THE END OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER
THE MISFITS, CLARK GABLE, MARILYN MONROE, MONTGOMERGY CLIFT, 1961
What is not to like about a movie set in the modern American West where civilization is fast taking the starch out of the independent-minded cowboys and their hangers-on who are trying to hold on for dear life. They had obviously not read Harvard Professor Turner's thesis about the end of the American frontier. The code of the old West and its values is losing its effect by the day to the ethos of the modern capitalist farmer and rancher. Larry McMurtry in his book and subsequent film The Last Picture Show as well as others have also taken up this theme but none have done it better on film than The Misfits.
Add a screenplay by the legendary playwright Arthur Miller. Further add the strong performances, aided by the black and white format, of a grizzled Clark Gable, the ill-fated Marilyn Monroe and the troubled Montgomery Clift supported by Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach and you have a very good film indeed. I have read that Miller’s screenplay was written especially for Monroe, his then wife. If so that explains why this story about castoffs, drifters and non-conformists looking for some emotional relief in the new West that has passed them by had such a powerful effect on me. Monroe as the beautiful but hard luck and misunderstood object of affection seemingly was playing herself here. And to great effect. Watch it.