Friday, February 25, 2011


The impossibly handsome Montgomery Clift made a name for himself by playing dark, mysterious outsiders. His talents on stage and on screen elevated his celebrity faster than most, winning 4 Academy Awards in his short career. Despite his talents, the notoriety and fame lured Clift into a life of excess.  Induced by excessive drinking and drug dependency, Clift was spiraling out of control. One fateful night, leaving a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s house, Monty crashed his car at full speed into a tree, brutally disfiguring his iconic face. Though there were no lacerations that left scars, he never looked the same. Unfortunately, the effects of the accident were not only physical—the event marked the steady decline of the beloved Hollywood heartthrob.  The following is a beautiful piece written by Marcello Mastroianni about the accident

“Those were my moviegoing days. Days when the names James Dean and Marlon Brando still evoked question marks. Yet the true originator of what came to be known as the rebellious twentieth-century anti-hero had already made his entrance. The film was Red River, and the restrained performer with the inner tension and those ancient, melancholy eyes was Montgomery Clift. 

He presence was so unobtrusively strong that it lingered even when he was off camera. And so I kept going back: The Heiress, A Place in the Sun, I Confess, From Here to Eternity, The Young Lions.

And then the distressing news of his accident, his courtships with loneliness, his fits of depression, and his ultimate reclusion. We, colleagues and fans, were all the more saddened because it seemed that all the sympathy in the world could never have helped him. 

In a darkened theater, watching his first film after the accident, I was both curious and apprehensive. Yes, he had changed; the young boy from Red River was ten years older. His eyes were reflecting the experience of a lifetime; than ancient melancholy was now tinged with a personal suffering. Yet the presence was still there and still when he was not on screen.

And that the last film I saw him in, as my moviegoing days are over now. Much has happened since: James Dean’s career began and abruptly ended, Brandoism had passed its apogee, and perhaps the rebellious anti-hero of our days is slightly out of vogue now. But the intensity of Montgomery’s eyes, twenty years later, the wisdom of his Etruscan smile, the tragedy of his personal life make him the never-setting expression of our times, the symbol of difficult duty of living.

- Marcello Mastroianni