Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A movie I loved: The Misfits

Let's go back to the early '60s, that great era of black and white pictures and intense dramas (DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, THE MIRACLE WORKER, ALL FALL DOWN, LOLITA etc) - few generated such interest as the shoot for THE MISFITS in Reno, Nevada back in 1960, I would have been 14 and remember reading various location reports, it seemed like every journalist and magazine was covering it. The film when it appeared in 1961 seemed too downbeat to be a popular success - maybe it was not what was expected from a Marilyn Monroe film, and Gable looking old at 59 had just died; then with Monroe's death in '62 and Clift's in '66, by the end of the '60s onwards the film was a ghostly elegy for a vanished Hollywood era. Its been marvellous though seeing Wallach now still acting in his 90s.

Marilyn and Clift on location:
But since then this John Huston production took on a life of its own, as that Monroe cult took root and grew as the '60s progressed. We had to have those early MM books picturing her as a tortured genius or damaged goddess, like "Marilyn The Tragic Venus" (I liked the red cover), or Fred Guiles "Norma Jean" with that silver Cecil Beaton shot on the cover, and of course "The Films of Marilyn Monroe", and all the other books focusing on her 20th Century Fox period, Marilyn in New York, every photograher of the time seemed to have their own collection of Marilyn photos (Bob Willoughby, Sam Shaw etc and those terrific pictures by Milton Greene, and Cecil Beaton - and of course Eve Arnold of Magnum who covered the making of THE MISFITS and knew Marilyn and had taken some great shots of her, as featured in several of Arnold's books [right]. Then of course came the sensational Norman Mailer volume in 1973 highlighting those late great photo sessions by George Barris and Bert Stern, cementing Marilyn's legend. Throughout all this THE MISFITS was the movie MM buffs had to keep returning to, watching it every time it screened on televsion or at a revival house, in that pre-video age. (The later books of course sought to portray her as a murder victim, we got the morgue shot, finally Spoto's tome seemed to portray what really happened....)

I over-dosed on it myself, and knew every frame of it so well, this odd, haunting tale of lost people trying to connect in that divorce town Reno - Roslyn Taber awaiting her divorce, a lost soul, rooming at Thelma Ritter's (who has some lovely moments here), Gable as Gay Langland the ageing cowboy, Perce the rootless rodeo player (Montgomery Clift), Guido (Eli Wallach) resentful that his wife died and his uncompleted house, he also desires Roslyn as she and Gay drift together. Those moments like Roslyn hugging the tree in the moonlight, and the party at Guido's unfinished house. Then (what must have attracted Huston to the concept) the scenes of hunting the wild horses which will be used for dogfood, and Roslyn's disgust and making the men face up to themselves. Then we are so involved as the horses are freed and Gay and Roslyn drive home - that fadeout for two of Hollywood's greats... it got me every time, so much so that once when I and my then partner were going away for the weekend in a motor caravan and the BBC was screening THE MISFITS I had to take a portable televison with me, to watch it once again. Russell Metty's photography, particularly the climactic scenes with the horses, is so brilliant, and of course Arthur Miller's screenplay. Stories from the location became legend, the breakdown of the Miller-Monroe marriage, her trouble getting to the set, and so on.
I used to have this quad poster framed on my wall back in the 70s and 80s, and still have the poster now.

Over the years one's fascination with THE MISFITS waned, as one returned to Marilyn the comedienne and those Fox movies like NIAGRA, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE and I particularly like how she looked and sang in those 2 1954 films where she glows and which cemented her stardom: THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS and RIVER OF NO RETURN. After THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH and BUS STOP there was that new Marilyn who never looked lovelier (as shot by Jack Cardiff) in THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, and then the legendardy shoot for SOME LIKE IT HOT (still only the best comedy ever) and then her return to Fox for the damp squib of LET'S MAKE LOVE and that new look early '60s Marilyn for SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE - as per other posts on her at the Marilyn link. We will always though have THE MISFITS, even if I don't need to see it again. It is a key Huston film too of couse, fitting in with that great run he had in the late '50s/early '60s: HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON, THE UNFORGIVEN, THE MISFITS and NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. And now we have Michelle Williams' take on Marilyn in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, where it seems she is capturing the essence of MM ?

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