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The Passion of Montgomery Clift

The Passion of Montgomery Clift

Amy Lawrence
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    The Passion of Montgomery Clift
    Book Description:

    From his 1948 film debut inRed Riverthrough such classics asThe Heiress, A Place in the Sun, andFrom Here to Eternity, Montgomery Clift exemplified a new masculinity and-leading the way for a generation of actors, including Marlon Brando and James Dean-epitomized the new naturalistic style of acting. Clift's impact was such that, both during his troubled life and after his untimely death, fans described the actor in religious terms, characterizing Clift as a vision, acolyte, and martyr. InThe Passion of Montgomery Clift, Amy Lawrence challenges the myth of Clift as tragic victim by examining Clift's participation in the manipulation of his image, his collaborations with directors, his relationships with costars, and his interactions with writers.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94582-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Although fans are often said to “worship” or “idolize” stars, Montgomery Clift sparks reactions so extreme that his fans describe him in terms approaching religious ecstasy. Trying to articulate decades later how deeply moved they were when they first encountered the actor in films such asRed River(1948),The Heiress(1949),A Place in the Sun(1951), andFrom Here to Eternity(1953), Clift’s fans struggle to express the indescribable. According to one, Clift had a “face of almost impenetrable beauty.”¹ For another, “His beauty was so sensual and at the same time so vulnerable it was almost blinding."²...

  6. ONE The Face of a Saint
    (pp. 11-49)

    From the beginning, Montgomery Clift was hailed as exceptional. In December 1948,Lifemagazine featured an earnest Clift on its cover over the title “New Male Movie Stars.” While the other candidates for stardom (including Richard Widmark, Ricardo Montalban, Louis Jourdan, Peter Lawford, and Farley Granger) were presented as a group, Clift had already been singled out.¹ “Clift, 28, heads the list of new male movie discoveries,”Lifeproclaimed.² This pronouncement was widely seconded at the time and would be reiterated for decades. One critic, comparing him with contemporaries Marlon Brando and James Dean fifty years later, asserted that Clift...

  7. TWO The Bobby-Soxers’ Idol
    (pp. 50-81)

    From the first it was assumed that Montgomery Clift was a star with a special appeal for women, especially bobby-soxers—enthusiastic teenage fans who made themselves a cultural force (and important potential market) in the mid-forties. Fan magazines promoted Clift relentlessly to this audience with articles designed around story lines and photographs the editors assumed girls would respond to. The main theme was romance.

    Promoting his soon-to-be-releasedThe Heiress, Movie Stars Paradein November 1948 warns potential female fans to “Watch Your Heart!” Once infatuated, the fan is invited to proceed through the stages of an imaginary relationship, using the...

  8. THREE Actor as Saint
    (pp. 83-139)

    A priest is being questioned by the police about a recent murder. His vows forbid him to reveal what he knows, even as he comes to be suspected of the crime himself. Up to this point, Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) has been a model of discretion, carefully concealing matters he chooses to keep private. Interrogated by someone as determined as he is, Logan is pressed harder than ever before to divulge at last what lies behind his studiedly impassive surface.

    Detective Larue (Karl Malden) tries to catch Logan out regarding his whereabouts the night of the murder. Using misdirection, Larue...

  9. FOUR Facing Persecution
    (pp. 141-175)

    When the first serious biographies of Clift appeared in the late seventies, they were promoted as exposés, positing homosexuality as the key that explained Clift’s life. Robert LaGuardia’sMonty: A Biography of Montgomery Cliftwas the first, published in 1977. Despite LaGuardia’s sensitivity about “outing” people (he explains in a preface that he uses pseudonyms “for Monty’s male lovers” in order to avoid “possible social embarrassment to them”), the publisher did not hesitate to foreground Clift’s sexuality. “Women—and men—couldn’t resist him,” proclaims a blurb on the paperback.¹ Patricia Bosworth’sMontgomery Clift: A Biographyfollowed soon after (1978), endorsed...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. FIVE Mortification of the Flesh
    (pp. 177-217)

    Karl Malden once said of Montgomery Clift, “He had the face of a saint but when you looked into his eyes you saw a tortured soul trying to make its way out of utter bewilderment.”¹ Barney Hoskyns, in his 1991 biography, asks rhetorically, “How was it, then, that this perfect boy, this actor witha face of almost impenetrable beauty,was sodiseased,so racked by emotional and sexual doubts?”² Tortured, diseased. How did we get here, from the face of a saint to what David Thomson calls “a sainted mess”?³

    After completingFrom Here to Eternity(released in August...

  12. SIX A Gay Martyr
    (pp. 218-253)

    Many of Clift’s roles point to the danger of sexuality of any kind.¹ His characters’ sexual relationships with women rarely turn out well. InThe Heiress,he is outsmarted by a woman he had conned earlier. InThe Big Lift,he is taken in by a duplicitous schemer. InA Place in the Sun,sexual longing leads him to the electric chair. InI Confess,the character’s potential for sexual activity in the past is used against him. He is arrested and then has his heart broken inIndiscretion of an American Wife,and he meets mostly frustration and misunderstandings...

  13. SEVEN Nothing Sacred
    (pp. 254-286)

    Although he was frequently (if disparagingly) spoken of in terms of Christlike suffering, the closest Clift came to Christ-on-film was when George Stevens considered casting Clift in his biblical epic,The Greatest Story Ever Told.The idea of reteaming Clift with the director ofA Place in the Sun,combined with the overtly religious subject matter, makes this project an irresistible what-if.

    Much of an actor’s career takes place in the imagination. Before we can see a performance, many people have to imagine it first. Those casting a film have to be able to picture the actor in the role,...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 287-322)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 323-333)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 334-334)