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THE MISFITS, 1961
Movie Review

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THE MISFITS MOVIE POSTER
THE MISFITS, 1961
Movie Reviews

Directed by John Huston
Starring: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Cliff, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter
Review by Steve Painter



SYNOPSIS:

A sexy divorcée falls for an over-the-hill cowboy who is struggling to maintain his romantically independent lifestyle in early-sixties Nevada.

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REVIEW:

All-Star casts are a promoters dream. They are also a popular “What if?” game played by movie fans. What if Alfred Hitchcock directed Audrey Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart in a movie? During the Hollywood studio system it was rare for these dream casts to occur. After the dissolve of the system there still isn’t a huge number of movies made featuring these dream casts. One of the rare times that an All-Star cast came to together to make a movie was in 1961 when The Misfits was made.

All good movies begin with a good script. In 1961 there were not many living writers who were better than Arthur Miller. He was married to Marilyn Monroe at this time. Monroe had always wanted to be a mother. The closest she ever came to this was during her time with Miller, but she ended up miscarrying. As a present to his wife, Miller wrote her a script called The Misfits. The script was based on Miller’s stay in Reno while he was getting a divorce from his first wife. Some cowboys came around and asked him if he wanted to join them while they went searching for and trapping wild mustangs to sell to slaughterhouses. Miller agreed. He was amazed at the ruggedness of the cowboys, but also the technology they used. One cowboy used a plane to get the mustangs out of the mountains and into the flat land where two others would take a truck and round them up.

The most rugged director in all of Hollywood at this time was John Huston. The lengths he would go to get a single shot were legendary. Katherine Hepburn even wrote a book about her experiences in Africa with Huston while making The African Queen (1951). Huston was the perfect choice to direct this movie.

For the oldest and most rugged cowboy, Clark Gable was cast. Gable was a living legend who was still considered a tough guy, more than a romantic leading man, at this time. Much like Miller and Huston, who had directed Marilyn Monroe in The Asphalt Jungle, Gable had a tie to the troubled star. She regarded him as her father. Since Marilyn never met her father, all she knew about him was what she saw in photographs. He looked a lot like Gable. On the set Gable treated Monroe like his daughter, which is confusing because in the movie the two are lovers.

Gable plays Gay, the older cowboy, who is passing through Reno. In his round about town he spots his friend Guido, played by Eli Wallach. Guido is a mechanic who has been working on the car of the beautiful Roslyn, played by Monroe. Roslyn is in Reno to get a divorce. She is staying at the home of Isabelle Steers, played by Thelma Ritter. Guido is immediately attracted to Roslyn and offers to take her and Isabelle out. This is where Gay comes in and the two males immediately get into a rivalry over Roslyn.

In an effort to impress her, Guido offers to show her his “house” out in the desert. The house is nothing more than a shack at this point, but Roslyn likes it, much to Guido’s delight. Unfortunately for him, Roslyn likes Gay better and the two end up staying at Guido’s place and eventually turn it into a respectable home.

Gay is restless however and in order to cure this he takes Roslyn and Guido to a rodeo. On the way there they find Perce Howland, played by Montgomery Clift. Perce is a rodeo rider and he enters the rodeo. As part of the nature of rodeos, injuries happen and Roslyn is scared out of her mind when Perce has a bad fall. The rugged cowboys shake it off as nothing, but this is the first time Roslyn shows she is not of the same world as the cowboys.

Eventually this becomes clearer when Gay suggests they go mustang rustling so they can sell the horses to slaughterhouses. Roslyn can’t believe what the boys do and ends up chastising them and then setting the horses free. The movie ends with the audience unsure of what the future will hold for Roslyn and Gay, or what the future holds for Gay’s cowboy ways.

The production ended on a dubious note as Monroe and Miller divorced soon after. It was also the final film Gable or Monroe ever made. Gable died soon after production finished, many in his family believed it was because Monroe made everyone wait in the hot sun while she got ready for each scene.

Even though the movie features many talented individuals, the finished product is not regarded among their most well-known work. For Miller it was the plays he wrote. For Huston it was the movies he made with Humphrey Bogart. For Clift it was the movies he made before his car accident. For Gable it was his 1930s movies. For Monroe it was her comedies. Still, this is an interesting movie to watch just because of all the star power involved.

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