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The Misfits(1961)


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The Misfits (1961)


Roslyn, a newly-divorced showgirl living in Reno, becomes romantically involved with Gay, a ruggedly independent cowboy. Together they move into Gay's isolated ranch house in the desert but their relationship is soon complicated by Gay's business venture with two partners, Guido, a part-time auto mechanic, and Perce, a down-on-his-luck rodeo performer. The three men plan to round up and capture a group of wild mustangs to sell to a dog food manufacturer. Roslyn's opposition to their plan, however, creates a tension within the group that has an unpredictable effect.

Director: John Huston
Producer: Frank E. Taylor
Screenplay: Arthur Miller
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Editing: George Tomasini
Art Direction: Stephen Grimes, William Newberry
Music: Alex North
Cast: Clark Gable (Gay Langland), Marilyn Monroe (Roslyn Taber), Montgomery Clift (Perce Howland), Thelma Ritter (Isabelle Steers), Eli Wallach (Guido), Estelle Winwood (Church Lady), Kevin McCarthy (Raymond Taber), Marietta Tree (Susan)

Why THE MISFITS is Essential

Although it was a financial failure on its initial release, The Misfits has acquired a special glamour as the last film completed by its two stars, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Gable died within weeks of completing the picture, while Monroe died only a year and a half after its release. In addition, Montgomery Clift died five years later. As a result, it is frequently shown in retrospectives and excerpted in documentaries focusing on its stars and has become a television perennial.

The Misfits was a pioneering work in the development of the American Western. It was a more contemporary take on the genre and reflected a bleaker outlook than the simple moral world of the traditional Western. As Miller would write, "Westerns and the West have always been built on a morally balanced world where evil has a recognizable tab -- the black hats -- and evil always loses out in the end. This is that same world, but it's been dragged out of the nineteenth century into today, when the good guy is also part of the problem."

The film's depiction of idealistic losers fits in with director John Huston's key themes, making it an important work in his development as an auteur. In particular it parallels his earlier Western The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and the crime film The Asphalt Jungle (1950), which helped make Monroe a star.

The Misfits was one of the first features packaged by a Hollywood agency. Agent George Chasin represented writer Arthur Miller, Monroe, Gable and producer Frank Taylor.

The Misfits was the first film Huston had shot in the U.S. in over a decade (the previous one was The Red Badge of Courage in 1951), reflecting a deepening in his vision of American life.

by Frank Miller

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The Misfits (1961)

Production stories about the making of The Misfits were published in a 1961 issue of Photoplay as "The Curse of The Misfits." James Goode's production diary, The Story of The Misfits," was published in 1963.

Because of his success in The Misfits, Montgomery Clift won the leading role in director John Huston's next film, Freud (1962). The results were disastrous. The two fell out, partly over Clift's insecurities and partly because he had brought a boyfriend with him for a stay at Huston's Irish estate. After that, Huston browbeat him mercilessly throughout the production.

Huston also wanted to cast Marilyn Monroe in Freud as the patient whose treatment helped the famed psychoanalyst frame his ideas about infant sexuality. Horrified at The Misfits' financial failure, 20th Century-Fox president Spyros Skouras refused to loan her to Huston for the film, and the role went to Susannah York.

Although a critical and box office failure on its initial release, The Misfits has developed a strong following among younger critics and audiences captivated by the glamour of Clark Gable, Monroe and Clift. Genre critics in particular have praised the film as a new take on the Western, with its creation of an insular society of losers (a common theme in Huston's work) brought together by their displacement from contemporary American society.

In 1989, Irvington Publishers printed the screenplay in an anthology also featuring scripts from The Apartment (1960) and Charade (1963).

In a 1993 episode of the science fiction series Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) convinces Monroe to accept her role in The Misfits and even gives the film its title.

The 1996 television movie Norma Jean & Marilyn shows Mira Sorvino, as Monroe, working on the film with Arthur Miller (David Dukes) and Montgomery Clift (Jeffrey Combs).

Clips from The Misfits often turn up in documentaries about Hollywood's golden years, including Montgomery Clift (1983), John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick (1989) and Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome (1996).

PBS' Great Performances series devoted a 2002 episode to "Making The Misfits". Brian Dennehy narrated the documentary, which included interviews with actors Eli Wallach and Kevin McCarthy, photographer Inge Morath (later Mrs. Arthur Miller), production assistant Edward Parone and John Huston's son Tony.

Inge Morath's behind-the-scenes photographs were displayed at the Nevada Museum of Art in 2007 under the heading "Inge Morath: Road to Reno."

Many of Inge Morath's on-the-set photographs from The Misfits as well as the stills from other photographers from the Magnum photographic agency were published in The Misfits by Serge Toubiana for Phaidon Press.

by Frank Miller

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The Misfits (1961)

United Artists sold the film with the taglines "'SMASHING' thru the Excitement Barrier!" and "It shouts and sings with life...explodes with love!"

Because of the many production delays, The Misfits came in at $4.1 million, a very high figure for a black-and-white picture.

At the beginning of production, Marilyn Monroe's entourage consisted of husband Arthur Miller, her press agent, her acting coach, two hairdressers, a make-up man, a seamstress, a body cosmetician, her stand-in, a masseur, a secretary, a wardrobe girl and her personal secretary. Clark Gable, on the other hand, only had one assistant, his friend Lew Smith, who was billed as "dialogue coach."

Monroe's masseur, Ralph Roberts, played a small role as an ambulance driver.

When autograph seekers invaded the film's Reno, Nevada, set, Monroe put on a wig and tried to pass herself off as former 20th Century-Fox rival Mitzi Gaynor.

When Monroe accidentally exposed a breast during a bedroom scene with Clark Gable, she tried to convince director John Huston to print the shot, arguing that it might help sell the picture. She also uttered a surprisingly prophetic comment about censorship: "Gradually they'll let down the censorship -- though probably not in my lifetime."

During a press conference for The Misfits, a reporter asked Monroe what she wore to bed at night. She quipped, "Chanel Number Five!"

While the film was shooting in Nevada, Gable and his wife learned that she was pregnant. She would give birth to his only child, John Clark Gable, after the star's death.

Director John Huston celebrated his 54th birthday during location shooting. Folk singer Burl Ives and comic Mort Sahl flew in to entertain at the party, during which Huston was inducted as an honorary member of the Paiute tribe of Utah.

During filming, Huston took time out to join in a camel race in Virginia City, Nevada. He won, beating famed jockey Billy Pearson, among others.

Huston added another $250 to his $300,000 fee for the film by appearing as an extra in a casino scene.

When a power failure interrupted Huston's gambling at a local hotel one night, he had crew members hook the hotel up to the generators brought in for location shooting.

During one production delay on The Misfits, Gable and Huston took off for a duck hunting trip, but each went to a different location.

The Misfits brought in only $4 million dollars on its initial release. It had cost $4.1 million to make.

Famous Quotes from THE MISFITS

"'Did your husband act toward you with cruelty?'"
"'In what way did this cruelty manifest itself?'"
"'He persistently' -- how does that go again?"
"'He persistently and cruelly ignored my personal wishes and my rights and resorted on several occasions to physical violence against me."
"'He persistently' -- oh, do I have to say that? Why can't I just say, 'He wasn't there?' -- I mean, you could touch him, but he wasn't there." -- Thelma Ritter, as Isabelle Steers, rehearsing Marilyn Monroe, as Roslyn Taber, for the latter's divorce trial.

\"One thing about this town, it's always full of interesting strangers." -- Ritter, as Isabelle Steers.

"Well, what do you do with yourself?"
"Just live."
"How does anyone 'just live?'"
"Well, you start by going to sleep. You get up when you feel like it. You scratch yourself. You fry yourself some eggs. You see what kind of a day it is; throw stones at a can, whistle." -- Monroe, as Rosalyn Taber, getting to know Clark Gable, as Gay Langland.

"You're a real beautiful woman. It's almost kind of an honor sittin' next to ya'. That's my true feelin's, Roslyn." -- Gable, as Gay Langland, to Monroe, as Roslyn.

"What makes you so sad? I think you're the saddest girl I ever met."
"No one ever said that to me before. I'm usually told how happy I am."
"That's because you make a man feel happy." -- Gable, as Langland, sympathizing with Monroe.

"Did you ever think about getting married again?"
"Oh, I think about it; never in daylight." -- Monroe and Gable.

"How come you got such trust in your eyes, like you was just born?" -- Montgomery Clift, as Perce Howland, to Monroe.

"So what I want to know...what I want to know is: who do you depend on?"
"I don't know. Maybe all there really is is just the next thing. The next thing that happens. Maybe you're not supposed to remember anybody's promises." -- Clift, as Perce Howland, and Monroe.

"You have the gift for life, Roslyn. The rest of us, we're just looking for a place to hide and watch it all go by." -- Gable.

"What's eating you?"
"Just my life." -- Gable, digging into the angst of Eli Wallach, as Guido.

"I can't make a landing, and I can't get up to God." -- Wallach as Guido.

"Were all dying, aren't we? We're not teaching each other what we really know, are we?" -- Monroe.

"She wasn't like any other woman. Stood by me 100 percent, uncomplaining as a tree."
"Maybe that's what killed her." -- Wallach, telling Monroe about his late wife.

"Honey, we've all got to go sometime, reason or no reason. Dying's as natural as living; man who's afraid to die is too afraid to live, far as I've ever seen. So there's nothing to do but forget it, that's all. Seems to me." -- Gable, to Monroe.

"Honey, nothing can live unless something dies." -- Gable.

"She's crazy. They're all crazy. You try not to believe that because you need them. She's crazy! You struggle, you build, you try, you turn yourself inside out for them. But it's never enough. So they put the spurs to you. I know, I've got the marks. I know this racket, I just forgot what I knew for a little while." -- Wallach, condemning Monroe and all women.

"Killers! Murderers! You liars! All of you liars! You're only happy when you can see something die! Why don't you kill yourself to be happy! You and your God's country! Freedom! I am not kidding you, you're three sweet damned men!" -- Monroe, railing at the men for selling wild horses for dog food.

"Don't want nobody makin' up my mind for me, that's all. Damn 'em all! They changed it, changed it all around. Smeared it all over with blood. I'm finished with it. It's, it's like, like ropin' a dream now. I just gotta find another way to be alive, that's all. If there is one anymore. Perce, cut that mare loose for me, will ya?" -- Gable, giving in to Monroe's demands on his own terms.

"How do you find your way back in the dark?"

"Just head for that big star. It will take you home." -- Monroe and Gable, at the end of the last film either would complete.

Compiled by Frank Miller

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The Misfits (1961)

The idea for The Misfits originated when playwright Arthur Miller was forced to live in Reno, Nevada, for six weeks to establish residency so he could divorce his first wife, Mary Grace Slattery, and marry Marilyn Monroe. While there, he met a group of modern-day cowboys who supported themselves by catching wild horses to sell to dog food companies. The parallel between the two endangered species -- the cowboys and the horses -- inspired a short story called "The Misfits" that he sold to Esquire Magazine.

Wanting to make a film with new wife Monroe, he expanded the story into what he called a "cinematic novel," focusing on a divorce who had been only a tangential character in the original story. He sent the novelization to director John Huston, who pronounced it "magnificent" and brought Miller to his Irish estate to work on the screenplay.

Monroe and Huston would receive the same fee for The Misfits - $300,000. Huston also got a $50,000 gambling allowance for the location shoot in Nevada.

Miller enlisted his friend Frank Taylor, editorial director of Dell Books, to produce the film.

Taylor and Miller first offered The Misfits to 20th Century-Fox, where Monroe was still under contract. Studio president Spyros Skouras considered it too highbrow but got his cousin, Max Youngstein, to bankroll it through his Seven Arts Productions, then distribute it through United Artists.

Huston's first choice to play aging cowboy Gay Langland was Robert Mitchum, whom he had directed in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957). When he read the script, however, Mitchum didn't understand it at all. Having endured Huston's lack of concern for his actors' comfort or safety on the earlier film, he feared the horse-roping scenes would be more than he wanted to go through. He turned down the role and told his secretary that if Huston called for him, she should "Tell him I died." (Mitchum quoted in Lee Server, Robert Mitchum: "Baby, I Don't Care")

Clark Gable was on vacation in Italy when his agent -- George Chasin, who also represented Miller, Monroe and Taylor -- sent him the script. Although moved by the writing, he didn't really understand it, but he was flattered at being offered such an intellectual script.

Against the advice of his friends, who thought the role too physically demanding and a bad fit for the actor, Gable agreed to do the film. One of his friends suggested the reason he did the movie was the paycheck. At $750,000 and ten percent of the gross, it was more than he had ever been offered for a film. In addition, Gable was planning to make only two more films before retiring, and he wanted one of them to be a great film. He sincerely hoped that The Misfits would be that film.

Gable insisted on some strict provisions in his contract. Not one line of the script could be changed without his approval. He worked a nine-to-five day and if the film went over schedule, he would be paid an additional $48,000 a week.

In interviews after the announcement of his casting, Gable told one reporter that the film was "about people who sell their work, but not their lives."

Gable went on a crash diet to lose 35 pounds before The Misfits's March 3, 1960 start date.

Many who knew of Miller's friendship with Montgomery Clift thought the playwright had written the role of broken-down rodeo rider Perce Howland with the actor in mind. In particular, the character's phone call to his mother, in which he warns her that she won't recognize him after an accident in the rodeo, bore an eerie similarity to the change in the actor's life after a near-fatal auto accident during the shooting of Raintree County (1957) destroyed his famously handsome face.

Clift had some doubts about the script and sent it to his friend, comic actress Nancy Walker, who told him he had to do it. When he started picking the script apart, the two got into a screaming argument. Then he accepted the role.

Gable was leery of the film's New York actors -- Clift, Eli Wallach and Kevin McCarthy -- who were known for their "Method acting." They, in turn, weren't sure what to expect from a legendary movie star like Gable. Taylor's wife, Nan, broke the ice for them by throwing a dinner party for the cast shortly before location shooting started. The New York actors arrived first and made some disparaging comments about their leading man. Then Gable and his wife arrived, deliberately late (the actor was noted for his punctuality). After making a grand entrance, he held court, but also impressed the rest of the cast with his appreciation of the script. He also expressed interest in Clift's working methods. When Clift asked him how he approached a role, Gable replied, "I bring to it everything I have been, everything I am, and everything I hope to be." That won the Method actors over.

As Miller developed his script, he added details from Monroe's past and their lives together. When her character prepares for her divorce hearing, the lines are lifted from the divorce plea she had filed against second husband Joe DiMaggio. To make matters worse, however, the script began to reflect Miller's growing disenchantment with his wife, with scenes and lines that depicted the character's neediness and insecurity. Some of the speeches in which Wallach's character, Guido, criticizes Monroe's Roslyn could have been read as Miller's personal assessment of his wife.

by Frank Miller

Donald Spotto, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography
Lee Server, Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care
Lyn Tournabene, Long Live the King: A Biography of Clark Gable

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The Misfits (1961)

The Misfits shot on location in Nevada. The bar at which the cowboys hung out was the Styx in Reno, where Miller had met the cowboys who inspired the original story. The rodeo scenes were shot in nearby Dayton, a ghost town, and the horse-roping scenes were shot on a dry lake bed in the desert.

The first problem to affect the film was a postponement of the start date from March to July because Marilyn Monroe's earlier film, Let's Make Love (1960), had been delayed by a Screen Actor's Guild strike. This meant the film would be shot in Arizona during the height of summer heat.

Montgomery Clift arrived on location before filming was to begin so he could research his role. While working a rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, he was bruised on the bridge of his nose. It was exactly the type of injury his character was supposed to have in the film.

Because of Monroe's reputation for lateness, director John Huston had her daily call set for 10 a.m. instead of the customary 9 a.m. but often she was even later.

Contributing to Monroe's lateness was Miller's habit of handing her often complicated re-writes the night or morning before a scene was to be shot. The changes threw her into a panic, making it even harder for the actress to sleep.

Monroe wasn't the only production member who had trouble showing up on time. Huston was often late after spending all night gambling. Clark Gable took it all in stride. He was ready when called and simply waited with his script open to the page being shot that day. When someone asked if the lateness upset him, he said, "No, it doesn't drive me mad. Of course it would be better if we did start. But I'm being paid for it, very handsomely."

To his personal friends, Gable confessed that the production delays bothered him a great deal. "It's stealing," he told screenwriter John Lee Mahin. "It's stealing the banks money and United Artists' money."

Monroe was terrified at the thought of working with Clark Gable. As a child growing up in foster homes and with her single mother, she had slept with Gable's picture under her pillow and fantasized that he was her father. The night before their first scene together, she couldn't sleep without a large dose of Nembutal. As a result, she was two hours late getting to the set. When she apologized to Gable, he simply said, "You're not late, honey," and led her aside to talk. Throughout the filming, he treated her with the same courtesy.

Gable was equally solicitous of Montgomery Clift and so impressed with his talents that he showed up to watch him work even when he himself wasn't called for the day.

The one cast member Gable never warmed to was Eli Wallach. They were so uncomfortable with each other that at first they had trouble remembering lines in their scenes together. Eventually, they developed a grudging respect, though each kidded the other relentlessly. Wallach would jokingly ask, "Hey, King, can you lower my taxes?", while Gable once quipped that they were having boiled ham for lunch in Wallach's honor.

When Gable learned that the film's publicist was ready to quit because Monroe kept skipping or showing up late for on-set interviews, he offered to meet with the press while the publicist got her to the interviews. He not only kept the press happy, but his presence made it easier for Monroe to face the reporters.

While the other actors in The Misfits competed to win director John Huston's approval, Gable saw him more as a rival. Both were known for their masculine escapades -- drinking, hunting, womanizing. The older Gable, settled into his fifth marriage, was at times baffled and annoyed at the director's carousing during filming, particularly his habit of losing large sums of money at the gambling tables and bragging about it.

During filming, Monroe's marriage to Arthur Miller fell apart, partly because of disagreements over the script and her feelings of betrayal over how he had written her character. She also felt he had turned Huston against her, leading him to treat her like an idiot. Within a few weeks of the production's start, they were staying in separate suites. They had stopped speaking by August, with Monroe's acting coach, Paula Strasberg, serving as intercessor. In addition, Miller had begun seeing photographer Inge Morath, who was documenting the production and would become his third wife.

Monroe's sole romantic comfort during the first weeks of filming was her affair with Yves Montand, her co-star in Let's Make Love. Whenever she had a weekend break in filming, she would fly to Los Angeles to see her doctors and Montand. When Hedda Hopper printed a column in which he stated that the romance was just his way of guaranteeing the success of their love scenes in the film, Monroe grew more upset. She knew he was just trying to keep the affair from hurting his wife, actress Simone Signoret, but the words still hurt.

As shooting progressed, Monroe became increasingly dependent upon pills. She had prescriptions flown in every other day by her Los Angeles doctors and received additional medication from local doctors. She was taking three times the normal dosage of the sleeping aid Nembutal. The pills left her disoriented, unsteady on her feet and incoherent. They also led to wild mood swings and rashes.

Like Monroe, Clift had a problem with medication as well, having become dependent upon painkillers and other pills after his automobile accident. Many on the film were concerned about his ability to perform the role, particularly since the first scene he was scheduled to shoot was a long telephone scene in which he calls his mother on a pay phone as the other characters --played by Monroe, Gable, Wallach and Thelma Ritter -- watch in the background. Clift described the shot as an "audition in front of the gods and goddesses of the performing arts," but he pulled it off in one take. That was the moment that won Gable over to his side.

The only problem Gable had with Clift occurred while filming a scene driving to the rodeo. In his excitement, Clift hammered on Gable's back, and the King asked him not to do it again, as he had back problems. Even when Gable showed Clift the black and blue marks his blows were causing, it didn't seem to matter. The next time Clift hit him on the back, Gable yelled, "I'm going to hang one on you, you little bastard, if you do that again!" Clift burst into tears.

Huston insisted on using real wild horses for the rodeo scene. The horse Clift had to ride was too wild for the actor, but Huston insisted that he sit on it in the bullpen chute for a close-up. When the horse lost control it threw Clift against the side of the chute, ripping his shirt. That was the take Huston used in the film.

One of the most difficult scenes in The Misfits was a five minute exchange between Monroe and Clift that Huston wanted to shoot in one long take - the longest single take in his entire career. Nobody believed the two actors, notorious for their problems remembering lines, could pull it off. Monroe requested that all strangers be removed from the set beforehand and asked that nobody stand in her line of sight. Each actor was so concerned for the other, however, that they pulled it off in just six tries, giving Huston two perfect takes.

One of Gable's few on-the-set blow-ups occurred during the filming of the horse-roping scenes. When Huston insisted on another take after Gable's stunt double had been injured, the actor walked off the set in disgust.

Gable could have refused to do any of the stunts for The Misfits, but insisted on doing all but the most dangerous shots. He even allowed himself to be dragged behind a truck for 400 feet over the desert floor and chased the truck for repeated takes.

The horse-roping scenes were equally hard for Clift. When the crew forgot to have him put on gloves during the first takes, he had to hold the ropes with his bare hands for the rest of the shoot, leaving his hands raw and bloody.

The Misfits production was shut down in late August when the film exceeded its budget. It took two weeks of meetings with United Artists executives and Los Angeles and New York to get things back on track. Part of the problem was that Huston had exceeded his gambling allowance, so to cover his tracks, he convinced Monroe's doctors to have her hospitalized for her drug problems, even though the production had contributed to them. At least the film's insurance company paid for her treatment.

Location shooting for The Misfits ended in October 1960, after which the crew moved to the Paramount Studios for re-takes.

During the Los Angeles filming, director Henry Hathaway, who had worked with Monroe on Niagara (1953), saw her sobbing outside one of the sound stages. Upset at how the film was turning out, she said, "I just couldn't face having to do another scene with Marilyn Monroe."

On the last day of filming, Miller arrived with five pages of re-writes for an early scene. Gable refused to approve the changes and insisted on a screening of the film the next morning. After The Misfits was finished, he thanked producer Frank Taylor, "I now have two things to be proud of in my career: Gone with the Wind [1939] and this." But he still refused to shoot the new scene.

The Misfits completed filming on November 4, 1960, with a brief re-take of the film's final scene, with Gable and Monroe. The next day, Gable had a heart attack. Eleven days later, he died. Although many felt the physical strain of his role in The Misfits was responsible, Gable's heavy smoking, drinking and grief over the recent death of his friend Ward Bond probably contributed to his early passing as well.

by Frank Miller

Donald Spotto, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography
Lee Server, Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care
Lyn Tournabene, Long Live the King: A Biography of Clark Gable

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teaser The Misfits (1961)

"I have a sense that we are all moving into one of those rareproductions when everything touched becomes alive."
Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller couldn't have been further from the truth when he wrote thosewords during the early days of bringing The Misfits (1961) to the screen.The tortured production -- once a classic flop, now considered a minorclassic -- marked the last completed film for both of its stars, MarilynMonroe and Clark Gable. And the debate continues as to whether the filmled to Gable's death from a heart attack at the still-young age of59.

The Misfits began life as a 1957 short story in which Millercombined his memories of the modern-day cowboys he met while in Reno todivorce his first wife and his feelings about his second wife, Monroe, whoinitially struck him as a pure creature intimately connected to the spiritof life. In search of a project that would allow the newlyweds to worktogether, they pitched a film version to United Artists. They offered thescript to director John Huston, who accepted with a one-word cable,"Magnificent." Huston wanted Robert Mitchum to star as the washed-outcowboy who becomes involved with a sensitive divorcee in Reno and takes heralong on a job to catch wild horses for a dog food company. Unfortunately,Mitchum considered the script incomprehensible and dodged Huston's phonecalls until Clark Gable was cast. When he finally spoke to the director,he warned him about Gable's age and health: "You get him at the end of arope, fighting those horses, and that's going to be the end ofhim."

The damage may have been done before the horses even entered the picture,however. Because of Monroe's commitment to make the musical Let's MakeLove (1960), production couldn't start until July 1960, when the Nevadalocations were baked by temperatures climbing to 120 degrees each day.Delays caused by Monroe's habitual lateness didn't help either. Because ofher sleeping problems, Monroe rarely was called before 11 a.m., and usuallyshowed up later than that. In her defense, however, she also had to stay up intothe small hours trying to learn Miller's many script changes while trying to deal with the effects of her numerous pain and sleeping medications. Though heoften resented her lateness, Gable went out of his way to help her throughthe shoot, enduring retakes while she tried to focus on the lines andpraising her work at every opportunity.

Compounding Monroe's problems was the fact that the film, conceived whileshe and Miller were still in the full flush of first love, was filmed astheir marriage was falling apart. During shooting, she moved out of theirshared hotel room to stay with her acting coach, Paula Strasberg.Moreover, she was heartbroken that a role she had seen as her chance toprove that she could play something other than "Marilyn Monroe" was beingre-written to include embarrassing elements from her personal life,including references to her mother's mental problems and the failure of hermarriage to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Even Gable's castingcontributed to the autobiographical elements of the film. Miller knew shehad idolized "The King" during her childhood, often fantasizing that he washer father.

Huston played his own part in the production problems. He was alreadydeveloping emphysema after decades of heavy smoking, and several days werelost when he was too sick to work. And location shooting in the only U.S.state with legal gambling was a huge mistake for him; he was usually up inthe casinos until five in the morning and kept falling asleep in thedirector's chair during filming. United Artists had given him a gamblingallowance. When his losses exceeded that, he had to shut down productionfor a week to find the money. So he convinced Monroe's psychiatrist anddoctor to put her in a Los Angeles hospital for a week to deal with herdrug dependency, thereby making her bear the blame for the productionshutdown he had caused.

The most grueling scenes in the film were those near the end in which Gableand two other cowboys (Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach) capture wildhorses in the desert and break their leader. Rumors at the time suggestedthat the scenes trying to hold back the lead horse contributed to Gable'sheart problems, but a close study of the film reveals that most of thesewere done through careful cutting. Gable is rarely in the same shot as thehorse. He did, however, have to shoot a scene in which the horse drags himacross the desert floor. He was actually holding a rope attached to atruck, with the camera in the bed. But even though he was heavily padded,he came home from the day's shooting a bloody mess. He tried to lie to hiswife that it had just been an accident, but she knew better, telling him hewas out of his mind.

The film finished shooting with studio work in Hollywood, but Gable wasalready too sick to attend the wrap party on November 4. He suffered aheart attack on the sixth and died ten days later. In a sorrowfulinterview, Monroe wondered if she'd contributed to his ill health, whilegossip columnist Hedda Hopper blamed it on Huston. Few at the time evenconsidered his three-pack-a-day smoking habit or his grief over the deathof good friend Ward Bond just days earlier.

Since Huston had shot in sequence and cut the film as they went along,Gable had already seen his performance before he took ill and felt it washis best acting ever. With his death, United Artists tried to get the filmcompleted in time for the 1960 Academy Awards®, hoping he would snare aposthumous nomination. But when composer Alex North protested that hecouldn't possibly get the picture scored that quickly, Huston had to agree.The release was pushed back to a more reasonable February 1 date, when itfared poorly with critics and audiences. Over time, however, the film hasgained a special luster, particularly when Monroe died two years laterwithout having finished another picture. Today, The Misfits isconsidered a minor classic, with special interest as an example of the lossof traditional values in the modern Western, as one of Huston's trademarkcelebrations of a team of charismatic losers and as the last film from twoof Hollywood's greatest stars.

Producer: Frank E. Taylor
Director: John Huston
Screenplay: Arthur Miller
Based on a Short Story by Miller
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Art Direction: Stephen Grimes, William Newberry
Music: Alex North
Principal Cast: Clark Gable (Gay Langland), Marilyn Monroe (Roslyn Taber),Montgomery Clift (Perce Howland), Thelma Ritter (Isabelle Steers), EliWallach (Guido), Estelle Winwood (Church Lady), Kevin McCarthy (RaymondTaber), Marietta Tree (Susan).
BW-125m. Letterboxed.

by Frank Miller

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The Misfits (1961)


Although both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable had great hopes that their performances in The Misfits would win them dramatic accolades, the film was completely ignored in that year's Oscar® race.

John Huston received a Directors Guild nomination for his work on The Misfits, but lost to Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for West Side Story (1961).

In 1993, The Misfits's depiction of the capture of wild mustangs for sale to dog food companies won it a classic film award in The Fund for Animals' Genesis Awards.


"....Characters and theme do not congeal. There is a lot of absorbing detail in it, but it doesn't add up to a point. Mr. Huston's direction is dynamic, inventive and colorful. Mr. Gable is ironically vital. (He died a few weeks after shooting was done.) Miss Ritter, James Barton and Estelle Winwood are amusing in very minor roles, and Alex North has provided some good theme music. But the picture just doesn't come off."
- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

"A superbly shot anti-Western, constantly dragged down by Arthur Miller's verbose, cloyingly glib script about emotional cripples searching for a meaning to life in the twilight of the American really comes good only in the mustang round-up at the end, an overly symbolic but nevertheless magnificent sequence."
- Tom Milne, TimeOut Film Guide

"The theme with its implications of an essentially male savagery suits Mr. Huston, and he has drawn extraordinary qualities from all his chief players."
- Dilys Powell

"Ill-fated melodrama....pretentious film which seldom stops wallowing in self-pity."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"The Misfits is essentially a life portrait of Marilyn Monroe...but its theme is also a demystification of the great American dreams of success and the West."
- Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films

"The superbly shot sequences of rodeo riding and particularly of the pursuit and roping of wild mustangs were outstanding visual set pieces in contrast to Arthur Miller's copious dialogue and lachrymose philosophy."
- The Oxford Companion to Film

" is not the classic that it should have been....Like many Huston films, this picture contains Hemingway themes and characters; also the distinct European ambiance in the early group scenes is like something out of The Sun Also Rises. Miller's script is overwritten, without being insightful. It's full of gloom and doom; the mustang scene is truly unpleasant to watch....Monroe was having tremendous psychological problems during the filming, so it's amazing what a wonderful performance she gives....I'd like to think that this role comes closest to the real Marilyn Monroe."
- Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic

"The making of this film had more melodrama than the Christmas edition of most soaps but it is, at times, quite beautiful in a very melancholy way. Miller didn't really believe in the happy ending; nor do we."
- The Rough Guide to Cult Movies

"Unsatisfying but engrossing parable....."
- Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide

"At face value, The Misfits, is a robust, high-voltage adventure drama, vibrating with explosively emotional histrionics, conceived and executed with a refreshing disdain for superficial technical and photographic slickness in favor of an uncommonly honest and direct cinematic approach. Within this framework, however, lurks a complex mass of introspective conflicts, symbolic parallels and motivational contradictions, the nuances of which may seriously confound general audiences"
- Variety

"An erratic, sometimes personal in the wrong way, and generally unlucky picture that is often affecting. Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay...about contemporary cowboys -- "misfits" in the film's symbolism -- who hunt down wild horses and sell them to be butchered for dog food. Marilyn Monroe is the lonely, emotionally unstable divorce who is deeply upset by the men's determination to capture the horses. Monroe has never worked her vulnerability so fulsomely before; the film has an uncomfortable element of fake psychodrama -- she's pushy about her own sensitivity....If there is a right tone in which to ply the Miller script, the director, John Huston, doesn't find it."
- Pauline Kael, 5,001 Nights at the Movies

"The Misfits became a landmark after its 1961 release -- but for the wrong reasons. It was the final film that both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable starred in, the latter succumbing to a heart attack aged just 59 only eight days after the shoot ended. The film's already poignant subject - the passing of a way of life - was therefore given a remarkable extra edge of sadness and tragedy."
- Daniel Etherington, Channel 4 Films

"A disturbing but captivating film about modern cowboys who have lost their purpose in a world that has robbed them of the West into which they were born. The Misfits was Gable's and Monroe's last film....Many have called this film a brilliant mood piece of a dying Old West; that doesn't make it a masterpiece, but the ghosts of its cast still haunt one's viewing experience."
- TV Guide

Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

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