Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gratuitous Brunette: Montgomery Clift

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After a decade spent distinguishing himself on the Broadway stage, Montgomery Clift - who was born on this day in 1920 - arrived in Hollywood in 1948 only to distinguish himself there too; his debut in Red River brought a new credibility to Westerns, the acting in which hadn't generally involved any psychological depth up to that point.

Clift's career prior to 1956 combined his angelic looks, massive talent, and inner turmoil to guarantee box-office gold; opposite 19 year-old Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) they fairly light up the screen, and in From Here to Eternity (1953) he added his considerable skill to what was already a powerhouse ensemble.

It was in May of that year, however, during principal photography for the antebellum epic Raintree County, that Clift was involved in a car accident which left him in chronic pain, his looks shattered... Before long they were calling his 'the longest suicide in Hollywood', as he added addiction upon addiction; while co-starring in The Misfits (1961) with Marilyn Monroe, she was quoted as saying that he was 'the only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.' Yikes!

Well, for what it's worth he managed to outlive her by four years, finally dying in July 1966. Ever since, armchair psychologists have attempted to understand Clift's torment, and most have put it down to his sexuality. Although he had always had affairs with both women and men, those who knew him best (like Taylor) felt that if he could have just found a nice man and settled down, he might have had at least a chance to be happy.

Just his luck, then, to be trapped in Hollywood, where nice men are said to be in as short a supply as quiet lives...
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