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The Misfits (film)

The Misfits (film)

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The Misfits is a 1961 American drama film
Drama film
A drama film is a film genre that depends mostly on in-depth development of realistic characters dealing with emotional themes. Dramatic themes such as alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, moral dilemmas, racial prejudice, religious intolerance, poverty, class divisions, violence against women...

 written by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

, directed by John Huston
John Huston
John Marcellus Huston was an American film director, screenwriter and actor. He wrote most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon , The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Key Largo , The Asphalt Jungle , The African Queen , Moulin Rouge...

, and starring Clark Gable
Clark Gable
William Clark Gable , known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh...

, Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s....

, Montgomery Clift
Montgomery Clift
Edward Montgomery Clift was an American film and stage actor. The New York Times’ obituary noted his portrayal of "moody, sensitive young men"....

, Thelma Ritter
Thelma Ritter
Thelma Ritter was an American supporting and character actress from the 1940s until her death in 1969.-Early life:...

, and Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach
Eli Herschel Wallach is an American film, television and stage actor, who gained fame in the late 1950s. For his performance in Baby Doll he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. One of his most famous roles is that of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

. It was the final film appearance for both Gable and Monroe. The movie was not a commercial success at the time of its release but garnered critical respect for its script and performances.

Plot


The Misfits takes place in Reno, Nevada
Reno, Nevada
Reno is the county seat of Washoe County, Nevada, United States. The city has a population of about 220,500 and is the most populous Nevada city outside of the Las Vegas metropolitan area...

, where Roslyn Tabor (Monroe), a beautiful recent divorcée
Divorcee
Divorcee, refers to a person whose marriage has ended in divorce, a legal dissolution of marriage before death by either spouse. The feminine form is "divorcée", and the masculine "divorcé". At one time the term had negative cultural and religious associations...

, meets Gay Langland (Gable), an aging ex-cowboy
Cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

. Langland and his friend Guido (Wallach) invite her and her spinster friend Isabelle Steers (Ritter) back to Guido's place in the country. They arrive at the half-finished house Guido built for his dead wife. Once there, Roslyn has a little too much to drink and Gay drives her home.

Eventually the two move into Gudio's half-finished house and make it a home. After breakfast Guido tells her how he wishes he were more of a father to his own children, whom he hasn't seen in years. Later that afternoon Roslyn and Gay have a fight about her thinking it silly that she won't let him kill a rabbit because she believes killing is wrong. Guido and Isabelle show up and ask the pair if they want to go to a Rodeo.

On the way there Roslyn and Isabelle meet a drifter cowboy friend of Gay and Guido's named Perce Howland (Clift), who is a rider in the rodeo. After arriving and hearing that they make the horses buck intentionally, she tells Guido that she thinks they shouldn't even have a rodeo because she believes it cruel. Later, after Perce is trampled by a horse, Roslyn begs him to go to a hospital, but he gets back in the saddle, getting thrown from a bull and coughing up blood.

Later, after Roslyn dances with Perce, she realizes that the poor man has suffered so much head trauma that he has become a little weak mentally. He soon passes out in a back alley, and when he comes to he says that he never had anyone cry for him before and he wished he had a friend to talk to. He tells her how his mother gave his stepfather the ranch his father wanted to leave him after he died. He asks her if not your mother then who can you depend on, and she tells him that there is always the next thing. A drunken Gay then comes and fetches Roslyn, telling her that he wants her to meet his kids, whom he unexpectedly ran into. But when they return Gay becomes upset and causes a scene when he discovers they ditched him.

Later on, during the drive home, a drunken Guido asks if Roslyn even notices him and almost swerves off the road. After Perce comes to and nearly tears his bandages off, forgetting about his recent injury, Rosalyn puts him to bed. She then sits down with Gay who asks her if a woman like her would ever want to have a child with him. She avoids the issue and then Gay goes to bed.

The next day she is excited to learn that Gay, Guido and Perce are planning on going on an overnight camp-out to capture and sell some wild mustangs
Mustang (horse)
A Mustang is a free-roaming horse of the North American west that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but there is intense debate over terminology...

. She asks to join them on the overnight trip. But what Gay doesn't tell her is that the only market they sell horses to is a slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse
A slaughterhouse or abattoir is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products.Approximately 45-50% of the animal can be turned into edible products...

 for the manufacture of dog food
Dog food
Dog food refers to food specifically intended for consumption by dogs. Though technically omnivorous, dogs exhibit a natural carnivorous bias, have sharp, pointy teeth, and have short gastrointestinal tracts better suited for the consumption of meat...

. She tells him she didn't know she was falling in love with a killer, and he tells her that he doesn't take his hat off for any women but he did for her.

Later she begs and cries for Gay to release the horses, and he considers giving them to her. But when she offers to pay $200 to save their lives, Gay becomes angry and changes his mind that she would think so him so cold. Guido soon tells Roslyn that he would let them go if she would leave Gay for him. She becomes offended that he would have to do something in return for acting like a human being. Later, when Perce asks her if he wants him to set the horses free, she declines because she thinks it would only start a fight. He does it for her anyway because she was kind to him.

After Gay tracks down their only targeted horse and goes through the trouble of tying it down himself, he lets it go and says sometimes an old horse just needs to settle down. He and Roslyn drive off under the starry night sky. She tells him she wouldn't mind having a baby as long as there was somebody there to make sure the child grew up into a human being.

Cast


Principal Cast:
  • Clark Gable
    Clark Gable
    William Clark Gable , known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh...

     as Gay Langland
  • Marilyn Monroe
    Marilyn Monroe
    Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s....

     as Roslyn Tabor
  • Montgomery Clift
    Montgomery Clift
    Edward Montgomery Clift was an American film and stage actor. The New York Times’ obituary noted his portrayal of "moody, sensitive young men"....

     as Perce Howland
  • Thelma Ritter
    Thelma Ritter
    Thelma Ritter was an American supporting and character actress from the 1940s until her death in 1969.-Early life:...

     as Isabelle Steers
  • Eli Wallach
    Eli Wallach
    Eli Herschel Wallach is an American film, television and stage actor, who gained fame in the late 1950s. For his performance in Baby Doll he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. One of his most famous roles is that of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

     as Guido
  • James Barton as Fletcher's Grandfather
  • Kevin McCarthy
    Kevin McCarthy (actor)
    Kevin McCarthy was an American stage, film, and television actor, who appeared in over two hundred television and film roles. For his role in the 1951 film version of Death of a Salesman, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of...

     as Raymond Tabor
  • Estelle Winwood
    Estelle Winwood
    Estelle Winwood was an English stage and film actress who moved to the United States in mid-career and became celebrated for her longevity.-Early life and early career:...

     as The Church Lady

Other Cast:
  • Peggy Barton as Young Bride
  • Phillip Mitchell as Charles Steers (Isabelle's ex-husband)
  • John Huston
    John Huston
    John Marcellus Huston was an American film director, screenwriter and actor. He wrote most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon , The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Key Largo , The Asphalt Jungle , The African Queen , Moulin Rouge...

     as an Extra in Blackjack Scene
  • Rex Bell
    Rex Bell
    Rex Bell , born George Francis Beldam, was an American actor and politician. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada and a western movie star. Rex was born in Chicago and married actress Clara Bow in 1931. They had two sons, Tony Beldon and George Beldon, Jr...

     as Old Cowboy
  • Ryall Bowker as Man in Bar
  • Frank Fanelli, Sr. as the Gambler at the Dayton Bar
  • Dennis Shaw
    Dennis Shaw
    Dennis Wendell Shaw is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League for the Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, and the Kansas City Chiefs.-College career:...

     as Fletcher
  • Bobby LaSalle as Bartender
  • Walter Ramage as Old Groom
  • Ralph Roberts
    Ralph Roberts
    Ralph Roberts was a designer who worked for the Chrysler Corporation during the 1930s and 1940s....

     as Ambulance Driver at Rodeo
  • J. Lewis Smith as Fresh Cowboy at Bar
  • Marietta Tree as Susan (Gay's Girlfriend getting on the Train
    Train
    A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track to transport cargo or passengers from one place to another place. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway.Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate...

     at the beginning of the movie)

Production


The making of The Misfits was troublesome on several accounts, not the least of which were the 108 degree heat of the northern Nevada desert and the breakdown of Monroe's marriage to writer Arthur Miller.

Director Huston gambled and drank, and occasionally fell asleep on the set. The production company had to cover some of his gambling losses. His lover Marietta Peabody Tree
Marietta Peabody Tree
Marietta Peabody Tree was an American socialite and political supporter, who represented the United States on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, appointed under the administration of John F...

 had an uncredited part. Miller wrote new pages throughout the shoot, revising the script as the concepts of the film developed.

Monroe was sinking further into alcohol and prescription drugs abuse. Huston shut down production in August 1960 to send Monroe to a hospital for detox. Close-ups after her release were shot using soft focus
Soft focus
In photography, soft focus is a lens flaw, in which the lens forms images that are blurred due to spherical aberration. A soft focus lens deliberately introduces spherical aberration in order to give the appearance of blurring the image while retaining sharp edges; it is not the same as an...

. Monroe was nearly always late to the set, sometimes not showing up at all. She spent her nights learning lines with drama coach Paula Strasberg
Paula Strasberg
Paula Miller Strasberg was a former stage actress who became actor and teacher Lee Strasberg's second wife, mother of actors John and Susan Strasberg as well as Marilyn Monroe's acting coach and confidante....

. Monroe's confidant and masseur, Ralph Roberts, was cast as an ambulance attendant in the film's rodeo scene.

Gable insisted on doing his own stunts, including being dragged about 400 feet across the dry lake bed at more than 30 miles per hour.

In a documentary about the making of The Misfits, Wallach told a story of Huston directing a scene where Wallach was at a bar with Gable. Huston told him that the most intoxicated he had ever been was the day before, even though he had seemed sober. The lesson for the actors was that an intoxicated person tries to act sober.

1930's Western actor Rex Bell
Rex Bell
Rex Bell , born George Francis Beldam, was an American actor and politician. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada and a western movie star. Rex was born in Chicago and married actress Clara Bow in 1931. They had two sons, Tony Beldon and George Beldon, Jr...

 (who was married to Clara Bow
Clara Bow
Clara Gordon Bow was an American actress who rose to stardom in the silent film era of the 1920s. It was her appearance as a spunky shopgirl in the film It that brought her global fame and the nickname "The It Girl." Bow came to personify the roaring twenties and is described as its leading sex...

) made his final film appearance in a brief cameo as a cowboy. Bell was Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant governor
A lieutenant governor or lieutenant-governor is a high officer of state, whose precise role and rank vary by jurisdiction, but is often the deputy or lieutenant to or ranking under a governor — a "second-in-command"...

 of Nevada at the time.

Thomas B. Allen
Thomas B. Allen
Thomas B. Allen was an American painter and illustrator known for a moody and expressionist style that pushed the boundaries of commercial art in the 1950s and 60s...

 was assigned to create drawings of the film as it was made. Magnum Photos
Magnum Photos
Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members, with offices located in New York, Paris, London and Tokyo...

 had staff photographers including Inge Morath
Inge Morath
Ingeborg Morath was an Austrian-born photographer. In 1953 she joined the Magnum Photos Agency, founded by top photographers in Paris, and became a full photographer with them in 1955...

 and Eve Arnold
Eve Arnold
Eve Arnold, FRPS is an American photojournalist. She joined Magnum Photos agency in 1951, and became a full member in 1957....

 assigned to document the making of The Misfits.

During production, the cast's principals stayed at the Mapes Hotel
Mapes Hotel
The Mapes Hotel was a hotel/casino located in Reno, Nevada, next to the Truckee River on Virginia Street. It was built in 1947, and opened on December 17 of that year. It was the first skyscraper built in the Western United States since the start of World War II...

 in Reno. Film locations included the
Washoe County Court House on Virginia Street and Quail Canyon, near Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake is the geographic sink of the Truckee River Basin and is located northeast of Reno. The inflow is moderately high silt-loaded surface runoff....

. The bar scene where Monroe plays paddle ball
Paddle ball
Paddle ball is a one-person game played with an attached ball and paddle. Using a flat paddle with a small rubber ball attached at the center via an elastic string, the player tries to hit the ball with the paddle in succession as many times as possible. The paddle is usually made from either...

 and the rodeo scenes were filmed in Dayton, Nevada
Dayton, Nevada
Dayton is a census-designated place in Lyon County, Nevada, United States. The population was 5,907 at the 2000 census.-History:Dayton is at the western end of the Twenty-Six Mile Desert at a bend in the Carson River. Immigrants stopping there for water would consider whether to follow the river...

, northeast of Carson City. The climax of the film takes place during wrangling scenes on a Nevada dry lake
Dry lake
Dry lakes are ephemeral lakebeds, or a remnant of an endorheic lake. Such flats consist of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Dry lakes are also referred to as alkali flats, sabkhas, playas or mud flats...

 20 miles east of Dayton, near Stagecoach
Stagecoach, Nevada
Stagecoach is an unincorporated community in Lyon County, Nevada, United States, located east of Reno. Its name is likely derived from its place as the Overland Stagecoach station at Desert Well. Typically, the mail that was heading towards California was delivered on a steamship through Panama...

. The area today is known as
"Misfits Flat".

Filming was completed on November 4, 1960 and The Misfits was released on February 1, 1961.

Reception


Despite on-set difficulties, Gable, Monroe, and Clift delivered performances that modern movie critics consider superb. Many critics regard Gable's performance to be his finest, and Gable, after seeing the rough cuts, agreed. Monroe received the 1961 Golden Globe Award
Golden Globe Award
The Golden Globe Award is an accolade bestowed by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association recognizing excellence in film and television, both domestic and foreign...

 as "World Film Favorite" in March, 1962, five months before her death. Directors Guild of America
Directors Guild of America
Directors Guild of America is an entertainment labor union which represents the interests of film and television directors in the United States motion picture industry...

 nominated Huston as best director.

There were high expectations, given the star power of the writer, director and stars. Producer Frank E. Taylor had heralded The Misfits as "the ultimate motion picture" before its release.

The Misfits was met with mixed reviews and failed to meet expectations at the box office
Box office
A box office is a place where tickets are sold to the public for admission to an event. Patrons may perform the transaction at a countertop, through an unblocked hole through a wall or window, or at a wicket....

. Despite being shot in black and white, the final cost was about $4 million. It was said to be the most expensive black-and-white film made to that point in time. Its original domestic gross was just over its estimated budget of $4,000,000, making $4,100,000 in its initial USA release. It has brought larger profits to United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

 since its release on DVD.

The film has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...

, based on 13 reviews.

Aftermath


Gable suffered a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 two days after filming ended and died ten days later. Monroe and Clift attended the premiere in New York in February 1961 while Monroe was on pass from a psychiatric hospital; she later said that she hated the film and herself in it. Within a year and a half, she was dead of a drug overdose. The Misfits was the last completed film for both Monroe and Gable, her childhood screen idol.

Montgomery Clift had been badly injured in an automobile accident in 1956 that required reconstructive surgery
Reconstructive surgery
Reconstructive surgery is, in its broadest sense, the use of surgery to restore the form and function of the body, although Maxillo-Facial Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons and Otolaryngologists do reconstructive surgery on faces after trauma and to reconstruct the head and neck after cancer.Other...

 on his face, evident in his close-ups in The Misfits. He died six years after the filming. The Misfits was on television on the night Clift died. His live-in personal secretary, Lorenzo James, asked Clift if he wanted to watch it. "Absolutely not" was Clift's reply, the last words that he spoke to anyone. He was found dead the next morning, having suffered a heart attack during the night.

Thelma Ritter enjoyed several more movie successes before passing away eight years after the movie was made. Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach
Eli Herschel Wallach is an American film, television and stage actor, who gained fame in the late 1950s. For his performance in Baby Doll he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. One of his most famous roles is that of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

 and Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy (actor)
Kevin McCarthy was an American stage, film, and television actor, who appeared in over two hundred television and film roles. For his role in the 1951 film version of Death of a Salesman, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of...

 went on to movie and stage careers that extend into the 21st century. Wallach, a nonagenarian, is the last surviving primary cast member.

Inge Morath of Magnum Photos married Arthur Miller in 1962; their union lasted 40 years until her death in 2002.

The documentary The Legend of Marilyn Monroe
The Legend of Marilyn Monroe
The Legend of Marilyn Monroe is a 1966 American documentary film chronicling the life and career of actress Marilyn Monroe. Directed by Terry Sanders, and narrated by John Huston, the film was also released under the title The Marilyn Monroe Story in the UK.- Cast :Gladys Baker, Albert Bolender,...

(1966) includes footage shot while The Misfits was being made. Miller's autobiography, Timebends (1987), described the making of the film.
The 2001 PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

 documentary
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

, Making The Misfits, did the same.
Miller's last play, Finishing the Picture
Finishing the Picture
Finishing the Picture is Arthur Miller's final play. It was produced at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, Illinois in October 2004,just months before Miller's death on February 10, 2005.-Production:...

(2004), although fiction, was largely based on the events involved in the making of The Misfits.

Further reading

  • Goode, James (1986) [First Published 1963 as "The Story of The Misfits"]. The Making of The Misfits. Limelight Editions. ISBN 0-87910-065-6. A detailed day-to-day account on the shooting of the film, written by a journalist.

External links