Monty Clift

Monty Clift

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite actors, Montgomery Clift. Clift is a lesser-known actor, but still managed to carve an impressive niche in film history. Even though he appeared in less that 20 motion pictures, he was nominated 4 times for an Oscar during his short career.

You may remember that I already referenced his great performance in Judgement at Nurmemburg.

He and his twin sister were born on October 17, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Monty, as he is sometimes referred to, spent the first several years of his career establishing himself on the Broadway stage. Producers came calling and he finally gave in and went to Hollywood in 1946. His first two films were able to set  him up for future fame.

He had turned down several scripts before finally finding one he wanted to do. Red River, also starring John Wayne, gave Clift the new type of role that he wanted to try. Next he played a G.I. in postwar Berlin that helps a young Czech find his mother in The Search.

One of his close friends while in Hollywood was Elizabeth Taylor. They ended up making three films together, A Place in the Sun, Suddenly, Last Summer, and Raintree County. They remained close friends until his death.

Clift and Taylor

Clift and Taylor

After taking a break from the screen, Clift returned to make From Here to Eternity. The movie, also starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, went on to win eight Oscars and earned Clift a Best Actor nomination.

His life took a strange turn not long after the success of Eternity. When leaving a party at the home of Taylor one evening in 1957, his car veered off the road and crashed into a telephone pole. Clift suffered a broken jaw and nose, crushed sinus cavity, missing teeth and facial lacerations. But he surprised people by being out of the hospital after only eight weeks.

After the accident, Clift went back to work and starred in several big films such as Judgement at Nuremburg and The Misfits, which was Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable’s last film.

In the mid-1960s, he was set to star again with Taylor in Reflections in a Golden Eye, but production could not start until she finished work on another film. While waiting, Clift decided to go ahead with The Defector.

Unfortunately, Clift was never able to make that fourth film with Taylor. He suffered a heart attack in his home on July 23, 1966. Many believe that drugs were a factor in his death at such an early age. Clift suffered from inner demons that he unsuccesfully tried to tame with alcohol.

Clift was a bright spot in Hollywood’s history that simply did not have the chance to shine very long.

If you check back with me next week, I plan to discuss a few of Monty’s films. Even though his career was cut short, he was able to make several great films with many of the day’s biggest stars.