Making Montgomery Clift

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THIS YEAR I’ve reviewed half a dozen of the ten or so films that I saw in June at the Provincetown International Film Festival—not officially an LGBT film festival, but hey, it’s P’town, so a fair number G&LR-worthy films were on hand. Here’s the third of six:

 

Making Montgomery Clift
Directed by Robert Anderson Clift and Hillary Demmon
   (Hillary Demmon also directs.) For this is a filmmaker who wants to make an argument as he sets out to prove that everything you thought you knew about his uncle is wrong. To this end, he doesn’t merely tell the Montgomery Clift story with a different spin but takes up the major sources—especially two biographies—which are responsible for the widely held public image, extracting specific quotations and proving their falsehood. For example, he shows how, when Clift was arrested in New York City for cruising men, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper arbitrarily turned “men” into “boys,” which eventually showed up as a charge of “pederasty” in Patricia Bosworth’s Montgomery Clift: A Biography, a total falsehood.
Montgomery Clift

So, myth number one: that Clift was a closet homo who took pains to hide his secret life. Nah. He was quite open about his affairs with men (there were also a few women), and, unlike actors such as Rock Hudson, he refused to compromise and pretend to be straight. Myth number two: that Clift lived a life of quiet desperation, tormented by his sexuality and resembling the dark, brooding characters that he often portrayed. In fact, he was a sociable, fun-loving, even goofy guy, as demonstrated by ample footage to which Robert Clift had access. The auto accident that almost killed him at age 35 undoubtedly took its toll, but he did some of his best work in the last decade of his life (Judgment at Nuremberg; Suddenly, Last Summer). While he undoubtedly abused alcohol and drugs toward the end, he died of a heart attack, not suicide. Recordings and writings prove Clift to be a highly intelligent actor who knew exactly what he was trying to achieve when creating a character in one of his many great roles.

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