Miller’s humiliating treatment by Marilyn during the filming; Monty
Clift’s reliance on drink and drugs and, due to the fact that Clark
Gable died shortly after the film’s completion, the stigma was that
‘The Misfits’ was directly responsible for his death due to the immense
boredom and tension waiting for Marilyn to turn up and the physical
strain the 59 year old actor experienced in the action sequences.
John Huston was to write in his autobiography: “One of the myths attached to ‘The Misfits’ was that Clark Gable died of a heart attack because of over-exertion on this film. This is utter nonsense. Toward the end of the picture there was a contest between Clark and the stallion the cowboys had captured. It looked like rough work, and it was, but it was the stunt men who were thrown around, not Clark.”
The film had its origins in a short story Miller had written for Esquire magazine. When Miller had been living in Nevada to establish residence in order to divorce his first wife, he met three cowboys who made their living capturing wild horses which they sold for dog meat. A photographer friend of Miller’s, Sam Shaw, had read the story, ‘The Last Frontier of the Quixotic Cowboy’ when it had first been published and suggested that Miller turn it into a film script. Miller decided to write it as a special vehicle for his second wife, Marilyn Monroe on the suggestion of Shaw, who commented, “It would make a great movie and that’s a woman’s part she could kick into the stands.” Miller was to comment that ‘The Misfits’ was: “A story of three men who cannot locate a home on the earth for themselves and, for something to do, capture wild horses to be butchered for canned dog food; and a woman as homeless as they, but whose sense of life’s sacredness suggests a meaning for existence."
recently completed ‘It Started In Naples’ and had intended to make only
one further film, ‘Diamondhead’, before retiring. During the course
of filming he discussed making ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ with Huston
and another film with Marilyn. Production was scheduled to begin on
3rd March 1960 but an actors' strike had delayed production of ‘Let’s
Make Love’ by five weeks and by the time ‘The Misfits’ began location
filming the summer temperature in Reno, Nevada, was 110 degrees which
was a great strain on both cast and crew.
Neither Gable nor Monty Clift were in a fit state to pass the insurance physical, so Clark had to crash diet which brought his weight down to 195lbs and he stayed in bed for a whole week before the examination. Clift had to cut down on his booze and pills. The sun was at its hottest on 16th July when filming began and Huston began to experience problems because of Marilyn’s lateness.
He’d said, “I knew Marilyn’s reputation for being late on the set so before we started shooting I had the daily call changed from 9am to 10am because this would make things easier for her. It didn’t.” Gable also had a clause in his contract that he finished work at 5pm each day. He was on the set each morning at 9am, knew his lines and was ready to leave at 5pm. Sometimes Marilyn wouldn’t show until 4pm. A decision had also been taken to shoot the film in a sequential method, like that of a play, rather than shooting disconnected scenes as was usual in filming.
was Marilyn’s idol and she was initially terrified of filming with him,
but he made her entirely at ease. She’d met Gable some time earlier
at a Hollywood party and they’d danced together. He was the father she’d
always wished she’d had and she told journalists, “My mother gave me
a picture of him when I was a kid. She told me to pretend he was my
father and I did. I became very close to that face. Gable became my
fantasy. I dreamed of seeing him on the street but now I’ll have him
all to myself.”
Lew Smith, Gable’s stand-in, said: “Maybe Marilyn idolized Gable like a father, but she was in there pitching for more. She wanted him, if you know what I mean, and he was a big flirt and a tease, he loved to pat her plump fanny, knowing she never wore anything underneath. Or he’d pinch her and whisper something in her ear.”
There is a scene in the film where Marilyn, as Roslyn, is asleep in bed, naked under a sheet. Gable, as Gay, comes into the room and bends over to give her a good morning kiss, she rises slightly to meet him. During Take Seven she let the sheet slip to expose her breast to one of the two cameras. Both she and Frank Taylor wanted the take to be used and Marilyn commented, “I love to do the things the censors won’t pass. After all, what are we all here for, just to stand around and let it pass us by?”
|The third screen legend to appear in the film, Montgomery Clift, had once seemed to be blessed by the Gods – amazingly handsome, with an original talent and the potential to become a superstar. An accident disfigured his looks, his homosexuality led him to drink and drugs and the film offers began to dry up. Huston was pleased with his work on ‘The Misfits’ and said: “He never missed an hour’s work, he had his entire part memorised before shooting began and he was always on time despite the long delays in finishing the picture.” Commenting on Marilyn, Huston said: “She was appreciated as an artist in Europe long before her acceptance in the United States. Jean-Paul Sartre considered Marilyn Monroe the finest actress alive. He wanted her to play the leading female role in ‘Freud.’” When Huston filmed ‘Freud’ with Monty Clift in the title role, he’d wanted Marilyn to co-star. He said: “Marilyn had been the first choice to do the part of Cecily in ‘Freud’. Her own analyst, however, advised against it. Not out of concern for Marilyn, he didn’t believe a picture about Freud should be made at all because Freud’s daughter opposed the project. Later, after he had seen the picture, he told me that he felt he had made a mistake in this. If he had known the type of picture it was to be, he would have recommended that Marilyn do it.”||
as Gable looked after Marilyn, Marilyn looked after Monty, who carried
around a thermos flask full of grapefruit juice and vodka. Producer
Frank Taylor was to comment, “Monty and Marilyn were psychic twins.
They recognised disaster in each other’s faces and giggled about it.”
Marilyn’s marriage to Miller was obviously on the rocks and she was
still mixed-up over her affair with Yves Montand, believing he’d leave
his wife Simone Signoret for her.
So the unit was split into two camps – those who were on Marilyn’s payroll and those who sympathised with Miller over the disgraceful treatment he was receiving from her. Marilyn’s camp included Paula Strasberg, her make-up man Whitey Snyder, her publicity man Rupert Allen, May Reis, her secretary, Ralph Roberts, her masseur, Anna Flanagan, her personal maid, another hairdresser and maid, a stand-in, body cosmetician, wardrobe girl and seamstress. The strain on Miller, the rejection and the humiliation she inflicted on him in public, must have taken their toll, yet he was still protective of her and heartbroken by her deteriorating state. Fortunately for him, he was to meet photographer Inge Morath, who was covering the film for a major photo agency and they fell in love and she became his third wife.
night Marilyn took an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Her stomach
was pumped, she was wrapped in a wet sheet, carried to a plane and flown
to Westside Hospital in Los Angeles suffering from an emotional and
physical breakdown. Marilyn had been taking six or seven Nembutals every
night while on location. Production of the film was halted for two weeks
and Marilyn remained at the hospital for ten days while the doctors
withdrew her from Nembutal and put her on Dexamyl. She returned to the
set on 7th September, seemingly revitalised. Of her performance, Huston
was to say, “She went right down into her personal experience for everything,
reached down and pulled something out of herself that was unique and
extraordinary. She had no techniques. It was all truth, it was only
Marilyn. But it was Marilyn plus. She found things, found things about
womankind in herself.”
A further humiliation of Miller took place when a birthday party was held for Frank LaRue, Monty Clift’s make-up man. Paula Strasberg was placed in charge of arrangements and she didn’t invite Arthur Miller. John Huston decided not to turn up and a few days later, on 17th October, he held a birthday party for Miller and Clift at the Christmas Tree Inn. Miller was 45 and Marilyn was invited and turned up. During the celebrations, cameraman Russell Melly stood up and gave a speech: “Arthur writes scripts and John shoots ducks. First Arthur screwed up the script and now his wife is screwing it up. Why don’t you wish him a happy birthday, Marilyn? Arthur doesn’t know whether the horse should be up or down. Marilyn thinks we should keep the scene showing her half naked in bed. Monty is buying into the Del Monte grapefruit business – this is truly the biggest bunch of Misfits I ever saw.”
When Gable saw a rough cut of ‘The Misfits’ he thought it was the best picture he had made in his life. He shook Frank Taylor’s hand and told him, “I now have two things to be proud of in my career – ‘Gone With The Wind’ and this.” Gable was thrilled with the picture, but Marilyn was not. What had originally been meant as a starring vehicle for her had really turned out to be a man’s film. In the last major scene where Marilyn as Roslyn is trying to talk the cowboys into releasing the horses, she screams: “You liars! All of you! Liars! Men! Big Men! You’re only living when you can watch something die! Kill everything, that’s all you want! Why don’t you just kill yourselves and be happy? I pity you.”
Marilyn felt the audience would just look on her as a hysterical woman,
that she should have been given articulate lines to reason with the
cowboys rather than a short, shrieking speech. She was furious with
Miller and said, “He could have written me anything, and he comes up
with this. If that’s what he thinks of me, then I’m not for him and
he’s not for me.” Huston, Miller and Taylor were unhappy with the rough
cut and wanted to re-shoot several scenes, but Gable vetoed it. His
attorney told them, “Clark Gable will not accept any more script changes.”
On 4th November, Clark said goodbye to the cast. The next day at home on his ranch, he developed a pain in his chest. His wife said, “Clark was ashen and sweating. We had an early dinner and he retired, but in the middle of the night he woke up with a headache and what he described as indigestion. In the morning, he tried to get dressed and almost collapsed. I called the doctor despite Clark’s protesting over and over that he was alright. The ambulance came. He was so embarrassed, but we made him get in. Through it all he was concerned because I was pregnant.” Clark had suffered a coronary thrombosis, but he seemed to recover and was in a cheerful mood, asking for books and magazines to read. On 15th November Kay kissed him goodnight and went into the adjoining room to lie down.
The doctor said, “Around eleven, Clark turned the page of a magazine he was reading, put his head down, took a deep sigh, and died.” Reporters contacted Marilyn at 2am to tell her and she became hysterical. She felt guilty about his death.