Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Misfits (1961)

“Honey, we all got to go sometime, reason or no reason. Dyin's as natural as livin'. The man who's too afraid to die is too afraid to live.”  

            If you have ever heard of The Misfits it is probably because it is surrounded by so much legend and for a very morbid reason. This was the last film for Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Gable died of heart attack before the film was released and Monroe died a year later. Montgomery Cliff had been in his disfiguring car accident five years previous and I have to say I barely even noticed him in his first scene. Cliff would die only five years after the film was released. Yeah, so death and doom just lingers around The Misfits.
            The film starts out with a woman named Roslyn Taber (Monroe) getting a divorce in Reno. She helped out by her friend Isabelle (Thelma Ritter) who gets her to the courthouse on time and tries to cheer her up later on with a drink. While getting a drink the two women meet an old cowboy named Gay Langland (Gable) and his friend Guido (Eli Wallach). Roslyn has nowhere to go so she and Isabelle go out to Guido’s unfinished house for some fun.
            Gay and Guido offer Roslyn a place to stay since she has nowhere else to in life. She stays and lives with the two men. One day Gay and Guido decide to go looking for some mustangs out in the Nevada desert to sell. They gain the help of a horse and bull rider named Perce (Cliff) who works in a traveling rodeo.
            They all have a good time together no matter how tortured and lost they are all in their own ways. Out in the desert things begin to fall apart for the four lost souls when they go out wrangling mustangs known as misfits.
            I had a hard time getting into the story and understanding it as I was watching it but after researching it a bit I understand the characters better and what the story was saying. Arthur Miller, who was once married to Monroe, wrote the film while out in Reno waiting for his divorce from the actress. It is sad to see what is a mix of truth and fiction about Monroe and what was going through Miller’s mindset at the time. All the characters are misfits of society with sad and tragic happenings in their lives to make them the way they are: Monroe is a divorced, sad, lonely, and emotional woman; Gable is an old cowboy who has not gone out with the old ways of his kind; Perce has lost out on his inheritance his father has left him when his mother remarried and is left wandering around as a rodeo entertainer; Guido lost his wife who he knew since they were both seven and fought as a fighter pilot in the war. The three men make life a little bit harder for Roslyn as they try to win her love. At the end their chasing comes to a head with Roslyn already very emotional.
            Every one of the actors gives such amazing performances. I am not a huge of Marilyn Monroe she really does nothing for me if I ever sit through a film of hers. I actually really liked Monroe she was so good. It is sad to see her in this film not only because it is her last film but because she gave so much to this role and really knocked it out and this is what we could have seen more from her had she lived. There was one scene in the desert where Roslyn runs away from the men out in the desert and just yells and screams. Monroe was fabulous in the scene to me there are no words to describe it as well as it can be it just needs to be seen. This has to be my favorite Clark Gable role I have seen of his so far. He was the tough guy but had a heart and really cared for Roslyn. His best scene in a film is when Gay sees his kids after not having seen them in a year he had gone out to get Roslyn so she could meet his kids. When they walk back into the bar his kids are gone. Drunk and out of control he gets angry and yells and falls all over the place. Again, no words to describe how amazing the scene was. I barely even recognized Montgomery Cliff when he first shown he just looked so much different. He was good too but I cannot understand why he was third billed when Eli Wallach was in it more than him. Wallach I have never seen him in a film before this and I found him very good.

            John Huston was an amazing director. The entire film was just shot beautifully.  He brilliantly captured the desert surrounding the characters when they were out there.
            The Misfits is a beautiful film. I will admit, like I said, I did not understand it until I researched it and before that I did not really know what to think of the story and the characters. Now looking back at it everything about The Misfits is great. There is a wonderful mix of beauty and sadness in The Misfits. Do not just watch the film as the last film for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe and all the doom and death that surrounds it looking at it that way will only be a distraction. Look at the characters and really pay attention to them as lost, wandering people. The Misfits is a film that should be seen by all movie lovers no matter what era/eras you enjoy, it is a cinematic gem.