“The Misfits” (1961)

In a strange coincidence, my husband G. Grod requested The Misfits from the library, though it was me who’d heard it referenced on a recent Mad Men. It’s a John Huston film, with a screenplay by Arthur Miller, based on a story he wrote while he was in Reno waiting for his divorce to come through so he could marry Marilyn.

Marilyn is Roslyn, a recent divorcee, who falls in with Clark Gable’s aging cowboy lothario, Eli Wallach’s bitter mechanic, Montgomery Clift’s fading rodeo rider and her landlady, Isabelle:

Isabelle Steers: The Leave It state. Ya got money you want to gamble? Leave it here. You got a wife you want to get ride of? Get rid of her here. Extra atom bomb you don’t need? Blow it up here. Nobody’s gonna mind in the slightest


The men are all in love with Roslyn, though she and Gable try their hand at playing house. Tensions build, and reach a breaking point in a breathtaking sequence in the mountains with the men chasing mustangs.

The film never seemed to find its footing for me, though. Ostensibly it’s about a group of outcasts trying to find their way in a changing world. I think it was at least as much about the futility of group friendships and how men can act like vicious idiots to and about women. Miller’s screenplay is verbose, and not suited to Monroe’s twitchy, breathy attempts at acting. Gable seems like he’s playing himself, Wallach is fine, but it’s only Clift who caused me to feel anything for any of the characters other than the horses.

Uneven, but still fascinating, if only for the glimpse of Monroe and Gable in their last film, and how prophetic the film seems in retrospect. As for prophecy, this is one of the bits of trivia listed at IMDB:

On the last day of filming, Clark Gable said, “Christ, I’m glad this picture’s finished. She [Monroe] damn near gave me a heart attack.” On the next day, Gable suffered a severe coronary thrombosis. He died in hospital from a heart attack just ten days later.

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