The Misfits – John Houston (1961)

April 21, 2008 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

A group of people come accidentally together, as so often happens in life. Some are conscious of their misadjustment, others are just lost without even noticing it. Marilyn Monroe plays the role of a disillusioned divorcée, looking ahead for an uncertain future and having one single condition in mind – that companionship and love may finally be a part of her life.
Doubting what her role in life is, she becomes the magnet bringing together three problematic men carrying their own traumas and for whom “the rules of the game have been changed”; a cowboy, the last of a kind whose way of surviving faces endangerment, a rodeo boy keen on hurting himself and battling with the troubles which result from his relationship with his own mother and, a lonely man carrying the guilt of the loss of his loved one. Marilyn is a free spirit on her turn, stuck between child and womanhood as she hesitates to have children herself, for she knows how fleeting the rules of love are.
They are the misfits, fragments of people, pieces of a puzzle that doesn´t fit together. Without having a clue about what to do next, Marilyn discovers her part as real life unfolds. Of all, she has the clearer view, she doesn´t reflect on what to do but simply does it. She finds her role: she is needed and she belongs somewhere because she is needed. She is the entertainer, the problem solver, acting as a mother for the three men – what an irony for someone who fears having kids and what a relief for someone who started out just as lost as the others! She becomes the glue holding all the wrecks surrounding her. Though frighten and insecure at times, she is the laughter and light where the men turn to, expecting approval, incentive, love and advice. She is not a revolutionary figure, just the contrary, she fulfills one of the classical roles of what is expected of a woman.
“The Misfits”, with a screenplay by Arthur Miller and featuring Montgomery Cliff, Clark Gabble and Marilyn Monroe among others, is marked by a series of strange coincidences. It was Clark´s and Monroe´s last appearance on screen, the tumbling down of Miller and Monroe´s marriage took place meanwhile. All the off screen problems somehow show in Marilyn´s rather unbalanced performance, at times engaging and at other times totally weak. It seems she was very moody during the shootings, it was difficult to conciliate her ego with Clark´s own ego, and it is said that either she showed up drunk or not at all on set.

What is Monroe, I often wondered. My fascination started with a photography exhibition I saw in New York. I bought a little postcard that has been following me through the different cities I´ve lived in so far. She is the laughter and the tragedy one is attracted to, she describes something of the male gaze that I would finally like to understand.
On my postcard she is young and joyful, she is leaning forward as if challenging you directly in the eye – fortunately in this two-dimensional image she cannot speak for her dissimulated voice always gets on my nerves. Marilyn´s voice, unlike what a voice usually does, doesn´t bring us closer to her, on the contrary! It reminds me of make up powder and grandma´s perfume, its artifice orchestrated to the last detail, in opposition to a sincere voice, which for me would be the grand voice of Callas, in whose flesh we can already sense the forthcoming tragedy both on life and stage; to be admired and feared from distance but still feel like a total failure in what the smallest things of life, which other people seem to manage so easily, concerns.
Monroe cannot be simply explained as a puppet. Perhaps the known tragic events and facts of her personal life are the ones disturbing her image, continuously taking our sleep away as we do not know what to make out of her.
Anyway, Capote was a great admirer of Monroe and made Hepburn´s life miserable during the shooting of Breakfast at Tiffany´s, for he wrote the part having Monroe in mind – the one and only luxury doll in his mind.
In The Dogs Barking, Capote describes Monroe the same way as Holy, as a slob, divine, like a banana split or a cherry jubilee. He says: „ But true to type as aspects of the Monroe are, she is not genuinely of the genre, she is too untough to be; moreover, she is capable of sensitive concentration always the secret of making any talent work, which her does: the character she performs, a waif-figure of saucy pathos, is sound and of convincing charm: very understandably so, since there is a small difference between her screen image and the impression she privately conveys – the appeal of both personalities stems from the same circumstance: that she is an orphan, in spirit and actually; she is stained, and illuminated by, the stigmata of orphan-thinking: while trusting no one, not very much, she labours like a fieldhand to please everybody, she wants to make of each of us an affectionate protector, and consequently we, her audience, her acquaintances, are flattered, pitying, aroused“.

Marilyn is a fake blond and on this point I´ve got to hand it in to K.G., for he is right. Success comes from knowing how to manipulate one´s medium the best possible way!

Entry filed under: Blogroll, Cinema. Tags: , .

The Nomadic Condition Matthias Weischer

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