Making Montgomery Clift – A Beautiful Loser

REVIEW/PERSONA
by Violetta Efimova
08.10.2020
On the eve of the actor's 100th birthday anniversary a new documentary Making Montgomery Clift (2018) masterfully conjoins features of the detailed biographical research and the family's reflection on Clift's sufferings that were hidden deep inside him. In Moscow, the film was presented at the 2nd annual Panorama arthouse festival.
Montgomery Clift's personality still stirs up a dispute among the researchers of his work — even several decades after the actor's death. The most frequent aspect of the discussion is, no wonder, his sexual orientation: Hollywood's sex symbol of the 1950s, Clift was notorious for affairs with both men and women. Already at that time his fate literally became the synonyme of gay tragedy as, in his contemporaries' eyes, it was the homosexuality that was considered the main reason for Clift's decease (at least the moral one).
But the aspects of his personal life were not invariably the first thing to be recalled alongside the name of Montgomery Clift. The actor was highly valued for the embodiment of a new type of the male character on the screen — a man who wasn't afraid to show himself as a vulnerable and emotional person. Unlike most of the actors of his time, Clift never hesitated to play versatile, sometimes even conflicting roles of idealists and rioters, but with a sensitive and tender soul.
Still, even though Montgomery Clift was in great demand among recognized directors and producers, he was literally driving the studios crazy, the agents were incensed, his career was maliciously called a slow suicide in Hollywood. And all this wrath was caused only by the fact that, by Clift's own admission, he'd rather be free than famous, and that was the exact reason why he would easily turn down the roles which, in consequence, were chosen by the Academy in various nominations. By and large, this never became an insuperable complication — for almost 20 years of his career Clift received 4 Oscar nominations for the Best Actor, including his performances in The Search (1948) and in A Place in the Sun (1951) that brought him international fame. These days, as the family members ponder, Montgomery could be called a freelancer — but in Hollywood of the 1960s it was utterly unfathomable for anyone to reject 14 roles in a year. For anyone except Clift who was always craving for independence.

The actor's youngest nephew Robert Clift, who produced the brand new documentary, admits that, even though he was born some years after Montgomery's death and didn't know him in person, he gained very detailed insight about his famous uncle from other relatives. A special place in the film is given to Robert's dad and Montgomery's brother Brooks Clift who was practically possessed by recording everything around, including the conversations with Monty, as he was called in the family circle. This fact subsequently played the key role and became a peculiar, but rather touching tribute to the late actor.
The documentary smoothly leads the viewer
into Montgomery Clift's inner world, his
personal feelings and sufferings from what he was incessantly thought of in the society. Mostly this path to acknowledging the actor is the merit of those tape recordings made by Brooks. During conversations with the family the whole tension between Clift and the industry that he dedicated himself to comes to light. Incredibly prosperous in the haut monde, he was hapless deep inside, destitute not only of mere empathy from colleagues, but of precise comprehension for himself of who to give his love to.

Patricia Bosworth, a journalist and Clift's personal biographer, described him as a private, but very amorous man:
"Already Monty was more loved than loving. He felt guilty about his extravagant charm and beauty and his inability on many occasions to fulfill both the men and women who loved him — to give back, in other words, some of what he was taking. He could not accept their love without ultimately paying a price. But he was so used to being alternately loved and punished by his mother that he felt uncontrollable urges to be very, very good — or very, very horrible" (from "Montgomery Clift: A Biography" by Patricia Bosworth)
The car accident that Clift and his long-term friend Elizabeth Taylor got into on the 12th May of 1956 somehow became a new turning-point of his career. Montgomery was never that diffident — he even mastered some new acting techniques which helped Clift like himself more on the screen. Alas, it didn't last long enough — 10 years later after the car crash Montgomery Clift died of a heart attack at the age of 45.
The documentary, replete with archive photos, videos and even voice recordings of Clift, unequivocally shows the effect that the actor's biographies by Patricia Bosworth and Robert La Guardia (the latter was afterwards rejected for falsifying facts) had on Montgomery's perception in the society. Surrounded by concocted stereotypes and rumors about his sexual orientation, Montgomery Clift was forgotten as an exceptionally bright actor that invented a new way of men's depiction on the screen. Probably and hopefully, his persevering nephew finally broke this wall of unjust hatred.
 
Making Montgomery Clift – A Beautiful Loser

REVIEW/PERSONA
by Violetta Efimova
08.10.2020
On the eve of the actor's 100th birthday anniversary a new documentary Making Montgomery Clift (2018) masterfully conjoins features of the detailed biographical research and the family's reflection on Clift's sufferings that were hidden deep inside him. In Moscow, the film was presented at the 2nd annual Panorama arthouse festival.
Montgomery Clift's personality still stirs up a dispute among the researchers of his work — even several decades after the actor's death. The most frequent aspect of the discussion is, no wonder, his sexual orientation: Hollywood's sex symbol of the 1950s, Clift was notorious for affairs with both men and women. Already at that time his fate literally became the synonyme of gay tragedy as, in his contemporaries' eyes, it was the homosexuality that was considered the main reason for Clift's decease (at least the moral one).

But the aspects of his personal life were not invariably the first thing to be recalled alongside the name of Montgomery Clift. The actor was highly valued for the embodiment of a new type of the male character on the screen — a man who wasn't afraid to show himself as a vulnerable and emotional person. Unlike most of the actors of his time, Clift never hesitated to play versatile, sometimes even conflicting roles of idealists and rioters, but with a sensitive and tender soul.
Still, even though Montgomery Clift was in great demand among recognized directors and producers, he was literally driving the studios crazy, the agents were incensed, his career was maliciously called a slow suicide in Hollywood. And all this wrath was caused only by the fact that, by Clift's own admission, he'd rather be free than famous, and that was the exact reason why he would easily turn down the roles which, in consequence, were chosen by the Academy in various nominations. By and large, this never became an insuperable complication — for almost 20 years of his career Clift received 4 Oscar nominations for the Best Actor, including his performances in The Search (1948) and in A Place in the Sun (1951) that brought him international fame. These days, as the family members ponder, Montgomery could be called a freelancer — but in Hollywood of the 1960s it was utterly unfathomable for anyone to reject 14 roles in a year. For anyone except Clift who was always craving for independence.

The actor's youngest nephew Robert Clift, who produced the brand new documentary, admits that, even though he was born some years after Montgomery's death and didn't know him in person, he gained very detailed insight about his famous uncle from other relatives. A special place in the film is given to Robert's dad and Montgomery's brother Brooks Clift who was practically possessed by recording everything around, including the conversations with Monty, as he was called in the family circle. This fact subsequently played the key role and became a peculiar, but rather touching tribute to the late actor.
The documentary smoothly leads the viewer into Montgomery Clift's inner world, his personal feelings and sufferings from what he was incessantly thought of in the society. Mostly this path to acknowledging the actor is the merit of those tape recordings made by Brooks. During conversations with the family the whole tension between Clift and the industry that he dedicated himself to comes to light. Incredibly prosperous in the haut monde, he was hapless deep inside, destitute not only of mere empathy from colleagues, but of precise comprehension for himself of who to give his love to.

Patricia Bosworth, a journalist and Clift's personal biographer, described him as a private, but very amorous man:
"Already Monty was more loved than loving. He felt guilty about his extravagant charm and beauty and his inability on many occasions to fulfill both the men and women who loved him — to give back, in other words, some of what he was taking. He could not accept their love without ultimately paying a price. But he was so used to being alternately loved and punished by his mother that he felt uncontrollable urges to be very, very good — or very, very horrible"
(from "Montgomery Clift: A Biography" by Patricia Bosworth)
The car accident that Clift and his long-term friend Elizabeth Taylor got into on the 12th May of 1956 somehow became a new turning-point of his career. Montgomery was never that diffident — he even mastered some new acting techniques which helped Clift like himself more on the screen. Alas, it didn't last long enough — 10 years later after the car crash Montgomery Clift died of a heart attack at the age of 45.
The documentary, replete with archive photos, videos and even voice recordings of Clift, unequivocally shows the effect that the actor's biographies by Patricia Bosworth and Robert La Guardia (the latter was afterwards rejected for falsifying facts) had on Montgomery's perception in the society. Surrounded by concocted stereotypes and rumors about his sexual orientation, Montgomery Clift was forgotten as an exceptionally bright actor that invented a new way of men's depiction on the screen. Probably and hopefully, his persevering nephew finally broke this wall of unjust hatred.
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