It was on November 4, 1960, 53 years ago today, that Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe filmed what would be their final scene ever onscreen. Sitting in the cab of a pick-up truck and gazing at the night sky as they traveled through the desert, Marilyn inquires, “How do you find your way back in the dark?” Clark, in a grainy and rather husky tone, responds, “Just head for that big star straight on. The highway’s under it, it’ll take us right home.” The music swells, the screen fades to black, and two stars are gone from us.
I’ve had many a Clark Gable fan say to me that they can’t bear to watch The Misfits because Clark looks so sickly. I agree that he does. It has always puzzled me how his widow, Kay, and others have been quoted as saying he was in perfect health at the time and what a shock his heart attack was. He looks nearly like a skeleton, it’s rather haunting. Maybe when you’re that close, you just don’t see what others on the outside see. Decades and decades of heavy smoking and drinking and taken their toll and instead of looking like his actual age of 59, Clark looks more like 70.
Declining appearance nothwithstanding, we have Magnum photographer Eve Arnold to thank for the iconic images taken on the Reno set of the film. Arnold, easily one of the most prolific female photographers of the century, lived to be 99, dying just last year. In her obituaries, she is labeled over and over as the woman who took some of the best pictures of Marilyn Monroe. Arnold had a decades-long friendship with Monroe, and ultimately photographed her from her early starlet days until her early demise. Arnold was much more than a Monroe photographer, however. She took breathtaking shots of everyone from poor migrant workers and the homeless to JFK and Queen Elizabeth II. Of this varied career, Eve said, “I don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary; I see them simply as people in front of my lens.”
Eve’s work on The Misfits would be considered gorgeous regardless, but the fact that we are gazing at a man who was in the very last days of his life makes it even more haunting. Monroe would live for a while longer, dying in 1962, but The Misfits was her final finished film.
View some of Eve’s work below.