Time capsule

Long-forgotten photos from the set of The Misfits are resurrected

Marilyn Monroe and Doc Kaminsky on the set of <i>The Misfits</i>.

Marilyn Monroe and Doc Kaminsky on the set of The Misfits.

When Doc Kaminsky shot photographs of Marilyn Monroe and the rest of the cast of The Misfits in 1961, memorabilia wasn’t the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.

“All I did was take a still every now and then when the opportunity arose,” Kaminsky said. “I just took the darn negatives and filed them away. I didn’t think they were worth anything.”

Kaminsky couldn’t be more wrong.

The 66-year-old cinematographer was 25 when he was offered a job making a movie about making a movie. While documentaries about how a movie was made are commonplace now, in 1961 it was unheard of.

“This is what I was hired by United Artists to do—to make a movie on the movie—because Arthur Miller [who wrote The Misfits] was really big in Europe,” Kaminsky said. “At that point, nobody had ever done a movie on a movie. Now absolutely every movie is made that way.”

So Kaminsky showed up on the set of The Misfits, among stars like Monroe, Clark Gable and Montgomery Cliff. For the next two months, Kaminsky shot movies at every available moment, packing and sending the reels to Los Angeles every night.

When Kaminsky wasn’t shooting film for United Artists, he got to know the famous actors on the set, taking photographs with his personal camera to send to his family. During breaks and after the day’s shots were finished, he talked with Monroe about the desert and raced Gable over Geiger Grade.

“He had a Goldwing 300SL Mercedes Benz, and I had a brand-new Austin Healey at the time,” Kaminsky said. “Clark was an excellent driver and I had gone through the Sports Car Club of America racing school, so I knew how to handle a car, and we’d go blasting off over Geiger Grade. And this was in the ‘60s, remember, so no speed limits.”

Gable also helped Kaminsky impress women, albeit unintentionally.

“One day, I was going with a girl downtown and I pulled up at a traffic light,” Kaminsky said. “Clark Gable pulls up next to me in his Goldwing and says, ‘Hi, Doc. How’s it going?’ And the girl I was with, her teeth fell out. She says, ‘Was that Clark Gable?’ ‘Oh, yeah. I’m working with him on a project.’ “

But the negatives that captured some of Kaminsky’s memories lay gathering dust for more than 40 years until a friend, Sam Stern, remembered Kaminsky talking about taking photos on the set.

“The Nevada Film Festival wanted something different for their gathering," Kaminsky said. "They said, ‘Doc, do you have any pictures?' I said, ‘Sure, I’ll donate a couple.' They auctioned them off, and they disappeared instantly because they were very rare pictures."