Today we are wishing American actor Montgomery Clift many happy returns on what would have been his 98th birthday.

Edward Montgomery “Monty” Clift  October 17, 1920 – July 23, 1966) was an American actor. His New York Times obituary noted his portrayal of “moody, sensitive young men”. He is best remembered for roles in Red River (1948), The Heiress (1949), A Place In The Sun (1951), Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess (1953), From Here To Eternity (1953), The Young Lions (1958), and The Misfits (1961). He received four Academy Award nominations during his career: three for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.

Along with Marlon Brando and James Dean Clift was one of the original method actors in Hollywood; he was one of the first actors to be invited to study in the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan  He also executed a rare move by not signing a contract after arriving in Hollywood, only doing so after his first two films were a success. This was described as “a power differential that would go on to structure the star-studio relationship for the next 40 years”

Clift and Monroe worked together on the set of the 1961 John Huston production of “The Misfits” co starring Marilyn’s childhood hero Clark Gable and Eli Wallach.  It was written by Marilyn’s then husband Arthur Miller who dedicated the film to his wife as a valentine and wrote the character of Roslyn especially for her.  There are many similarities between Monroe and the character she played and a lot of her lines were things that Arthur had heard her say in person during their time together.

Clift described Marlyn as “the only person I know who’s in worse shape than I am” – was also accorded the Arthur Miller truth-in-script treatment: A chronic alcoholic who’s emotional instability stemmed in part from a love-hate relationship with his mother, Clift had his handsome face virtually reconstructed after a horrific 1957 car accident.  Now here he was, portraying alcoholic rodeo rider Perce Howland, who in his opening scene tells his mother on the phone, “My face is fine.  It’s all healed up.  It’s just as good as new.  You would too recognise me.”

Like Marilyn, Monty Clift had attended the Actor’s studio in New York, as had Eli Wallach, and their varied Method acting techniques flew in the face of the more conventional old-school approach employed by Clark Gable.  Nevertheless, according to Wallach, this was not among the sources of tension on the set.

“The first time he and I had a scene was in a truck, and I keep staring at him and he kept staring at me,”  Wallach recalled more than three decades later.  “Finally, Huston said. “What’s the matter with you two?  You’re like the boa constrictor and the rabbit: you keep staring at one another.  For Chrissakes, just say your lines!”  And both of us smiled because I was wary of the King Of Movies and he was wary of this man from New York with this mysterious method.”

Sources: Wikipedia and “Blonde Heat: The Sizzling Screen Career of Marilyn Monroe.”