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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Long Suicide of Montgomery Clift

Montgomery Clift had the most earnest of faces: big, pleading eyes, a set jaw, and a side part that reminds you of old pictures of your granddad. Onscreen and off, he was what the kids these days would call “an emo” and the least generous of your friends would call a “sad sack.” If he lived in the ‘90s, he would have been king of the heartfelt mixtape. Clift played the desperate, the drunken, and the deceived, and along with Brando and Dean, heralded a new direction in cinematic masculinity. But a car crash in the prime of his career left him in constant pain, and he drank himself to an early death. The trajectory of his life was as tragic as any of his films. But for 12 years, he set Hollywood aflame.

Clift grew up pretty standard middle-class in Nebraska, only he had a twin sister — the sort of detail that always just blows my mind. (Brando was also from Omaha — clearly there was something in the water in the early ‘20s there that bred hotness. Look at pictures of your Omaha granddads and get back to me.) Clift’s mother had been adopted at an early age, and she fixated on the idea that she was descended from the Southern aristocracy, not to mention all sorts of important presidential advisors. And if she was an aristocrat, then she was going to live like one, no matter her husband’s middling bank salary. Clift, his sister, and his younger brother were all given private tutors and educated in French, Italian, and German, but when the money (or energy) ran out and Clift found himself in Omaha high school, he was woefully underprepared. It was still good training: although the aristocratic connection was never proven, Clift would play a number of roles that pivoted on the notions of adoption, posturing, and class aspiration.

But the awkward high school-ness wouldn’t plague him for long, as he somehow found his way to Broadway at age 15. Five years later, he appeared in the Pulitzer-winning There Shall Be No Night, was turned down for military service (colitis that would plague him for the rest of his life) and spent five or so more years turning heads in New York before finally transplanting to Hollywood after the end of World War II.

Clift was made for success. He refused to sign a studio contract but instead landed himself a role in a little film with the names “John Wayne” and “Howard Hawks” attached. Seriously, that's some “oh, my first job out of college was with Google” type luck. And the film, Red River, is just stunning. Clift plays the adopted son of Wayne; together, they squabble and drive cattle and blaze the Chisholm Trail. Wayne’s character is a typical Western hard-ass, and he so pisses off the rest of the cowboys that his son leads a rebellion against him, wresting the thousands of cattle away.

(Best line from the Wikipedia capsule: “morale drops because the men are living on nothing but beef and have no coffee to drink.”) 

There’s also a lot of hot suede fringe, cowboy stubble, and onscreen romancing of Western ladies...

… but backstage, Clift was purportedly having a hot affair with John Ireland, who played gunslinger Cherry Valance. Which isn’t to say that the tension between the two didn’t manifest onscreen:

That’s a good lookin’ gun indeed, Cherry. [Sidebar: when I was taking a Westerns class in college, there were two dudes who absolutely believed that there was no such thing as a “gay cowboy.” This was pre-Brokeback, of course. We watched this scene. They maintained their position. Defensively straight dudes boggle the mind.]

Red River was shot in 1946, but because it was too similar to The Outlaw (which Howard Hughes had been pimping full-steam), UA pushed it back two years. By the time it hit theaters — and made a tremendous amount of money — Clift had already appeared in The Search, a Holocaust-survivor drama, mostly forgotten today, that won Clift his first nomination for Best Actor. (Clint Eastwood claims that no other performance has had as much influence on his career.) Two monster performances in less than six months, and Clift was suddenly very much in demand.

Paramount cast him in The Heiress, a big-deal big-costume adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square. He played a suave, debonair man-about-town opposite Olivia de Havilland’s shy, quasi-ugly duckling of an heiress (I say “quasi” because COME ON, we’re talking Olivia de Havilland. It’s like when Charlize Theron played homely in North Country; she just looked fashion-forward with her mullet and jumpsuit).

The film leaves us to wonder whether Clift’s character really was or wasn’t a golddigger trying to skeeze on the rich plain girl. But look at this picture:

He can’t even look her in the eye while face-smooshing! He’s staring into the distance, thinking of all the fine cufflinks he’ll be able to buy with her fortune!

While filming, Clift became obsessed with making the script, the acting, everything, better. He thought De Havilland’s lines were for shit and gave him little to respond to, so he rewrote them. He though De Havilland was too compliant to director William Wyler, and he told her so. Careful there, Monty — you’re about to pull some Shia LaBoeuf/Tom Hardy tomfoolery. 

Or maybe he was just a perfectionist, totally obsessed with improving anything he touched? I mean, those guys are usually assholes, but sometimes they’re also very good:

Just look at Clift scrutinizing his Heiress performance. Maybe I can understand. Things I can’t understand = when guys cross their legs like that and are okay with the strip of hairy leg emerging between argyle sock and pant cuff.

At the end of the film [SPOILER ALERT, ALL YE WHO HAVE NOT READ ALL OF HENRY JAMES ONE SUMMER WHEN YOU WERE FEELING VERY WASP-ASPIRING] de Havilland’s character pulls a fast one on Clift: he left her, went to Cali to make it big, did not in fact make it big, returned to Boston, saw that she’d inherited all her dad’s money, and is like heeeeeeeey ugly duckling, I really do love you, let’s go elope even though I totally ditched you last time I made that exact same promise.

De Havilland says hey, okay, I like your quasi-pompadour and Cali-moustache, let’s do this, I’m just gonna go back up a few dozen dresses ... and then STANDS HIM UP. He comes and yells at her window, full-on Lloyd Dobler style, and she just asks the maid to bolt the door and goes up the staircase. Girl is my hero.

But de Havilland had it coming. Clift had amassed a teeming flock of breathless, strong-jaw-loving fans, and when they saw de Havilland reject their boy, they were PISSED. As in mountains of fan mail pissed. Overarching theme: how dare your character rightfully reject vaguely creepy former suitor played by slightly feminine-looking star? 

Does this sound familiar? Like very recently familiar? Like Bella how-dare-you-look-at-Jacob-and-his-CGI-werewolf-abs-that-way familiar? Young girls (and ladies) like beautiful young men with strong jaws. Some things never change.

Clift next appeared in The Big Lift, one of many middling films that tried to exploit returned soliders’ desire to see something like their former lives onscreen. He pulled out of Sunset Boulevard — a role that Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett had written specifically for him — at the eleventh hour, claiming the role was too close to his own life (in which he also hung out with a lot of older ladies). I wonder if he realized that that was the point ... and I will now spend the next 10 minutes imagining Gloria Swanson dragging Clift, instead of William Holden, across the dancefloor.

But Clift had nothing to worry about. After his experiences with The Heiress and The Big Lift, he knew he needed to be much pickier in choosing his projects. He wrongfully rejected Boulevard, but he accepted a place in A Place in the Sun — an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy with Elizabeth Taylor, hot off Father of the Bride, in the female lead.

It’s almost too much beauty. I’m overwhelmed just looking at stills, and realizing that even those don’t do justice to what these two look like onscreen. Perfection orbiting perfection.

And this film, this film is SO SMOKIN’ HOT-SAD. I describe the plot in full-AHP-detail in the Liz Taylor post from way back when, but what really matters is that A) it established Taylor as a sex siren, and B) added texture to Clift’s image. He wasn’t just a heartthrob, he was a tortured, emotive, working-class heartthrob — an archetype that would become even more salient when Brando tore through A Streetcar Named Desire, released just a month after A Place in the Sun.

His performance in Sun is pure Method: Clift didn’t just hang out in the jail to get a sense of what it would be like, he slept there. And his face at the end of the film, it just ruins me. It ruined Brando too: when both he and Clift were nominated for Best Actor, Brando insisted on voting for Clift. (Even better: Clift insisted on voting for Brando.) Charlie Chaplin, he of faint and sporadic praise, called Sun “the greatest movie made about America.” Shit was hot.

Brando and Clift lost Best Actor to Humphrey Bogart, nominated for The African Queen — just in case you need a reminder that the Academy’s selections are conservative and favor the aging star. Those two virile, angry boys were just too much.

But bygones, because Clift had started a lifelong friendship with Taylor — a relationship that would structure the remainder of his career in ways surprising and tragic. Everyone thought that he and Taylor were totally on each other — rumors that MGM, Taylor’s studio, did little to suppress following the disaster of her marriage to Nicky Hilton.

I mean look at them –

They are obviously the best platonic friends that everyone wants to get together in the history of movie stars and Taylor Swift songs. He called her “Bessie Mae”; she called him “Monty.”

Clift played a priest who makes out with ladies in Hitchcock’s I Confess, only all the Catholics were up in arms and no one went to see it. No big, Clift was all about making movies no one went to see, so long as he could do weird method stuff like sleeping in convents.

Plus he was busy filming From Here to Eternity, only the best post-war-about-war film of the entire period. Today, everyone associates the film with the image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr’s beachy make-out.

(Don’t worry, Lancaster fans, I’m coming for him and his boy shorts soon.)

But this film has so much more to recommend it, including:

1) Donna Reed as a prostitute (so good).

2) The only film performance by Frank Sinatra that I actually enjoy (he’s perfect).

3) Obstinate, honorable, self-loathing Monty Clift playing the bugle with tears streaming down his face.

4) Profusion of early ‘40s Hawaiian shirts.

Extra bonus: Reed’s black halter dress, because everyone who knows anything about classic Hollywood cinema knows that only prostitutes and “exotic women” wear black. Plus, one of my favorite on-set anecdotes in Hollywood history: Burt Lancaster was apparently so scared of being “out-acted” by Clift that he couldn’t stop shaking during their entire first scene together.

Clift earned yet another Best Actor nomination, and when he lost — this time to William Holden in Stalag 17, a movie even this film Ph.D. has never heard of — Clift’s position in Hollywood seemed clear. Like Brando, he was an outsider, refusing to submit to any attempt to craft a “star” image, and the rest of the trade disliked him for it. Hollywood shunned Clift, Brando, and their tagalong little brother James Dean because they saw how good they were, saw how clearly they threatened the way that Hollywood had operated — and conceived of acting — for the past 30 years. These boys were the future of American film, and they scared the shit out of everyone still clinging to the past.

According to legend, this loss hit Clift hard. Or maybe it didn’t, and people just love the story of the film’s producers sending him the bugle mouthpiece from the film (a crucial prop) and him cherishing it for the rest of his life. Either way, he wasted no time, agreeing to star in Terminal Station with the highly regarded Italian Neo-Realist director Vittorio De Sica, all the (high art) rage after Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D (don’t get me started on that film, I might drown in my own tears).

Terminal Station should have been good. It had Truman Capote on the script, De Sica behind the camera, and master promoter/producer David O. Selznick orchestrating the whole thing. But this was in Selznick’s waning days as a producer (think foaming-at-the-mouth Harvey Weinstein) and what he really wanted was a star vehicle for his new (young) (somewhat talented) star wife, Jennifer Jones. (They met on the set of Duel in the Sun, which is another story for another scandal piece.) Selznick had always been exacting and controlling, but he was all over this film — he hired Carson McCullers (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter), then fired her, subbing in Capote and a host of other pinch-hitting script doctors. De Sica wanted to do a broken love story; Selznick wanted a happy one. At one point, Selznick was writing massive tomes of instructions and complaints to De Sica on a daily basis, even though the director couldn’t read English.

Selznick complained, De Sica ignored, and Clift predictably sided with De Sica. The film was a disaster. Selznick tried to recut the film for American audiences, but it just got stinkier. Clift publicly distanced himself from the end product, declaring it a “big fat failure.” Again, very Shia LeBoeuf of him — only The Beef was trying to distance himself from Transformers, not a botched Neo-Realist project. As you can imagine, this did very little to mend Clift’s relations with Hollywood.

Clift passed on East of Eden, but James Dean was eager to snatch up a role intended for his idol: he so loved Clift that he’d supposedly call him “just to hear his voice.” Beautiful boy love, I can’t get enough of you. Instead, Clift agreed to Raintree Country, playing a role that would put him between the beautiful Eva Marie Saint and best-flirt-friend Liz Taylor.

I don’t know what they’re doing here, but I wanna go do it with them.

Taylor had married British film star Michael Wilding in 1952 — in my mind, she was trying to get over Clift — but by 1956, their marriage was in decline. During the filming of Raintree County, Clift and Taylor seemed to have rekindled their is-it/isn’t-it relationship — according to one of Clift’s biographers, “some days he would threaten to stop seeing Elizabeth Taylor — then, the thought would make him burst into tears.” Other apocryphal legend has Taylor sending Clift piles of love letters, which he then read aloud to his male companion at the time. My best guess is that they tortured each other the way people who love each other but can’t be together always do, and it was returning from a party at Taylor’s house, mid-filming for Raintree County, that he smashed his car into a telephone pole.

But this was no drunken fender-bender. Actor Kevin McCarthy, driving in front of Clift, ran back to check on him, seeing that "his face was torn away — a bloody pulp. I thought he was dead.”

McCarthy ran to fetch Taylor, who raced to the site of the accident. The doors were smashed in; she climbed in through the back, cradling him in her arms. He started choking and motioning to his throat, where, it soon became clear, two of his teeth had lodged themselves after coming loose during the accident. Taylor opened his mouth, put her hand down his throat, and pulled out the teeth. Other things about their friendship have been fabricated or exaggerated, but this story, told and retold by those who were there, seems to have actually been true.

When the paparazzi arrived (they weren’t quite paparazzi yet; more like a few eager photographers), Taylor announced that she knew each and every one of them personally — and if they took pictures of Clift, she’d make sure they never worked in Hollywood again. Back then, that sort of strategy worked. There’s not a single picture of Clift’s broken face.

Months of surgeries, rebuilding, and physical therapy followed. If you’ve ever had a facial injury or surgery, you know the pain is profound. Production resumed on Raintree County, which the studio feared would tank following Clift’s accident. Obviously they were fools — and Clift knew it, predicting it would be a smash, if only because audiences would want to compare his face from before and after the accident.

With the facial reconstruction, heavy painkiller use, and rampant alcohol abuse that took place following the accident, Clift looked like he’d aged a decade in the span of a year.

And thus began what has been called “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.” In The Young Lions, released just two years after the accident, the pain seems almost visible. It’d be his only film with Brando, even though the two of them never shared the actual screen. Taylor, at last free from her long-standing contract with MGM, used her power as the biggest star in Hollywood to insist that Clift be cast in her new project, Suddenly, Last Summer. It was a huge wager: since everyone knew how much pills and booze Clift was on, he was virtually uninsurable on-set. But the producer, Sam Siegel, said screw it — let’s just do it.

It wasn’t pretty. Clift couldn’t get through longer scenes, having to split them up into two or three chunks. The subject matter, which involved Clift assisting in the cover-up of a dead man’s apparent homosexuality, must have resulted in so. many. feelings. Director Joseph Mankiewicz tried to replace Clift, but Taylor and my hero Katharine Hepburn defended and supported him. Hepburn was apparently so incensed by Mankiewicz’s treatment of Clift that when the film officially wrapped, she found the director and spat in his face. Oh Kate, you’ll always be my favorite unruly woman.

The decline continued. Clift appeared in The Misfits, best known as the benedictory film of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Monroe even reported that Clift was “the only person I know who is in even worse shape than I am.”

And the pictures from on-set are just so poignant and heartbreaking and amazing:

It’s like all three are meditating on their respective declines, and there’s a sad, peaceful resignation at the difference between what their bodies and faces could do and how people want to remember them. And the plot! THIS FILM! The mustangs, they just want to be free, just like Marilyn! It tramples all audience members in its path.

But 1961 audiences and critics were too close to see clearly. It bombed, in part because it was shot in gorgeous black-and-white when everyone else was reveling in gaudy Technicolor. Gable died of a heart attack 10 days after filming; Monroe was only able to attend the film’s premiere with a pass from her stay at a psychiatric ward. She wouldn’t die for another year and a half, but Misfits would be her last completed film.

And Clift drank on. He was such a mess on the set of Freud: The Secret Passion that Universal sued him. And while filming a 15-minute supporting role as a mentally handicapped victim of the Holocaust in Judgement at Nuremberg, he had to ad-lib all his lines. That’s how gone he was. But something was still there — enough to earn him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Clift would appear in one last film, The Defector, before dying, apparently in his sleep, in 1966, at the age of 45 — a culmination of years of drug and alcohol abuse. The Misfits ran on television that night.

Liz, caught up in filming and Richard Burton in Paris, sent flowers to the funeral. The long suicide was complete.

Many Hollywood stars have committed versions of the long suicide, only theirs weren’t as explicit, or as clearly motivated by physical tragedy and transformation. Don’t mistake me: I don’t think Clift drank because he was suddenly no longer handsome. He drank because he was in pain, and because, I can only imagine, that pain made it impossible for him to do the thing in which he excelled. It wasn’t that he was no longer who we thought he was; it was that he was no longer who he thought he was. This was a man obsessed with conveying the real, the authentic on the screen. He hated manipulated lines, he hated things that weren’t true. Like his contemporary Beats, he was mad for the real, only his real was on the screen.

But to be such a conduit — you burn so brightly, then you burn to the ground. Who knows what would’ve happened if Clift had never pummelled himself, wildly, madly, into that light pole. Chances are that he would’ve found another pole, literal or figurative, to beat himself against. The other bright, beautiful men of his generation did the same. Dean did it. Brando did it, too, only he didn’t die — he simply turned his disgust with his inability to do so inward.

These men, they were literally something else. I wish I could’ve seen Dean at 50, or Clift living as long, and as fully, as Newman. Clift once told someone that the closer we come to death, the more we blossom. He took himself to that precipice, but he fell straight in. And so he remains, frozen in the popular imagination, circa From Here to Eternity – those high cheekbones, that set jaw, the firm stare: a magnificent, proud, tragically broken thing to behold.

Previously: Warren Beatty Thinks This Song Is About Him.

 

Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here.



319 Comments / Post A Comment

werewolfbarmitzvah

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.

Okay, actually going to go read it now.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@werewolfbarmitzvah (Also, A Place in the Sun and Suddenly Last Summer remain in my top 10 favorite movies of allllll tiiiiiiiiiime.)

werewolfbarmitzvah

@werewolfbarmitzvah (In addition, the intense friendship between Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor is such a beautiful bond that YEEEEEEAAAAARRRRRGH I go completely incoherent.)

SarahP

@werewolfbarmitzvah Yessss it sounds (and in those pictures, looks) so lovely and authentic, something I feel like movie stars at the time had trouble finding.

swirrlygrrl

@werewolfbarmitzvah Oooooh he was so handsome. I first saw him in From Here to Eternity and he was a revelation. Thank you for this piece...also, for ensuring my upcoming weekend will be spent watching so many movies.

mattewmc

we were watching this in my film diversity class, and when he goes at 0:18 ''maybe you'd like to see mine'' everybody went oooohhhhoHHhhHOhOHoh@t

Nicole Cliffe

My God, even his busted face is the best face ever.

SarahP

@Nicole Cliffe I was (foolishly) prepared for him to look terible at AHP's bit reveal picture--but no! Still so handsome!

HeyThatsMyBike

@Nicole Cliffe And he's one of the few "Scandals" guys that has a face of today. Not sure how best to describe it, but with guys like Gable, Dean, and [young] Brando, they just look like guys that went extinct with that era. I don't know anybody who looks remotely like those guys! But you could pop young Clift in a movie today and he wouldn't look out of place. And I could easily see myself ogling a guy like him on the subway this afternoon. Does that make any sense?

teaandcakeordeath

@HeyThatsMyBike

That third picture when hes a cowboy in a particular! I feel like he looks exactly like someone from today but I cant think who and its driving me a wee bit nuts.

Lily Rowan

@HeyThatsMyBike Yeah, absolutely -- I was thinking the same thing.

HeyThatsMyBike

@teaandcakeordeath He looks a little like James Marsden in that shot, I think. But not really in most of the other pics!

HeyThatsMyBike

@teaandcakeordeath @Lily Rowan And thanks - I wasn't sure if that sounded super weird. Communication skills success!

frigwiggin

@HeyThatsMyBike He looks like Guy Pearce in that picture, I think!

tessamae

@HeyThatsMyBike THISSSSSSS. That is exactly who I thought. James Marsden of the bluest of eyes and slashiest of cheekbones.

Binnebrook

@teaandcakeordeath -- He looks like the love child of Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger.

HeyThatsMyBike

@frigwiggin Yes, was looking at the wrong shot! Totally see Guy Pearce in the cowboy pic! And James Marsden in the hugging shot beneath it.

Reege

@Nicole Cliffe He looks an awful, awful lot like Matt Bomer (who wants to play him, according to The Googles).

PistolPackinMama

@Nicole Cliffe I was going to say!

PistolPackinMama

@HeyThatsMyBike I had an instant of Luke Perry feeling. And then a feeling of what, no. That's not right either.

Lily Rowan

@Reege OMGOMGOMGOMG what.

Liz Fraser@facebook

@teaandcakeordeath He looks just like Dave Franco, James Franco's brother. I've spent all afternoon imagining the sibling fight that tears them apart over who gets to play Clift in the biopic.

Kirsten Hey@twitter

@Nicole Cliffe David Tennant. He looks like David Tennant

faience

@HeyThatsMyBike It makes perfect sense and is the reverse of when I complain that a costume drama has people with faces that are too modern. My favorite ie most annoying example is Cameron Diaz in The Gangs of New York.

teaandcakeordeath

@HeyThatsMyBike
I think James Marsden was my thought too with just a dash of someone else.

@faience
Ive never met anyone else who hates this too! This is why I love the Hairpin.

whateverlolawants

@faience I know what you mean, and never know what to make of that. Were the people miscast, or do we picture the past wrongly? Like, Cameron Diaz descended from people (right?), so maybe her ancestors looked like her, and it's okay. Or maybe faces really have changed! Or maybe it's that the movies do the hair and makeup wrong? I DON'T KNOW!

mc coolfriend

@whateverlolawants It is segregation, I think. A lot of models and actors whose faces we admire have features that are strongly associated with a given ethnicity, often more than one ethnicity at a time and that is why they look very striking. Like Cameron Diaz--to keep that example going--has Spanish (I think) ancestry, but she is partly Caucasian too, (I know Spain has quite a few native blondes, but I don't think that is the case w/her. I read an article about her right after The Mask came out and it stuck w/me as some kind of formative childhood memory). And it's not that multiracial or multiethnic people didn't exist a hundred years ago obviously, but they were not represented as a standard of beauty. So I guess it is that the documented past does not look like the world we see today firsthand? I don't want to say there were less mixed race people b/c I have no idea really, but it wouldn't surprise me b/c people were so racist and so open about it until relatively recently. An older man I know was telling me recently that even in the 1970's everybody's default idea of beautiful was skinny lips, skinny noses, flattish butts, monochrome pale hair/skin, and not just that was beautiful but that full lips and big wild hair was immediately dismissed as ugly amongst his peers. And that just bears so little resemblance to what I would think most people consider attractive now that, I don't know, I guess my point is we are shown a very narrow, homogenous representation of the past and so it's hard to reconcile it w/the idea that maybe the past was just us, but long ago?

whateverlolawants

@mc coolfriend Interesting! I was kind of thinking that was a big part of it, although you fleshed it out (ha) better than my brain did.

Craftastrophies

@mc coolfriend And often the past is represented in paintings, which don't look like the actual people, necessarily. Even when it's photos, the past is still and posed.

I once saw a right-up for a book about how each era's beauty ideals have basically made their own breeding program, and how that changed the genetics of the next generation. And I wish I had bought it because I really want to read it but cannot remember what it's called. Anyone know?

I would settle for people in historical films being less CLEAN. I am reaching the point where I just find it really distracting.

whateverlolawants

@Craftastrophies I like seeing rare old color photos, because they really make the past more real and "today-like."

Craftastrophies

@whateverlolawants I LOVE that moment of 'oh! They're just like us!'

I just stumbled across a set of photos of criminals of 1871 http://www.flickr.com/photos/twm_news/sets/72157625464218629/with/5287282699/ I am struck by two things. First, how familiar they look - I could be related to these people. I've noticed this before - Ned Kelly without a beard looks scarily like one of my cousins. Is this because I am from firmly working class roots? Or because these are ordinary people, unedited and unposed for the most part?

Secondly, by how different faces look when the person has been undernourished or worked very hard outside for most of their life. I live in a dodgy area and there occasionally I see someone and you can tell just from looking at their face that they've just not ever really had enough to eat. As thin as Cameron Diaz is, she looks like she generally gets enough nourishment. Not particularly historically accurate, no?

anachronistique

@Lily Rowan I SECOND THIS OMG WHAT.

karrrren

clift is awesome and so is this post, but i must insist that stalag 17 is a really well-known film and william holden is great in it.

Bittersweet

@karrrren Seconded! Go watch it, because it is amazing, and Holden is amazing, and you'll never look at water towers or bare lightbulbs or chess pieces the same way again.

SarahP

@karrrren I was all proud of myself because I never know movies, but I know that one! ...I haven't watched it, but I know it.

Bittersweet

@karrrren Also have to stand up for Bogart here and say that his performance in The African Queen is terrific and stands up well compared with both Brando and Clift. But I'm sure the Academy thought he was the safer choice.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Bittersweet I like Bogie as much as the next classic-Hollywood-aficionado but him in African Queen over Brando in Streetcar? SERIOUSLY.

Bittersweet

@Anne Helen Petersen For me? Yes. I'm not a huge Brando fan - I respect his talent, but he doesn't do it for me.

Marisa Dobson@twitter

@Anne Helen Petersen AGREED! Brando in Streetcar is one of the most stirring performances of ALL time.

African Queen was one of my favorite adventure movies as a kid. But honestly, Bogie's playing the same character he played in Key Largo.

Bittersweet

@Marisa Dobson@twitter I have a soft spot for The African Queen because of Hepburn's terrific book about making it.

Sella Turcica

@karrrren Even I knew about Stalag 17. My dad was a WWII POW, in Stalag 12. He used to say he missed meeting William Holden by five Stalags. He also used to shake his head and walk past the living room when Hogan's Heroes was on.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Delighted by User AHP CONCEDES: Stalag 17 is a well-known and well-appreciated film that she somehow did not know about.

PistolPackinMama

@Delighted by User WAIT WHAT. The Best Time I Wrote About Talking To My Dad About...

WaityKatie

@karrrren And, shoot, Holden is amazing in Sunset Boulevard as well! I didn't care for that almost-diss about that.

bitzyboozer

@WaityKatie Now we're getting to the real crux of the matter: AHP hates William Holden! Which, fair enough, he did seem like a bit of a cad, what with the Audrey Hepburn dicking around and the killing someone while drunk driving and all. But he was good in Sunset Boulevard.

As for Bogey, I always thought of that Oscar as being of the consolation prize/lifetime achievement award variety. He deserved to win an Oscar, maybe not for that movie but the academy figured the time was right.

Anne Helen Petersen

@bitzyboozer I do like William Holden, I do! My love for Sunset Boulevard knows NO BOUNDS (fact to be substantiated in due time). But I also like thinking of Clift in that role....

whateverlolawants

@Delighted by User Wow. If you ever have stories of his to share, I'd be interested in them.

Tafadhali

Yeah, I grew up on Stalag 17 and absolutely loved it as a kid. I just recently rewatched it, and was reminded what an excellent film it is, and how good Bill Holden is in it. I'd just been in a skiing accident and was groggy and painful and did not think I had the patience for a whole movie at all, but I was transfixed the whole time.

(I have to admit, though, that Animal and Harry are my favorite characters, not Sefton.)

Of course, I'm just realizing now that I've never seen a Montgomery Clift film, outside of clips from The Celluloid Closet and Color Me Lavender, so I can't really speak as to who was more deserving of the Oscar.

WhiskeySour

Anne Helen, you (and your writing) are just amazing. Before, I never had any real interest in Old Hollywood or classic films, but I've absolutely devoured every single one of these articles. The passion and love and enthusiasm with which you write about your subjects--I can't help but feel the passion and love and enthusiasm, too. Seriously, your articles have opened my eyes to entire eras and genres of film I would never have been interested in otherwise. I sound like a complete synchophant, but seriously, thank you. (Now I'm off to see if I can find Red River. Because Yowza.)

SarahP

@WhiskeySour Her writing is especially fantastic in this one! She gets a little more of her own voice and opinions in with the history on this one, and her voice and opinions are so compelling.

Roxanne Rholes

@WhiskeySour @SarahP That last line! Siiiigh.

laurel

Seriously. This part slayed me: "Don’t mistake me: I don’t think Clift drank because he was suddenly no longer handsome. He drank because he was in pain, and because, I can only imagine, that pain made it impossible for him to do the thing in which he excelled. It wasn’t that he was no longer who we thought he was; it was that he was no longer who he thought he was...But to be such a conduit — you burn so brightly, then you burn to the ground. Who knows what would’ve happened if Clift had never pummelled himself, wildly, madly, into that light pole. Chances are that he would’ve found another pole, literal or figurative, to beat himself against." So good.

cynicalsunshine

@WhiskeySour I totally posted the same thing downthread because I didn't bother to read the comments first! But yes, agreed to everything. I'm not into any of this stuff either, but these posts are SO GOOD because AHP is SO GOOD.

Scott Munsey@facebook

@WhiskeySour
Totally agree. I re.read that a few times and felt chills with every re read.
I can say I've felt excruciating personal pain due to a lack of inability to have an element in my life vanish and no control to re attain that element, I'm lucky to not have gone that deep inward to where others no turning back , its a damn shame he couldn't......

tessamae

OH MY GOD. ALL OF THE PICTURES.

eta: but that first one. That firrrrrrst one.

Nocs

@tessamae Agreed. That first one almost needs a [NSFW] tag on account of being way too steamy.

sarah girl

WOW, that clip. Wow.

Also UGH he's so handsome but he also looks almost exactly like one of my exes in the stubble photo, whyyyyy

MoonBat

@Sarah H. Oooh, I had that thought, too, it was a brief ex and then we tried to be platonic roommates (and I and everyone we knew thought he just needed to finally come out of the closet already geesh) but he got super creepy and I found out he was going through my lingerie drawer whenever he was home alone. Ugh.

WaityKatie

@Sarah H. Your ex looks like Montgomery Clift??? Mine all look more like those troll dolls.

whateverlolawants

@WaityKatie My grandad looked like a troll doll too. (It's okay, he wasn't a good person.) My exes mostly look like lumberjacks and sexy-early-90s-loners and Argentine soccer players (but not the super hot ones) and dirty hippies. Not bad, but then there's the one who looks JUST like that creepy bearded baby from the Just For Men commercials

sarah girl

@WaityKatie He was NOWHERE near as handsome, but the stubble/mouth/jaw area looks almost exactly the same. I am happy to report, however, that said ex got rid of the stubble after we broke up and now looks awful!

The Attic Wife

Shallow, but before this post I'd only ever seen him in Suddenly, Last Summer and had no idea how lovely he was.

bitzyboozer

@The Attic Wife The first time I watched Suddenly, Last Summer, I kept wondering when Montgomery Clift was gonna show up. The movie was probably halfway over before I realized that was him.

SarahP

The only "problem" with how long these are is that by the time I'm through I have so many things to say!

1.) Wow, Liz Taylor. Savin' dudes from car crashes and public embarrassment by the paparazzi. AND THEN getting him work again. She was so awesome!

2.) I had never heard of Montgomery Clift until reading this, but hoooooo boy was I missing out!

3.) I had ALSO never heard of The Heiress! A travesty, considering how much I love Henry James. (And now looking at Montgomery Clift.)

4.) I have nooo problem with the hairy patch between argyle socks and pant legs. Dudes can show me some leg! That's cool!

@serenityfound

@SarahP The Heiress is one of my favorite films ever. Ever ever ever. It's a bit arch at times, but, lord, Clift and de Havilland are just so amazing in it. The ending gives me these weird triumphant chills every time.

Jinxie

@SarahP There's something about that bit of sock + hairy leg that I sort of love, honestly. And not just because, in this case, the hairy leg is attached to Monty.

Craftastrophies

@Jinxie I'll give a pass to the show of hairy leg as long as all the dudes promise never to ever be naked except for socks, ever again. Please, god.

SarahP

@Craftastrophies I can't get behind ladies only wearing socks, either, though, so maybe this is a good rule for everyone in general.

noReally

In a Parker biography: MC passed out drunk at a party. Dorothy Parker sitting stroking his face, says something like, "He's so beautiful, is he really a cocksucker?" And Tallulah Bankhead answers, "Well darling, he's never sucked my cock."

Also, the guy who lives in the apartment where he died says he haunts the bathtub he died in.

Beatrix Kiddo

@noReally I would love to see a SoCH about Tallulah Bankhead.

we all want to be big stars

@noReally Wait, that's what I came here to say! Has everyone heard the Moth piece by Craig Chester about this message-from-beyond from Montgomery Clift? It's kind of silly, but gets poignant...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Evb7HizT60I

Ophelia

Good lord, AHP, that last paragraph just knocks the breath out of you, you know?

fictitious

@Ophelia On my first reading, the last image did not load, and was just a wire empty box outline. Her ending paragraph combined with that blank picture SHATTERED me.

Ophelia

@fictitious That is EXACTLY what happened to me! I was a little disappointed when I refreshed the page, and there was a photo after all.

KatnotCat

"Things I can’t understand = when guys cross their legs like that and are okay with the strip of hairy leg emerging between argyle sock and pant cuff."

NO! Don't discourage this! I love the little strip of hairy leg....

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

"It’s like when Charlize Theron played homely in North Country; she just looked fashion-forward with her mullet and jumpsuit."

THANK YOU. That's what I thought, too.

Reginal T. Squirge

I talk about this all the time. I can't stand when Hollywood tries to make undeniably beautiful people look homely and we're supposed to just go with it. See: Rashida Jones in Celeste & Jesse Forever, Kate Winslet's entire career, etc.

Carrie Ann

@Reginal T. Squirge @I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I didn't see North Country, but Charlize did manage to look homely in Monster. I'm fairly sure there were some false teeth happening there, but still, the hair, the eyes, the hulking gait. She was like a completely different person.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Carrie Ann Yes, she totally hit that one out of the park. She also gained 30 pounds for that role, so that changed up her model feature, more into the hulking person on screen. She was amazing in that movie.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Reginal T. Squirge It's the, "let's put her in a ponytail and glasses, and then for her makeover we'll take off the glasses and let her hair down" effect. They think they're tricking us. YOU ARE FOOLING NO ONE, HOLLYWOOD.

EvilAuntiePeril

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose In fact, I wear glasses and a ponytail most of the time, and am quite astonished at the transformation to bombshell that occurs when both are removed after I come home from work. Complete strangers drop everything to fall in love with me. But perhaps it is the ratty grey tracksuit bottoms that cause this magical effect?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@EvilAuntiePeril "Whoa, where did you come from, beautiful?"
"Frank, it's me, EvilAuntiePeril, your roommate. Pass me my glasses, I'll show you."
*puts on glasses, pulls hair back in mock ponytail*
"Oh, hey, EvilAuntPeril. When did you get home? Who was that babe that was here earlier?"
"Just a friend, Frank. Just a friend. *winks at camera*"
*silly outro music, the end*

EvilAuntiePeril

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose That's uncannily like last yesterday evening. Mind = blown.

In fact, I am now worried because my roommate's millionaire older brother, Fletcher, caught me stealing a priceless diamond necklace*. Witty banter ensued and I escaped with the wrong necklace after I was distracted by a poodle, which caused me to trip on a tube of lipgloss and tip Fletcher the millionaire over the balcony into a pile of lacy knickers below.

I am now worried that Fletcher will recognise me when he comes round to help Frank install his IKEA Fnösktorr bidet, and am contemplating dowdying down and perhaps looking into leopards as a distraction tactic.

*for good reasons.

Marisa Dobson@twitter

Thanks for placing him in the rightful pantheon of Brando & Dean. It is so true and I can't help but feel that the man didn't (and doesn't) get his dues. The first time I saw A Place in the Sun, I cried during the entire last half hour. The pain in his eyes (see also From Here to Eternity) is so real and so soul-quaking. I need to rewatch Red River and The Misfits (that one is really hard to watch for so many reasons). THANK YOU for this & this whole series!! You are a tremendous writer.

bitzyboozer

@Marisa Dobson@twitter Oh man, The Misfits. So hard to watch for the horse scenes alone!

Lily Rowan

Not at all the point of this post, but: I'm always surprised at how I have no idea what Marilyn Monroe's face actually looked like. I can picture her in character or from certain photosets, but I don't have a real sense of what she looked like.

Weird.

WhiskeySour

@Lily Rowan It's terrible, but I was thinking the same thing. It's like the only Marilyn Monroe I recognize is the way she looked in Warhol's Marilyn prints. That image is so embedded in my brain that I can barely recognize her in any other image. Yikes. How sad and screwed up is that?

Lily Rowan

@WhiskeySour Weird and sad! Poor Marilyn.

Slapfight

@Lily Rowan It's always surprising when you watch her how girlish and innocent her face is, because she's rarely portrayed that way in photographs.

skyslang

@Lily Rowan Her face transforms with every picture, every film. You can't pin her down! She's moving all the time, changing all the time. This was her magic, I think. I remember reading somewhere that when she didn't want to be recognized, she just "turned it off" and nobody gave her a second glance.

bitzyboozer

The chameleon quality is definitely there, but she's also just so culturally associated with that heavily made-up 50s Hollywood look, a la "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." It's why Madonna was able to play around with that image so successfully, because you just see those physical signifiers and your brain immediately goes, "Marilyn." So it's kind of jarring to just see her looking naturally lovely.

whateverlolawants

@Lily Rowan I thought that too. It was kind of astonishing to watch "Some Like It Hot" and see her move around and act like a normal human being. And she was so funny in that movie.

Craftastrophies

@Lily Rowan My brain literally thought that that was Christina Hendricks in the first pic, for a good few seconds. It might be the slightly pissed off, performative smile, maybe.

teaandcakeordeath

1) I am having a craptastic day and this cheered me right up.

2) How do I become Liz Taylor? I might just try and recreate her sweater and skirt look and get people to call me Bessie.

Reginal T. Squirge

Speaking of defensively straight dudes...

After months of me talking about Frank Ocean non-stop (before he "came out"), my barber wanted to know what I thought about his whole situation after that all happened. I told him it didn't matter but I thought it was a brave move for him, personally.

And then he proceeded to straight-up deny the possibility of an R&B singer being bisexual. He was convinced it had to be a publicity move alone.

I couldn't get out of that conversation fast enough.

Megasus

@Reginal T. Squirge Wow. Frank Ocean is great and talented whatever his sexual orientation is, I don't see why it should matter.

Reginal T. Squirge

Much more so than blatant racism and/or sexism, this is the kind of horrible truth dudes reveal when they feel safe around a bunch of other dudes.

melis

I MUST TAKE ISSUE WITH YOUR FRANK SINATRA COMMENT HE WAS AMAZING IN THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM

melis

wait oh my God my issue just got huger WHAT ABOUT THE JOKER IS WILD ANNIE??

dracula's ghost

@melis AGREED. That movie is incredible. His golden arm, it can no longer play the drums as once it did! BECAUSE OF HEROIN

meetapossum

@melis He'll always be my Nathan Detroit.

WaityKatie

@melis And, I mean, all the musicals ever, also.

Kakapo

@melis

I cannot like Frank Sinatra ever because he was close friends with Monty when they made FROM HERE TO ETERNITY but totally shunned him when he found out he was gay. Asshole.

WaityKatie

@Kakapo Oh, he definitely was not a good human being. But he's good in some of the movies.

Clare

Having a lot of feelings about "[b]ut to be such a conduit — you burn so brightly, then you burn to the ground."

katiemcgillicuddy

@Clare Yeah, that kinda took my breath away.

MoxyCrimeFighter

Just jumping down to lower the level of discourse by asking, if the Swiss Watch was a sex act, a la the Cincinnati Bowtie, what would it be?

PistolPackinMama

@Reginal T. Squirge Equipped with a corkscrew, and a Phillips head screwdriver.

frigwiggin

@Reginal T. Squirge Punctual!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@MoxyCrimeFighter No batteries required, each movement exactly where it's supposed to be, and expensive yet discreet.

MoxyCrimeFighter

At the end, you get a huge amount of money you didn't know about?

whateverlolawants

@MoxyCrimeFighter I just pictured slapping someone with a watch, perhaps repeatedly, and I have no idea why.

MoxyCrimeFighter

You open your mouth, close your eyes, and then you get a big surprise! (Hint: either chocolate or fun-parts!)

KatnotCat

This was really beautifully written. I want to rewatch The Misfits again now, or maybe pick up one of these other movies tonight.

Slapfight

Yay! haven't read this yet, but when I saw AHP commenting yesterday I thought "oh PLEASE let this mean she's got a SOCH a'brewin' for us!" And she did. Thanks!
The DNC speeches got me all extra-enthusiastic about everything today.

jbfletcher

Teenage me has been waiting for mumblety years for the internet, then the Hairpin, then Anne Helen Petersen to truly complete my Monty Clift obsession. He shared many a locker door with Morrissey & Ian McCulloch.
I wish I had a picture of the time I was watching A Place in the Sun and noticed the cable guide's description was the blunt but accurate: "Man loves rich girl, takes poor girl boating."

Edited because hey, it's a double shot of JB.

Kakapo

@jbfletcher

I absolutely LOVE cable guide write-ups. People clearly have fun with them.

Slapfight

@jbfletcher She lives my dream life. One day I hope to be childless and widowed, writing novels gallivanting about the globe, hooking up with dashing men, solving murders and drinking tea.
Hey-I'm halfway there!

Slapfight

@jbfletcher And also...Ian McCulloch...Le sigh.

martinipie

Hooray! I love these posts forever and always, and also immediately rush to my Netflix queue to add films :)

And I was/am freaking out trying to put my finger on which actor he reminds me of in the face--especially the stubble pic and the d-bag-stache pic--James Marsden? Agghhhh!

Jaguares

As much as I love Brando, the Clift entry is the one I've been waiting for! I relate to him on so many levels.

I just bought Patricia Bosworth's Clift Bio. I hope it's good as the reviews say it is.

Kakapo

@Jaguares

It definitely is. If you like Clift, you'll devour it in one sitting, probably.

Reginal T. Squirge

"Smokin' hot-sad" is basically what I'm going for every time I leave the house.

pandaonaplane

This installment of Scandals of Classic Hollywood just made the worst day ever into the BEST day ever.
Great Pictures, gossip, EVERYTHING. Almost made me forget that my supervisor assigned a project I asked for to someone who has only been working at my office for 2 months.

skyslang

Hm. Why no discussion of his love life beyond "male companion" ... his sexuality (and the way it was viewed at the time) certainly fueled some of his self-destructive behavior. Just curious about the omission. Or just curious about his love life!

Craftastrophies

@skyslang It felt weirdly elided to me - or just assumed that we knew all about it? Which I do not. I mean, there's so much to say about every person in this series, and I assume some kind of word count, so something's gotta give. Still.

mariko

!!! I am a great big fan of these soul shattering conclusions.

But! Jennifer Jonesy! So perfect in Cluny Brown! Love Letters! A Portrait of Jenny!
She may be a bit of an oddball, but there's no one like her. Though, yes, much agreed about the floundering project with Monty!

Kakapo

@mariko

Don't forget the great (and insane) BEAT THE DEVIL. I actually also love DUEL IN THE SUN just because it is so ridiculous.

Jennifer Jones is really unfairly maligned. She definitely put in some lackluster performances, but she's great in a whole lot of films.

bitzyboozer

@Kakapo Marion Davies Syndrome.

Kakapo

@bitzyboozer

Totally. Watch SHOW PEOPLE and try to tell me Davies wasn't pretty genius.

Melusina

@Kakapo I was about to complain about her awful performance in A Farewell to Arms, but the lines she was given are so bad that even Meryl Streep wouldn't have been able to do anything with them.

Skydancing

Now that I have recovered from my swoon...Thank You for this! I love classic movies and movie stars and read all the SoCH posts with delight, and to now have one about Montgomery Clift - my life is complete :)

Kakapo

THE SEARCH is definitely forgotten about today, but it's actually quite good and affecting. Clift helps a survivor of Auschwitz reunite with his mother. Yes, it is schmaltzy, but still I'd recommend it. THE YOUNG LIONS is also really underrated. It's a little over the top (mostly thanks to Brando's portrayal of the blond German), but I think it's actually Clift's best performance. LONELYHEARTS is another one you don't mention here that is a hidden gem. It's based on Nathanial West's second novel and is odd and very funny. It also features the wonderful Myrna Loy.

/yes, I am a big Monty Clift fan

Regina Phalange

I'm coming for him and his boy shorts soon.

I'm coming for him and his boy shorts soon.

swoon.

Anninyn

I never knew about him! How could I not? So beautiful, so talented.

I laughed out loud at that video, because so much unspoken gay. They may as well have just been wanking each other off.

wee_ramekin

@Anninyn Haha, I know! I seriously had to look away when they started talking to each other about their guns...I felt like it was a private moment that we shouldn't have been witness to.

BoozinSusan

@wee_ramekin Ahaha, agreed! Like I wish the director had said, "Guys, that's cool, we'll just take the camera away for a bit and come back in, say, 15 minutes?"

redheaded&crazy

@Anninyn the look on his (clift's) face when the guy asks if he can hold his nice gun ... it's like, incredulous, must not laugh, YOU JUST ASKED ME THAT IN THE TRAILER HOW CAN I KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE

so good

Anninyn

@redheaded&crazie I just kept getting this impression that they'd started up a round of really good sex by misquoting these exact lines, and were now remembering it.

Bitingpixie

I adored this From Here to Eternity and back again, but now the Clash song is stuck in my head like an iron spike. "That's Montgomery Clift, honey!...shoot his right profile."

laurel

Oh, this was so, so great, AHP. So heartbreaking. When MC is on screen, you just can't look away.

When he was in his twenties, my handsome dark-haired boyfriend was in a car accident that cut up his face a bit. His friends and workmates from that time still call him Monty.

Oh, squiggles

This series is always such a delightful read. Why is this not a book yet?! I would read the fuck out of that book.

Also, why do I rejoice in reading these, but not care at all about current celebrity goings-on? Something about being able to look at it from a historical perspective instead of just tabloid conjecture?

Blushingflwr

@Awesomely Nonfunctional It's because AHP puts it in a larger social and historical and artistic context, and because she doesn't just talk about the scandal - she talks about WHY it was a scandal, what motivations the star-makers had in what they did and didn't publish, etc. I'm sure if she gave the same treatment to Bennifer or something, it would be equally compelling. (Read her website sometime, she has modern stuff on there too, and it's just as good).

IceHouseLizzie

Didn't Montgomery Clift and Cary Grant live together for a number of years? Or am I thinking about someone else?

Kakapo

@IceHouseLizzie

You're thinking of Randolph Scott.

IceHouseLizzie

@Kakapo Ahhh! Thanks!!

Kakapo

@IceHouseLizzie

If I'm not mistaken, there's actually one of these posts about Cary Grant. If not, there should be. He actually was the subject of experimental treatment with LSD to get rid of his gay-ness in the sixties.

whateverlolawants

@Kakapo There was a post about him! It's how I learned about him living with Randolph. The idea of curing gayness is silly/awful enough, but using LSD for it really seems unproductive.

Kakapo

@whateverlolawants

Well, he had pretty glowing things to say about the treatment, but, yes, I agree with you. Considering the amount of acid I dropped in high school and college.

tatiana.larina

Civic editing: "the benedictory film of Marilyn Monroe" - didn't you mean "valedictory"?

Blushingflwr

@tatiana.larina I had the same thought. And then I wondered if she meant "benedictory" like when the priest gives the benediction at the end of mass before dismissing the congregation.

cynicalsunshine

You know, I have never seen any of the movies that are in this series. I'm not into the classics; they just don't do it for me (it's mostly that bizarre accent they all had, that mid-Atlantic thing or whatever), but I LOVE THESE ARTICLES. It's the quality of the writing, the excellent use of photos and clips, and the fact that AHP clearly knows and cares SO MUCH about the subjects that make even people like me, who are not already interested, look forward to them.

Slutface

Who will be playing him in the Lifetime Liz Taylor movie? I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE.

raised amongst catalogs

@Slutface I vote for Kerr Smith!

katiemcgillicuddy

Beautiful boy love, I can’t get enough of you.

This. Also, man AHP, you really nail it every time on the closing paragraphs for these things (and the whole rest of them, obviously).

Craftastrophies

@katiemcgillicuddy I like that she clearly likes the people. No punches pulled, but sympathy for them as human beings. It makes it into a lovely look at humanity and the way we tell stories, not something nasty and voyeuristic.

katiemcgillicuddy

@Craftastrophies Absolutely. They're very humanizing, not to mention beautifully written.

lemniskate67@twitter

Julian McMahon really, really resembles him.

ovrbig1s

How can you say you even have a BA in filmdom if you've never heard of Stalag 17? Hogan's Heroes was based on it....hello?

purefog

Is The Misfits not out on DVD, or does Netflix just not have it?

Kakapo

@purefog SHAME on Netflix. It is out on both DVD and Blu-Ray. And it is freaking awesome. That scene with Monroe freaking out while the guys are killing the horses... Devastating.

samuraihellkitty

A Place in the Sun in one of my all time favorite movies. I remember watching it when I was about 11, and thinking Montgomery Clift was the most handsome man I had ever seen (sorry, Adam Ant). He and Elizabeth Taylor were definitely the genetic Super Lotto winners.

MrsLlama

I went to Sarah Lawrence and there was a rumor that Montgomery Clift died in one of the houses on campus (which was then a private mansion, now a dorm). TRUTH OR UNTRUTH?

Edited: According to Wikipedia, no he did not. Maybe he just had lived there?

Jinxie

[OMG, guys, somehow I've never seen "A Place in the Sun" OR "From Here to Eternity" and I'm afraid to say it out loud but I promise I will rectify this gross oversight as soon as possible!]

WaityKatie

@Jinxie Double feature time!

Kakapo

Random aside:

The only one of his films available for instant streaming on Netflix may be his most obscure - THE BIG LIFT. Not his best, but it's interesting and he is at his purtiest in it.

HereKitty

"Don’t worry, Lancaster fans, I’m coming for him and his boy shorts soon"?

YES, PLEASE!

Kakapo

Ooh! Ooh! WILD RIVER is another favorite that hasn't been mentioned yet. Also features another favorite of mine - Lee Remick. And Jo Van Fleet playing a woman decades older than she was at the time who refuses to leave her land when the government plans a controlled flooding of the area.

Tragically Ludicrous

THAT'S MONTGOMERY CLIFT HONEY!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qqjHzWIyvQ

(Being more inclined towards classic punk than classic Hollywood, this is definitely the first thing I think of when I think of Montgomery Clift, sorry.)

Peanut

@Tragically Ludicrous Me, TOO!

Poubelle

@Tragically Ludicrous Same here. I had that song stuck in my head the whole time I was reading this and felt really guilty.

irieagogo

There are is an unintentionally hilarious moment in "A Place in the Sun" when Elizabeth grabs Monty's head in a clench and says something like, "Tell mama. Tell mama all!" Oh jeez, really? MAMA?

I was kind of sorry to see no mention of co-star Miss Shelley Winters, method actress and pal of Marilyn's and Marlon's, mentioned in the article. Miss Winters has played the sad, unloved woman in the way in many movies, and she is so good in this one. She had herself quite a time with all sorts of interesting people and wrote at least two, probably three, massive volumes of autobiography. I have only read the first one, and it was excellent, highly recommended!

Oh, and I think folks get a Luke Perry association with Monty because they both have the bobble head on a stem neck look about them.

irieagogo

@irieagogo oh the misery of seeing a typo after the edit time has ticked away!

Anne Helen Petersen

@irieagogo Also because Luck Perry/Jason Priestly (or at least their characters' looks in 90210) were fashioned after Dean, Brando, Clift. Say what you will about that show, but the hair stylists were pretty genius in their understanding of historical cultural codes of rebellion.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Anne Helen Petersen WHICH, I must note, is why The Biebs' current team is genius as well: all sorts of '50s bouffant up in the Biebs piece.

KiloTangoBravo@twitter

I know that column comments are not the place to effuse endlessly about the author, but I must insist. You are one of the best writers on the internet. I hope that you publish a book soon. I'd love to read it and have it on my shelves.
Moving on to the column, I know little about Clift, as Brando and Dean captured my interest at a young age, but this piece was intriguing and heartbreaking and now I must know more!
Also, I'd like to ask for a reading recommendation, but I'm not sure where to ask. Might as well be here.
Do you know of any books that are a compilation of old Hollywood gossip columns/columnists? Hedda Hooper, anyone, everyone?

curlysue

@KiloTangoBravo@twitter Agreed! If I had known as a culture studies student in college that one day I'd be reading these columns in awe and jealousy, I totally would have done the whole Phd thing. AHP, you are my hero.

Craftastrophies

I realise this was a two sentence aside in the article but seriously, Katharine Hepburn! BAMF! I love her, can every second SCH be about her, please?

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@Craftastrophies SERIOUSLY. That little aside made my day!

sarah girl

Is this a safe place to say that I only watched "His Girl Friday" for the first time last weekend? And damn, that movie is HILARIOUS.

Valley Girl

This column is sublime as per usual, but as a secret Shia Superfan I'm really catching some extra feelings from this one. Keep your head right, my little side of Beef.

Heather Carr

jesus christ, that was good. crying for monty all over again. thanks. look forward to reading more.

Ross Griff@facebook

"when guys cross their legs like that and are okay with the strip of hairy leg emerging between argyle sock and pant cuff." --that's called "Cleveland Cleavage". It's considered highly erotic in some cultures.

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Beautiful piece, Anne. How tragic that he and his generational friends (like Sal, whose own slow dance towards that sharp knife at a parking lot years later was arguably even more painful) all tortured themselves to the end, while we, the audience, just wanted more, more, more. Perhaps those who've survived, like Paul and Robert and Dennis and Natalie and even Brando (at least until Coppola and Bertolucci briefly resurrected him a while later), were simply lucky, some obviously more than others. What Monty may've understood was that it'd take too long for the 1970s to dawn on the American cinema, and he just couldn't wait, and neither could Jimmy or Marilyn. For these intensely bright, and impossibly beautiful people, the world waiting to devour them at their doorstep was just too appealing an invitation to turn it down. To surrender to it may've felt like a sure way to do away with the torment while fulfilling a vow to never bend to its rule. Their brutal self immolation may've made some sense of what had come before, even if it cost their own lives. I'm sure they knew the price. Thanks for this. W.

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I just found the time to read this now and it was AMAZING. Seriously, these just get better and better. Or maybe I just get more and more invested because each time you get these references to other hollywood celebs whose scandals we've read about now. This one was amazing and I want to make love to his beautiful face (pre and post accident). My god.

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Excellent, excellent work, AHP, as always.

Peter Pettinger, in his actually-pretty-terrible-but-still-definitive-because-it's-the-only-one biography of Bill Evans, made a one-off physical comparison between Evans and Monty Clift. (It is not a comparison worth making, which basically sums that book up.) And Evans's life/death is often called jazz's longest suicide. So I had that in a corner of my mind while I was reading this.

Curiously Pettinger's comparison maps out better this way. Evans was already abusing heroin by the time he was working with Miles Davis, but it got worse after Scott LaFaro died in a car accident in 1961. (LaFaro was actually trying to get Evans to quit at the time.) Obviously this wasn't directly Evans's tragedy and it also didn't even come close to derailing him professionally -- some of his best work dates later than 1962, including the Jim Hall collaborations and the Conversations albums -- but it's a parallel worth drawing, out of one that isn't.

I'm all annoyed again, now, thinking about how much time I wasted reading that book and mourning what used to live in the brain cell I stored that nugget in.

Kowalski

Old ladies tell my husband "You look just like Montgomery Clift", and now.. wow, do I see it. Man, that is creepy!

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Inverness@twitter

Enjoyed the article, but note that he didn't grown up in Nebraska at all, but left, I believe, as an infant. Read Bosworth bio ages ago, but remember that part clearly. So, he was much more of a New Yorker/boarding school product than a midwesterner.

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Clift, his sister, and his younger brother were all given private tutors and educated in French, Italian, and German, but when the money (or energy) ran out and Clift found himself in Omaha high school, he was woefully underprepared. It was still good training: although the aristocratic connection was never proven, Clift would play a number of roles that pivoted on the notions of adoption, posturing, and class aspiration.

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I was 12 when i first watched The Heiress. I feel in love, HARD. I went to the library and read every single book, note, reference about Monty. My fave being The Clash's, Right Profile. I don't know if i would consider him an emo by today's standards tho. There are no standards today that can measure his kind of talent. Reading both his "straight" bio ala Bosworth and "gay" bio ala LaGuardia gives awesome insight... I always wanted to see a biopic on Monty. I would have cast Dermot Mulroney but he's too old now............

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Montgomery Clift was to the big screen screen what a blue rose is to a garden, rare and beautiful. Whether playing a bad boy or a priest, he was, always, believable, and his portrayals deeply poignant, but, in a restrained way that the audience could feel. It's a pity, that, at the height of his film career, Monty was involved in a car accident, which, from that point on, changed the appearance of his hitherto perfect face that led to him having to endure great physical pain and opened the door to him taking painkillers and drinking heavily. It must've been extremely hard for him, emotionally and physically, to go from being the best looking man in Hollywood and, perhaps, the most handsome man ever to grace the big screen, to see his less than perfect facial features in the mirror, day after day, month after month, year after year, post-accident. Hollywood and the world has lost too many great screen icons far too early and far too tragically, including, Monty, Errol Flynn and James Dean. Thankfully, screen legend, Cary Grant, was an exception to that rule and, throughout his life, didn't live hard and fast and took excellent care of himself, hence, his longevity, unlike many of his then and former Hollywood colleagues. Had Monty lived, I think he would've, eventually, won an Oscar. I read, recently, that, Matt Bomer will be playing Monty in a biopic. For me, the best choice to play Montgomery Clift is Mark Harmon. They have very similar facial features and Mark has the acting chops to do that coveted role justice. Speaking of Mark Harmon, I think he would've, had he been given the opportunity, been brilliant as Superman/Clark Kent. Montgomery Clift was one in a million.

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Coupla things. I can't believe you've never seen Stalag 17. Peter Graves? Otto Preminger? Billy WIlder? William Holden!? You're in for a testosterone treat. Number two. This is how great Montgomery Clift was in The Search: Watch him during the highly emotional climax that culminates in his line, "Jim, go over there and walk with the other children." The man is chewing gum for God's sake...and there isn't a dry eye in the house.

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you've never even heard of the film " stalag 17"? for someone who puts themselves out there for knowing a lot about old movies, this is very surprising. i hope you have since seen that film, and realize that william holden was totally worthy of the oscar. i'm a huge clift fan and i do think he got robbed of an oscar for several roles he played, but this one i was fine with. if you haven't seen it, please do, you won't be disappointed. it's one of my favorites.

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It’s almost too much beauty. I’m overwhelmed just looking at stills, and realizing that even those don’t do justice to what these two look like onscreen. Perfection orbiting perfection.

And this film, this film is SO SMOKIN’ HOT-SAD. I describe the plot in full-AHP-detail in the Liz Taylor post from way back when, but what really matters is that A) it established Taylor as a sex siren, and B) added texture to Clift’s image. He wasn’t just a heartthrob, he was a tortured, emotive, working-class heartthrob — an archetype that would become even more salient when Brando tore through A Streetcar Named Desire, released just a month after A Place in the Sun.

His performance in Sun is pure Method: Clift didn’t just hang out in the jail to get a sense of what it would be like, he slept there. And his face at the end of the film, it just ruins me. It ruined Brando too: when both he and Clift were nominated for Best Actor, Brando insisted on voting for Clift. (Even better: Clift insisted on voting for Brando.) Charlie Chaplin, he of faint and sporadic praise, called Sun “the greatest movie made about America.” Shit was hot.

Brando and Clift lost Best Actor to Humphrey Bogart, nominated for The African Queen — just in case you need a reminder that the Academy’s selections are conservative and favor the aging star. Those two virile, angry boys were just too much.

But bygones, because Clift had started a lifelong friendship with Taylor — a relationship that would structure the remainder of his career in ways surprising and tragic. Everyone thought that he and Taylor were totally on each other — rumors that MGM, Taylor’s studio, did little to suppress following the disaster of her marriage to Nicky Hilton.

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