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.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Misfits and those Sixties dramas

Nice to see THE MISFITS back in selected cinemas again, with a new poster (well, at the BFI Southbank in a new restoration extended run as part of their Monroe season) with interesting reviews in the papers, it seems Huston's 1961 drama (often seen as too melancholy and downbeat for some - lacking the savage humour of Tennessee's NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, another Huston hit - or Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?) so now THE MISFITS has been re-evaluated and appreciated, with its star power as potent as ever and its certainly a key Huston film.
 "Monroe and Clift are both truly remarkable, especially together" says The Daily Telegraph, at:

Against the odds a highly erratic Marilyn Monroe gives an extraordinary performance in John Huston's elegaic film  of Arthur Miller's script, conveying her character's great empathy with the cowboys (Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift) out of kilter with a modern, wages-based world, and her identification with the wild mustangs they're plannng to kill for petfood. Gable and Clift are also exceptional (as is Eli Wallach as the resentful car mechanic Guido) in roles that celebrate and subvert their screen images. 
I was obsessed about THE MISFITS for a long time, back in my twenties when back in that pre-video age before we could own copies of favourite films, I could never miss a screening. Apart from the cast, it has maybe the most perfect black and white photography, as lensed by Russell Metty (who did TOUCH OF EVIL among others) . It was a very difficult shoot, with all the world press covering it - including Magnum's Eve Arnold, who knew Monroe and later published her book on the film and its making - Eve Arnold label. I was a kid at the time and remember all the press coverage.  Like EAST OF EDEN, PLEIN SOLEIL or the later BLOW-UP, it was a film that just spoke to me .... particularly as the Monroe mythology took off in the early '60s. 
Gable seems sadly aged here, after his previous one IT STARTED IN NAPLES where he looks fine with Sophia Loren (over 30 years younger than him), Clift is of course marvellous as usual, after his great WILD RIVER with Kazan, and before going back to Huston for the questionable FREUD, Wallach (who lived on to 98, it was fascinating seeing him as a wizened old man) scores as the bitter, resentful Guido using the death of his wife to try to score with Marilyn's Roslyn, while Thelma Ritter is bliss as the Reno landlady used to the ways of those cowboys. As in ALL ABOUT EVE (which of course Marilyn was also in as Miss Caswell) she vanishes from the film too soon.

Thats another fascinating thing about THE MISFITS - its a mere ten years from those bit parts in Huston's THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and Mank's ALL ABOUT EVE in 1950 to her final completed role here, filmed in 1960, as Miller's heroine. She has some great moments here, hugging the tree or relating to the dog, and just with Gable and that marvellous ending with them in the car .... its a very affecting moment. (She did though look marvellous in the uncompleted SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, back with Fox and Cukor). 
The scenes with the horses too are perfectly done and perfectly Huston. 

It is of course a great early Sixties black and white drama, along with other favourites like ALL FALL DOWN, DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES Demy's BAY OF ANGELS, Malle's LE FEU FOLLET, Losey's THE SERVANT, Huston's NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, Nichols' WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? etc. Sixties dramas, we love them. 
More on THE MISFITS at label.  
Coming up (before my 1,500th post): A STAR IS BORN and those Fifties dramas / REBECCA at 75 / A new MR RIPLEY at 60 / Bette Davis / Flora Robson / Diana Dors / Dorothy McGuire - the perfect mother / British B-movies continued / and back to Marcello, Romy, Catherine, Dirk, Antonioni, Lee Remick  et al ...


  1. Misfits certainly did usher in a new era of somber B&W dramas, as you have noted...starring a girl who we thought was pure Technicolor (though she was comedically Chaplinesque in the B&W Some Like It Hot)...

    The Misfits is one of my all-time favorite films, but you have to be in a certain mood to enjoy its relentlessly dark and downbeat soulfulness. Poor Mr. Miller was obviously in need of an antidepressant while writing this, but his dolefulness is so brilliantly poetic. Everyone shines in this...some of Monty's and Gable's best moments on film, as well as Monroe's.

    Thanks for the shout-out to the formidable and marvelous Thelma Ritter, who is rarely afforded such a meaty supporting role. I agree that she is underused in films like All About Eve and Pillow Talk...probably because she was a brilliant scene-stealer 9without even trying).