Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Montgomery Clift Blog-a-Thon

Montgomery Clift
(Oct 17th, 1920 - July 23rd, 1966)
Scroll down for links to 20 other participating blogs

I don’t remember when it happened or how it is I came to see A Place in the Sun for the first time. I do remember how thoroughly I was hypnotized by the film and its lead Montgomery Clift. It was the first time I'd ever seen him. I’ve long been of the mind that a movie lovers relationships to the most memorable of screen actors (everyone from Streep to Brando to Davis to Taylor etc...) is largely defined by their first encounter or two. Feelings about various character actors can mutate and evolve. Leading actors who are not, in the end, altogether peppered with stardust can fluctuate in their connective power with an audience, too: they surprise on occasion and extend their run of fame but just as often they falter and fade quickly in the public consciousness. But with the true Movie Stars, the select few who stay larger than life and heavily mythologized… well, the first potent encounter sticks.


How else to explain that Montgomery Clift will always signify A Place in the Sun to me even though I’ve seen several of his other films? I've found many of his other performances just as or more impressive -- Red River and From Here to Eternity come immediately to mind. How else to explain that whenever I begin to think of him my thoughts eventually and invariable jump ship to La Liz -- and vice versa, too. A Place in the Sun continues to occupy the most mental space in my Montgomery Clift fandom.

I’d intended to write about the offscreen relationship of Monty & Liz and their onscreen magic --that palpable flexible chemistry as witnessed in the three films they made together: For the uninitiated they were romantically paired in both A Place in the Sun (1951) and Raintree County (1957) and then played doctor and hysterical patient in the outré Tennessee Williams hit Suddenly Last Summer (1959). But the hard-to-find County conspired against my plans. So this will be the first edition of three Monty & Liz articles (the others will arrive in the distant future –as soon as I get my hands on a good copy of County... so, um don't hold your breath)

Monty & Liz: A Place in the Sun
I thought he was the most gorgeous thing in the world, and easily one of the best actors. And he wasn’t a bit snide about acting with a ‘cheap movie star'.
-Elizabeth Taylor on Montgomery Clift

“I’ve found my other half!”
-Montgomery Clift on Elizabeth Taylor
One of the first things you notice about Clift is the distinctive way he holds his upper body: all pinched, shoulders hunched, like his entire body hangs from the knots in his neck. The stance of someone not entirely at home in his own skin? This physical quirk sparks tremendously well with the fuel that's already embedded in his signature role, George Eastman the dark and brooding outsider in this George Stevens masterpiece.

When we first spot Eastman he's hitchhiking into town, the up and coming nephew to a rich businessman uncle. He's there to join the family business but he's still very much the outsider: ostracized from co-workers (nepotism you know) and received with less than open arms by the rich society types his bloodline gives him access to --that is, with the notable exception of local princess Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), heir to another fortune.

Despite rules about fraternizing with the staff of his uncle's business, George almost immediately goes into predatory mode. He quickly beds a frumpy lonely employee, a factory girl named Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters). You can tell from the beginning that he's not thinking with his heart but somewhere south of there. George wants to get laid. It's a 50s movies but to its eternal angsty glory the sexual/romantic drives of all three principals come through loud and clear. George may be satisfying selfish urges with a worker bee but he's on his way up. The second he spots Angela, you know she's queen. His relationship with Alice is not long for this world.


Alice may be on her way out but boy is this movie on its way up. The yowza chemistry between the teasing trophy that is Liz Taylor and this fierce actor, all internal combustion and tragedy --notice that even his smiles are half-cocked... as if a full grin would cause pain-- sends A Place in the Sun into the stratosphere of 50s movie heaven. Their whirlwind courtship leads to one of the cinema's greatest screen kisses


...and tragedy thereafter.
You seem so strange... so deep and far away. As if you're holding something back.
-Angela Vickers (Liz) to George Eastman (Monty)

For those inclined to enjoy readings of star performances through the distorting prism of what we know of their personal lives --in Clift’s case: addictions, homosexuality, depression, and "pathological compartmentalization" of his social life-- this also makes George Eastman and A Place in the Sun an ideal vessel for carrying nearly all the crucial pieces of the Clift mythology. It's here in one classic package: implosive sensational talent (this was the second of four Oscar nominations) beauty you can drown in (boy is Shelley Winters is in trouble...in both senses of the word), self-destructive sexual behavior (George is living dangerously for an up and comer, isn't he?) and existential angst that doesn't overpower his charisma so much as inform it (check out how quickly Liz loses her ground as seductress to become both seduced and matronly, desperate to sex him up and save him). Just about the only missing piece of the Clift myth is the homo eroticism but there's always Red River for that.

A Place in the Sun
also serves up a mirror of sorts in regards to Montgomery's place in the Hollywood firmament. The gorgeous black and white cinematography and machinations of the screenplay (both won Oscars) position George Eastman as a troubled and shadowy figure, a black sheep in this world of wealth and glamour. He unquestionably belongs there but is never fully absorbed into it, never at peace there. Isn't that Clift, too? Hollywood's ultimate troubled child is unquestionably one of the great film stars but he still exists somehow apart from the Brandos, Bogarts and even the Taylors in Classic Hollywood's pantheon.

the participating Clift-loving blogs

career overviews / his persona

Self Styled Siren
"On the Manliness of Montgomery Clift"

The Sheila Variations A huge compendium of Monty related Hollywood quotes
My New Plaid Pants lusts for but doesn't quite love the man of the hour
Gallery of the Absurd 'If Montgomery Clift Were Alive Today' by "14" (previously interviewed right here) She always finds the details
Stinky Lulu 5 thoughts on the actor from fear to emotional adoption


individual star turns
Nick's Flick Picks looks deep into The Search
And Your Little Blog Too Monty's dexterous and intelligent work in The Heiress
Movie Morlocks "You would too recognize me" Monty in The Misfits
Peter Nellhaus on The Young Lions
Eddie on Film "Hidden in Shadows" (A Place in the Sun)
Moon in the Gutter Wild River and Freud, the "missing masterpieces"
Goatdog
Monty's 7-minute solo in Judgment at Nuremberg

Rants of a Diva Falling for Monty in The Search
A Blog Next Door Queering and dequeering in Suddenly Last Summer
Strange Culture Clift @ Court (A Place in the Sun & Nuremberg)

photos & video tributes
If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger Great photos including one of my favorites of the actor taken by Stanley Kubrick himself
Ongoing Cinematic Education... YouTube -the Clash's "That's Montgomery Clift, Honey"

Boy on Film
'love of the pretty'
Stale Popcorn career cliff notes from YouTube
Rural Juror Saying goodbye to Monty



25 comments:

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

http://boyonfilm.blogspot.com/2007/10/love-of-pretty-montgomery-clift-blog.html

My post as it's the 17th here!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Mine's up at my blog. I sent you an e-mail as well. Can't wait to read what people have to say. I'm not well versed on Monty so it'll be interesting.

Rural Juror said...

I sent you an email with my url. It's up on my blog. I'm excited to see how this plays

Jeremy Richey said...

I have just added my post at

http://mooninthegutter.blogspot.com

I will be uploading some more pictures to it later and I hope my tribute to WILD RIVER and FREUD proves interesting. Thaks for putting on the great Blog-A-THon

Campaspe said...

Mine's up.

http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/2007/10/on-manliness-of-montgomery-clift.html

Ray said...

Who is Montgomery Clift??

ZINQUIRILLA said...

Hola!

Me alegro que hayas recordado a Montgomery Clift.

A great actor!

http://montgomery-clift.blogspot.com

Bob said...

I am majorly bummed that I'm too obsessed right now with paying work and with trying to come up with a good post for the Close-Up blogathon.

What I probably should have done was to have done something on an M. Clift close-up. That would have been clever.

Anonymous said...

lust, caution is disqualified for best foreign film!

NATHANIEL R said...

bob --yes, i'm afraid we lost many of the classic hollywood lovers to the "close up blogathon. grrrr ;) too bad that couldn't wait a week.

poor Monty. He gets a raw deal again

and Ray's jokey comment "who?" --i'm pretending it's a joke at least-- is one of the main reasons I wanted to hold this blog-a-thon. I seriously despair that Brando and Dean get so much credit and have inexplicably shoved Clift out of the picture when it's really him people should be talking about historically. Or at least him before them, you know. Self Styled Siren's post gets to that problem well. great post.

But anyway...

as long as one of these articles convinces someone to watch Clift or any of these films for the first time, it's been worthwhile.

I went to the store to look for the films of his that I haven't yet seen and was horrified to find that they just don't exist. Not on Netflix or Greencine either. I'm horrified that his movies are so hard to find. I mean they have box sets for Natalie Portman already (!) and for random stars like Betty Grable (?) But so few Clift films...

There really needs to at least be a Monty & Liz triple feature box set. nada. It's depressing

Vicky said...

I've never been a huge fan of A Place in the Sun, but I most definitely love Monty and (specially) Liz, so it's always brilliant to see them getting some love. And yes, Raintree Country is basically impossible to find, I still haven't seen it myself :(

NATHANIEL R said...

I'm a big Liz fan too. I'd love to do a series on her (i even love her in Butterfield 8 which I know I'm supposed to hate) but so many series... so little time.

i meant to talk about her a little more in this post but it didn't really happen ;) i'll save it for later i guess. though at Eddie's post you'll find more place in the sun haters (or at least non-lovers)

Campaspe said...

Nathaniel, Raintree shows up on TCM with a fair bit of frequency, enough for me to have seen it twice. It has some good moments, Liz is quite fine and Lee Marvin has a great little cameo. Unexpectedly touching fadeout, too. But Monty is so wounded, he's like an automaton. According to his biographer about half the film is pre-accident but by my (very casual) accounting it is more like one-third. The other two-thirds of the time he seems to be just trying to get through the thing without collapsing. For a Clift fan it is depressing viewing indeed.

JA said...

Nat, my post is finally up. And I apologize in advance! Please show me the light; I really wanna see the light!

jimmy said...

not to change the subject....but butterfield 8 is pretty darned yummy. especially "i'm-the-slut-of-all-times, mama" schpiel.

"From Here to Enternity" (in my top ten of all time)....have you ever noticed how slim / skinny monty & burt were???

Anonymous said...

What Close-Up blogathon?

Nat, I have to thank you for this "gift" - I haven't really seen the man's work aside from the Heiress (which I adore from stem to stern) but this blogathon was a real eye-opener for me and I want to check out all of his work - at least, whatever I can find. So, mission accomplished!

RedSatinDoll

Anonymous said...

Another blog to join the monty-a-thon is Normblog:

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2007/10/montys-birthday.html

Marius said...

Congratulations, Nat. This blog-a-thon turned out great.

Anonymous said...

I have the deepest respect for this actor. He is in a class all his own. The breed of actor came and went with his generation for the most part. Actors in later generations lacked the finesse and sensitivity that he so effortlessly portrayed.

Anonymous said...

Dear Monty Fans:

I will be portraying Montgomery Clift in a one-man show written by John Lisbon Wood at the Wings Theatre in New York City, starting June 1st, 2008 - July 4th, 2008 - ten performances. I hope you can all attend or spread the word.

- Omar Prince

caminoapizar@yahoo.com

http://www.wingstheatre.com/partners.html

Anonymous said...

Correction:

The Rarest of Birds,

Montgomery Clift one-man show

Wing Theatre/Christopher Street

1June-4July 10 performances

- Omar Prince

Right email:

caminoalpizar@yahoo.com

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Juliana said...

MONTGOMERY MY FAVOURITE ACTOR OF ALL TIME!

GorgeousMonty said...

I wish I had been here during this Blog-a-thon and had known about it!! This was an amazing feat! Thank you for creating this blog-a-thon in honor of Mon's birthday!! I hope you do that again one year!