Montgomery Clift – A Place in the Sun...
Although many actors go to Hollywood seeking stardom, the roles were reversed in the beginning for Montgomery Clift. Hollywood went after him in search of a new star. Monty had already proven his multiple talents on Broadway, and Hollywood producers and directors were constantly pursuing him to star in almost any film. In 1946, he conceded to their efforts. After 12 years of turning down every film script directors proposed, Monty finally found one script too intriguing to reject. The film was a Western, co-starring John Wayne, titled Red River in 1948.

When MGM would not give him the agreements he requested, he walked out of the studio. Almost immediately United Artists agreed to Monty’s terms which cast him as the first major actor that did not sign a long-term contract and chose to work only on projects which intrigued him.

Montgomery Clift was born on October 17, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska. His father, William Brooks Clift, was a successful Wall Street stockbroker. His mother, Ethel Anderson, filled both parental roles while her husband was away. She would often take Monty and his two siblings on long trips to Europe to study. Private tutors traveled with the family to educate the children while abroad. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the Clift’s had to conform to a different lifestyle. They moved to a modest home in Sarasota, Florida when Monty was 13. He joined a local youth theatrical club there and tried acting for the first time which lead to 12 years of Broadway fame.

Prior to his Hollywood emergence, nearly all leading men were of the Clark Gable variety – rugged, defiant and blunt. Montgomery Clift typified the emergence of a new breed of Hollywood star: Prodigiously talented, intense, and defiantly non-conformist. He showed some vulnerability not seen on the screen, working solely according to his own whims and desires. A handsome and gifted actor, he channeled the pain and torment so rampant in his private life onto his screen roles. With the revelation of the fact of Clift's bisexuality, one is able to see more into the correlation between his star personality and Clift's authentic real-life.

Red River represents an important juncture in film history, pairing Clift with John Wayne in a film usually defined by its rigid codes of male behavior. The main action is of the cattle drive, but of course the relationship between John Wayne's Dunston and Montgomery Clift's Matt is what makes the film so revered.

Due to Clift's cloistered upbringing by his mother, he had never been in any type of fistfight. As a result, they had to give him boxing lessons, taught him to ride and handle a gun expertly. But Director Howard Hawks believed in Clift's ability. The young actor rewarded his faith by working hard every day and turn in a performance Hawks was very pleased with.

Red River in particular represents an important juncture in film history, pairing Clift with John Wayne in a genre usually defined by its rigid codes of male behavior. The central conflict in Howard Hawks's film, however, is between Wayne's brand of brutal, bullying masculinity and Clift's quiet blend of toughness and compassion. Theirs is a clash of reason and brute strength, and although their reconciliation takes the form of a violent physical confrontation, the role of Matthew Garth clearly presents Clift as an alternative to the rugged, unyielding protagonists of traditional Westerns. It was a part that heralded a major shift in the characteristics that would define screen heroes in the decade to come.

He agreed to appear in three films for Paramount (only completing two): The first was William Wyler's 1949 adaptation of Henry James' The Heiress, with Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard scheduled to follow. At the last minute, Clift backed out of the project, however, to star in 20th Century Fox's 1950 war drama The Big Lift, a semi-documentary about the resulting Berlin Airlift.

Upon returning to Paramount, he starred in George Stevens' classic A Place in the Sun, earning a second Academy Award nomination for his performance opposite Elizabeth Taylor, who became his real-life confidante. Clift next starred in the war epic From Here to Eternity. Monty Clift portrayed another man challenging stereotypical views of masculinity, this time in the U.S. military.

As Prewitt, the bugler and former boxer, who silently stands up to the harassment of his fellow soldiers when he refuses to reenter the ring after blinding a man. Clift gives one of his strongest performances. In the role that brought him his third Oscar nomination (the second was for A Place in the Sun), he conveys both the courage and the inner torment of a man whose unshakable moral convictions form the heart of his sense of self-worth, yet cause him to be labeled a coward. This Oscar winning picture has ranked among the greatest films ever made and was the biggest success of his career.

These qualities were a central part of Clift's relationships with women in films. Clift never overwhelms women in the manner of Clark Gable or Errol Flynn but attracts them instead with an almost hypnotic emotional power that often seems to arise from some deep inner need. This is especially true of his films with Elizabeth Taylor, whose dark beauty made her an ideal physical match for Clift on the screen. In both A Place in the Sun and Raintree County, the similarity between the two is so striking that they might almost be brother and sister, and there is an erotic tension in their work together that reaches its climax in the former film's extraordinary close-ups of the couple's romantic scenes.

Clift's vulnerability is also a factor in his relationship with Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity and, on a platonic level, in the understanding and friendship between his character and that of Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits. Clift continued performing, delivering performances informed by even greater depth and pathos than before.

Tragedy struck when a horrific auto accident left him critically injured leaving a party at Elizabeth Taylor's home. He gradually recovered, but his face was left scarred and partially paralyzed. Brooding and intense, Montgomery Clift was one of a group of young actors in the 1950's who personified the emotionally repressed loss of innocence of the post-World War II generation. A dedicated actor who exhausted himself both emotionally and physically with the depth of his characterizations, Clift was also an isolated and tortured, bisexual man who used drugs and alcohol to escape his pain.

Clift's intensity took on an increasingly unsettling quality in the films following his accident; Suddenly Last Summer, The Misfits, and Freud. There is a tightly wound, neurotic edge to the characters that is both compelling and disturbing. Although he was both friend and inspiration to the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean, Clift felt his own acting achievements were undervalued. He died, at the age of 46, as bitter and broken as the characters he played in many of his films. He was found dead from what the autopsy called "occlusive coronary artery disease." His death was called the longest suicide in history by famed acting teacher, Robert Lewis.