on June 21, 2002
It's almost impossible to review this as just a movie, as it is, to movie buffs at least, such a curio piece. As everyone knows, the screenplay, written by Arthur Miller, started out as a tribute to his wife, Marilyn Monroe, but proved to be the death knell for their marriage. Though this looks like a "Western", it is far from it. It is an almost obscene look into the coming together of a group of lost souls who have nothing left to lose. This John Houston film was famously fraught with problems, many related to M.M.'s real life breakdown, and went over budget, and became, at that time, the most expensive black & white film to date, a dubious distinction. That Miller based "Roslyn" on Marilyn is now well known, a portrait at once flattering and brutally honest. If there's any doubt that Roslyn is M.M., watch for the scene when Marilyn opens a locker , in she & Clarks little "love cottage", there are well known glamour pin-ups of the real life Marilyn hung inside, which "Roslyn" refers to as "just some old pictures of me." Also the scene of M.M. & Gable, as they awaken one morning, and she is seen nude from the back, is one Marilyn fought for, wanting her breast, which was visible in the rushes, kept in the final film. This was unheard of at that time, and was cut out of the final print. At the time, M.M. commented: "I love to do things the censors won't pass, after all, what are we here for, just to stand around and let it pass us by?... Gradually, they'll let down the censorship, sadly, probably not in my lifetime ", a prophetic comment from a woman who was ahead of her time. Though she drove John Houston to distraction during the filming, he years later commented: "Marilyn was as fine an actress as any I ever worked with... she just reached down within herself and pulled her own emotions out, it was real." This film , aside from Clark Gable, also stars good M.M. friend Montgomery Clift, another real life misfit, also good M.M. friend Eli Wallach, both fellow alumni of The Actors Studio, and the fabulous Thelma Ritter, who seems to be the only one capable of holding it together. At the films release, during Marilyns now famous scene in the desert, where she lashes out at the brutality of "the men" as they capture a horse for slaughter, apparently many in the theatres laughed out loud at this unacceptable version of their Marilyn, which is very sad. I have always found this scene devestating, and only shows the struggle she had to face, in her attempts to grow as an actress, and not be confined by peoples limited vision of her. Contrary to popular belief, this film was not a total artistic failure, and received many positive reviews at it's opening. The New York Tribune: "Here Miss Monroe is magic but not a living pin-up dangled in skin tight satin, and can anyone deny that in this film, these performers are at their best?" New York Daily News: "Gable has never done anything better on screen, nor has Miss Monroe." The fact that Gable died two weeks after shooting wrapped, and that Marilyn never completed another film, only seals the legend surrounding this films making. In hindsight, it was truly the end of an era. If you want a fascinating read on the making of this film, try and get the long out of print "The Story Of The Misfits", by James Goode. Published in 1963, it's a day by day chronicle of the films making, and, though only a year after M.M.'s tragic death, handles her memory with total respect...the legend had already begun. This sad, but ultimatley hope filled little drama, filmed in the almost lifeless desert, is maybe not for the viewer looking for lots of excitement and action. But if you're a serious viewer who can appreciate brilliantly subtle performances, starring two of filmdoms biggest legends... in a movie steeped in Hollywood folklore, then you'll appreciate this film. How fitting that their final scene has them riding off, heading "for that big star."
This once nearly forgotten movie, the last film of Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe is now coming forward in the lexicon of film history as an underrated gem. Universally misunderstood for the most part at the time it came out it is clear now that this film was at least five of six years ahead of it's time. It fits in more comfortably with films of the late 60's and early 70's.
The screenplay by Miller is one of his most striking works. A story of a group of people lost in the wide expanse of the West in search of the discarded souls of their misspent lives. The film's beautiful cinematography by Russell Metty stands out as superb artistry at the demise of the black and white era. It shimmers with the silver of the deep expanse of the desert and the flat grays and blacks of the distant mountains upon which the last act of the story plays. The music by Alex North is among his best work and gives a savage punch to the aerial scenes and the round up at the end of the wild mustangs.
Montgomery Clift, by now sliding into the last years of his life is touching in his performance of Perce. His broken cowboy with the broken heart is almost painful to watch. His phone call home to his mother is among some of his best work. Eli Wallach gives a strong deeply moving portrait of Guido who has lost his wife, his way, and his humanity. He shines in his scene with Monroe where he asks her to save him. When she can't to at least say "Hello Guido".
Thelma Ritter is, well, Thelma Ritter in yet another of her excellent character roles. Ritter is the master of the one line wisecrack but here as Isobel she laces the cracks with an underlying sadness and vulnerability.
As Gay Langland, Clark Gable gives what I consider to be the best performance of his career. It was a brave move for Gable to take on the role of what on the surface seems another one of his typical macho made to fit parts. But as the story unfolds from Arthur Miller's pen Gay reveals that beneath his gruff, not a care in the world, cowboy is a man in deep pain and despair at his losses. The world has left him behind. Abandoned by his children the drunken Gable breaks so violently it is a shock to watch the great man fall. This is Clark Gable at his finest ever.
Marilyn Monroe gives an astounding performance as Roslyn Tabler the newly divorced dancer. A damaged woman who finds in the company of these three men something to finally believe in, something to stand up and fight for, she finds life. It is a performance ground out in part from her own person and experience and in part by the director John Huston and the editor George Tomasini who helped a nearly destroyed Monroe create her stunning Roslyn. This, her last performance is her best and the true example of the collaborative creation that film really is. That Marilyn under the circumstances of her life at that time could be so good is a testament to her talent as an actress and a star. Watch her when she is listening to the other actors. This is where she shines; this is the true mark of a great screen actor. To be able to listen and draw you into the inner life of the character through that deceptively simple act of listening and reaction is her gift to the audience. Her scene with Monty in back of the bar, sitting on a pile of trash, her afore mentioned scene with Eli Wallach in the speeding car. These are but a few of the examples in this film of her great talent. In the 1950's and early 60's there were only a handful of great young actresses in film, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe where at the summit of the small mountain.
on November 9, 1999
THE MISFITS is a winner.Despite the fact that it failed at the box-office,and dramatic behind-the-scenes conflicts,this film is a good drama movie. The script of this film was written by Monroe`s then-husband,playwright Arthur Miller,as a "valentine" to her following the sad miscarriage of their child.This time,the Godess plays a role you have never seen her play in her earlier pictures.In THE MISFITS,she`s Roslyn Tabor,a divorcé who joins a group of cowboys.Roslyn was based on Marilyn.One of the cowboys is Gay Laughland,played to perfection by Clark Gable.Gay is a free spirited man who lives life by the minute and nothing gets in his way of pleasure.Also in the gang are two men (Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach)who have hidden pains from their past.The Nevada scenery is breathtaking and the musical score by Alex North is very good.Marilyn Monroe fans should know that this film added many elements from Marilyn`s troubled reality such as references about her mother.In the film,Gay helps Roslyn figure out what demons are killing her and what is she running away from.We can see that Monroe did a good job with this film and fully applied the Strasbergian Method to it`s fullest when it came to inner-examination.This film should please any MM fan,and any moviegoer that enjoys a good piece of drama.This was the last film for two movie stars that offered so much to American cinema:the king and queen of Hollywood(Gable and Monroe).
on February 2, 2001
I have always suspected that there was more autobiography in screenwriter Arthur Miller's "gift" to then-wife Marilyn Monroe than even he may have realized at the time. Miller's (typically) depressing assortment of beautiful losers in "The Misfits" is rendered even more poignant by the real-life tragedies unfolding amongst the film's stars (Clark Gable's impending fatal heart attack; Monroe's suicide within a year; and Montgomery Clift's ongoing battles with alcoholism, mental instability and addiction to pain-killers). Morbid as this sounds,these factors probably "helped" Gable, Monroe and Clift to each give some of the most realistic and heartfelt performances of thier careers. Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter (frequently overlooked for thier contributions to the movie) give equally skilled performances. A bit "stagey" at times, understandable with Miller's theater background. The irony of the movie's final shot, with Gable and Monroe gazing heavenward as they drive toward "that brightest star", is almost unbearably saddening, yet such a perfect swan song for two fine screen actors in (literally) thier final film scene. One of director John Huston's more absorbing dramas.
on October 24, 2001
This is an interesting film, as it seems to be the eulogy of three Hollywood institutions: the Western, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. It is facinating to watch because both Gable and Monroe would die before completing another film project. There is also interest in the film because of the infamous delays and problems that plagued the film.
Under the gauze of all this mess, is a little film, that in itself is brilliantly acted, well directed, but not very well-written.
Arthur Miller is the nation's greatest playwrite, but he made a major misstep in this, a valentine to his then-wife, Monroe. However, he writes for her a part, that is distressingly like every other part she played (with the exception of Sugar Kane in "Some Like It Hot"), a dumb blonde. The difference is that instead of exaggerating her winsome and appealing qualities, like "How to Marry a Millionaire" or "Seven Year Itch," did, it magnified her vices (her propensity for self-pity, her inability to articulate herself) and projected on the screen another version of the cartoon dumb blonde--only this one isn't much fun to watch. That she handles the role and gives the performance she did is a wonder--it does prove that she was just as musch an "Artist" as Miller, maybe more.
Gable, in his best performance, plays a variation on Miller, and does it well--he like Monroe uses pathos (although his character is better written than hers).
The film deals with cowboys befriending a listless divorcee, before a round-up of some mustangs. The film is well directed, with great emphasis on the scenery. However, the film's tone is pallid and static, and you feel as if you want to push the characters along as they stand around, feeling sorry for themselves, while spouting the ponderous dialogue.
Montgomery Clift also gives an excellent performance, although he, like the film and the rest of the cast, is overshadowed by the nuclear-like star-power combo of Gable and Monroe. Thelma Ritter offers another of her reliable performances, and Eli Wallach does a solid job as well.
THis is essentially a "Method" movie, with Monroe, Wallach and Clift all being actors trained at Strasburg's Actor's Studio. The acting is better than the script (like every other Monroe picture), but still seing the two most important figures of American film together for their final scenes is still worth watching.
on October 9, 2002
Director John Huston had the vision, and his images were taunt, stark, choked in white dust, and bathed in high desert darkness. Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay, possibly as a birthday present for his wife, Marilyn Monroe; a panegyric valentine to salve the pain of her recent miscarriage. Regardless, Miller wrote a powerful tale, something trancendent. He was out to slay the myth of the macho western; creating three male characters named Gay, Guido, and Percy; men that bonded, and held their fears at arm's length. These men feared commitment, and they cherished their freedom at the sacrifice of everything and everyone in their wake.
In its day, this movie was the most expensive black-and-white film ever produced. Critics praised it and panned it equally, but all of them secretly viewed it countless times. It grows on you; like loving a plain woman. It becomes more beautiful, significant, and sensitive as you get to know it. It is multi-layered, and it was packaged magnificently. Russell Metty's cinematography was brilliant B&W; reminescent of the best of James Wong Howe. Alex North's score was colorful, touching our emotional core like the fluttering of angel's wings one moment, and then jolting us with a bombastic jazzy penetrating throb the next.
The cast has been called," Miller's beautiful losers ", and " Huston's heart attack ", and they were both of those things. Clark Gable gave a magnificent performance; sun-creased, visceral, raw, and unfettered. He played Gay, a malcontent that preyed on divorcees and wild mustangs, always looking for that free ride, and expending his entire supply of virility and youth in the process. It is fitting that this performance was the capstone for is career, because with this role he shared secret parts of his persona that previously had been unexplored.
Much has been written about Marilyn Monroe's performance. Her dramatic work in BUS STOP, and NIAGARA touched on her potential, but only in this film did she give an indication of her true range. Yet, sadly, it showcased her limitations as an actress as well. The role was written for her, and it fit her like a tight dress. Her " You are only happy when you can watch something die." monologue was bravuro, but forced. She could have used a few more classes at the Actor's Studio. MM's character, Roselyn was beautiful, vulnerable, lost, fragile, yet manipulative....all qualities MM could play in her sleep; but she was also geniune, sweet, loving, and real in a way we had never seen before. The chemistry between herself and Gable was a slow burn, but just rewatch the scene in the morning in Guido's house, observe the smooth sexuality and geniuneness of emotion. MM showed a naked breast in that scene. The censors snipped it, but Huston had filmed it. America was not ready for nudity in 1961, but Marilyn Monroe was.
Eli Wallach was a clenched fist as Guido, the tow truck driver, and sometimes pilot. It broke our hearts to watch his ragged yearnings, and to realize that he would never get the girl, and he would never finish building his house. Thelma Ritter was all wisecrack and wit, and deserved her oscar for her supporting role. She was a nice juxtaposition to MM's ice angel. James Barton was a wonderful drunk in the bar scene. Gable should have paid more attention to him. A later scene in which Gable is supposed to be enebriated, calling for his children, is the one false note in his performance.
Montgomery Clift as Perce, was one of the walking wounded, banged-up; a bruised soul. Much has been noted about his mental state during the filming, and his medical issues; but somehow Clift made it work for his character. The scene where he lies his head in Roselyn's lap is very touching. His effeminate weakness splashed hard up against the worn leather of Gable's face, and the raw power of Wallach's passion. It was the perfect counterpoint.
Nevada's high desert landscape was treated like another character, and filmed like one. We are haunted by images of the horse hunt. A creaky biplane herding them down out of the canyons, and pushing them out onto the salt flats, where the men and ropes waited. Short stocky spirited mustangs, desert horses, galloping hard, breathing their last few gasps of freedom before the men captured them, tied them down to old truck tires; preparing them for their final journey to the slaughter house, ending up as food for poodles and bull dogs.
The metaphors and symbols intertwine, men and mustangs, freedom, isolation, lonliness, and desperation. But the sadness permeating the characters within the story, was beautifully balanced out with the gentle stirrings of love. That slim chance that Gay and Roselyn will have a healthy relationship. We want it to happen. We hope it will happen, even though we fear that these character might backslide and pull apart. The fade out is very upbeat; a warm breath expelled with heads tilted up, still searching for truth amongst the stars of a clear desert night sky.
"The Misfits" was an unusual film for 1961. It has an all-star cast, an all-star director and a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. It would be rather arrogant to suggest that the movie was ahead of its' time but its' hard to escape that feeling. I saw it as a young man many years ago and, frankly, I couldn't appreciate it then. I saw it recently and was impressed by what I saw. This is a brilliantly written, acted, and directed movie about individualists in a world oriented towards conformity.
There are a number of great scenes in the movie including one in which Marilyn Monroe is playing the child's game of paddle ball in a bar. It's a cinema classic. The scene where Clark Gable and company capture and supposedly break a wild mustang is the allegory of the whole movie. Untameable individuals seek to break untameable horses. It was a real Donnybrook (and supposedly hastened Gable's early death) with an exhausted Gable seemingly the victor. Marilyn Monroe perhaps saw the irony of the situation (or else reacted over femininely to an overly masculine act) and counter-reacts to the situation. The zenith is followed by the nadir and we are left with the idea that more than one stallion has been broken.
This was the last movie for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe (and, I think, for Montgomery Clift as well). People are still mourning the passing of MM but it is Gable that I think of when I think of "The Misfits". Anyone who views any combination of Post WWII Gable movies has to realize that the man was a star in name only. You can blame a lot on the Studio control of what movies he was to star in. However, his acting was largely uninspired. His romantic scenes were robotic and he seemed to wear a constant scowl. His last hurrah was "The Misfits" and he certainly made the most of it. His exuberance, so long missing in action, was back with a vengeance. What his career might have looked like with more misfits like this is tempting to contemplate. Better, though, to just say, "What a way to go!"
on March 2, 2002
Don't watch this movie looking to brighten your day, this is not a feel good movie. But, it is worth the watch. Marilyn was without a doubt a beautiful woman but she is absolutly luminous in this movie. I don't know if it is because it is black & white but she looks so real. I think this movie touches so close to the soul of her it can be painful to watch. Every one gives an outstanding performance (did Thelma Ritter ever give a bad one). Clark Gable had come a long way from his days as a contract player at MGM. He more than holds his own with Montgomery Clift & Eli Wallach "the method actors" He was after all the "King" (that was before Elvis). If you look at Montgomery Cliff's eyes you can see his pain. Maybe that is what sums up this movie and what makes it so intriging because you aren't quite sure what is real and what is fiction because the two are so intertwined. It wasn't very successful when it was first released in 1961 I think because audiences at that time did not want to see this much reality at least not from Gable & Monroe.
on January 14, 2005
I first saw this movie many years ago when I was in high school. I came into the movie about 20 minutes from its beginning, and that was a mistake. To understand and appreciate The Misfits, you must see it from the beginning with as few diversions as possible while watching. In my teenage years, I wasn't prepared to see a movie such as this, a movie to make me think as this has now done.
So if you are looking for a movie to entertain you, something really light, this may not be for you. On the other hand, if you want something of depth/intensity/masterful performances (something to lead your mind off in many directions)--this may be a good movie choice.
The actors and actresses gave incredible performances. With all the intensity of the themes running through the movie, Thelma Ritter adds a light and humorous touch to what would otherwise have been a very dark production. At the end of the movie, you may come to the same conclusion as I--we are all in some way misfits.
I highly recommend it...
on June 3, 2006
Gable and Monroe save their best performances for last in this heartbreaking, often brutal drama expertly written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston. Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach should be duly noted for their stunning supportive perfomances and Montgomery Clift delivers another pitch-perfect turn, this time as Percy the rodeo rider.
I only lost the "1 star" rating because this wonderful film, so rich in its background history, certainly is entitled to some background/additional features or commentary track. It is a marvelous print of this American tragedy classic and certainly worthy of some easy-to-acquire extras.
Regardless, THE MISFITS, is definitely one for your library of great films.