Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A moody, sensitive young man

Marilyn Monroe called him, "The only person I know who is in even worse shape than I am." He was nominated for three Best Actor Academy Awards and one for Best Supporting Actor. He was James Dean's idol - Dean used to call him just to hear his voice. The Clash recorded a song about his sad later years. He was stunningly handsome. The New York Times noted that he was known for his portrayals of "moody, sensitive young men". His mother raised him as though he were an aristocrat, partially home schooled, and educated in French, German and Italian. Today is the birthday of another Stevil fave, Montgomery Clift. His is a hell of a story.

One of the foremost actors of his day, with a penchant for re-writing the scripts of movies in which he appeared, Clift was disfigured in an horrible automobile accident. He was patched back together, but he never really recovered. His health suffered, and he became addicted to pain killers and alcohol. During his last years people thought he was often drunk or drugged, but an autopsy showed that he had a thyroid condition which would make him appear so while cold sober. He was only 45 years old when he died. But he lives on as George Eastman in A Place in the Sun, as Morris Townsend in The Heiress, as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt in From Here to Eternity, and in roles in projects as diverse as The Search, Red River, The Misfits, and Judgement at Nuremberg among others. His performances have given me a great deal of pleasure over the years, and I just want to wish him a Happy Birthday.

From the opening sequence of A Place in the Sun
With Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun

Both of them were just so damned beautiful to look at (sigh).

Near the beginning of his film career, in Red River
After the accident, in The Misfits

Happy Birthday, Monty.


Austan said...

Ya know, I never found him handsome. He was a terrific actor. And such a loss- imagine what an old man actor he would have been!

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

He's one of those actors who doesn't look as handsome in still photos as he does in the movies. I was truly taken aback when I first saw "A Place in the Sun" on a big screen - Clift just had something from the first moment you saw him in that movie. Maybe it's charisma, or something that projected when he was acting. I've never gotten over Liz Taylor drawing him close while saying,"Come to Mama."

It would have been interesting to see both Clift's and James Dean’s performances as they grew older. I was going to mention (but forgot) that the part William Holden played in “Sunset Blvd” was written for Clift, who turned it down because he thought it was too close to his own persona.