Montgomery Clift Edit Profile
He began in amateur theatricals in his teens and appeared in summer stock before making his Broadway debut in 1935 in Fly Away Home, subsequently appearing in The Skin of Our Teeth, Our Town, and You Touched Me. His first released film was Zinnemann’s The Search (48) as a Cl in Europe caring for a child refugee. But a year before. Hawks had cast him as Mathew Garth in Bed Biver (the release of which was delayed): a memorable performance in one of Hawks’s finest films, worthwhile not only for its picture of a lean, practical, and independent cowboy but for the way it seemed to compel John Wayne into thinking about his part. That film made Clift a star, and thereafter he worked sparingly in dramatic parts: as the flawed lover in Wyler’s The Heiress (49); in The Big Lift (50, George Seaton); as Dreiser’s doomed hero in A Place in the Sun (51, George Stevens); as the conscience-torn priest in Hitchcock’s I Confess (52); as Prewett, the rebellious soldier, in From Here to Eternity (53, Zinnemann).
His career faltered with the unhappy Selznick-Jennifer Jones-de Sica Indiscretion of an American Wife (54), and, in 1957, while making Baintree County (Edward Dmytryk), he was seriously injured in a car accident. His handsomeness was visibly undermined and the earlier concentration collapsed. In The Young Lions (58, Dmytryk), Lonelyhearts (59, Vincent J. Donehue), and Judgment at Nuremberg (61, Stanley Kramer), he was reduced from a tragic hero to a victim irretrievably damaged by suffering. He filled in less demanding roles for Mankiewicz in Suddenly Last Summer (59) and for Huston in The Misfits (60), but only Kazan’s Wild Biver (60) fruitfully used his new, insecure character, in 1962, he delved further into neurosis for Huston in Freud: The Secret Passion, but made only one more film, L’Espion (66, Raoul Levy), in France, before his death
Clift is the sainted mess in that trio of American actors who loomed in the 1950s—Brando, Clift, and Dean (two of them born in Omaha). It's known now how far Clift was destroyed by drink, drugs, and neurosis; and the neurosis being intensified by his gay yearnings that had to lurk within a heterosexual image. In Bed Biver, Clift was a trail-hardened cowboy; in A Place in the Sun, he was in some of the screen’s most clinging, infatuated, heterosexual embraces; while iny, From Here to Eterniternity he was a model of rugged male integrity, but a boxer who wants to fight no more. And Clift was beautiful—which is the way movie stars are expected to be.
Clift’s career helps us see (or suspect) that sort of sexual double agentry in all films. After all, the dark is the greatest closet, and the most obliging.