While filing for a divorce, beautiful ex-stripper Roslyn Taber ends up meeting aging cowboy-turned-gambler Gay Langland and former World War II aviator Guido Racanelli. The two men instantly become infatuated with Roslyn and, on a whim, the three decide to move into Guido's half-finished desert home together. When grizzled ex-rodeo rider Perce Howland arrives, the unlikely foursome strike up a business capturing wild horses.
Four lost souls in the Nevada desert wilderness
A recently divorced blonde bombshell in Reno (Marilyn Monroe) befriends three guys and stirs their passions: An aging cowboy (Clark Gable), a cynical bush pilot (Eli Wallach) and a brooding rodeo contender (Montgomery Clift). They take an excursion to capture wild mustangs for profit. Thelma Ritter is on hand as a fifth misfit in the first half.
“The Misfits” (1961) was Gable and Monroe’s final film and Clift’s last significant one. Gable passed away a few days after shooting from a heart attack while Marilyn died 18 months after its release. Clift was dead by 1966. Even Ritter died before the 60s were over.
It’s a B&W drama with Western elements and haunting reflections on the nature of life and death, reminiscent of those Tennessee Williams’ flicks of the era, like “The Night of the Iguana” and “The Fugitive Kind.” The characters are lost souls who drown out their pain with lots of drinking and shallow socializing. Monroe is voluptuous and charismatic; and there are thematic gems here and there, like Gay’s potent commentary on doing something with pure intentions while society pulls a bait-and-switch and it becomes morally dubious or outright bad. The film’s also a fascinating period piece.
FYI: Director John Huston originally wanted Robert Mitchum for Gable’s role, but by the time they worked the kinks out of the script Mitchum was busy with another project. The writer, Arthur Miller, was Marilyn’s husband during shooting, but they were officially divorced 11 days before its release.
United Artists, Seven Arts Productions by John Huston, Arthur Miller.
Stars: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter.
Genres: Drama, Romance, Western
Keywords: rodeo decision reno mustang falling in love bull divorce desert bull riding contemporary west
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