfits, as it turned out. The film didn’t receive any nominations at all; I think if Clark and Marilyn had both lived longer, it would not have the iconic position it does. It’s really just an okay movie if you take the cloud of death hanging over it away. Clark is excellent in it though and the Academy should have thrown a posthumous nomination his way; they have definitely wasted nominations on less worthy performances many times before and since.
Next, Marilyn Monroe:
Marilyn Monroe Tells: “I Remember Clark Gable”
By Victor Sebastian
Family Weekly, February 26, 1961
Thousands have asked her about the “King,” but she has remained silent; now she tells Family Weekly readers about the man who was her “only hero” as a lonely child—and as a famous actor.
It has been hard for Marilyn Monroe to bring herself to talk about Clark Gable. Since that shattering 4am phone call from a reporter who awakened her to announce Gable’s death, she has resisted press efforts to discuss what are very poignant memories to her.
She made one stunned, horrified statement at the time of the tragedy about what a wonderful man he had been—what a rich and rewarding experience it had been to work with him. But that was all.
Now she has been persuaded that there are many people who, not fortunate enough to have known him personally, feel deeply about him and were grieved at his passing. So she agreed that, if her own memories have such meaning to people, she would talk about him.
This what she recalls most vividly about Hollywood’s beloved “King”:
“There was never any impatience or annoyance in Clark. There was only concern—real concern for me. I remember the flowers Kay (Gable) and Clark sent to me when I was in the hospital—a huge bouquet, very elaborate. I remember there were pink doves—many of them. And such a sweet, warm note.
“I’ll remember these things. And I’ll remember his cheerfulness arriving at work early in the morning when nobody is cheerful. And his jokes—he always had a joke for me. I looked forward to them.
“He appreciated women. I think that was one of the strongest elements of his attraction to them. Nobody was more of a man’s man than he was—but he appreciated women.
“Most of all, he was a man. I don’t mean just that he was virile, exciting, vibrant—he was all of those things. But he had sensitivity, too, and tenderness, and he wasn’t afraid of those qualities.”
As Marilyn Monroe talked about Clark Gable, it was obvious that this wasn’t just an actress talking about an actor who had played opposite her in a movie; Clark Gable meant much more than that to Marilyn Monroe. Actually, he never fully realized what it meant to his blonde costar to be playing opposite him in “The Misfits.”
“I always thought some day when Clark and Kay were sitting together—some relaxed time—I’d be able to tell him. I don’t know how he would have reacted if he had known how important he had been to me all those years. I think he would have understood. That was a wonderful thing about Clark. He understood me. I don’t know why. He cared about everything. I think he knew that I cared, too.”
Clark gable came into the life of Marilyn Monroe when she was seven years old.
“I was fascinated by Jean Harlow. I had white hair—I was a real towhead—and she was the first grown-up lady I had ever seen who had white hair like mine. I cut her picture out of a magazine, and on the back of it was the picture of a man, I pasted his picture in a scrapbook—just his picture. There was nothing else in the book. It was Clark Gable.”
Marilyn was a very lonesome little girl, and she was imaginative and idealistic, too. A child like this, with no father of her own, is apt to substitute a “father image”—a sympathetic teacher, a kind neighbor, someone who seems to possess the qualities of the idealized father she never had.
With Marilyn, this ideal was in the man grinning with such careless dash from the pages of that magazine. And then he was a shadow on the screen. In Clark Gable, the little girl saw all the strength, masculinity, and charm of any child’s ideal parent.
Screen shadow he may have been, but Clark Gable was much more real to this little girl than just a movie fan’s “crush”—and he continued to be as real to her through the movie years to come. “Mutiny on the Bounty” was the first. Later there was “Gone with the Wind.” Marilyn saw that epic over and over.
After Marilyn Monroe had become a star herself, she once told a reporter about Gable’s influence on her childhood years, but she had no idea whether Clark ever read the story. Even then, she had not met him. While she was making movies at 20th Century Fox, he was at MGM. Neither moved in Hollywood’s party circles.
“Once he signed a deal with 20th Century Fox for a couple of pictures,” Marilyn recalls. “I went to Darryl Zanuck and asked him couldn’t I please be assigned to a Gable picture. But nothing came of it.”
At Last They Meet
The time finally came when Marilyn met Clark Gable face to face. It was at a party given at Romanoff’s restaurant in honor of the opening of her movie, “The Seven Year Itch.” Marilyn was with a group of people when somebody tapped her on the shoulder and the unmistakable voice asked, “Miss Monroe, may I have this dance?”
Marilyn wheeled. Gable stood there grinning—not Rhett Butler or Fletcher Christian now, but Clark Gable himself.
“I nearly collapsed. I’m sure I must have turned the color of my red chiffon dress. I don’t remember what I said or if I said anything. But I remember thinking, wouldn’t he be surprised to know how I really feel about him?”
They danced. It was a very casual meeting. There were no others until last year when, in discussing “The Misfits,” which was being written by Arthur Miller and in which Marilyn was to star, it became obvious that the leading male character was developing in such a way that it could be played by only one star—Clark Gable.
Even after Gable had read the script, conveyed his excitement and enthusiasm about it to Miller and director John Huston, and agreed to play the role, he and Marilyn didn’t actually meet until they arrived in Reno, Nev. to begin the picture.
Then he came over to her. “I don’t know why this hasn’t happened before—our playing together. It’s really overdue.” He laughed as Marilyn told him about her meeting with Zanuck when she begged to be cast in a Clark Gable picture. “We’ll make up for it this time,” he promised her.
He Was All ‘King’
“He was everything I had expected him to be. They called him the ‘King,’ you know, and he was like that—he had a quality that commanded respect and admiration. I never saw anyone who had such an effect on everyone with whom he worked. The crew loved Clark. And he had that magnificent masculinity. But my biggest surprise was when we started our work together. That’s when I realized what a real actor he was. That’s when I became aware of his tremendous sensitivity. But, of course, that was what attracted me in the first place.
“Kay Gable and I became very close. She used to come out to the set and call to me, ‘Hey, how did Our Man do today?’
“I’d laugh, ‘Our Man? I must say you are generous, Kay.’ And it was a joke between us always. ‘Our Man!’
“There are so many things I’ll never forget about Clark Gable. Little things, incidents, moments. His unfailing politeness. He was one of the greatest gentlemen I have known. He had concern for everyone.
“I had gone direct to ‘The Misfits’ from another picture. I was exhausted. I fought illness most of the time I was working on the picture. I had to go into the hospital for a couple of days. ‘Rest yourself,’ he’d say. ‘Do like I do—take it easy.’
“He had a great interest and feeling for other actors. We talked about them. About Marlon Brando, for instance. I’ve always felt Brando had a Gable quality in his maleness, yet had complete individuality, too. Clark believed, too, that Brando was the finest young actor of our day.
“Clark saw a rough cut of ‘The Misfits’ on the next-to-last day of shooting. He was so happy and thrilled. I hadn’t been able to go, and he was so excited as he told me how well it had turned out. He told me that he thought it was the best thing I had ever done and that it was the best thing he had done since Rhett Butler.”
Marilyn Monroe remembers one more thing. It was the last day of shooting. Gable, whose last role was one of his most strenuous, had done something which Marilyn considered “valiant.”
She walked over to me. “Do you know something?” she said. “You’re my hero. And I never had a hero before.”
Remembering Clark Gable today, February 1, 1901-November 16, 1960.