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Montgomery Clift

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Edward Montgomery Clift (October 17, 1920 - July 23, 1966) was an American actor known by the stage name of Montgomery Clift. During the 1940s through the 1950s, he was often cited as being the equal of Marlon Brando and would have achieved greater iconic status were it not for his personal problems and selectivity with roles.


[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Clift was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Ethel Anderson Fogg Blair and William Brooks Clift, a banker with roots in the South. Clift had a twin sister, Roberta, and an older brother, Brooks, husband of Eleanor Clift, the columnist and political commentator, and father of their three children; Brooks also had a child by the late actress Kim Stanley. Later in life, he would describe his father as a drunken bigot with whom he was never on good terms.

[edit] Film career

Appearing on Broadway at the age of thirteen, Clift achieved success on the stage and starred there for 10 years before moving to Hollywood, debuting in 1948's Red River opposite John Wayne. Clift was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor that same year for The Search. Clift was billed as a new kind of leading man: sensitive, intense and broodingly handsome, the kind of man women would want to take care of. He had a highly successful film career, performing in many Oscar-nominated roles and becoming a matinee idol because of his good looks and sex appeal. His love scenes with Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) set a new standard for romance in cinema. His roles in A Place in the Sun, the 1953 classic From Here to Eternity and The Young Lions (1958) are considered signatures of his career.

Clift and his screen rival, Marlon Brando, were popularly known in Hollywood as the "Golddust Twins" because of their rapid rise to stardom. Clift reportedly turned down the starring roles in Sunset Boulevard and East of Eden.

[edit] Car accident

On May 12, 1956, while filming Raintree County, he smashed his car into a telephone pole after leaving a party at the home of his Raintree County co-star Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband Michael Wilding. Alerted by friend Kevin McCarthy, who witnessed the accident, Taylor raced to Clift's side and kept him from choking to death by removing two of his teeth, which had become lodged in his throat. Clift needed extensive reconstructive surgery on his face (although his broken nose was never repaired) and he returned after several weeks to finish the film, his handsome appearance permanently disfigured. The "before and after" face of Clift is apparent in the movie. By this time, Clift had become hooked on alcohol and pain pills, and his health deteriorated. Taylor and Clift remained close friends until his death. In the 1970s, the punk rock band The Clash released a song about the car accident entitled "The Right Profile".

[edit] Post-accident career

Subsequently, Clift, with Lee Remick, appeared in Elia Kazan's Wild River (1960), a film listed in the United States National Film Registry. He then costarred in John Huston's The Misfits (1961), which turned out to be the last film for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. By the time Clift was making John Huston's Freud (1962) his destructive lifestyle was affecting his health. Universal sued him for his frequent absences which caused the film to go over budget. The case was later settled; the film's success at the box office won Clift a lucrative settlement.

Clift's last Oscar nomination was for best supporting actor for his riveting role in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), a seven-minute part. The film also starred Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, and Judy Garland. The film's Director, Stanley Kramer, later wrote in his memoirs about how Clift - by this stage a wreck of a man - struggled to remember his lines even for this one scene: "Finally I said to him, 'Just forget the damn lines Monty. Let's say you're on the witness stand. The prosecutor says something to you, then the defense attorney bitterly attacks you, and you have to reach for a word in the script. That's all right. Go ahead and reach for it. Whatever the word may be, it doesn't really matter. Just turn to [Spencer] Tracy on the bench whenever you feel the need, and ad lib something. It will be all right because it will convey the confusion in your character's mind.' He seemed to calm down after this. He wasn't always close to the script, but whatever he said fitted in perfectly, and he came through with as good a performance as I had hoped." To watch the scene in the light of these revelations is to understand the sheer power of Montgomery Clift's screen presence.

[edit] Sexuality

Several authors say that Montgomery Clift was homosexual. Others are of the opinion that he was bisexual. Biographer Michelangelo Capua says that "Monty slept with both men and women, hoping to discover his own sexual preferences." He adds that Monty's mother "talks with no problem about her son's homosexuality: 'Monty was a homosexual very early. I think he was about twelve or thirteen years old.' " (Montgomery Clift: a Biography, p.22)

Patricia Bosworth, who had total access to Clift's family and many persons who knew the actor and worked with him, writes in her book on Montgomery Clift, "Before the accident Monty had drifted into countless affairs with men and women. It suited his personality to have sex with a variety of partners...After the accident and his drug addiction became more serious, Monty was often impotent, and sex became less important to him. His deepest commitments were emotional rather than sexual anyway, and reserved for old friends; he was unflinchingly loyal to men like Bill Le Massena and women like Elizabeth Taylor, Libby Holman and Ann Lincoln."

[edit] Death

Montgomery Clift died in 1966 at the age of 45 of complications brought on by his severe drug and alcohol addictions. He is interred in the Quaker Cemetery, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York.

[edit] Trivia


  • Clift was brother-in-law to Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift.
  • Marilyn Monroe, who was also having emotional problems while filming The Misfits, described Clift as: "The only person I know who is in worse shape than I am."
  • His post-accident career has been referred to as the "longest suicide in Hollywood" because of his alleged substance abuse.
  • Clift's height was 5'10".
  • The songs "Monty got a Raw Deal" by R.E.M., "The Right Profile" by The Clash, and "The Best Film He Ever Made" by Sad Lovers and Giants are about him. A posthumously released Clash live album was named for one of his films (From Here to Eternity).

[edit] Academy Award nominations

Clift has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6104 Hollywood Blvd.

[edit] Filmography

[edit] Stage appearances

  • Fly Away Home (1935)
  • Jubilee (1935)
  • Yr. Obedient Husband (1938)
  • Eye On the Sparrow (1938)
  • Dame Nature (1938)
  • The Mother (1939)
  • There Shall Be No Night (1940)
  • The Skin of Our Teeth (1942)
  • The Searching Wind (1944)
  • Foxhole in the Parlor (1945)
  • You Touched Me (1945)
  • The Seagull (1954)

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


This article is based on a GNU FDL LGBT Wikia article: Clift Montgomery Clift LGBT
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