MARILYN MONROE & MONTY CLIFT | HOLLYWOODS DENIM-CLAD MISFITS

The Misfits Marilyn Monroe

1960, Reno, Nevada — The cast, writer, and director of The Misfits. Montgomery Clift as Perce Howland, Eli Wallach as Guido, screenwriter Arthur Miller, director John Huston, Clark Gable as Gay Langland, and Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Taber (and who had recently divorced Miller) — Image by © Underwood & Underwood

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There are certain films of the 1950s-60s that capture what I love best– Hollywood icons clad in cool denim.  The Wild One… Rebel Without a Cause… and the list goes on.  Wild, rebellious, good-looking misfits wreaking havoc on the mainstream squares– and doing it wearing denim all the while.  Yes.

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Marilyn Monroe Montgomery Clift The Misfits

Marilyn Monroe (in her Lee Storm Rider jacket) & Monty Clift (who wore Lee Riders jeans) in John Huston’s 1961 film The Misfits.

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Marilyn Monroe wore her fair share of denim back in the day– both onscreen and off.  In The Misfits, alongside costar Montgomery Clift, you see great Lee icons of denim history well worn by Hollywood’s finest. It’s an added bonus for a film that’s a true classic, and full of real-life  irony, sadness and loss of epic proportion– which just serves to add to my sentimental yearnings for this bygone Hollywood era.

The idea for the film was born back when Arthur Miller was in Reno divorcing his first wife, and stayed at the Pyramid Lake Guest Ranch– a popular “divorce ranch” back in Reno’s booming 1960s divorce trade (Miller then married Marilyn Monroe just three weeks later).  His brush with local “misfit” cowboys & wild horses during that time inspired a short story that appeared in the October 1957 issue of Esquire magazine, and later spawned the screenplay account of the end of the cowboy era in the great American West.

Luckily, the making of The Misfits was documented by nine photographers from the renowned agency Magnum Photos, including such acclaimed artists as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Inge Morath and Eve Arnold.

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marilyn monroe lee denim eve arnold

Classic shot of Marilyn Monroe (in her Lee Storm Rider denim jacket) seemingly oblivious to the world on the set of The Misfits — image by photojournalist Eve Arnold.

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The filming of John Huston’s 1961 epic on the Wild West’s fading glory, The Misfits, was fraught with tension and troubles right from the beginning, and soon became the most expensive black-and-white ever film made in it’s day.  The story-line about cowboys rounding-up wild horses to sell off to the dog food companies also raised quite a stir at the time– it was recently referenced on Mad Men as Don Draper and crew are hired to stop the bleeding caused by the negative press the film brings upon the pet food industry. When you watch the film through the filter of 1961 society, you realize it was a little bizarre to say the least.

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john huston gambling marilyn monroe the misfits

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John Huston, Marilyn Monroe, and Arthur Miller on the set of The Misfits — Image by © Bettmann

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You had the rebellious, hard-living director John “The Monster” Huston as ringleader– and by all accounts Huston’s most pressing concern while filming was drinking heavily and getting to the local Nevada casinos as quickly as possible every night.  Legend has it he ran up a sizable gambling debt that the studio stepped in and picked up.  The tales of Huston’s ability to blow through $50,000 in about an hour’s time back then are still talked about today.

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Marilyn Monroe Arthur Miller The Misfits

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Marilyn Monroe The Misfits Lee Storm Rider

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Marilyn Monroe Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller onset with Marilyn Monroe. Can you feel the tension?

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Writer Arthur Miller was on set with wife Marilyn Monroe throughout the filming of The Misfits– a vehicle he wrote to show off her acting range.  Their marriage was in shambles– she was having an affair with Yves Montand, had filed for divorce and kicked him out of their digs while shooting the film. It made things a little uneasy as you can imagine– Miller could do nothing to stop it, felt totally emasculated, and was often off sulking in the shadows.

Marilyn’s star was fading, and she was also deep in the grips of excessive drinking and popping prescription pills.  Things were so bad, filming had to be stopped early on so she could detox, get back on track, and hopefully finish-up the making of The Misfits. When things did resume she crippled production with her chronic tardiness, if she bothered to show up that day at all.  This would turn out to be Marilyn’s last completed onscreen work before her tragic and mysterious death in 1962.

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Arthur Miller Clark Gable

September 27th, 1960, Reno — Arthur Miller talks with Clark Gable on the set of The Misfits, a film of a screenplay written by Miller for his soon-to-be ex-wife Marilyn Monroe, also in the film. — Image by © Bettmann. That is some combo miller is sportin’– straw cowboy hat, black socks, and white Jack Purcells.

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Clark Gable Marilyn Monroe The Misfits PEN4558

November 1960, Reno, Nevada — Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable bid goodbye (left) to each other as they completed filming of United Artists’  The  Misfits, written by Marilyn’s husband, Arthur Miller. The mark on Gable’s cheek is makeup used to simulate blood for a movie scene. A few days later Gable suffered a coronary attack. It was announced Nov. 11, that Marilyn and her husband have separated and the actress would file for a divorce. — Image by © Bettmann

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Another Hollywood legend, Clark Gable, also saw his limelight dimming as his years of being the sexy, pompous, lothario leading man were well in the past.  But Gable wasn’t going down without a fight– he scrambled to slim down from 235 lbs for the role by taking insane amounts of Dexedrine (read: speed), which surely wasn’t good for his already weakened heart.  According to some, Gable also insisted on doing his own stunts for The Misfits– which included him being brutally dragged across a dry lakebed at a pretty fair clip.  The cocktail of diet pills, stress and physical toil are thought to have put more stress on Gable than he was able to handle.  Sadly, this would also turn out to be Gable’s last work– he passed away just 12 days after final filming of The Misfits was completed.

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Montgomery Clift The Misfits

Montgomery (Monty) Clift in a Wrangler 11MJ denim jacket.

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 Montgomery Clift The Misfits

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Montgomery Clift was a sexy & sensitive Hollywood heart-throb during the 1950s in classic films like– A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, & The Young Lions. Clift and fellow contemporary, Marlon Brando were both fast-rising movie stars back then and highly competitive with one another.  When James Dean blew onto the scene stealing their heat, he would proudly refer to his own acting style as a complex melding of both Brando and Clift– combining Brando’s macho “F-You” attitude with Clift’s softer “help me” appeal.  Jimmy openly idolized both Brando and Clift, and took every opportunity to be in their presence, and in the case of Clift he would sometimes call Monty just to hear his voice.  Though he’s not talked about much these days, Montgomery Clift was a definitely the golden boy back in his prime, which made his fall from grace all the more painful.

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Montgomery Clift car accident crash

Original caption from 1956– Actor Seriously Injured in Crash. West Los Angeles, California: A policeman examines the wreckage of actor Montgomery Clift’s car after it crashed into a power pole following a dinner party at the home of Michael Wilding and Elizabeth Taylor. Clift suffered serious head injuries and was taken to Cedars of Lebanon hospital. — Image by © Bettmann

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In 1956, Montgomery Clift was leaving a party at the Beverly Hills home of close friend Elizabeth Taylor when he violently smashed his car head-on into a utility pole.  Taylor was quickly alerted of the accident by a friend who had witnessed it happen– she immediately raced to Clift’s side, where Taylor bravely pulled his tongue out of his throat to keep him from choking to death, and stoicly stayed by his side to comfort him.  Clift was a real mess– suffering a broken jaw and nose, a fractured sinus, and multiple facial lacerations which would require plastic surgery.  He would never look the same again– but that was not the worst of it.

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Montgomery Clift Marilyn Monroe Clark Gable The Misfits

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After a long recovery, he returned to the set to finish filming Raintree Country with co-star Elizabeth Taylor. The studio execs worried that the film would prove to be a flop, but Clift instinctively knew that diehard fans and curious movie-goers would flock to the film if only to see the difference in his looks before and after the horrible, and well-publicized, crash. The pain of the accident led Clift to find comfort in alcohol and prescription pills– which only further added to the erosion of his physical health and famous looks.   By the time he signed on in 1960 for The Misfits, Marilyn Monroe, who had her own troubles at the time, famously described Monty Clift as “The only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.”  Clift continued to act after The Misfits, but it was painfully obvious that he would never again be anything close to his former self.  His health continued to spiral, as did his drug and alcohol abuse.

On July 22, 1966, Clift spent most of the day holed-up in bed at his New York City townhouse.  His live-in personal secretary, Lorenzo James, went up to say goodnight. Ironically,  The Misfits was on TV that evening, and Lorenzo asked Clift if he would like to watch it. “Absolutely NOT!” was the reply. This turned out to be the last known time that Montgomery Clift spoke to anyone. The next morning he found Clift dead from an apparent heart attack.

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Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift on the set of "A Place in the Sun" -- ca. 1951. -- Image by © Sunset Boulevard

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift on the set of “A Place in the Sun” — ca. 1951 — Image by © Sunset Boulevard

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Montgomery Clift Burt Lancaster Frank Sinatra From Here to Eternity Montgomery Clift From Here to Eternity

March 1954, Hollywood — Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra. All three were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in From Here to Eternity.  Sinatra won as Best Supporting Actor, in his first non-singing role. — Image by © Bettmann

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The Misfits

1960, Reno, Nevada — The cast, writer, and director of The Misfits. Montgomery Clift as Perce Howland, Eli Wallach as Guido, screenwriter Arthur Miller, director John Huston, Clark Gable as Gay Langland, and Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Taber (and who had recently divorced Miller).

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Marilyn Monroe The Misfits

Marilyn Monroe, on the set of The Misfits, wearing costar Monty Clift’s Lee Storm Rider denim jacket, ca. 1960.

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Marilyn Monroe jeans0000356085-008

“I love Marilyn Monroe,” said designer Tommy Hilfiger, explaining why he splurged on the jeans she wore in 1954’s River of No Return and the cowboy boots she donned in ’61’s The Misfits. Besides, he added, “I’m going to use them as inspiration for my collections. I may put my name on them—I’m known to do that.”  Tommy later gifted the “River of No Return” jeans to none other than– Britney Spears.  How deep is your love again, Tommy?  Idiot.

THREE PAIRS OF JEANS $42,550

BOOTS $85,000

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Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Hilfiger Marilyn Monroe Jeans

In a 2007 interview with W magazine Tommy clearly had a change of heart in regard to Britney–

W: Were there images you couldn’t get that you wanted?
GL: Levi Strauss jeans. I talked to everyone in the company and they said, ‘No. Tommy is a competitor.’ After 30 phone calls you give up. I had to go directly to [Radio City overlords] the Dolans to get an image of the Rockettes, because everyone below them said no.
W: There are very few images of current celebrities. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton aren’t in the book.
GL: That was on purpose.
TH: They’re fleeting. Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean are forever. With a couple of exceptions, the celebrities now are not.

 

Marilyn Monroe River of No Return

Marilyn Monroe in her famous “River of No Return” Jeans being manhandled by Robert Mitchum.

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Marilyn Monroe jeans selvage

An early shot of Marilyn Monroe in selvedge denim jeans

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Marilyn Monroe Jeans

Early picture of Marilyn Monroe in jeans– check the odd belt loop placement on wearer’s right.

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Marilyn monroe vintage jeans

Great old picture of Marilyn Monroe in selvedge denim jeans.

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Old picture of Marilyn Monroe in selvedge denim jeans and jacket.

8 thoughts on “MARILYN MONROE & MONTY CLIFT | HOLLYWOODS DENIM-CLAD MISFITS

  1. I hate Tommy Hilfiger’s clothes because all of them are defaced with his logo in a prominent location. Megalomaniac!

  2. Fairly sure that the jacket you show Montgomery Cliff wearing is a Wrangler 11MJ, and not a Lee Storm Rider, on account of the vents on the back of the shoulder seams, a characteristic feature of the ‘Rodeo Ben’ 1948 redesign.

  3. I love the older photos of Marilyn, back in her Norma Jean days. I dig the placement of her left-hand belt loop in that one pic, a lot of vintage denim included that placement in order to hold down the tail of one’s belt (which I have trouble with these days… current denim designers take note!)

    GREAT feature. Adore M. Clift as well – but of course I adore ALL handsome movie stars from the past.

  4. Marilyn makes cross-dressing by beautiful feminine women look very sensual and sexually teasing males by implying: ” I have your masculine duds on—what are you going to do about it ” ?

  5. Gary Michael Joy is the extremely distant cousin of Marilyn Monroe! Joy, the hero himself is a direct descendant of William Monroe, the Scottish Soldier and patriot!

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