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Arts and Entertainment

Montgomery Clift: Cinema’s Forgotten Rebel

Before Brando there was Montgomery Clift. Before Dean there was Montgomery Clift. At his peak he was offered roles before just about every other actor in Hollywood. In the early 50s if your script was to feature a young rebel type, the actor you wanted most in the world was named Montgomery Clift. Unfortunately, the name is mostly forgotten now, but his legacy can be felt in the performance of every actor from DeNiro to Depp.

Clift literally grew up on the stage, beginning his acting career when he was twelve. Before he was twenty he had already performed on Broadway with some of the biggest stars in New York. It was only a matter of time before the strikingly handsome young man would be lured to Hollywood.

He had already appeared in two movies and been nominated for an Oscar before Brando even made his first movie and several years before Dean would come along. His was a new style of acting, understated and subtle. In fact, he was so good at playing a solder in The Search that many asked director Fred Zinneman where he found a soldier who could act. Monty had never been a soldier, but he had a talent to make you believe he could be anything.

When he met Elizabeth Taylor as they were beginning to film A Place in the Sun, he didn’t realize it but he was not only meeting one of the best friends he’d ever have, but also the woman who would save his life. The chemistry between them was amazing and resulted in some of the best performances of both their careers.

Burt Lancaster once said the only actor he was ever intimidated by was Montgomery Clift because he just knew he’d be blown off the screen. They co-starred in From Here to Eternity and it is exactly Clift’s ability to stay subtle next to Lancaster’s towering presence that makes you understand what he was talking about.

So why is that Dean become a legend and Brando something more than a legend if Clift was there first and did it best?

Because Clift had two careers. He had his first half where he was impossibly good looking as well as talented and not bothered by pain and pills and booze. Then there is the other half, where half his face was disfigured in a car accident and the addictions slowly took their toll.

One night after a party at Taylor’s house, Clift had a terrible car accident. If Taylor hadn’t gotten to the scene in time to climb into the wreckage and stick her hand down Monty’s mouth and remove the teeth that were blocking his airpipe, he might have died right then. Had he died, he would probably have become the legend that James Dean became. Instead, he underwent plastic surgery that couldn’t repair the damage and the pills and booze kicked in.

He was just as good an actor, maybe even better. Anyone who has watched the film Judgment at Nuremberg can’t possibly come away from the movie without being awed by his seven minute scene as a castrated Jew. It’s as good a performance as anything ever captured on film.

Unfortunately, by that time supporting roles were just about all coming his way. His behavior on and off the sets had become too worrisome to overlook and few directors were willing to take a chance on giving him leading roles.

When he died at age 45 he was already on his way to being forgotten. James Dean was the legend he could have become and Brando just a few years away from The Godfather, coming back from a decade in the wilderness himself. In a way, however, Montgomery Clift lives on. His influence on actors never wavered, his fame among young actors never going the way his fame as a movie star went.

You may have any star as your favorite, be it Clift, Brando, DeNiro or Al Pacino, but don’t just watch their shitty films only because they have such stalwarts to salvage it from ruins. If you want to watch films that does justice to their skills, then download them from 9movies site as it is the perfect platform to do so.

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