Montgomery Clift—along with Marlon Brando and James Dean—was the embodiment of the leading man-as-sensitive antihero in the American cinema of the 1950s. A decade after his death in 1966, Clift was the subject of two biographies. The first—Monty (1977), by Robert LaGuardia—was enjoyed by reader-voyeurs as a salacious romp through the intoxicated life of a beautiful acteur maudit. The second—Montgomery Clift: A Biography (1978), by Patricia Bosworth—was, alternately, deemed serious, “definitive,” and in every way superior to LaGuardia’s.
While watching the fascinating new documentary MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT, a question comes to mind: is LaGuardia’s book, in its way, the more honest of the two?
Bosworth—who has also written about Diane Arbus—established a rapport with and interviewed key members of Clift’s family. Her book was reviewed as a work of weighty scholarship, yet she took liberties with her material, and allegedly edited conversations to suit the slant of her book, which is a picture of an a deeply troubled actor tortured by his homosexuality.
MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT—receiving its world premiere tonight at the LA Film Festival—tells a different story, and calls out Bosworth’s treatment line by line. According to filmmakers Robert Clift (Monty’s nephew) and Hillary Demmon, Clift—within his circle—was blithe about his bisexuality, and remained enthusiastic about his craft until the end of his short life.
(The film largely sidesteps the actor’s alcohol and prescription drug intake following a catastrophic 1956 car crash in Beverly Hills which greatly altered his looks and his career. Clift was driving home from a party at his soul mate Elizabeth Taylor’s house, and the accident and its aftermath became fodder for The Clash when composing their 1979 London Calling song “The Right Profile.”)
Sunday, September 23, at 8:30.
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Montgomery Clift. All images courtesy The Film Collaborative.