“Honey, nothing can live unless something dies.”
Before I decided to do this Swansong Week, I’d never heard of The Misfits. I just decided Marilyn Monroe was legendary enough to be included and went to the last movie listed on her IMDB page. Then, as the opening credits began to roll, I discovered I was in for something big. The actors alone would make The Misfits more than worth your time. As well as Monroe, you also get Clark Gable (also giving his last movie performance), Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift. Plus, behind the camera is director John Huston. Then, you have all of this immense talent working from an Arthur Miller screenplay. How could The Misfits be anything less than amazing?
The recently divorced Roslyn (Monroe) is going out to celebrate with her friend Isabelle (Thelma Ritter). With Roslyn’s car is undrivable after an accident, they get a lift to a divey Reno casino with mechanic Guido (Wallach). At the casino, they meet Guido’s friend Gay Langland (Gable), an aging cowboy who immediately sets his sights on Roslyn. Soon, they all end up at Guido’s house out in the desert where he’s let things go after the death of his wife. Gay convinces Roslyn to take a chance on him and stay in Guido’s house with him. She does, they begin to fall in love and play house.
When Guido and Isabelle return, they all decide to round up wild mustangs in the desert to make some money. Needing help, they enlist an old friend of Gay’s, a rodeo rider named Perce Howland (Clift). But this big, happy makeshift family still has to confront their past. There’s Guido’s dead wife to make peace with, Rosyln’s ex husband, Gay’s estranged children and plenty more.
I’m not generally a big fan of Marilyn Monroe. She’s easy enough to look at, but her baby voiced schtick has never worked for me. It’s just so fake, annoying and off putting. No matter how pretty she may have been, it wasn’t enough to make up for her painful persona. But here, in The Misfits, she really acts her ass off. Roslyn is real, and believable, and tragic, and all the things that I thought she wasn’t capable of being. When I saw the cast, I thought she’d be buried under the immense acting chops of Wallach and incredible charisma of Gable. But she really delivers.
Gable had nothing left to prove by this stage in his career, but I assume a drugged up Monroe probably did. Not only that she still had acting talent, but that she had it to begin with, and was more than just a pretty face. It sucks that she was dead a year or so later, but at least she went out on something with real substance. And as for Gable, it’s the kind of lived in, old man role that only suits a man of a certain age. So it’s great that he didn’t go out, clinging to some sort of leading man part he was obviously too old for. It’s a great last word for two mammoth Hollywood forces.
Monroe 1947 – 1961
Gable 1923 – 1961
Monroe (for me) The Misfits (1961), for the rest of the world, maybe The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Gable It Happened One Night (1934)
Selected Major Achievements/Accolades:
Golden Globe, World Film Favorite Female (1953)
BAFTA, Best Foreign Female (The Seven Year Itch, 1956)
Golden Globe, Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical (Some Like it Hot, 1960)
Academy Award, Best Actor ((It Happened One Night, 1934)