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I just saw this picture again after some years. I finally "got"
Miller's 50s tinged message. I was able to see for the first time what
the fuss about Gable was all about. He listens to other actors in their
scenes, reacts plausibly, has an interesting, expressive face, and
certainly possesses a certain magnetism. The other actors do equally
well, though I gather, in spite of Huston, who gave little direction to
actors. Monroe looks gorgeous here, at the beginning of middle age, and
does indeed glow on the screen.
The problem is that this picture is too long and doesn't really come together. And I think the main problem is Miller's writing. From my own experience acting in his plays, he could create interesting, deep characterizations and knew how to write good lines. But his dialogue is just not the way people talk to each other, not even in 1960, and his sense of plot was always a bit manipulated.
As a result the picture crawls along, with no sense of one situation growing out of the previous one, just a few set scenes strung together. It's only in the final scene that the writing, and the picture, reach for some kind of poetry and beauty.
Roslyn Taber is a beautiful young woman who is very newly divorced when
she meets Guido and Gay Langland in town. They take her and her
landlady out into the country, where they work with horses. As the men,
and their friend Perce begin to fall for Roslyn, the real nature of
their characters, the stuff that shows with time, begins to come out.
With an all star cast, a director with classics under his belt and a script from Arthur Miller, the credits of this film made me believe I had made the right decision in taping it. I had not even heard of it more than the title when I watched it and I had gotten the impression that it was some sort of star vehicle traditional western I could not have been more wrong. Instead I took this to be a mix of end of era western, mixed with allegory about relationship and the nature of people. As such it threw up moments of interest and things that will stick in my mind for quite some time but Miller's screenplay is rather downbeat and, to be honest, not a great deal happens at times making it hard to stick with.
It is still interesting of course but as a filmed stage play (which is how it seemed) it doesn't ever seem to come together. I never really got to the heart of the matter (or the characters) and I felt like I had been left with a collection of discussion points for the future but no real impression made by the film. Huston does a really good job with this scenery and the film is beautiful to look at filmed, as it is, in a black and white so stark that it easily matches the material. He also draws good performances from his cast, which is a bigger feat than it sounds as I personally didn't feel they were given more than one or two aspects of character to work with certainly I didn't seem them as people so much as performances.
Despite this the cast are roundly good and time has added this film even more of a sombre tone in that it was the last films of Gable and the penultimate one from Monroe, with Clift only a few years behind. Gable is good and it is, as another reviewer has commented, a brave performance from him swinging wildly all over the place. Monroe also gives a very good performance but she has the thinnest of characters and it shows at times. However, despite me not liking her that much, I must confess I was impressed by her performance here. Wallach is good but is clearly lower on the food chain than these two as he has a less showier role but one that he delivers well. Likewise the always-wonderful Ritter delivers the same character she has in so many films and is an enjoyable addition, even if the film just seems to forget her after a while. Rounding out the all-star cast is a rather subdued Clift who I didn't think was any good at all and I finished the film with barely an impression of him. Generally though the performances were good when you consider that they were not presented with material that helped them aside from giving them stuff to show off with.
Overall I was a little disappointed with this film but, like contestants on so many game shows, I didn't go home empty handed. I finished the film having enjoyed the horse scene (despite the very heavy meaning in it) and having several memorable scenes in my head. The script is low key but interesting even if it is way too slow at points. The performances are mostly good and add to the feeling that this is a filmed stage play (albeit a beautifully filmed stage play) but I just felt that the film can't manage to come together in a convincing way.
I have seen the Misfits probably more than ten times over the past 40 years, and tonight, while eating a supper of chili and cornbread I realized how depressed the movie was making me. I wondered why - after I shut it off - and the first thing that struck me was how warped Arthur Miller's perception of people was. He makes the people of the Great Basin look like losers, alcoholics, and lechers. We used to make fun of the people of Nevada - called them "Goat-ropers" - thought them real rubes compared to us sophisticates from the Bay Area. But we never saw them as depraved as Miller depicts them. I get the impression Miller basically did not like people. I suspect that Miller was projecting his own depravity onto his "subject". (Really his "object". Miller was a hack in the Culture Industry. His world a dead realm of shapes and words.) I'll bet the reason MM killed herself was because Miller made her feel like chopped liver on a Ritz cracker. Miller's movie (and John Huston's movie - Huston also made some reprehensible films for anyone with a heart, like the one about the wacko-evangelical who rips his eyes out at the end - I forget the title) affects me the way Pier Pasolini's Salo does, it makes me want to damn them for having gratuitously diminished humanity for the sake of screen effect. Watch this movie, if you must, but it is far from an essential film if you want to master the canon. It is, in the final analysis, paralytically depressing. I say paralytically because it took me 40 years to finally recognize it for what it is. Watch something else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would've given this movie a 10/10 but the reason is the ending. boy is it depressing. so the cowboys gay and Guido take down mustang (horses) and try to kill them that's my only complaint why I give it a 8/10 the acting is great and it has a great story I wont spoil it but all I can tell you is that gay and Guido want to go mustang along they meet Roslyn, and Isabelle funny to note that Monroe, and Ritter were in a movie together before maybe more no wonder that work out great and both died 1 (Marilyn) and 2 (Ritter) only a year apart its sad such great actresses to be honest I'd say check it out its great stuff for anyone even if they don't know Marilyn or love her to death like I do personally recommend but be warned the ending is sad
I will try to muster up this recollection on Clark Gable as truly and
accurately as possible. Whether it comes from a far off corner of
Europe is of less importance than the fact I want to counterpoise to
AFI's customary list of 25 best (male) actors revised annually. In my
opinion the top 10 (7) should look like this - Clark Gable, Gary
Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Cary Grant, James
Stewart, etc. The first 4 died in their 60s which means grossly a
contribution for early (classic) cinema of 30 years each. In that
period before-after World War II the rest 3 lived longer but less
actively, so for all of them stardom was achieved before 1950. After
that date began a Golden Age for Hollywood with avalanche of new
celebrities many of whom could displace the above mentioned merited men
but would never be first. So modern cinema comes second and 21st
century cinema comes third, I guess.
This much for classification purposes. Now let me bargain a bit for Clark Gable's legacy. In our country in the best supplied video club I know there was available in DVD or Blu-ray only 1 movie with CG - "Gone with the Wind" (1939). Further titles could be obtained on the black market - mainly re-exported disks from Russia - and, maybe download something from Internet if you have got the hunch for it. This is deplorable situation for the coming young generation that straps its culture no further than the carousel they are toiling over all day long. That's all.
How about my evaluation on omnibus Clark Gable. I am not the perfect judge but if only for "Gone with the Wind" he deserves the leadership of the above enumerated gang. Nobody before him achieved the feat of 4 hours movie at such an early date and even today Margaret Mitchell's novel awaits its remake. On the contrary, that doesn't mean automatically that Gary Cooper or Humphrey Bogart are not worth the leading place. It's a complex interplay of factors and opinions, while my choice is suited for the obscurantist observer who wouldn't compromise first for the physical outlook and then for the character of the participant. Things like that!
Let me give in a nutshell what I remember of Gable's personality from some 30 movies that I own. On males - he seldom dies, always positive hero, good with fists and gun, remarkable with cards and gambling, three years served in the army and came back on the wide screen. He promoted the following young actors in their early efforts (I don't insist anyone to comply with this statement) - so, Francho Tone, Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier.
On females. There is hardly anyone who understands cinema that should not be aware Clark Gable was the first big heart-breaker in Hollywood. My materials evidence the following row of female stars - Joan Crawford (dancing lady, unsuccessful mannequin); Jean Harlow (bra-less under the satin, died unexpectedly of nephritis infection); Norma Shearer (some should say ugly, but very man-handling); Myrna Loy (like Jean Harlow but alive); Claudette Colbert (dream of the city-slickers); Rosalind Russell (classical beauty wearing extravagant hats); Ava Gardner (a woman up to her sleeves); Debora Kerr (remained English not American, still ready for a bite); Marilyn Monroe (the last dish in the collection). Hope this reading wasn't boring. Thank you!
In Reno, Nevada, voluptuous Marilyn Monroe (as Roslyn Taber) obtains a
divorce; then, she attracts the attention of three boozing cowboys:
Clark Gable (as Gay Langland), Montgomery Clift (as Perce Howland), and
Eli Wallach (as Guido). Mr. Gable emerges as Ms. Monroe's (and the
film's) leading man; he leads the group on a hunting quest for flesh,
explaining, "Nothing can live unless something dies." Mr. Clift and Mr.
Wallach agree with Gable. But, sensitive Monroe believes meat is
murder. So, apparently, does Monroe's motherly landlady Thelma Ritter
(as Isabelle Steers); however, she begs off the expedition early on, to
join an ex-husband.
The cast is extraordinary; and, adding director John Huston and writer Arthur Miller to the mix guarantees a very interesting motion picture experience. "The Misfits" falls short, but not by much. Despite the fact that Mr. Miller must have written the story with Monroe (then, his wife) in mind, the main character is played by Gable - that is, if you consider the fact that his character undergoes the greatest transformation, in reaction to Monroe's character. And, Gable, performs the part very nicely. More importantly, he displays a dramatic, "modern" acting prowess, which might have served him well through the 1960s.
Of course, that potential went unrealized when Gable suddenly died. In part, his heart attack was attributed to Gable's work in "The Misfits". This is one film where the personal lives of the cast, director, and writer adversely affects what you see on the screen. The most "negative" result is Monroe's characterization; she obviously needed more time with the role. Watch, for example, the scene with Monroe and Ritter, which plays after Gable walks off calling his dog ("Tom Dooley"). As the women turn a corner, Monroe has to steady herself. It's a slight, almost unnoticeable misstep; and, honestly, one which should have been re-shot.
Probably, Monroe was so often indisposed, Mr. Huston had to do the best with what he had. It's a shame, because Monroe's acting is not at all inadequate. A particularly good moment to watch for is her "truck ride", with Wallach; in this scene, Monroe is exceptional. Another good scene includes Monroe using her real voice, listen to her say, "I don't care about the lettuce!" At other times, Monroe appears very disconnected; often, she seems to be acting alongside, rather than with, her co-stars.
Gable, Monroe, Clift, and Ritter are certainly convincing as heavy drinkers. Interestingly, Clift uses his "personal demons" to good acting advantage; whatever he was going through, privately, fit the character; and, he manages to essay the film's most consistently convincing performance. If "The Misfits" were more successful, Clift might have been nominated as a "Best Supporting Actor" for his role. Also award-worthy is Alex North's perfect musical score.
The ending lines, uttered by Gable and Monroe, are quite touching... indeed, the stars are out tonight.
******** The Misfits (2/1/61) John Huston ~ Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter
This is art in the only sense that matters.
Forget the Hollywood BS/gossipy trivia - this is a morality play.
Watch it again , its worth it!
This time watch for recurring themes like dark/light (clothing/backdrops)
running reference to death - and the sources of life/light
- for example, opens w/ "dead battery scene" - then the same character ( and the guiding angel Ms. "Steers" ) AGAIN lead her to life ; but she still is so willing to fill her empty desperation that she almost immediately needs to hear music - from the car radio - draining life from the battery....
Guid says, " wife stood by me like a tree." ..MM's response is side-splitting !
Anyway - look at it as a "garden of Eden" - and notice how the Paradise was spoiled by each character (spirit) by something that distracted or disappointed them on their journey - till each was a "fallen angel" -
You gotta watch this in a "pensive mode" - with some love in your heart - it is delicious ! Sounds crazy, eh ........see, ..ART !
Roslyn Taber (Marilyn Monroe) is newly divorced and happens to meet two
men in town: Guido and Gay Langland (Clark Gable). They're cowboys of
sorts at their ranch (ignore the fact that they are around each other
constantly and one of them is named Gay - it's just coincidence), and
invite Roslyn out for a day. Soon all of them are falling head over
heels for Roslyn.
Apart from the top-notch cast, director John Huston and scriptwriter Arthur Miller, "The Misfits" really stands on its own as a character study - and a rather deep one, too. I read a few IMDb reviewers' comments that noted the story itself becomes rather muddled and unbelievable at times - I didn't really think so. I suppose the film does leave a few loose ends, but to be honest, I found this to be all the MORE realistic because this kind of stuff really happens to us all in one way or another - happy, completely finalised endings are rare in life.
It can be a bit slow and plodding at times, but that also boils down to whether or not you are engaged by the characters themselves. Admittedly, certain aspects of the script are - perhaps - a bit alienating and we don't really "like" all the people in this movie - but then again, we didn't like Alex DeLarge, Travis Bickle, or other cinema antiheroes. And some of the people in "The Misfits" could certainly be described as antiheroes (particularly for the time era the film was made) - just look at its title! The acting is very impressive - I'm not a big fan of Monroe in general but even I thought she did fairly well here and it certainly come across as one of her less glorious roles. Clark Gable offers a different type of performance - kind of subdued and disassociated; he speaks about things such as extramarital affairs as if it's just common discussion, not showing any emotion.
The rest of the cast ranges from good to great - I was a bit disappointed by Eli Wallach's performance and felt his character could have been expanded a bit, but it's a minor complaint.
In the end, this will leave some viewers feeling alienated and cold - and understandably so. For those of us who can appreciate this rather than condemn it, you may find something of interest here; but it's certainly going to depend, ultimately, on how you approach the material itself.
Yes, everything here seems to be a misfit and mismatch. In fact, this may
be one of the sadder films ever made.
Its reported depressing real-life productional challenges seemed somehow to spill over onto the screen. Not that Miller's screenplay helped to elevate the proceedings. In fact, it appears to be among Arthur's weakest efforts.
Critic Bosley Crowther summed up things succinctly in his 2/61 N.Y. Times review, stating that "what's wrong with this picture is that the characters and theme do not congeal . . . " He admits that "there's a lot of absorbing detail in it but it doesn't add up to a point."
To my mind, it all boils down to a well-intentioned but weak original screenplay that, despite its powerhouse cast, direction and productional values, simply cannot overcome its inherent character/theme problems.
At the same time, I note an increasing interest in and appreciation for this film by both public and critics. So my negative vote may turn out to be in the minority, with time helping to determine the final verdict.
It's a damn shame Arthur Miller had to take himself so seriously and write THE MISFITS as Death of a Salesman in a beat-up pick-up truck rather than the plot-oriented action/drama it should have been. John Huston obviously managed to get every member of this ensemble to give outstanding performances, and that alone keeps this movie afloat. Clark Gable (in his last role), especially, defines a realistic acting style that in his case creates a modern day cowboy who could make Hud look like a City Slickers reject. (HUD, though a Paul Newman power-house role, suffers from the same character before plot approach.) Marilyn Monroe, written to be be overly-sensitive, fills her character as she did her dresses. Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach play their parts perfectly as they were meant to be - understated. Sadly, all these great performances and interesting characters seem to just be hanging out, and figuring out, Miller-style, rather than following a progressive sequence of events that keeps the viewer interested.
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