Montgomery Clift (1920-1966)
He was a movie star in the full sense of the phrase. A special presence that graced the screen all too briefly then vanished from the scene never to be seen again.
I’m not talking about the chronological length of his career in films which lasted eighteen years from 1948 to 1966. I’m talking about the period from 1948 to 1953 when he starred in three landmark films Red River (1948), A Place in the Sun (1951) and From Here to Eternity (1953), giving award caliber performances in each. But what distinguishes them even more is his unusual presence. Quiet, unobtrusive, hesitant, and almost apologetic yet at the same time beautiful and poetic.
In the pages of the cinema press of the day his presence was called “troubled” and “sensitive”. Both words seem apt but I think the way his character is described in A Place in the Sun is more accurate. The young woman who loves him says:
“You look unusual. You keep pretty much to yourself, don’t you? … Blue…exclusive. You seem so strange, so deep, so far away, as though you’re holding something back.”
And he was. What that was we’ll never know.
Clift during this period was mysterious, moody, fascinating and magnetic. You couldn’t keep your eyes off him. Then came the auto accident that destroyed his face and apparently destroyed something else as well. His angelic inner persona that shined so brightly through the roles he played. He was to give other good performances, even other award caliber performances but he was never the same. His career and his life after the accident has been called “the longest suicide in Hollywood” and accurately so. But fortunately for us we have those early years and that special presence forever captured on film where he will remain immortal as long as motion pictures exists.
Other films of his early career include:
The Search (1948), The Heiress (1949), The Big Lift (1950) I Confess (1951) and Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953). I highly recommend them all.