FLASHBACK: Clark Gable’s best role killed him

REMEMBERING THE KING OF HOLLYWOOD

Died on this day, November 16, 1961, at the age of 59.

The day after ‘The Misfits’ wrapped up shooting, Clark Gable suffered a heart attack and died ten days later.

Perhaps best known for his role as Rhett Butler in the epic ‘Gone with the Wind,’ his best role in my opinion, and in his own opinion, was that as the aging wildhorse-roping cowboy in ‘The Misfits’ starring Marilyn Monroe. It was also Marilyn’s best role, but she hated it.

Written by Marilyn’s husband at the time, the great playwright Arthur Miller and directed by the legendary John Huston, the movie also starred Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach and the great character actress Thelma Ritter.

Gable did many of his own stunts roping the wild horses and the struggle and the strain of that showed in his face and in his whole body afterwards.

Gable called it the best picture he ever made.

On the last day of filming, this is what he said about working with Marilyn: 

“Christ, I’m glad this picture’s finished. She damn near gave me a heart attack.”

He may have been referring to her unexpectedly going nude during a bedroom scene. Huston cut the scene but it still exists in a locked safe.

On the next day, Gable suffered a severe coronary thrombosis and died ten days later.

Marilyn became increasingly dependent upon pills during shooting — taking three times the normal dosage of the sleeping aid Nembutal.

She died a year and half later under suspicious circumstances, allegedly of a drug overdose, but to this day, she is believed by many to have been murdered to cover up affairs with President Kennedy and Bobbie Kennedy.

The beauty of Hollywood’s greatest icon shone through in that movie about the rowdy cowboys.

As Gable’s character Gay Langland told her as they drove back “home”: “You just shine in my eyes, Roslyn.”

Everything you ever wanted to know about ‘The Misfits’ RIGHT HERE.

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The Cat God turns into the Cat Devil

This is what happens when a grieving husband runs out of Xanax:

I screamed at the cat tonight. For the third night in a row, she knocked down the pictures of my wife I keep on the mantel in the living room (now known as the dead room—yet I continue to inhabit it).

I went crazy. I would never hurt the cat — her name is Bella, who I got for my wife Susan when her illness became a lethal presence in our home — or any animal for that matter. But, nonetheless, tonight I yelled and screamed at her like a madman. 

Since Susan’s death last Christmas, Bella is all I have, and I’m all she has. She thinks I am (and I say this as humbly as I can) the Cat God.

But when I yelled at her tonight I told her I was the Cat Devil and that I had killed the Cat God and taken over the house and I howled like a crazy Cat Devil, and Bella — who had assumed a half-hidden supine position on top of the bookcase — looked at me with detached curiosity and I told her, in my Boris Karloff voice, “You think I’m mad, don’t you?”

She just kept looking at me with the feline equivalent of ‘arched eyebrows’ as I continued my mad speech: “Well, let me tell you, I’m glad I’m mad! I’m glad I’ve gone mad, because I prefer insanity over the reality of living without Susan — the Cat Mama to you.”

Whereupon Bella jumped down from the bookcase and trotted over to my armchair and looked at me with a look that said: “I understand. I miss her too.”


‘Breathless’ in Paris and L.A.

MICHEL OR JESSE, WHO’S BETTER?

Cold lonely day in exurban New York, a day to stay inside and watch movies. I checked out the French and American versions of ‘Breathless,’ the iconic movie about a small-time thief who steals a car and impulsively murders a policeman.

Hunted by the police, the anti-hero, Michel, in the French film, and Jesse, in the American, hooks up with a girlfriend and tries to get her to run away with him to, in Michel’s case, Italy, and with Jesse, to Mexico. 

The original 1960 French production with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg and directed by Jean-Luc Godard is regarded as the one true authentic version, with all the mood and atmosphere of classic French cinema.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg on the boulevard.

THE AMERICAN VERSION 

The 1983 American version with Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky and directed by Jim McBride is seen as crass and unsophisticated.

Gere’s character gyrates to Jerry Lee Lewis, and reads ‘Silver Surfer’ comic books, while Godard’s version moves smoothly to jazz and classical music.

Richard Gere reads the ‘Silver Surfer’ to Valerie Kaprisky.

All that may be true — although I don’t agree — but when it comes to the very last shot in the final scene, the American version, in my opinion, is far more dramatic than the French ending.

Gere grabbing the gun and spinning around to fire and — FREEZE FRAME —- as Jerry Lee Lewis belts out the song.  Great last shot! Super-dramatic, and romantic as hell.

Valerie Kaprisky is way more warm and sexy than cold, aloof, unsexy Jean Seberg. And throughout the movie, I found Gere’s character to be more likable and endearing than the obnoxious punk Belmondo portrays.

But back to that last scene. The French ending is similar to the American, with the hapless anti-hero picking up the gun that was tossed onto the road for him. 

But the last shot doesn’t have that killer of a moment when Gere spins around with the gun — FREEZE FRAME — roll credits as Jerry Lee Lewis pounds out the song ‘Breathless.’

THE TWO VERSIONS COMPARED HERE

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