The Misfits

While filing for a divorce, beautiful ex-stripper Roslyn Taber ends up meeting aging cowboy-turned-gambler Gay Langland and former World War II aviator Guido Racanelli. The two men instantly become infatuated with Roslyn and, on a whim, the three decide to move into Guido's half-finished desert home together. When grizzled ex-rodeo rider Perce Howland arrives, the unlikely foursome strike up a business capturing wild horses.

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  • ★★★★★ review by Anna Imhof 🌸 on Letterboxd

    "I just gotta find another way to be alive."

    If there was ever a movie that truly broke my heart, it's this one. These broken characters, these actors who are running on their last breaths... how the line between cinema and reality gets blurrier and blurrier as the camera dances around them, trying to catch the last light of their souls. And how it succeeds because these people so desperately wanted to be seen. This isn't a movie, it's a poem in images, a prophecy and yet a memory. Everything makes sense, everything hurts, and everything shines on. The horses are running wild again, the tears are streaming down my face.

  • ★★★★ review by Thomas Ringdal on Letterboxd

    Star Spangled February: Nevada.

    I absolutely and whole heartedly loved the first hour of The Misfits, but after that the script starts revealing it's flaws.

    There's a lot of underlying themes, and some of them unfortunately come from knowing the fates of almost all involved.

    It's Gable and Monroe's final film, and Clift didn't do anything of notice after this either. Miller's divorcing Monroe, herself playing a recent divorcè here. Huston wasn't in the best place either, so it's really a wonder how they managed to get it together in such a way that The Misfits still is a great film.

    Monroe looks a bit weathered, but it actually helps her appearance, and makes her something other than a pin-up. She does struggle with how to naturally convey real emotions sometimes, but it's as fine a performance as I've seen from her, with her scenes with Thelma Ritter in the first half a real treat. Too bad they didn't know how to continue their relationship, and just toss Ritter to the side in bizarre fashion.

    The three male misfits (Gable, Wallach and Clift) are all very good (duh) as cowboys out of time, especially Gable, representing old Hollywood's clash with the new ways, personified in real life by Clift et al. The gruelling production took that much of a toll on Gable, he "prophesied" his own demise, and left this mortal coil, from a heart attack, directly after wrapping up shooting the film.

    Eli Wallach has always had this menacing look in his eyes, just waiting to stare you down, and he gets to show it off a few times here, as the jealous Pilot.

    A film of two halves perhaps, the latter being the weakest, it still makes somewhat up for it with the climactic hunting down of mustangs.

  • ★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    Misfits : plural noun ; a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way.

    Misfits find solace in groups of likeminded. Much like The Island of Misfit Toys, or like me, the AV club in high school where we were privileged, through our cunning, to eat lunch, alone as a group in the abandoned projection room of the auditorium, away from the noisy jocks and fashionistas of the school caf. We could be alone. We could be together, and we could be happy discussing various geekdom topics. Our little group was never taunted, never abused; we were just simply an oddity of geeks. I know many other groups of misfits had and have it much harder. Together, our little group celebrated our differentness with hope of what we would do in the future. All of our group managed to turn out relatively well balanced, and surprisingly we all managed to attract mates.

    Our unity as misfits was our hope for the future; John Houston’s film is about the opposite of what my little group was, it’s about a group of characters celebrated at one point in their lives, but now facing a world that has passed them by.

    Gay Langland celebrates the freedom of the Cowboy West; where a man could be free and dictate his own terms by wrangling, but now the quarry he offers is dwindling, and his effort in gathering them far less noble a cause. Gable was clinging to his past with romantic roles that were no longer swooned over the way they once were.

    Rosyln, a neglected divorcee who’s dancing career is something she wants to put past, is finding a future that isn’t more of the same is elusive; a next step full of compromises like her past. Monroe, also in transition, a woman who survived incredible hardship to achieve stardom, yet couldn’t shake her sexpot past and be accepted as a truly talented actress. I’ve read that her husband, Arthur Millar, wrote the role for her, yet on the eve of its realization they were breaking apart. Despite wanting not to be left behind, and trying desperately, the breathy, eye-blinking Marilynisms, belay that she couldn’t, or was afraid to, progress much from her previous image. I thought it rather sad that Houston chose to shoot her most dramatic scene from 30 feet away.

    Perce, a man damaged and abandoned by his family is out of time with his slow destruction at the rodeo. Clift, a man damaged by his own family and early relationships, can’t come to grips that there is a way forward at his feet.

    Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter seem to be the only ones excused. Eli’s Guido, while reminiscing about the past still has a clear path to the future, and Eli sure went on further than any of the leads. Likewise Thelma Ritter, the only character I consider disappointing merely because Houston tossed her aside in the third act for no good reason. She has a hutzpah that I think the third act would have benefited from.

    For me, the most interesting element of The Misfits is the pairing of Marilyn with the Cowboys, each playing their parts earnestly. I reminded me of Wake In Fright, … much before the Mustanging’ scene. The combining of Marilyn and the Cowboys just didn’t make sense … it just didn’t go together … they were misfits.

    Once, long ago, a friend told me to try a canapé of cheese and jam. I immediately recoiled at the thought of it, at, in my mind, the complete incompatibility of it. I did try it, and I was amazed at how sometimes chalk and cheese actually do go together.

  • ★★★★ review by TajLV on Letterboxd

    "Honey, nothing can live unless something dies." ~ Gay

    Marilyn Monroe plays Roslyn Tabor, who comes to Reno to get divorced from her husband Raymond (Kevin McCarthy) and boards with local homeowner Isabelle Steers (Thelma Ritter). She meets up with a widower, a mechanic named Guido (Eli Wallach), and he introduces her to a couple of cowboys, aging wrangler Gay Langland (Clark Gable) and struggling rodeo rider Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift). Roslyn falls for Gay, but it won't be long before she discovers his callous side, such as trapping wild horses known as "Misfits" to sell to dog food processors, and that changes everything.

    Directed by John Huston in B&W, the original screenplay by Arthur Miller was the Pulitzer Prize-winner's first effort for the cinema. The story takes up the themes of independence, disillusionment, loneliness and death, idealism versus pragmatism, and romance versus reality. Look for aging cowboy star Rex Bell in his last screen role as an uncredited extra. And oddly enough, this movie marked the last feature film appearance for both Gable and Monroe, too.



    Part of my 5 Directors x 5 Unseen Films challenge.

  • ★★★★½ review by MichaelEternity on Letterboxd

    I didn't see this one coming... it starts out as (and then proceeds to continue being) an aimless spiral of four very different people - elder cattle rustler Clark Gable, his eager driver Eli Wallach, divorcee Marilyn Monroe, and bull-rider Montgomery Clift - drifting through life amidst the small towns and deserts of Nevada, who all end up in the same orbit for a while. As a portrait of the desolate ennui of the mid-20th century American midwest, it reminded me of another heavy-hearted black-and-white beauty, Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" from 10 years later, only that one was more immediately impressive with its dialogue, direction, performances, and tone, whereas "The Misfits" is subtler, seeping much more gradually into your veins.

    For most of the time I spent watching it, I primarily felt curiosity; only at the end when two characters drove off together, acknowledging that they need each other and the rest of the world just didn't fit them, did I realize how sadly romantic and melancholy it all was, and then, because I couldn't move on to other activities afterwards with the film's pall of bittersweet failure and alienation clouding my senses, I started to research the movie more than I had beforehand (I had selected it for the "Five Came Back" Scavenger Hunt since it was a post-war John Huston film, and never really knew much about its production history), learning all about its infamy as the last stop in the careers of Gable, Monroe, and Clift. Gable died of a heart attack right after filming, this was Monroe's final film before dying of a drug overdose months later, and Clift's career and life just continued to shatter to pieces in the aftermath. In the movie they play "misfits" of society; Gable has a drinking problem and is dismissed as old, Monroe is objectified, Clift nearly kills himself at rodeos for pennies. They lead fairly sad, lonesome lives but cope with it in their own ways. It really does break your heart to watch these characters forge ahead with no real hope of salvation or bright shining happiness, so to additionally consider that all three actors ended their lives in essentially the exact same way off screen, broken and self-destructive, and simultaneously with the creation and release of this thematically autobiographical film, is almost too much to bear. The existentialism of the movie is one thing, potent enough in and of itself; the meta echoes make it haunting.

    I've enjoyed some fantastic, standing ovation-worthy works of cinema in recent times, as anyone who watches as many movies as I (or anyone else on this site) is bound to, but honestly, none have stuck around in my head like "The Misfits". Maybe I just relate too closely to the inner and outer gist of it, about losers who can't integrate, who want something better in life but don't know how to get it, so they seek satisfaction and fulfillment from whatever pittance the world directly in front of them has to offer, and just take it day by day. But it's more than that, of course. The several times I've gotten lost in thought over this movie recently and ended up in tears are just as much a reaction to the accidental artistic parallels to the tragedy surrounding it, to the burning embers of three legendary stars, to the happy endings they never got and perhaps virtually none of us can truly hope for ourselves. For these and more reasons I can't even put into words, I think "The Misfits" will be one of the most deeply moving motion pictures I'll ever see

    *putting my write-up here to shame are two simply beautiful reviews of this movie on Letterboxd from Anna Imhof ( letterboxd.com/anna_imhof/film/the-misfits/ ) and MadZack ( letterboxd.com/madzack/film/the-misfits/ ) that so perfectly capture the essence of "The Misfits" that they make me cry just reading them. I implore anyone to check them both out

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