clark gable marilyn monroe the misfits


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.

clark gable the misfits

My favorite shot of Clark Gable on the set of “The Misfits”

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.

 Roosevelt Hotel

Opened in 1927 and situated diagonally from Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, the Roosevelt Hotel is a well-known Hollywood landmark. It was named for Theodore Roosevelt and was financed by Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Marilyn Monroe lived here for two years and did her first photo shoot in the hotel’s pool area. Other notable residents include Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Harold Lloyd…you name them, they probably stayed at, or least partied at, the Roosevelt. Of course, this includes Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who frequently rented out the penthouse before they were married.

1949, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Roosevelt Hotel in 1949

The room rates actually aren’t too expensive, usually ranging from $200-$300 a night for a normal room. (Trust me, in Hollywood, that’s not bad.) That Gable and Lombard suite, however, will knock you back $3,500 a night. Clark paid $5 a night back in the 1930’s (and probably complained about that high price!)

From the hotel’s website:

 The Gable Lombard Penthouse, located on the top floor of the hotel is where the infamous affair between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard began. This 3,000 square foot duplex has three spacious bedrooms and bathrooms, a living area, dining area, and full service kitchen. The 1,000 square foot rooftop deck is situated under the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Sign—offering sweeping views of Los Angeles. The Penthouse can accommodate up to 200 people, and is the perfect setting for intimate gatherings and special events.

Snazzy. I did inquire about seeing the penthouse at the front desk, but they said that it was booked for a wedding. Bummer for me.

 We walked around for a while and went inside the upper level of the Blossom Ballroom. The very first Academy Awards ceremony was held in this room in 1929. It wasn’t until I returned from my trip that I read that the Blossom is supposedly haunted. People hear the piano being played when nobody is in there and there are reports of the lights moving and figures in tuxedos appearing and disappearing. Not knowing this information beforehand and standing in this room, my friend and I both immediately felt that the air became chillier when we entered and we both got goose bumps. There was something unsettling about being in the room. I’m not sure who said it first, but one of us said, “Don’t you feel like someone is watching you in here?’ I don’t know where I stand on the idea of ghosts, but I tell you, if anyplace is haunted, this room IS.

Blossom Ballroom Roosevelt Hotel

Blossom Ballroom

Roosevelt Hotel Blossom Ballroom

Blossom Ballroom

The First Academy Awards in the Blossom Ballroom in 1929

The First Academy Awards in the Blossom Ballroom in 1929

Allegedly, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe haunt different areas of the hotel as well.

 We didn’t see any famous ghosts, but we wandered the halls.