enter image description here

In "City on the Edge of Forever", Edith Keeler says to McCoy,

"I have to go. My young man is taking me to a Clark Gable movie."

A few minutes later, she tells Kirk,

"If we hurry, maybe we can catch the Clark Gable movie at the Orpheum."

Which Clark Gable movie did she want to see?

Official sources such as script notes, interviews, and episode novelizations are welcome of course, as are extended universe materials.

But I would also accept an answer based on reasoning about Clark Gable films that were in cinemas during that year and in that location.

  • 11
    Seems like the Trek universe had an extra Gable film, which, through the butterfly effect, resulted in an electronics industry which used (and needed) 29th century technology in order to advance, advanced genetic engineering resulting in a 1990s Eugenics War...
    – Politank-Z
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:04
  • 1
    @Politank-Z : That would make an amazing answer. :-)
    – Praxis
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:09
  • OK, you're the OP!
    – Politank-Z
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:14
  • 3
    Imagine if instead of Clark Gable they actually got to see Monty Python impersonating him! ("Between our quests, we sequin vests and impersonate Clark Gable!")
    – Marvel Boy
    May 24, 2016 at 17:07
  • Are we certain that the episode took place in 1930? From memory: McCoy: "1920, '25 ...". Keeler: "Would you care to try for 30?" Might Keeler have said that sarcastically if the current year was, say, 1935? On the other hand, Kirk later referred to 1936 as "Six years from now"; by that time, he should know the exact year (and he didn't hear the exchange between McCoy and Keeler). May 24, 2016 at 21:59

3 Answers 3


It's an anachronism, there is no such film

The City on the Edge of Forever is set in the year 1930 (emphasis mine):

Kirk: [reading from a makeshift tricorder] February 23rd, 1936. Six years from now. The President and Edith Keeler conferred for some time today

Star Trek Season 1 Episode 28: "The City on the Edge of Forever"

However, Clark Gable simply wasn't a household name in 1930. According to his Biography.com page his breakout role was The Painted Desert, which was released in March 1931 and, according to The Film Daily (the main source for entertainment news at the time), still in production in December of 1930:

Activity at Pathé is about at its highest rate since E. B. Derr became production chief. Two specials starring Bill Boyd, "The Painted Desert" and "Beyond Victory" are being edited.

"6 features and 6 shorts in the works at Pathé" The Film Daily December 7, 1930

If you look at Gable's filmography, he doesn't even start getting his name on the poster until Laughing Sinners, released in May 1931, and doesn't get top billing until August's Sporting Blood. Although he did appear in films released in 1930, he was an uncredited extra and it's doubtful that Edith would have known about him.

Note that Gable's name was a last-minute addition to the episode; the shooting script (uploaded by a fan), which is dated January 1967, has Edith mentioning Richard Dix, a far more period-appropriate reference:

enter image description here

Edith: If we hurry, we can catch that Richard Dix movie at the Orpheum. I'd really like to see it, Jim...

Star Trek Season 1 Episode 28: "The City on the Edge of Forever" (shooting script)

According to his IMDB page, Dix appeared in two movies released in 1930:

  • 3
    Huh. This is interesting and unexpected.
    – Praxis
    Jan 26, 2016 at 3:57
  • Apparently, there is a 1930 version of The Painted Desert. Any chance it was shown at a cinema that year?
    – Praxis
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:08
  • @Praxis Curious; all information I can find indicates it wasn't released until 1931. It was filmed in 1930, though; maybe that's what your source means? Jan 26, 2016 at 4:11
  • That's what I figured, that a 1930 edit had been made available some time after the initial release (possibly decades later). I just want to rule out that it was somehow given a limited screening at selected cinemas in 1930.
    – Praxis
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:14
  • 1
    Good to know. It light of that, I definitely agree that an anachronism is the most likely explanation.
    – Praxis
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:29

It seems like the Star Trek universe had an extra Clark Gable film; this requires less hand waving than Edith Keeler being aware of a then-obscure actor in a minor role.

One might speculate that this movie was part of a chain of events which, through the butterfly effect, caused the varied and increasing divergences between Star Trek's 20th and 21st centuries, and our own. For instance: an electronics industry which used (and needed) 29th century technology in order to advance, advanced genetic engineering resulting in a 1990s Eugenics War, and so on. The movie may be close to the beginning of the chain of events, or may itself be a consequence of earlier changes to the timeline, such as Sam Clemens's adventure in the 24th Century.

  • Ah, basking in the glow. Thanks!
    – Politank-Z
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:25
  • 14
    I think there actually must have been multiple extra Clark Gable films; it wouldn't make sense for her to refer to this movie as "a Clark Gable movie", rather than by its name, unless he was already famous before this movie. (Oh, though I suppose he might have been famous for something else before his film career. Maybe he had a brief stint as a world-famous eugenics researcher?)
    – ruakh
    Jan 26, 2016 at 5:12
  • 16
    OK, so Star Trek Mark Twain grew more hopeful in his later years, and wrote an uplifting story which was made into one of the first talkies, with Clark Gable in a supporting role. This made him a star and led him to anchor his own film in 1930. I like it.
    – Politank-Z
    Jan 26, 2016 at 6:30
  • 1
    Never thought of the butterfly effect going backwards from the point of contact, but then no one ever jumped in a pool without making waves in every direction, did they?
    – corsiKa
    Jan 26, 2016 at 13:10
  • 2
    @SJuan76 I... never said it did - I just thought it was interesting to consider a ripple effect that goes backwards to account for a change to a timeline.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 26, 2016 at 19:56

According to Wikipedia, there can only be one.

We know that the events in The City on the Edge of Forever were set in the 1930s. This is then narrowed down to 1930 by Keeler's obituary in a 1930 newspaper (Source).

Wikipedia tells us that in 1930, there was only one Clark Gable film - Du Barry, Woman of Passion. As Wiki tells us that this wasn't a film where he was featured (he was just an extra), it seems that Keeler probably was a major fan of Clark Gable to say that it was a 'Clark Gable Film' that he was in when he wasn't even a major character.

The more likely explanation is that in @Jason Baker's answer, however if we take it at face value, this is the only new movie of the time he could have been in.

  • According to Gable's IMDB page, he didn't even actually appear in Du Barry; he had a voice role Jan 26, 2016 at 3:53
  • 4
    @JasonBaker then Keeler must have been a ridiculously huge fan ;D Jan 26, 2016 at 3:54
  • 3
    And this before the Internet and widely-used commercial television; that's a superfan, right there Jan 26, 2016 at 3:56
  • 3
    From the dialogue, it seems he should be famous in her time --- she says to McCoy, "A Clark Gable. Don't you know?" But I suppose she could be a very deluded superfan!
    – Praxis
    Jan 26, 2016 at 4:49
  • 1
    Edith Keeler's roommate used to be Clark Gable's girlfriend. That's why Edith is looking out for him in that film, even though its an uncredited role.
    – davidbak
    Mar 29, 2016 at 20:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.