The Misfits (1961)


The Misfits (1961)In what was to be the last film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe sees them acting their socks off in The Misfits (1961) as if they were fresh out of stage-school. Giving all they had to these two raw parts. Along with Montgomery Clift as he was nearing the end of his career and tragic life.

The wild that is America has been tamed, the cowboy is a dying breed in the form of Gay Langland (Gable), his buddies Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift) and Guido (Eli Wallach) as they fight against the inevitable change that modern life has brought. They have become relics of an old way of life and genre that has become dated. Not wanting to become part of the rat race that draws a wage of salary, tied down to a certain way of life that tears them away from being in the open. It’s a sad state of circumstance for these men.

When newly divorced Roslyn Taber (Marilyn Monroe) who herself is adapting to a life of freedom after a waste of a marriage that saw only two years of life. A woman who is so pure that is really unaware of modern life around her, unlike her male friends who have watched it changed over time. A vulnerable woman who lets life take her from place to place, a free spirit. Probably the only film that allowed her to show her full potential as an actress in her short and tragic career. John Huston still used her as an attractive young woman, which was more subtle, and at time reinforced and corrected. Even the pretty have their problems and should be depicted that way.

The Misfits (1961) has all the trappings of a western in a modern context, with a realization that the genre in its present form may longer have no more steam. It has to change, as the characters in this film are all forced to do so. Made fully aware as they round-up 6 stallions in a gruesome collection of sequences that see them each having to reconsider the directions their lives are headed. They fight themselves to decide what they all want out of life.

Full of rich conversation that comments of the changing world. Nevada being a barren landscape that allows you to run free, whilst at the same time be used as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. Americas backyard in essence. With little life in the state is a reminder of the vast open spaces that have been lost to change.

Clift  gives us another sensitive man to enjoy, who pushes the limits of what he can do to feel alive and forget his problems. With the catalyst of Monroe’s Taber who makes him realize what is going on. With a passion for life and animal rights that are coming through. Even protesting to Langland who wants to shoot a rabbit, which a decade before would be unquestioned as part of pest control and farming techniques that were essential during the pioneer days.

I cannot comment on the supporting cast of Thelma Ritter‘s Isabelle Steers being much older than her female friend has  seen all these changes happen, accepting them as a fact of life. Whilst the veteran pilot Guido is trapped in the past with his friends, knowing he has killed countless people without seeing one of them. A victim of warfare that has not fully adjusted to civilian life.

Returning last but not least to the performance of his career put in by Gable a man who stuck in his ways, the ways of the past, who has been at the for front on the changes to farming. Falling for Monroe which for a time seems creepy, but I learnt to accept the relationship as two lost souls who love different aspects of each other. Monroe is not willing to really understand his life, which for him is too late to change.

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  1. Pingback: Professor Neil Campbell (Discussion 22/3/12) | timneath

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