Nevada Neighbours: Marilyn and ‘The Misfits’

Film historian Robin Holabird will be giving a talk about her 2017 book,  Elvis, Marilyn, and the Space Aliens: Nevada Screen Icons (which includes a full chapter on The Misfits) at 6pm on February 13, as part of a ‘Nevada Neighbours‘ series presented by the Capital City Arts Initiative at the Community Development Building, 108 E. Proctor St in Carson City.

“In her Nevada Neighbors talk, Holabird will explore the blending of icons and Nevada, along with her personal experiences of watching movies, talking with famous people, and showing off a diverse range of stunning and iconic locations like Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Area 51. She will discuss how Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and space aliens, like the Transformers, share a surprising connection along with James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Rocky Balboa — all beloved icons who have played active roles in movie and television projects set in Nevada.

In her new book, Elvis, Marilyn, and Space Aliens, Holabird shows how Nevada’s flash, flair, and fostering of the forbidden provided magic for singers, sexpots, and strange creatures from other worlds. She also gives readers an insider’s look into movie-making in Nevada by drawing on her extensive experience as a film commissioner. Holabird will share her personal take on film history and culture in her Nevada Neighbors talk.”

Marilyn Brings Denim Back to the USA

Earlier this week we learned that the pencil skirt is making a comeback. Now it’s time for dark denim to re-enter your wardrobe, sported here by Marilyn and Arthur Miller. “This look, similar to that immortalised by Marilyn Monroe in 1961’s The Misfits and Martin Sheen in 1973’s Badlands, evokes a glory time in American history when the US was the leading purveyor of denim worldwide,” Scarlett Conlon writes for The Guardian.

Revisiting ‘The Misfits’ at Stanford

Marilyn with Montgomery Clift on the Misfits set, 1960

Following a recent screening of The Misfits for students at Stanford University,   Carlos Valladares has reviewed Marilyn’s swansong for Stanford Daily.

The Misfits comes out at the tail-end of the classic Hollywood era (1961), and it shows. The photographers who drifted on and off the set (Eve Arnold, Bruce Davidson, Henri Cartier-Bresson) showed off Monroe, Clift, Gable in all their un-Glamour, in a starkly honest look that would have been unthinkable in the studios’ heyday … The editing is odd and erratic, but these glitches actually contribute to its depth. At one point, Monroe’s lips go out of sync with her voice. At another, Monroe’s close-up is interrupted by a blurry soft focus. She has none of the leering, near-pornographic dazzle of her 1950s promotional photos. Here, the camera looks as if it were just crying, doing a terrible job at wiping away its tears, overwhelmed by the state of Marilyn.

The Marilyn performance is so brave precisely because, despite the odds, she survives … It is when the men, after all their hard work and physical exertion, decide to shoot the wild horses they just captured, selling their meat for a few lousy hundred bucks. Suddenly, Monroe darts off into the distance and screams … the exact catharsis needed to make us care again about the sanctity of human beings. The camera hangs far back in an extreme long shot, making me feel Rosalyn’s insignificance, and, contrariwise, Monroe’s strength. It’s a rare instance where Rosalyn/Monroe has privacy to herself. Huston wisely does not go in for a typically Hollywood close-up that would show her breakdown and emotional turmoil with dramatic, lurid tastelessness. The camera cannot go in for a close-up. To do so would completely negate the scene’s point: the breaking out of a woman from her banality. She screams: ‘ENOUGH.’

The dialogue in this remarkable scene (perhaps the climax of Monroe’s acting career) also predicts Monroe’s eventual suspected fate … She could just as well be talking back to Arthur Miller (and the viewing public — us) as she is to Gable, Wallach and Clift. It’s an amazing example of an actor taking back her agency in a narrative that, at first glance, seems to float above the actors.”

‘The Misfits’ at Stanford

Photo by Inge Morath

Students at Stanford University, California have a chance to see The Misfits today in Room 115 of the McMurtry Building at 5:30 pm. It’s being screened as part of the syllabus of Professor Usha Iyer’s course ‘The Body in Film and Other Media.’ Carlos Valladares has reviewed The Misfits for Stanford Daily

“The cult over only the indexical sign of Marilyn Monroe (the blonde hair, the sexpot husk, the eyes) gets nowhere near her weirdnesses and complexities as a person. Of course, can we ever know? Her performances in her best work — Don’t Bother To Knock (1952), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Some Like it Hot (1959), Let’s Make Love (1960), and especially The Misfits — give us an actual glimpse into one of America’s most obsessed-over stars.

The Misfits, which was scripted by Monroe’s soon-to-be-ex-husband Arthur Miller (yes, that Arthur Miller), punctures the popular perception of Monroe as an unreal sex goddess to be whistled at. As the critic Angelica Jade Bastien writes, “For me, Monroe is evocative more of a mood and a time than just the dumb blonde sexpot she’s become known for. Through this lens, her startling, heartfelt, gorgeous work in The Misfits feels strangely like an elegy for the dumb blonde she never truly was, and the Hollywood she existed within … she explores and brings to life the cloying weight of loneliness the way few actors can.’ Monroe delivers a frighteningly frank performance, as does everyone else in this tired film about tired failures.”

Laurie Simmons Impersonates Marilyn

Laurie Simmons as Marilyn in ‘The Misfits’

The artist and photographer Laurie Simmons has recreated two scenes from Marilyn’s films in her first movie, My Art, as Wes Greene reports for Slant magazine.

“At one point in Laurie Simmons’s My Art, New York City art teacher Ellie (Simmons) and Frank (Robert Clohessy), a landscaper and sometime actor who Ellie has recruited for her latest project, are seen dressed as Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, respectively, and preparing to recreate scenes from John Huston’s The Misfits. After Frank asks what his motivation is for one scene, Ellie responds that, while it’s impossible for them to ever be Monroe or Gable, they should nonetheless impersonate the two screen legends simply to see what happens. Despite the sheer vagueness of this explanation, which essentially encapsulates the approach Ellie takes to the multimedia project she works on throughout My Art, it unintentionally explicates the feeling that, like Ellie, Simmons isn’t so much creating art as a means to explore cinema’s effect on identity as she is conducting an act of indulgence.”

Simmons recreates a scene from ‘Some Like It Hot’

Jonas Mekas Remembers Arthur and Marilyn

Jonas Mekas is a pioneering indie filmmaker and critic, who first championed Marilyn in a 1961 review of The Misfits for the Village Voice. He also wrote an impassioned tribute after her death in 1962, which is reprinted in his book, Movie Journal: The Rise of New American Cinema, 1959-1971.

“Saturday night I sat in the lobby of the New Yorker Theater, while Marilyn was dying. I was defending her for the last time. Because what people do when they watch The Misfits is listen to those big lines and not see the beauty of MM herself. How can they do that, I thought, listen to those lines and not see the beauty of MM herself, the little bits of screen reality she creates — fragile, yes, but true and beautiful, more beautiful than any other reality around them? Even when she is pronouncing her lines, I watch her and I see on her face something else, not what the lines say, something of much more importance than the lines. The lines are empty, big, ugly; much of the movie itself is ugly. But the reality created by MM is beautiful, with a touch of sadness. She never learned enough actor’s ‘craft’ to cover her true feelings, true embarrassments, true beautiful self; she kept her ‘amateurishness’.”

Now Mekas has published another book, a ‘part diary, part scrapbook’, as CNN reports. It’s unclear if Marilyn is featured in A Dance With Fred Astaire, but an extract published on the Lithub website includes a 1954 interview with Miller.

Marilyn’s Misfit Horses At Risk

The threat to America’s wild horses – a major theme in The Misfits – has returned with a vengeance, as Susan Wagner, head of the non-profit organisation, Equine Advocates, reports for the New York Daily News.

“Back in the 1950s, wild horses were at the brink of extinction. They had no federal protections. People known as Mustangers were chasing, rounding up and selling them for slaughter by the thousands. Anyone who has seen the classic 1961 Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe film The Misfits has a sense — albeit a sanitized, Hollywood sense — of this dirty work.

The biggest threat to wild horses today is a group of ranchers — known as ‘welfare ranchers’ — who use federal lands to graze their cattle. They have made it clear that they want the horses and burros gone. They believe they are entitled to the land and water rights for their livestock.

There is no doubt that our wild horses and burros can be managed humanely, but that is not what is going on. Nearly 50,000 healthy animals are now being held captive in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities. Many suffer and die horrible deaths during the roundups, which are cruel and unnecessary.

In July, the House Appropriations Committee narrowly voted to adopt language, in the 2018 budget, known as the Stewart Amendment, allowing for the sale of wild horses and burros ‘without limitation,’ which means slaughter.

No equine has been legally slaughtered in the United States since 2007. According to polls, most Americans are strongly opposed to horse slaughter.

But if lawmakers controlled by special interests have their way, those 50,000 captive wild horses and burros could meet that fate in Mexico, Canada or by returning horse slaughter to U.S. soil.”

Marilyn, ‘The Misfits’ and Nevada Magazine

The tumultuous filming of The Misfits has become part of the Desert State’s history, as Janet Geary, publisher of Nevada magazine, observed in a talk for the Fallon lecture series, ‘Pictures of the West’, this week at the Churchill County Museum, as Steve Ranson reports for Nevada Appeal.

“The 1980s began to offer more in-depth articles such as on the native Indians of Nevada; Nevada’s buckaroos, a black and white collection, and the state’s ranches; the golden anniversary of Hoover Dam with a spectacular night-time photo of the dam; the magazine’s 50th anniversary; the 25th anniversary of the filming of the movie, The Misfits, starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe; and the state’s 125th birthday in 1989. She said The Misfits from December 1986 was the most popular cover.”

Marilyn Through the Eye of Magnum

Cinema Through the Eye of Magnum, a new documentary about the legendary photo agency, will be screened for the first time in the UK tonight at 10pm on BBC4. This image, captured by Ernst Haas, shows fellow Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt among the cast and crew of The Misfits.

The Misfits was a pivotal moment in photographers’ relationship with cinema. Lee Jones, Magnum’s head of special projects in New York, decided that the film’s dream cast deserved special attention. Nine different photographers took turns over 3 months of the shoot to capture the ‘total chaos’ on what would be Marilyn Monroe’s last film.

Eve Arnold, Magnum’s first woman member, was Monroe’s trusted collaborator. Having previously worked with Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, she started photographing Monroe when they were both relatively unknown. She spent two months on the set of the John Huston movie.

Photographer Bruce Davidson remarked, ‘Marilyn is really in torment – this was the movie where it all collapsed. And the hidden homosexuality, total neurosis, drugs, the whole works (on set). This film is a turning point, and the photographs document the disintegration of a system.’

Clark Gable had a heart attack the day after filming wrapped on The Misfits and died a few days later.”

Thanks to Nikki at Marilyn Remembered

The Misfits: Marilyn’s ‘Ghost’ Movie

Photo by Inge Morath

As The Misfits is re-released in selected French cinemas, Ludevic Beot writes for Les Inrockuptibles about its ‘morbid’ history. (Apologies for any errors in my translation…)

“This is the end of an era, the myth of the free cowboy in nature, and the great American western. In this, the screenplay of writer Arthur Miller draws a sad and particularly bleak observation of Eisenhower’s America from the late fifties, a nation that has trouble communicating and whose dream of the Founding Fathers has failed … Even today, it seems very difficult to resist the disturbing charm of this mirror work, not to be carried away by the elegiac melody of this ultimate dance with the dead. The images of Huston have captured for the last time the faces of his disappearing actors. All these elements make The Misfits one of the most beautiful ghost movies in American cinema.”