The Misfits (1961) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Roslyn Taber, the type of woman who turns heads easily, recently came to Reno to get a quickie divorce, she having no idea what to do with her life after that. She cannot tolerate seeing animal suffering, let alone human suffering. Coinciding with getting the divorce, Roslyn meets friends Gay Langland and Guido, a divorced aging grizzled cowboy and a widowed mechanic respectively. Although Guido makes no bones about wanting to get to know Roslyn in the biblical sense and although he "saw her first", Roslyn begins a relationship with Gay, despite Roslyn's friend Izzy Steers, who originally came to Reno years ago to get her own divorce and never left, warning her about cowboys as being unreliable, and despite Roslyn initially not being interested in Gay "in that way". Gay has grown children who he rarely sees and wishes he was there for more than was the case. Gay and Roslyn move into the under construction farmhouse owned by Guido, which he was building for his wife before she died. After spotting a small herd in the local mountains, Guido convinces Gay to do some mustanging - capturing wild mustangs - to sell them. In this and age, these mustangs, commercially, are good only as dog meat. Needing a third for their outing, they run into Perc Howland, a cowboy acquaintance, who is on his way to the Dayton Rodeo. He recently started the itinerant life out of necessity. Perc lives day to day, job to job, that is when he's not in the hospital recuperating from his many on the job injuries. They are able to convince Perc to join them after his events at the rodeo have concluded. Perc is just the latest to fall for Roslyn, while of the three men she feels the most protective toward Perc as the constantly injured one. The questions become whether the friendship and business of the three men can withstand the addition of Roslyn in their life, and if Roslyn can love any of three after seeing first hand what their life is all about.

  • Roslyn divorces Ray in Reno and then meets widower Guido. He likes her but introduces her to cowboy Gay, and those two fall in love. When she learns that Gay, Guido and Perce are going to turn wild horses ("misfits") into dog food, she protests.

  • Roslyn is a very beautiful woman who just got divorced. She meets two friends, Guido and Gay, who take her to Guido's house in the country to relax and forget the difficulties of the past few weeks. Everything is fine at first, but soon the two men fall in love with Roslyn and start showing some bad aspects of their characters. Soon they meet another friend of Gay's, and the four of them go to hunt some wild horses. This is when things just... explode!

  • A divorcee falls for an over-the-hill cowboy who is struggling to maintain his romantically independent lifestyle.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In Reno, Nevada, Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe), is a beautiful 33-year-old woman having just divorced her unattenative husband Raymond (Kevin McCarthy). At a bar, Roslyn meets aging cowboy Gaylord 'Gay' Langland (Clark Gable) and his best friend Guido (Eli Wallach). Gay and Guido invite Roslyn and her best friend Isabelle Steers (Thelma Ritter) to Guido's place in the country to help her forget about the divorce. They arrive at the half-finished house Guido built for his wife, who had died 10 years earlier during childbirth. They drink and dance. Roslyn has too much to drink, so Gay drives her home to Reno.

    Eventually, the two move into Guido's half-finished house and start to work on it. One day after breakfast, Gay tells Roslyn how he wishes he were more of a father to his own children, whom he has not seen for some years. Later that afternoon, Roslyn and Gay have a fight when he decides to kill a rabbit that is eating from the vegetable garden they have planted.

    When Guido and Isabelle show up at the house, Gay suggests rounding up wild mustangs (horses) to sell and make a profit from it. They go to a local rodeo to look for and hire a third man for the job. Along the way, they meet Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift), a wayward friend of Gay's who is on his way to the rodeo to compete. Gay offers to pay for the broke Perce's entry fee if he helps them with the mustangs afterward. Perce agrees.

    At the rodeo, Roslyn becomes upset when Guido tells her how the horses are made to buck with an irritating flank strap. She declares that all rodeos should be banned. Later, after Perce is thrown by a horse, Roslyn begs him to go to a hospital, but he insists on riding a bull. He gets thrown again, resulting in a head injury.

    Later, after Roslyn dances with Perce, he passes out in a back alley from his head injury. When he regains consciousness, he sees her crying over him. He says that he never had anyone cry for him before and that he wished he had a friend to talk to. He tells her all about his unhappy childhood and how his mother changed after his father died. His mother remarried and gave his stepfather the ranch his father wanted to leave to Perce. Just then, a drunken Gay then fetches Roslyn, telling her that he wants her to meet his kids, whom he unexpectedly ran into. But Gay causes a public scene when he discovers his children have not waited around.

    Later on, during the drive home, a drunken Guido asks if Roslyn has left Gay and offers to take his place. Back at Guido's house, the drunken and self-destructive Perce comes to and nearly tears his bandages off his head, forgetting about his recent injury. Roslyn puts him to bed. She then sits down with Gay. He asks her if a woman like her would ever want to have a child with him. She avoids the issue, and Gay goes to bed.

    The next day, Gay, Guido and Perce prepare to go after the mustangs. Roslyn reluctantly tags along. After they catch a stallion and four mares, she screams that she hates the men when she learns that the mustangs will be sold for dog food. She then tells Gay she did not know she was falling in love with a killer. He tells her that he did things for her that he never did for any other woman, such as making the house a home and planting the garden.

    She begs Gay to release the horses. He considers doing it, but when she offers to pay $200, it angers him. Guido tells Roslyn that he would let them go if she would leave Gay for him. She rebuffs him coldly. Perce also asks her if he wants him to set the horses free, but she declines because she thinks it would only start a fight. He frees the stallion anyway.

    After Gay chases down and subdues the horse all by himself, he lets it go and says he just did not want anybody making up his mind for him. He and Roslyn drive off under the starry night sky. She tells him she would not mind having a baby as long as there was somebody there to make sure the child grew up into a human being.

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