Here is what I watched this week. (I’m beginning to see why Netflix keeps recommending me “films with strong female leads”.) Continue reading “Films Watched: January 22 to 28”
The Misfits is notoriously for being screen icons Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe final roles. Gable died 11 days after filming completed after suffering from a massive heart attack and Monroe died about a year and a half later of a drug overdose. Coincidentally, this also marks one of Montgomery Clift’s and Thelma Ritter’s final performances.
Set in and around Reno, Monroe stars as Roslyn, a recent divorcee. She meets Guido (Eli Wallach), a widower, who instantly falls in love with the sexy Roslyn. He allows her to move into his abandoned home (that is filled with memories of his dead wife), hoping this gesture will help Roslyn return his feelings. But, when Roslyn is introduced to Gay (Clark Gable), an aging cowboy, the two men compete for her affections, allowing for their worst traits to surface. Along the way, the trio meets Perce (Montgomery Clift), an old friend of Gay’s, who makes ends meet as a rodeo participant.
The men then find an easy way make fast money: capturing and selling wild horses (“misfits”) to make dog food. When Roslyn learns this, she protests, leading to the film’s emotional and disturbing conclusion.
As a whole, this is a stellar production. Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach all deliver fantastic performances. Thelma Ritter, as expected, adds plenty of humor and off colour remarks. Additionally, any John Huston and Arthur Miller collaboration is something that should not be missed out on. In fact, there is so much that can be written about The Misfits, but I think it is necessary to focus on the film’s most important and captivating element: Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe’s performance in The Misfits is something to note. Her impact on American culture has been analyzed for decades; Marilyn Monroe is, after all, why feminist film theory exists. But with this role, she steps away from that one image that clouded her film career: Marilyn Monroe, standing over a subway grate with her white dress blowing up (from The Seven Year Itch).
Don’t be mistaken: The Misfits depends on Marilyn Monroe’s sexuality quite frequently (how could it not.) But because Roslyn is a character with depth who, despite being a former prostitute, acts as the group’s moral compass, Monroe is able to prove something that is typically forgotten when people hear her name.
Marilyn Monroe had talent. In fact, she had so much talent that she was able to mold herself into a persona that to this day some people find stupid and pointless. Her roles, filled with innuendos still spark endless debates. And that is why The Misfits is Marilyn Monroe’s most noteworthy performance because while you are watching this film, you can easily forget that you are that same woman from The Seven Year Itch.
Updated October 19, 2010
Two of my favorite moments from It Happened One Night (1934), starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
Ellie: By the way, what’s your name?
Peter Warne: What’s that?
Ellie: Who are you?
Peter Warne: Who me? [smiling]
Peter Warne: I’m the whippoorwill that cries in the night. I’m the soft morning breeze that caresses your lovely face.
Ellie: You’ve got a name, haven’t you?
Peter Warne: Yeah, I got a name. Peter Warne.
Ellie: Peter Warne. I don’t like it.
Peter Warne: Don’t let it bother you. You’re giving it back to me in the morning.
Ellie: Pleased to meet you, Mr. Warne.
Peter Warne: The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Warne.
Ellie: I’ll stop that car, and I won’t use my thumb!
[after Ellie stops a car by showing her leg]
Peter Warne: Why didn’t you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.
Ellie: Well, ooo, I’ll remember that when we need forty cars.
Clark Gable: Signature Collection
Warner Home Video, $59.98, not rated.
Is it possible to be a great star without appearing in very many great movies? Clark Gable is probably the test of that proposition: he’s one of the few major box office stars of the 1930’s who might produce a glimmer of recognition from a contemporary audience, but after Gone With the Wind and perhaps It Happened One Night, most people would be stuck naming many more of his films.
What would Gable be without Gone With the Wind, or for that matter, what would Gone With the Wind be without Gable? It’s his leering masculinity that gives Margaret Mitchell’s weepy epic the balance and the ballast it needs to keep it from becoming the world’s longest Harlequin romance, and it’s David O. Selznick’s film that finally gives Gable a social context and a personal history to anchor his free-floating libido in something solidly dramatic.
Gable’s curse, of course, was that he spent most of his career under contract to MGM, and being a team player, never seemed to balk at the unimaginative, repetitive assignments he was given. A new box set from Warner Home Video, Clark Gable: The Signature Collection, brings together six Gable films, all but one (John Ford’s 1953 Mogambo) from his prewar period of greatest fame. (Gable spent World War II in the Army Air Corps, after his wife, Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash on her way home from a war bond drive.)
And while Gable’s sexual magnetism is still evident, even in a piece of cheese like Clarence Brown’s 1936 Wife vs. Secretary, there’s little in that film or the set’s remaining four (Robert Z. Leonard’s 1933 Dancing Lady, Tay Garnett’s 1935 China Seas, W. S. Van Dyke’s 1936 San Francisco, and Jack Conway’s 1940 Boom Town) that suggests the hold that Gable had over audiences of the period. Without Gone With the Wind — made, like It Happened One Night, while he was on loan to another studio — Gable would probably rank no higher in contemporary consciousness than Robert Montgomery or Robert Taylor, to name just two of his in-house MGM rivals.
This review poses some interesting questions about the career of Clark Gable. There’s no denying his iconic status, but his filmography doesn’t exactly shine.
But here is how I see it. What it comes down to is how you measure an actor’s iconic status. Is it based on awards and recognition? On career choices? On social impact? On charm? It’s a combination of all of this. What I do know is that when you starred in It Happened One Night and you were Rhett Butler, then you deserve to be a film icon, even if you don’t have the most outstanding filmography.
Clark Gable will always be an icon.