Retracing Marilyn’s Sky Harbor Detour

In an article for AZ Central, Douglas C. Towne looks at the history of Sky Harbor International Airport’s first terminal in Phoenix, Arizona, claiming that Marilyn had an unscheduled layover there in 1959 after her flight to Los Angeles was halted.

I’m not sure exactly when this occurred, but Marilyn flew to L.A. twice that fall – in September when she attended a Hollywood luncheon for Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, and again in November, as production began on Let’s Make Love.

The image above shows her leaving New York in November on what looks like an American Airlines airplane (as specified in the article), alongside a vintage photo of Sky Harbor. More famously, Marilyn had previously visited Phoenix in 1956, to shoot the rodeo scenes for Bus Stop.

“Terminal 1 introduced modern airline transportation to Phoenix when it opened in 1952. The city awarded the $865,000 contract to Mardian Construction Company to build the terminal and an access road. The road was named ‘Camino al Cielo’ or ‘Roadway to the Sky,’ but was later changed to Sky Harbor Boulevard.

The observation deck was one of the terminal’s signature features where aviation enthusiasts could watch propeller-driven airliners like the DC-3, the DC-6 and the Lockheed Super Constellation. Another popular attraction at the terminal was Sky Chefs, a classy, glass-enclosed dining establishment the Phoenix Gazette called ‘a symphony in chrome, leather, and soft-toned wood.’

Terminal 1 entered the commercial jet age inadvertently in 1959, when a Boeing 707 passenger plane bound for Los Angeles had to make an unscheduled landing because of lousy weather in California. Actress Marilyn Monroe was among the inconvenienced passengers on the American Airlines jetliner.

The city razed Terminal 1 after 38 years of service, shortly after Terminal 4 opened in 1991.”