Classic Movie Watchlist 2018

Classic Movie Of The Week: The Misfits (1961)

misfits poster

Starring: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach

Director:  John Huston

In Reno, Nevada, Roslyn Tabor (Monroe) gets a quickie divorce from her husband, and heads to a bar with her friend (Ritter). There she falls in with a ragtag bunch, an aging cowboy Gay (Gable) and his friends. As they spend more time together, Roslyn falls for Gay, but he’s reluctant to settle down. When the men make a plan to catch mustangs, Roslyn realises the cruelty of the mens desperate lives.

The Misfits was the last film that Monroe ever completed (she was working on another film when she tragically died and it could not be completed). At the time, she had only been married to Arthur Miller for a fairly short time, but their marriage was already troubled. (He met his next wife on the set of this film, and may have started an affair with her right under Monroe’s nose!) He wrote the script for this film for her, and the film is, in a lot of ways, about her, their relationship, and their lives. Monroe was very troubled on the set, her failing marriage, health and drug related problems plagued her, and she held up production several times. Shortly after the film, Clark Gable died, and his wife blamed Monroe for putting him under a lot of stress on the shoot.

It’s one of Monroe’s most mature and developed performances, where she gets the chance to create a more nuanced and complex character. It’s sad to think it was her last film, as it seems to presage a career that might have taken on new dimensions. The film itself was much anticipated, with his masterful director John Huston, and big stars Gable and Clift. It felt like a sure fire hit, but didn’t do well at the box office, though time has branded it a classic.

In a way, it’s an anti-western in cowboy clothing. The 60’s were a new era. Where the aging cowboy heads out into the wilderness to catch the mustang, a symbol of freedom, he finds it’s no longer a viable career and rather than making him feel heroic, he feels like a bully. The title Misfits is an apt one. They no longer belong. Roslyn herself, with her lack of finesse, her divorcee status, and her empathy for animals, cannot survive the cruel realities of the world. It’s a films that’s a little heartbreaking and emotional. Life crushes Roslyn like a fragile butterfly. But Gay’s toughness also hides vulnerability.

There are a lot of layers to this film, and it has wonderful performers in it’s central characters. Both Monroe’s and Gable’s last film, it’s moving and beautiful, and well worth watching.

See It If: you’re a Monroe, Gable or Clift fan, it’s a film that has more depth than a lot of 60’s fare and is a very fine film

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