The Misfits – 1001 Overlooked Movies

This post is a part of The Movie Waffler’s 1001 Overlooked Movies (You Should See Before You Die) series which you can check out here.

Misfits

Deconstructing the Western genre and the remnants of the American Dream, The Misfits’ script penned by Arthur Miller is ambitious and moving, even whilst a touch pretentious at times, and John Huston’s direction brings out several excellent performances that serve as career highlights for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable.

It’s a tragically dark little film; both in terms of its tone, and its place in film history. This is the last completed film for both Gable and Monroe – Gable dying days after filming ended, and Monroe passing away just over a year later. These themes are prophetically reflected throughout the film; there’s endless discussion of death, life, and what it means to go on living in a changing world where you feel lost and alone. Marriage, divorce, and human relationships are also key thematic points as well, linking up with the fact that Monroe and Miller’s marriage was completely breaking down during filming. The passing of time has pushed the film’s already well written explorations of the American Dream into having an expanded view that includes Hollywood history. It accidently has become a piece that demonstrates the frailty of our on screen legends, but as they are themselves arguably our most glamorous access points into the American Dream the film has not had its focus weakened by real world events, instead they reinforce it.

Marilyn Monroe The Misfits

The Misfit’s is not only notable for its depressing place in history however; as I have said it features a number of excellent performances with Clark Gable impressing in a more challenging role than those he normally took, and Marilyn Monroe demonstrating once and for all that that she could not only act, but act very well. Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach, and Thelma Ritter support the film, with Clift and Wallach both giving very good, memorable performances. There’s a lot of humanity to this film, and the whole cast reinforce that fact by playing their parts in ways which feel complex, stripped of pretension, and in some way dirty and ‘real’. This approach is no doubt partially responsible for the very negative reaction that the film received upon its first release, which is a real shame as there is such good work and it went largely unrecognised during the stars’ lifetimes.

The Misfits is a curious film, one that marks the passing of Hollywood icons whilst exploring the tattered remains of the American Dream. It is a fascinating mixture of ‘reality’ and fiction, as real world events seem to have bled into and shaped the script whilst it evolved on set. Famously troubled during production, and then largely disliked by critics when it was released, it is perhaps not surprising that The Misfits is often overlooked, and yet it definitely deserves to be seen and appreciated by more people today. If you don’t know this one then I urge you to check it out; it’s both historically important, and very affecting.

Thanks for reading! Tap out your thoughts below, and be sure to visit The Movie Waffler’s site here.

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10 comments

  1. Victor De Leon · · Reply

    I’ve never seen this one. Always looking for classics to watch. Thanks!

    1. No problem, I hope you enjoy it! Even if you don’t it’s worth watching because of it’s place in film history.

  2. Man, you’ve made me want to see this again. It’s been so long. Very fine look at this one Rumsey, old fellar! 😉

    1. Great! I am pretty fond of this one myself so I hope you do check it out again 🙂
      Cheers Mark!

  3. Hmmmh, my Marilyn senses were tingling and I ended up here. A really well-worded piece, Rumsey. The film has indeed come to stand for so much more. I think it’s too real, which probably would explain its poor contemporary reception. It was ahead of its time. But I have a lot of problems with the script at times. Thelma Ritter is heavily misused, but like Marilyn manages to do the most with her thinly-written character.

    1. Thanks Teddy! It certainly does feel ahead of its time, and I guess its ‘realness’, which whilst a problem at the time, has become an issue that has only been magnified over the years.

      Marilyn does go above and beyond the script here, but I do often have to ask myself just how much of her life am I bringing to the film when I watch it, and how much am I letting that shape how I view her performance.

  4. Stellar review, man! Really intrigued by this one now.

    1. Thanks a lot buddy! I hope you check it out at some point, it’s interesting in many different ways – both because of the film itself, and through what we now bring to it.

  5. Thanks for introducing me to this one.

    1. You’re very welcome Vinnieh!

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