Movie Review – The Misfits (1961)

The Misfits is another one of those great, dramatic films that everyone loves tied to a real life tragedy.  The event in question was the death of star Clark Gable in what would be his last film role – dying before the movie would premiere.  The film also had its fair share of plagues with troubled superstar Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clifts’ demons.  In the end, putting all of that aside, the Misfits turned out to be one hell of a movie.

The show is a western of a sort, taking place in present day about rodeo stars and the elder Clark Gable wanting to settle down, preferably with Ms. Monroe.  Conflict enters the picture though with Monroe having more than one suitor.  I suppose if you had to fight over a girl, one could do worse than she.  But the film is far more complex than that as the humanity of each character came shining through.  Thoughts and feelings are explored with skill and great insight into what makes them tick.  Truly it was a breathtaking exercise in filmmaking and cinema production up until this point.

Montgomery Clift gave one of his understated yet emotionally strong performances as he was always wont to do.  His character was a fractured man, as was Clift in real life and perhaps that was why he chose the roles he did – to show people the real man.  It is just speculation on my part though but for whatever reason, the films he made were terrific.  He did have a hard time during his life in Hollywood, being a gay man – something that did not change for many, many years for many such as him.  In the Misfits, he is brilliant as usual.

As previously mentioned, Gable’s last role was in this film and he turned in a magnificent performance.  He plays the elder statesmen who is young at heart though doesn’t seem to realize that his body does not follow the same line of thinking.  Gable is no Rhett Butler in this film, but his performance is just as strong.  Clark Gable was a true Hollywood star, but most of his movies were not very memorable.  He had a lot of good films, but not a lot of great films.  This was one of the latter.

Monroe at this time in history was nearing the end of her life as everyone knows, and her abuse of her demons was higher than ever.  It caused havoc on the set, much like some of today’s troubled young starlets.  And much like the other stars of the film, she did not have an easy time of it.  But despite all of that, I think that this was perhaps Marilyn’s shining moment.  She stretched acting muscles on this film she never had to do previously and it shone through, in defiance of anything else that was going on.

The Misfits should have failed.  It should have failed more than once and ultimately never been made, but for whatever reasons it was and it is one of the greatest films ever produced.  Exceptionally strong, fascinating and moving, this film stands tall.

5 out of 5

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