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Montgomery Clift

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Edward Montgomery Clift (October 17, 1920 – July 23, 1966) was an American film and stage actor.[1] The New York Times’ obituary noted his portrayal of "moody, sensitive young men".[2] Clift received four Academy Award nominations during his career, three for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.[3]

Contents [hide]
1 Early life
2 Early Film Career
3 Prime Years
4 Car accident
5 Post-accident career
6 Death
7 Elizabeth Taylor
8 Relationships
9 Portrayals
10 Awards and honors
11 Filmography
12 Stage appearances
13 References
14 External links


[edit] Early life
Clift was born in Omaha, Nebraska, a son of William Brooks Clift – [4] a vice-president of Omaha National Bank - and his wife, the former Ethel Fogg. Clift had a fraternal twin sister, Roberta (aka Ethel), and a brother, William Brooks Clift Jr (1918-1986), who had an illegitimate son with actress Kim Stanley. Montgomery Clift later resided in Jackson Heights, NY, until he got his break on Broadway.

The future actor's mother, who was reportedly adopted at the age of one year, nicknamed "Sunny", spent part of her life and her husband's money seeking to establish the Southern lineage that reportedly had been revealed to her at age 18 by the physician who delivered her, Dr. Edward Montgomery, after whom she named her younger son. According to Clift biographer Patricia Bosworth, Ethel was the illegitimate daughter of Woodbury Blair and Maria Anderson, whose marriage had been annulled before her birth and subsequent adoption. This would make her a granddaughter of Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General under President Abraham Lincoln, and a great-granddaughter of Francis Preston Blair, a journalist and adviser to President Andrew Jackson, and Levi Woodbury, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. None of these relationships, however, has been proven and remain speculative in the absence of documentation.

As part of Sunny Clift's lifelong preparation for acceptance by her reported biological family (a goal never fully achieved), she raised Clift and his siblings as if they were aristocrats. Home-schooled by their mother as well as by private tutors in the United States and Europe, in spite of their father's fluctuating finances, they did not attend a regular school until they were in their teens. The adjustment was difficult, particularly for Montgomery. His performance as a student lagged behind that of his sister and brother.

Clift was educated in French, German, and Italian.

[edit] Early Film Career

Clift at the premiere of A Place in the Sun (1951).Appearing on Broadway at the age of 13, Clift achieved success on the stage and starred there for 10 years before moving to Hollywood, debuting in 1948's Red River opposite John Wayne.

Clift's first movie was Red River, which he shot in 1946. However, due to production issues it wan't released until 1948. Clift's second movie was The Search. Clift was unhappy with the quality of the script, and rewrote most of it himself. The movie was nominated for a screenwriting Academy Award, but the original writers were credited instead. Clift's performance got him nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Symbolic of his naturalistic performance, director Fred Zinnemann was asked "where did you find a soldier who can act so well" about Clift.

Clift's next movie was The Heiress. He signed on for the movie in order to avoid being typecast. Clift again was unhappy with the script, and told friends that he wanted change his co-star Olivia De Havilland's lines because "she isn't giving me enough to respond." Clift also was unable to get along with most of the cast. He criticized De Havilland by saying that she let the director shape her entire performance.

The studio marketed Clift as a sex symbol prior to the movie's release in 1949. Clift had a large female following, and Olivia De Havilland was actually flooded with angry fan letters because her character rejects Clift's character in the final scene of the movie. Clift ended up unhappy with his performance, and left early during the movie's premiere. [5]

Clift's next movie was The Big Lift. Although Clift gave another critically acclaimed performance, the movie ended up being a box office bust. Clift was set to appear in Sunset Boulevard (which was written specifically for him) but he dropped out at the last minute, as he felt that his character was too close to him in real life (like his character he was good looking, and dating a much older richer woman.) [6]

[edit] Prime Years
Entering the 1950's Clift was the most sought after leading man in Hollywood, and his only direct competitor was Marlon Brando. At one point he was receiving so many offers of roles that friends had to squeeze past stacks of them in order to walk up the stairs.[citation needed]. According to Elizabeth Taylor (as quoted in Patricia Bosworth's biography of Clift), "Monty could've been the biggest star in the world if he did more movies" (Clift was notoriously picky with his projects.)His next movie: A Place in the Sun (1951) is one of his iconic roles. The studio paired up two of the biggest young stars in Hollywood at the time (Clift and Elizabeth Taylor) in what was expected to be a Hollywood blockbuster that would capitalize on their sex symbol status. [7]

Clift's performance in the movie is regarded as one of the signature Method acting performances. He worked extensively on his character and was once again nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. For his character's scenes in jail, Clift spent a night in a real state prison. He also refused to go along with the director George Stevens's suggestion that he do "something amazing" on his character's walk to the electric chair. Instead, he walked to his death with a natural, depressed facial expression. His love scenes with Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) represented a new standard for romance in cinema. His main acting rival Marlon Brando was so moved by Clift's performance, that he voted for Clift to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, and was sure that he would win (ironically Clift voted for Brando in A Streetcar Named desire that same year). The movie was critically acclaimed and Charlie Chaplin called it "the greatest movie made about America". The movie received added media attention due to the rumors of Clift and Taylor dating in real life. They were billed as "the most beautiful couple in Hollywood". To this day many critics call Clift and Taylor as "the most beautiful Hollywood movie couple of all time". [8]

Clift's next movie was I Confess. True to his method, Clift temporarily lived in a Catholic church and studied priests. The movie however, was a box office failure due to the controversy over Clift's character (a Catholic priest) being romantically involved with a woman. [9]

Arguably Clift's peak came with the 1953 classic From Here to Eternity. Clift worked exceptionally hard on the character of Prewitt. For example, in one of his scenes he changed the word "blind" to "see", because he didn't feel the former. He also decided that his character would only reveal his feelings while playing the bugle. For this, he learned to play the bugle even though he knew that he would be dubbed by a professional bugler (he said that he wanted his lip movements to be accurate.) He acted his character's death scene so realistically, that many members of the cast and crew actually cried. His co-star Burt Lancaster revealed that he was so nervous about being out-acted by Clift, that he was shaking during their first scene together in the movie. Once again Clift received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Clift lost out to William Holden (who won for Stalag 17. Even Holden himself was surprised by his win. Allegedly, Clift was unpopular among the Hollywood elite for his refusal to conform to Hollywood standards (he refused to publicize his private life, avoided movie premieres and parties, was usually unavailable for interviews, and preferred to live outside of Los Angeles.) Clift was reportedly devastated over his loss, and was sent an honorary small golden bugle award by the movie's producers which he valued for the rest of his life. [10]

Clift's final completely pre-accident movie was Terminal Station. Once again Clift's performance was critically acclaimed. However, the movie bombed at the box office due to its lackluster script. [11]

Clift and Marlon Brando, who was also born in Omaha, had reputations as Hollywood rivals because of their rapid rise to stardom and similar acting styles. Clift was one of James Dean's idols and he would sometimes call Clift "just to hear his voice".[12]

Clift reportedly turned down the starring roles in Sunset Boulevard and East of Eden.[13] At one point he was receiving so many offers of roles that friends had to squeeze past stacks of them in order to walk up the stairs.[citation needed]

[edit] Car accident
On May 12, 1956, while filming Raintree County, he smashed his car into a telephone pole after leaving a party at the Beverly Hills home of his Raintree County co-star and close friend Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband Michael Wilding. Alerted by friend Kevin McCarthy, who witnessed the accident, Taylor raced to Clift's side, manually pulling a tooth out of his throat, as he'd begun to choke on it. He suffered a broken jaw and nose, a fractured sinus, and several facial lacerations which required plastic surgery.[14] In a filmed interview, he later described how his nose could be snapped back into place.

After a long recovery, he returned to the set to finish the film. Against the movie studio's worries over profits, Clift rightly predicted the film would do well, if only because moviegoers would flock to see the difference in his facial appearance before and after the accident. The pain of the accident led him to rely on alcohol and pills for relief, as he had done after an earlier bout with dysentery left him with chronic intestinal problems. As a result, Clift's health and looks deteriorated considerably.

[edit] Post-accident career

Clift in trailer from The Young Lions (1958).His post-accident career has been referred to as the "longest suicide in Hollywood history" because of his alleged substance abuse.[15] Clift continued to work over the next 10 years. His next three films were Lonelyhearts (1958), The Young Lions (1958) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). Clift starred with Lee Remick ...
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