Never-before-seen footage of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable from behind the scenes of both stars’ final completed film, “The Misfits," was shown for the first time Monday exclusively on TODAY. Shot by Stanley Kilarr, an extra on the movie, footage from the films will be auctioned off on June 21.
It was Kilarr’s five minutes of fame. On the “Misfits” set in northern Nevada, he spent his spare time with a home-movie camera, shooting intimate, behind-the-scenes footage of Monroe and Gable. “They’re just larger than life,” Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in speaking of the two screen legends.
Although no one knew it at the time, “The Misfits” would be the last film ever made by Gable and the last one finished by Monroe. Three days after the movie wrapped in 1960, Gable suffered his fourth heart attack; 11 days later he was dead at the age of 59.
Less than two years later, Monroe was found dead at the age of 36 in her Brentwood, Calif., home, the victim of either a suicide, accidental overdose or, some still insist, a conspiracy.
A troubled shoot
“The Misfits” was racked by difficulties. Monroe was in the process of breaking up with her husband, playwright Arthur Miller, who wrote the film’s script. She was battling alcohol and psychological problems, and was frequently late for work or didn’t show up at all. John Huston, the great director, was spending his nights in Reno drinking and gambling.
Despite the difficulties during filming, critics agree that the film represents perhaps the best acting performance Monroe ever gave, as well as one of Gable’s best. It was not a commercial success, but “The Misfits” has developed a loyal following over the years.
None of the chaos on the set shows up on the 47 minutes of 8 mm color film that Kilarr shot. Considering that he didn’t have much of a role and never uttered a line of dialogue, he got remarkably close to the stars, especially Gable. The silent film includes footage of Kilarr playfully lounging in Gable’s director’s chair.
“He had a bit part where he played a drunk in a bar scene,” Julien told Vieira. “He had amazing access all through the film. A lot of the clips are of Clark Gable. You can see Clark’s humored by him.”
Unguarded momentsBesides candid moments with Monroe and Gable, Kilarr also shot footage of co-stars Montgomery Clift and Thelma Ritter and director Huston. The video shows the actors preparing for scenes, chatting with crew members and others on the set, and relaxing between takes. One clip shown on TODAY shows Monroe getting her makeup touched up before a scene.
Cathy McCormick, who lives just outside of Reno, was given the film by her father, who inherited it from Kilarr, his uncle, in 1996. She and her husband, Rod, had the films transferred to DVD so they could watch them, but neither are collectors of memorabilia, and they decided that someone who appreciates such things should own the films. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if they could make some money in the process.
The McCormicks sent the film to an appraiser who gave them a 62-page report and an estimated value somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000. After they got the appraisal, the couple applied for and received a copyright for the footage.
“It greatly increases the value,” Julien said of the copyright, because it gives whoever buys the film the right to reproduce and sell it. The appraised value, he added, didn’t take into account the value of the copyright.
The McCormicks, Julien said, “have been worried about the film because they think it’s high value, and they want to share it with the public.”
Julien is offering the Kilarr film as part of an auction of 400 lots of Hollywood memorabilia to be held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on June 21. Bidders will also be able to participate online.
Cathy McCormick told NBC News she isn’t sure how her great-uncle, who was a blackjack dealer in Reno, got the role as an extra. But she suspects it was because he was a gregarious person who tended to meet a lot of people as part of his job. That amiability shows through near the end of his home movie as he shows off his cowboy hat, which he had signed by all the main actors in the movie.
“The Misfits” is the story of Gay Langland (Gable), an aging cowboy who funds his drinking and gambling by rustling mustangs in the desert outside of Reno and selling them to be slaughtered for dog food. Monroe plays Roslyn Taber, a divorcée who finds friendship and a ray of happiness in Langland.