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The Misfits (1961) is a Americanmarker drama film, written by Arthur Miller, directed by John Huston, and starring Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, and Eli Wallach. It was the final film appearance for both Gable and Monroe. Even though it was not a commercial success at the time of its release, it garnered critical respect for its script and performances.


The Misfits takes place in Renomarker. It depicts the chance meeting and friendship of a depressed divorcée, Roslyn Taber (Monroe), and Gay Langland (Gable), an aging ex-cowboy prone to gambling and surviving on rounding up and catching mustang (wild horses). These were once sold as horses for children, but now the only market is selling them to slaughterhouses for the manufacture of dog food. Wallach plays Guido, Langland's pilot partner, and Clift plays Perce Howland, a drifter rodeo rider. The rodeo scenes were filmed in Dayton, Nevadamarker, northeast of Carson Citymarker. The climax takes place during wrangling scenes on a dry Nevada lakebed east of Dayton near Stagecoach, Nevada. The lakebed today is known as “Misfit Flat."

Principal cast

Other Cast


The making of The Misfits was troublesome due to several factors, not the least of which were the heat of the northern Nevada desert and the breakdown of Monroe's marriage to writer Arthur Miller.

Director Huston gambled and drank, and occasionally fell asleep on the set. The production company had to cover some of his gambling losses. His then-lover Marietta Peabody Tree had an uncredited part. Miller wrote new pages throughout the shoot, revising the script as the concepts of the film evolved.

Monroe was sinking further into alcohol and prescription drugs. Huston shut down production in August 1960 to send Monroe to a hospital for detox. Close-ups after her release were shot using soft focus. Monroe was nearly always late to the set, sometimes not showing up. She spent her nights learning lines with drama coach Paula Strasberg. Monroe's confidant and masseur, Ralph Roberts, was cast as an ambulance attendant in the film's rodeo scene.

Gable insisted on doing his own stunts, including being dragged about 400 feet across the dry lakebed at more than 30 miles per hour.

In a documentary about the making of The Misfits, Wallach told a story of Huston directing a scene where Wallach was at a bar with Gable. Huston told him that the most intoxicated he had ever been was the day before, even though he had seemed sober. The lesson was that an intoxicated person tries to act sober.

Thomas B. Allen was assigned to create drawings of the film as it was made. Magnum Photos had staff photographers including Inge Morath assigned to document the making of The Misfits.

During production, the cast's principals stayed at the Mapes Hotel in Reno. Film locations included theWashoe County Court House on Virginia Street and nearby Pyramid Lake. The bar scene where Monroe plays paddle ball was filmed in Dayton, Nevadamarker, east of Carson Citymarker.

Filming was completed on November 4, 1960 and The Misfits was released on 1 February 1961.


Two days after filming ended, Gable suffered a heart attack, and died 10 days later. Monroe and Clift attended the premiere in New York in February 1961, while Monroe was on pass from a psychiatric hospital; she later said that she hated the film and hated herself in it. Within a year and a half, she was dead of a drug overdose. The Misfits was the last completed film for both Monroe and Gable, her childhood screen idol.

Montgomery Clift, who had been badly injured in an automobile accident in 1956 and had to undergo reconstructive surgery on his face, died four years after the filming. Coincidentally, The Misfits was on television on the night Clift died. His live-in personal secretary, Lorenzo James, asked Clift if he wanted to watch it. "Absolutely NOT!" was the reply. These were the last words Clift spoke to anyone. He was found dead the next morning, having suffered a heart attack during the night.

Thelma Ritter died eight years after the movie was made. Eli Wallach and Kevin McCarthy went on to movie and stage careers that extend into the 21st century and are both nonagenarians. In all, four of the film's five top-billed actors died within that decade, three of them from heart attacks.

Magnum Photos was given exclusive rights to take pictures of the making of the movie. Photographs taken by Inge Morath and Eve Arnold, among others, have been on display at various exhibitions around the world. Morath and Arthur Miller were married in 1962 and their union lasted 40 years until her death in 2002.

Miller's autobiography, Timebends (1987), described the making of the film.The 2001 PBS documentary, Making The Misfits, did the same.Miller's last play, Finishing the Picture (2004), although fiction, was largely based on the events involved in the making of The Misfits.

Commercial and critical reception

Despite on-set difficulties, Monroe, Clift, and Gable delivered performances that modern movie critics consider superb. Monroe received the 1961 Golden Globe Award as "World Film Favorite" in March, 1962. Directors Guild of Americamarker nominated Huston as best director.

There were high expectations, given the star power of its writer, director and stars. Producer Frank E. Taylor had heralded The Misfits as "the ultimate motion picture" before its release.

The Misfits was met with mixed reviews, due mostly to its inevitably disjointed nature, and failed to meet expectations at the box office. Despite being shot in black and white, the final cost was about $4 million. It was said to be the most expensive black and white film made to that point in time. Its original domestic gross was just over its estimated budget of $4,000,000, making $4,100,000 in its initial USA release. It has brought larger profits to United Artists since its release on DVD.

The horror punk band, The Misfits, derived their name fron the movie.


Further reading

  • Goode, James (1963). The Making of The Misfits. Limelight Editions. ISBN 0-87910-065-6. A detailed day-to-day account on the shooting of the film, written by a journalist.

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