"The Misfits" (1961)
When I think about all of the films that Marilyn Monroe made, to me this is her crowing glory. Everyone has their varying opinions, especially those hard core Monroe fans. The "The Misfits" is one of my favorite films and the reason why I love it is Marilyn shines. She becomes her character in a way where I could almost see a glimpse of her, but that's just how good she was in the role of "Roslyn Tabor".
The story begins with Roslyn getting a divorce in Reno, Nevada--there she meets "Gay Langland" played by Clark Gable, who is an aging cowboy. She also meets "Guido" played by Eli Wallach who eventually allows Roslyn and Gay to move into his home. He is still haunted by the death of his wife who died during childbirth in their home.
After some time Roslyn and her friend Isabelle (Thelma Ritter) meet a drifter cowboy names Pierce Howland who is played by the incredibly handsome Montgomery Clift. Roslyn befriends Pierce and show sincere concern for his well-being and health since Pierce has suffered a great deal physically from being a rider in the rodeo.
You begin to see the cast of characters are all haunted by some part of their past and that they all long for the simplicity of true love and devoted friendship. Guido has affections for Roslyn but she has her eye on Gay. Pierce is like a little boy lost just yearning for someone to be there for him and care for him (not on a romantic level). In a way, he is almost like a child just longing for love and attention.
"The Misfits" Original Trailer
Things really come to a head when Roslyn asks to go camping with Gay, Guido, and Pierce (lucky girl that's what I say!). She learns that Gay and the other round up mustangs (horses) to sell to the slaughterhouse for horse meat (the sheer thought of it turns my tummy upside down-ekkk!). Roslyn is as horrified and tried to convinces Gay to sell her the horses.
That scene to me just tells the whole story about everyone involved, especially about Roslyn. You see her heart exposed and willing to do the right thing when no one around her wanted to. Seeing Marilyn as Roslyn gives me goosebumps all the time. There is just something so authentic and sincere about that character and the way she played her was just...magnificent. To me this role was the first real role I saw Marilyn as a woman, not a woman-child, not a sex symbol, not a dumb blond, but a bonafide actor. She really poured herself into this role.
The end of the film is simple and sweet and leaves you feeling like everything will be alright. "The Misfits" was written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston (Anjelica Huston is his daughter). After this film was completed Miller divorced Marilyn and married Inge Morath who was actually a photographer on the set. Miller was also the father-in-law of actor Daniel Day-Lewis (small world I know!).
Also sharing some screen time with the main cast was Kevin McCarthy from the famed "Invasion of the body snatchers" as well as the 1930's Western actor, Rex Bell (who was also married to Clara Bow). This was Bell's final film appearance since he passed away in 1962.
Today, Eli Wallach is the only surviving member of the original cast of "the Misfits". First was Gable just ten days after filming ended, Monroe in 1962 (this was her last completed film), Clift in 1966, and Ritter in 1969.
The film to me is bittersweet for many reasons. First, the story has many levels of bitter sweetness to it and then there is the fate of the original cast (not including Wallach). So many passed away shortly after this film was completed. It is a piece of art both in storyline and in movie making. If you love Marilyn Monroe and haven't seen it-you just must! If you are not a fan of anyone in particular that is in the film, see it anyway. It will leave you clutching your heart and gasping for air....movie magic at its best!