Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Misfits (1961)

Prepare to drop your jaw watching The Misfits.

That reaction will likely not be due to the film itself - it's awfully slow-going for the first 90 minutes -- but rather the cast of screen icons director John Huston assembled for this 1961 drama.

There's plenty of star power here - Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter.

The Misfits would be the last completed film for both Gable and Monroe. Clift died a few years later in 1966.

Roslyn Taber (Monroe) is in Reno for a quick divorce from Raymond (Kevin McCarthy). "You could touch him, but he wasn't there," she says of her former flame. She's a lost soul. Guido (Wallach) is the tow truck driver who gets her and landlord Isabelle Steers (Ritter) to court when Roslyn's new car is on the fritz. He's a widower and is bowled over by Taber's looks. Guido is buddy's with Gay Langland (Gable), a rancher who bid farewell to his wife years ago and enjoys a string of affairs. When the two fellas meet the two ladies in a bar, an idea is proposed.

Taber is welcome to bunk at Guido's place in the country so she can figure out what'll be next in her life. Gay's there too. He's interested in Roslyn, but the feeling isn't mutual - at least not initially. Guido and Perce (Clift) are also interested in the newly-available young woman.

Gay appreciates the freedom the outdoors in Nevada offers, but doesn't extend that appreciation to the wild mustangs that roam around a nearby mountain. Their numbers are declining because opportunists like him are rounding them up and selling them for dog food. When Gay, Guido and rodeo cowboy Perce head off to corral six horses, the sensitive Roslyn is outraged. Gay's practical nature doesn't fit well with her love of animals.

There's a lot of boozin' and hurtin' in The Misfits. Perce's body keeps getting banged up from riding bulls and broncos. He's torn up inside too with the death of his father and getting shut out of his farm by his stepfather. Guido pines for his late wife and is jealous when other men are interested in Roslyn. Even Isabelle is banged up, with an arm in a sling because she "misbehaved" when celebrating another boarder's divorce.

There's little chemistry between Gay and Roslyn. Roslyn finds Guido to be more talk than action. She tries to save Perce before he kills himself at a rodeo.

Playwright Arthur Miller's script has some sharp lines of dialogue, but The Misfits doesn't start to get real interesting until the horse wrangling begins. By then, most viewers will have given up on this film.

RATING: 5/10

FUN FACTS: Eli Wallach, as of this writing in 2013, is still alive. He'll be 100 in 1915.

Monroe was filming Something's Got to Give when she died in 1962. Monroe was 36.

Kevin McCarthy appeared in the cult classic, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and its remake.

Estelle Winwood is effective in a brief appearance as a woman collecting donations for a church charity. She appeared in an episode of the original Twilight Zone, Long Live Walter Jameson.

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