Montgomery Clift (1920-1966)
- Tommy Kelly, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1937. At age 13, Clift first made his name in Fly Away Home on Broadway. Therefore, producer David O Selznick insisted on testing him as Tom - opposite the year old Anne Baxter as Becky Thatcher. His acting was fine. His acne was not… DOS then told his squad: Find me an unknown orphan…! And wound up with the son of a fireman’s son from the Bronx.
- Richard Ney, Mrs Miniver, 1942. Demanding script approval, he refused his first offer from “Vomit, California,” as he called Hollywood. The film was fine, not the seven-year MGM contract o r“slavery pact.” Made his debut, for MGM, anyway, in The Search, 1948. And Ney, 26, married his screen mother, Greer Garson, 38.
- KirkDouglas,The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1945. Somehow Kirk was favoured over Clift and Richard Widmark as Barbara Stanwyck’s weak spouse.
- Robert Mitchum, Pursued, 1947. Oddly enough for the New York actor who would make his name in Red River, Monty looked ridiculous as a cowboy in his test. Teresa Wright’s choice also looked too young, too small. Joel McCrea and Robert Taylor were too old. Jack Warner refused to consider Kirk Douglas. And Mitchum won his first lead.
- John Dall, Rope, 1947. For his first colour movie, Alfred Hitchcock temptedfate by trying to convince Clift and Cary Grant to play (the implied) gay student and his gay teacher in the murder mystery ruined by up to ten-minute takes - was inspired by Dallas Bower’s BBC TV production, circa 1939.
- James Stewart, The Stratton Story, 1949. For the baseball star losing a leg,
- William Holden, Sunset Blvd, 1950.
Director Billy Wilder wrote it for Monty as A Can Of Beans! Clift called it “the definitive Hollywood ghost story” but quit two weeks before shooting began on April 11,1949., when his lady thought she was the ghost... Monty was living the story - obsessed with the 30 years older alcoholic Libby Holman, a 20s torch singer, who wed, shot and killed the RJ Reynolds tobacco heir in what a coroner ruled an accident. (Producer David O Selznick used the case as the basis of Jean Harlow's Reckless, 1935). Holman threatened suicide if he made what she saw as their story.
- Audie Murphy, The Red Badge of Courage, 1951. Producer Gottfried Reinhardt’s choice while director John Huston insisted on America’s most decorated World War II soldier - encouraged into acting by James Cagney.
- Kirk Douglas, The Big Sky, 1951. Howard Hawks, paid $30,000for the rights to AB Guthrie Jr’s Western “love story” of Boone and the older Jim. The Silver Fox’s casting permutatIons included another Western after Red River for Cliftopposite Cary Cooper or, more explosively, Marlon Brando! Marlon was too expensive at $125,00 (exactly the salary of Douglas a year later) and Hawks slid downwards into Douglas and Dewey Martin.
- Alan Ladd, Shane, 1951. Director George Stevens first planned a titular Clift with William Holden as rancher Joe Starrett. Shot during July-October 1951, it wasn’t released until 1953 due to Stevens’ lengthy editing and Paramount losing faith until Howard Hughes tried to buy it! Billy Crystal was taken to the movie by his babysitter - Billie Holliday! As the kid kept calling “Come back, Shane” as Ladd rode off at he end, Billie proved well versed in such departures... “He ain’t never comin’ back!”
- Gary Cooper, High Noon, 1951. Carl Forman created Sheriff Will Kane for Henry Fonda - passed over by the suits on being grey-listed for his politics. “Not for me,” said Clift, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne. Gregory Peck found it too similar to his previous Gunfighter(!). And Kirk Douglas came thisclose to playing Sheriff Will Kane with Lola Albright as the missus. Cooper was keener. He even cut his fee to wear the tin star – throw it away – and win the Oscar on March 19, 1953.
- Dewey Martin, The Big Sky, 1951. Despite (or because of) having made Red River with director Howard Hawks in 1947, Clift passed on the latest Hawks Western - from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by the Shane author AB Guthrie Jr - centre of a trilogy starting with The Big Sky, filmed, in 1951, and the last, Three Thousand Hills, in 1958.
Dirk Bogarde, Penny Princess, 1952. UK director Val Guest sure had chutzpah. He also asked Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra to headline the daffy Brtiish comedy.
- James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.
- Marlon Brando, On The Waterfront, 1954. Ironically, they shared the same agents: Jay Kanter in Hollywood, Edith Van Cleeve in New York. “Marlon is continously creative even with shitty material,” noted Monty. “He shows you what's going on inside of himself.” And a lot was… According to producer Sam Spiegel, Brando never forgave Elia Kazan for naming names in the McCarthy era because an old actor friend died as a result. “Waterfront also showed a man denouncing to the legal authorities the sins of his tribe. Marlon felt the script justified Kazan's behavior.” Brando refused in August 1953, leading to Sinatra’s handshake deal. Director Elia Kazan, The Boy Genius of Broadway, feared The Voice would split too early for his next gig. OK, Clift… or Paul Newman. Spiegel never gave up on Brando and it was Marlon’s father who solved the issue. He called his son’s agent, Jay Kanter: “Isn’t there anything you feel he should do?”
- Edmund Purdom, The Egyptian, 1953. If it wasn’t good enough for Brando, then it wasn’t good enough for Clift. (He quit after the first day of rehearsal). Truth was court physician Sinuhe wasn’t good enough for anyone (Dirk Bogarde, John Cassevetes, Richard Conte, John Derek, Rock Hudson, John Lund, Guy Madison, Hugh O’Brian, Michael Pate) and Purdom wasn’t good enough for it.
- Marlon Brando, Desirée, 1954.
Or Daisy Rae as Brando insisted on calling her. Talking of shitty material... Clift had no interest in playing Napoleon. Nor did Brando, who didn’t take him as seriously as his Marc Antony. Not the same writer, of course. Brando was shocked when Clift said he had been asked first. Brando to Clift: “You your ass is far too skinny to play Napoleon. They would have had to pad your butt.” Brando signed on (to clear a Fox lawsuit)while begging Clift to join AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. “You’ve made me a better actor,” Marlon told Monty, “because I want to be better than you. You’re my touchstone. My challenge. Ever since I saw A Place in the Sun, I knew you could take the screen from me.” After the praise, came the uppercut: “But... you nevcr lived up to your promise.” D’oh! (Clift hit back: “At least I didn’t make Guys and Dolls, singing and dancing with Sinatra”). They neverworked together, not even sharing a scene as The Young Lions, 1958.
- Robert Wagner, Broken Lance, 1954. Taking on a role intended for Monty Clift was the high point of RJ’s career. It never got better than that. Spencer Tracy played Wagner’s father - which proved the nonsense of them playing siblings two years later on The Mountain.
- Richard Burton, Prince of Players,1954. The script was just too ponderous for Brando. As Montgomery Clift could have told him. Mon often called “poor Richard's acting -reciting.”
- Richard Davalos, East of Eden, 1954. Brando and Clift, said Elia Kazan, for the Trask brothers. Having them sharing scenes would have been impossible, said Edward (Young Lions) Dmytryk. They had opposing methods. After two takes, Clift got mechanical. Brando, according to Fred Zinnemann, once required 71 takes to look out of a window.
- Robert Mitchum, Not As A Stranger, 1955. Like Brando, Monty had earned the pick of the crop, just did not fancy many of them...
- Gordon MacRae, Oklahoma, 1955. From the outset, director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers... Clift, James Dean or Paul Newman as Curly, Eva Marie Saint, Joanne Woodward for Laurey, Rod Steiger or Eli Wallach for p’or Jud Fry. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval - Rodgers and Hammerstein, agreed only about Steiger. PS:Oklahoma was shot in... Arizona.
- Van Johnson, End of the Affair, 1955. Not even if meant a reunion with Deborah Kerr from From Here To Eternity.
- James Dean, Giant, 1955.
- Tony Curtis, Trapeze, 1955. Herman Citron warbled the agents’ anthem again. "He was too choosey." But Monty Clift as a circus aerialist…!? Don’t be silly, Burt! Yet Clift had talks with producer-star Burt Lancaster but was obviously wary of the gay sub-plot - of Lancaster’s Mike Ribble lusting after his trapeze partner, Clift’s Orsini. All that vanished when Curtis moved into the first of two memorable teamings with Lancaster. The second, of course, was the impeccable Sweet Smell of Success, 1956.
- Robert Taylor, The Last Hunt, 1955. Director Richard Brooks wanted Clift and Gregory Peck and Clift and got stuck witha re-run of All The Brothers Were Valiant: “Robert Taylor and the other fellow.” What a year of refusals - l4 movies and five plays, before accepting The Seagull in New York at $100 a week, compared to $160,000 per film.
- Don Murray, Bus Stop, 1955. Producer Buddy Adler initially wanted Clift as cowboy Bo. Murray won his screen debut, Marilyn Monroe for co-star - and an Oscar nod. Marilyn got Monty - in far from great shape - for The Misfits, 1960. They had “this same self-destructive temperament,” said their co-star Eli Wallach. “They were at a loss; they couldn't cope. It's easy to poke fun at those people - big stars - but it’s very sad.”
- Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion, 1956. Jimmy Dean was gone, but there was always a new Dean in the wings... and he did well as Gary Cooper’s son..
- Van Johnson, Miracle in the Rain, 1956. His next agent, Herman Citron said: "He could've been the biggest movie star in the world - he was always considered before Brando." They would scream at each other over the phone. "I will not do it, Herman. .It’s crap!"
- John Forsyth, The Trouble With Harry, 1956. And Citron (also Hitchcock's agent) would yell back:“Can’t you lower your standards for once?”
- Richard Basehart, Moby Dick, 1956. Or raise them? The offered role was the narrator with the most famous opening line in literature. “Call me Ishmael.”
- Tyrone Power, The Sun Also Rises, 1956. Ann Harding was first to buy rights to Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 classic in 1934. Nothing caught fire… when Hollywood censors insisted that impotence and nymphomania were “not proper for screen presentation.” She sold out to director Howard Hawks in 1949, who planned Clift as the war-impotent Jake Barnes and Magaret Sheridan as Lady Brett Ashley (then Brando and Gene Tierney). At 29 and 23, Montyu and Margaret were more in the right age bracket than Power and Ava Gardnsr - 42 and 32.
- William Holden, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956.
Director David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel had a disastrous dinner with Clift at Danny’s Hideaway. They offered him William Holden’s accomplice, Lieutenant Joyce, with the promise of beefing up the role. “Monty was taking pills,” said Sam’s wife (and pinching her creme de menthe), “and he was still vaguely coherent. He'd answer with non-sequiturs like ‘the sky is blue’.” Lean discreetly left. Sam was soon yelling “For Christ’s sake, Monty” as Clift fell, not into his cups, but into Betty Spiegel’s lap. “He could not move. It was as if he was numb.” Ben Gazarra and Cliff Robertson were discussed before Betty suggested “little Geoffrey.” Good choice… Horne saved Lean’s life the steakhouse when he was nearly swept way by a fast river in Sri Lanka.
- Curt Jürgens, Bitter Victory, France, 1957. Not interested in co-starring with his bete-noir, Richard Burton. “Jürgens was miscast,” admitted director Nicholas Ray. “He was always pretty self-conscious about being a German playing an Englishman… even though we tried to justify it, making him South African.”
Audie Murphy, The Quiet American, 1957. Monty and Larry - that’s who auteur supreme Joseph L Mankiewicz wanted for his Graham Green adaptation. He got them... later. Clift for Suddenly Last Summer, 1959, Olivier in Sleuth, 1972. Considering that Mankiewicz was in charge, this was a shockingly homogenised version of Graham Greene’s prophetic novel about Vietnam. Greene denounced the film, so, naturellement, Jean-Luc Godard praised it. Mankiewicz actually felt that Murphy was capable of delivering what Joe had wanted real actors like Clift and, before him, Bogart, to do. Impossible. (Philip Noyce’s 2001 re-tread was more true to the book).
- Paul Newman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1957. OK, Clift was a great chum of Taylor’s but in no shape to play her ex-football player husband. After all his surgery following his terrible 1956 car smash, poor Monty looked incapable of carrying a football, much less kicking or running with it!
- Jack Lemmon, Cowboy, 1957. His first Columbia production, We Were Strangers, 1948, flopped which is why Sam Spiegel never made The Reminiscences of a Cowboy (from the Frank Harris novel) with, as planned, Clift and Walter Huston to be directed by his son, John - Sam’s partner in Horizon Pictures
- Victor Mature, No Time To Die! (US: Tank Force), 1957. Clift passed, so this became the fourth of six films Mature made for Warwick, co-run in London by a certain Cubby Broccoli. He’d made a habit of wooing Hollywood talent to prop up his exotic adventures and thrillers: Anita Ekberg, Rhonda Fleming (no kin to Ian), Rita Hayworth, Alan Ladd, Jack Lemmon, Ray Milland, Robert Mitchum, Robert Teylor, Richard Widmark.
- Cliff Robertson, The Naked and The Dead, 1958. Said to be interested - like Brando - in the first script… by Charles Laughton. Anyway, it was too soon after his dreadful car crash during Raintree County, 1957.
- Horst Buchholz, Auferstehung/Resurrection, Germany-Italy-France, 1958. French Myriam Bru was the star and instigator of this Tolstoi tale. When Buchholz was suggested as her Nechljudoff, she asked her producer to get Clift. He tried. No go, Within a few months in London, she became Mrs Buchholz.
- Gary Cooper, They Came To Cordura, 1958. Monty wanted nothing to do with the cowardly US Army Major Thoms Thorn - deciding which 1916 soldiers would win the Congressional Medal of Honor. The film infuriated John Wayne. “The whole story makes a mockery of America's highest award for valor. The whole premise of the story was wrong, illogical, because they don't pick the type of men the movie picked to win the award, and that can be proved by the very history of the award.” He was also unhappy with the gay relationship between Cooper (twice the age of the real major) and Tab Hunter in this film, calling homosexuality a poison polluting Hollywood's moral bloodstream. Such as in Clift’s Suddenly Last Summer - “too disgusting even for discussion.”
- Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1958. For the MGMighty $5m epic re-make, the favourite for the hero was the disinterested Brando. Director William Wyler (one of the original’s 1924 crew) also studied Italians Cesare Danova and Vittorio Gassman. Plus Clift (no, really!), Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Vittorio Gassman, Rock Hudson, Van Johnson (no, really II), Burt Lancaster - and Edmund Purdom, who had picked up another epic dropped by Brando, The Egyptian, 1953. Judah Ben-Heston won his Oscar on April 4 1960.
- .Dean Martin, Rio Bravo, 1958.
- Kirk Douglas, The Devil's Disciple, 1958. Hecht-Lancaster Productions officially announced Clift and Burt Lancaster as co-stars in 1956. However, directors had already sworn off Monty. "Because of booze and drugs," said director Edward Dmytryk. "He was never nasty. He just fell apart."
- Burt Lancaster, Elmer Gantry, 1959. Somewhat perversely, director Richard Brooks thought of Monty -or Jimmy Cagney - for the firey preacher man.
- Dean Stockwell, Sons and Lovers,1960. DH Lawrence - "adapted by [producer] Jerry Wald"!
- Geoffrey Horne, Story of Joseph and His Brethern, Italy, 1960. Written for Cary Grant and once promised to Tony Curtis.
- Richard Widmark, Judgment At Nuremberg, 1961. Instead of $200,000 as the prosecuting attorney, Colonel Lawson, he preferred a day's cameo as a feeble-minded, sterilised Jewish survivor of the camps - for expenses only. “It was more practical to do it for nothing rather than refuse a role I wanted to play. To be an actor is to play any part - large or small - that has something to say.” If he could remember his lines, that is. Spencer Tracy helped him: “Forget the lines, Monty - play it to me. Eye to eye.”
- Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia, 1961.
- Dirk Bogarde, The Angel Wore Red, 1961. Clift’s interest, until switching to Elia Kazan’s Wild River, was why Bogarde picked it up. Director Nunnally Johnson did not view Dirk as any new Monty simply “customarily sober.”
- John Mills, The Singer Not The Song, 1961. US director Roy Ward Baker’s dream team forthe Spanish priest and bandito: Clift (or Paul Scofield) and Marlon Brando. The UK Rank Organisation’s concern was to appease Dirk Bogarde into a new contract... with his campiest role. Unintentionally hilarious!
- Bobby Darin, Too Late Blues, 1961. A studio promise is never a promise. Paramount told Stella her co-star would Clift... as long as she became one of Elvis Presley’s Girls! Girls! Girls! John Cassavetes couldn’t get his wife, Gena Rowlands, to playJess Polanski but gave in to the Front Office compromise about his hero, the jazzman Ghost. Probably Paramount never even realised that Darin was part of the Cassavetes clan - he had appeared, un-credited (like Gena)in Shadows.
- Glenn Ford, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1962. MGM wanted names, Montgomery Clift or even the British guy… Dick Bogart?! Director Vincent Minnelli wanted younger Euros - Alain Delon or Horst Buchholz. Studio won. Film lost.
- Charles Bronson,The Sandpiper, 1965. Concerned about his sagging health and career, his Bessie Mae always had a (Liz) Taylor-made part for him in her every film.
- Robert Redford, The Chase, 1965. A decade before producer Sam Spiegel star-smothered it to death, Gary Cooper bought the rights to Horton Foote’s soap-opera-esque thriller. For him as the sheriff hunting Clift’s escaped con… Brando played the sheriff - beaten up, of course, and worse than in On The Waterfront or Two Eyed Jacks. He didn’t come cheap: $750,000, plus $130,000 for his Pennebaker company and… a role for his older sister, Jocelyn.
- Robert Redford, This Property Is Condemned, 1966. Old pals Elizabeth Traylor and Clift became Natalie Wood and, at her inviation, Redford. He felt the script was a “mish-mash” with everyone’s dabs on it. But he never forgot Natalie’s kindness in pushing for him to make Inside Daisy Clover with her the year before.
- Horst Buchholz, Marco The Magnificent, 1966. Clift was asked to replace Alain Delon as Marco Polo, when the original shoot fell into money hassles. Monty made e his final film for the same Paris producer, Raoul Levy.
- Oskar Werner, Fahrenheit 451, 1966. Movies? By the time the the French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut called, Clift was in no shape to make coffee... For his first film in colour - his only one in English - Truffaut wanted the star of his second feature to be Montag: Charles Aznavour. Yet he also contacted Jean-Paul Belmondo, Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole. Paul Newman was ready to burn books in 962, until a parting of minds in ’64. The réalisateur then signed Terence Stamp, before making the mistake of his life and giving the fireman to Werner, originally booked as Montag’s boss. Any of the others asleep would have been better! The Austrian’s head had been turned by Hollywood since his and Truffaut’s Jules et Jim triumph. Werner argued constantly over (his dull) interpretation, refused one “dangerous” scene (as if a fireman would not have to deal with fire) and even cut his hair to ruin continuity. If not for the six years of planning, Truffaut would have walked. Instead, he simply truncated Werner’s later scenes - and used a double, John Ketteringham, in most of them!
- Jean Blaise, Le grand meaulnes/The Wanderer, France, 1967. Rejected a decade earlier…. ActorKevin McCarthy said of Clift's condition: “It was like the collapse of a great building - in slow-motion.”
- Marlon Brando, Reflections In A Golden Eye, 1967.
The first time Brando was a fourth choice (after Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, Patrick O’Neal), the first time he subbed for a pacted star - and second time only he agreed to second-billing. Out of work for four years or so, Clift was uninsurable. "Bessie Mae" Taylor put up the $1m bond money for an early 60s version, with Burton directing and co-starring. Nobody, including Clift, felt he could act anymore. Even after their Freud fights, Liz and Brando, felt working again with John Huston was the cure-all Clift needed. "If John can stand it, I can." Production manager Doc Erickson saw Clift in London after proving himself by finishing The Defector on time and on budget. “You must be a glutton for punishment,”said Doc. “It’ll be all right,” said Clift - dead six weeks later from a heart attack in New York, less than a month before shooting began on July 22, 1966.
Burt Lancaster, The Swimmer, 1967. Hard to believe that such a physical role - John Cheever's tale of a man swimming his way home through people’s pools in Connecticut - ever came his way. The film was made nine years after Burt took Elmer Gantry from him…. Lancaster called it: “Death of a Salesman in swimming trunks.” He went into serious training to match his old nickname, The Build, to play Ned - his way. Refusing re-takes, blaming their need on producder Sam Spiegel spending more time on playing gin than on the film It was Sam’s fourth consecutive flop. Minus David Lean, Spiegel was a zero. (Glenn Ford, William Holden, Paul Newman and George C Scott had all been in the Ned mix).
- Alan Arkin, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter,1968. Tom Ryan mailed Clift his scenario when the star’s career was shredded. Going slightly deaf at the time, Monty felt it a supreme challenge to act in silence a sthe the deaf-mute - it would cover his memory lapses. The money men weren’t interested after all the stories of his behaviour during Freud.
- Michael Sarrazin, They Shoot Horses Don't They, 1969. Montyand Briigitte Bardot was French realisateur Jean-PierreMocky's 60s plan until beaten to the rights by director Sydney Pollack.
- George Segal, The Owl and The Pussycat, 1970. Another Liz Taylor idea when trying to resurrect Monty’s career. Producer Ray Stark wanted Clift to put up his New York brownstone as collateral. Lizwould not let him.
- Dennis Hopper, The Last Movie, 1970. Dennis always intended his “stunt man in a lousy Western” would be Monty - because the role needed an older player. At 34, Hopper explained: “It was easier doing it myself than explain to another actor what I wanted.” He met various hopefuls, including two of John Ford’s family: Ben Johnson and John Wayne. Plus Willie Nelson!! My God, Willie and Dennis shooting in Peru, the coke capital of the world… they’d still be there!
- Martin Sheen, TheExecution of Private Slovik, 1974. Frank Sinatra's aborted attempt to tell the story of the only US solider executed for desertion (in 1945) since the Civil War - became an excellent tele-film.
- Liam Neeson, Ethan Frome, 1992. Edith Wharton's book was offered to Clift in the 60s.