Happy Birthday, Monty

One of the greatest actors of his generation, Montgomery Clift – beautiful and broken, the mould of the leading actor would never look the same again:

Before James Dean and (just) before Brando hit the screens, Monty was already smoldering away at the edges of conventional depictions of masculinity with his deeply affecting portrayals delivered in a style of quiet intensity that would visibly shake him and bring out beads of sweat from both his and the viewers brow… (see the scene in A Place in the Sun where the effort, the painful, painful effort of kissing Elizabeth Taylor makes for visible perspiration):


After a horrific car crash (leaving a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s house) that left him disfigured, Monty became increasingly dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs – a condition that spelled ruin for his career when, in 1962, a disgruntled John Huston effectively ended Clift’s career after his unreliable on-set behaviour became too much for Huston to bear. Following Huston’s Freud, Monty never found an insurance company that would be willing to cover him for a film again. He died in 1966, aged just 45.

Recommended viewing:

A Place In The Sun (1951) – directed by George Stevens (East of Eden, Shane), co-starring Elizabeth Taylor and Shelly Winters (Lolita). Clift was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Confessions of an American Wife (1953) – directed by Vittorio de Sica (Bicycle Thieves), co-starring Jennifer Jones (Duel in the Sun).

From Here To Eternity (1953) – directed by Fred Zinnemann (High Noon), co-starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr but Frank Sinatra. Clift was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Suddenly Last Summer (1959) – directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Guys and Dolls), co-starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams.

The Misfits (1961) – directed by John Huston, co-starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Thelma Ritter. This was to be both Marilyn and Clark Gable’s final film.

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) – directed by Stanley Kramer (Inherit the Wind, Defiant Ones) – co-starring Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark and Maximilian Schell. Clift was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Freud (1962)  – directed by John Huston. This was to be Clift’s last film in America – he made only one film after this, before dying in 1966, black-listed by Huston; unable to find an insurance company willing to cover him.

Recent Additions (Films We Should Have Had Before But Didn’t):

Freud (1962)

Montgomery Clift stars as Freud in John Huston’s troubled, but excellent, production which chronicles 5 years in the life of the man who has so much to answer for…

Universal Studios sued Clift for causing the film to go over-budget due to his erratic behaviour brought on by his post-crash drink and drug problems and the screenplay was originally written by Jean-Paul Sartre (a fervant anti-Freudian)but, after a fall-out with Huston, he removed himself (and his name) from the project.

The great Montgomery Clift, the first, and perhaps best, of the ‘new generation’ of actors who explored a fragile masculinity so different from what Hollywood had ever before – or indeed since – seemed comfortable with, was black-listed and made only one more film before his death in 1966.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEhnr_HfbIU

Other Monty Clift films well worth watching:

Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953) Directed by Vittorio de Sica, screenplay by Truman Capote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpTsP-2yvKw

The Misfits (1961) Directed by John Huston, screenplay by Arthur Miller

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EckvMsLsfBM

A Place in the Sun (1951) Directed by George Stevens

– featuring Elizabeth Taylor’s first ever kiss (on-screen and off)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fm6sa_L5_4

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) Directed by Stanley Kramer

– surely one of the most powerful Hollywood films of all time, and with some of the best performances to boot.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwPb8HXvigk