The Misfits, Directed by John Huston
United Artists, February 1, 1961 (US)
Screenplay: Arthur Miller
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach, James Barton, Kevin McCarthy, and Estelle Winwood
Gay Langland (Clark Gable): What makes you so sad? You’re the saddest girl I ever met.
There are so many reasons to be sad. You’re born with half a face. You’re skin is orange. Your father shoots you, or better yet, touches you somewhere he’s not supposed to. The girl next door leaves you for a longhaired minstrel in the city of lights. Your cat dies from eating dog food. Your penis gets warts. You’re ignorant, uneducated, underdeveloped, or let’s face it, just plain stupid. You can’t trust friends or teachers or brothers, Cadillacs or Christ, even mystic rock stars in stinky leather pants. Sometimes (most of the time) you sit far too long on the porch in the dark. You stir ice cubes in bourbon with your finger. The cigarette in your trembling hand sends out ghost signals glowing red. Sometimes, even your handsome husband leaves you, speeds away in his beat up pickup truck. He dumps you for a much younger cowgirl. A much happier, bouncier smile. You finally divorce in some lonely sagebrush town blazing beneath a thousand bulbs of light. You pull off the shiny ring on your finger. You throw it into the rippling river out among the smooth stones. You give it away, like your soul, to the 100 dead Indian gods drifting below. The Truckee River. The long trickling drain of sweet that tumbles from the high Tahoe snows only to dump itself into a blue hole in the fatal dust of black rock out in the middle of nowhere. Doesn’t that say it all, honey? You don’t wake up (those sleeping pills sure do work). They find you naked on the floor. The telephone is off the hook. Johnny isn’t here anymore. Only the smell of horses. Coming in. White and shiny like the song. Paiute indians once threw their dead babies into the tranquil waters of Pyramid lake. At night you can still hear them scream. It’s only a legend. Old as the shiny silver dug up in the rusty holes they call hills above Reno. The desert is a sad place. Vast and empty. Sometimes you can feel the void of the universe whittling at your bones.
Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift): Do you belong to Gay?
Roslyn Taber (Marilyn Monroe): I don’t know where I belong.
My father’s 15 minutes of fame came as a young chef in Reno at the Riverside Hotel & Casino. He was asked to cook for Marilyn Monroe and her entourage during the making of this film out at Pyramid Lake. He made a huge buffet and ice carving for her. She never showed up. She did show up later at another restaurant where my father’s best friend worked as a Maitre d’. He remembers seating her and Clark Gable in a booth at a dark corner of the restaurant.
Isabelle Steers (Thelma Ritter): One thing about this town, it’s always full of interesting strangers.
This film is about running after horses. Wild horses. Wild women and wild cowboys who just don’t make it. They fall off. Fall down. Fall thirstily into raucous and noisy saloons. Alcoholics and losers. Big and broad-shouldered. Beautiful and broken. The West was dying. Love was dying. So were the horses. Arthur Miller always knew how to tug at the heart. He didn’t know just how far he could go. It’s almost hard now to distinguish these actors’ film roles from their real lives. All were fucked up. All were broken. Misbegotten. Misfits without enough rope or skin lotion to survive the hottest desert hell.
Roslyn: We’re all dying aren’t we? We’re not teaching each other what we really know, are we?
Weep for all the pretty horses but cry for those who ride them. The clowns are bright. Colorful and laughing at the Rodeo. But they are only there to keep the bulls away. There is no water. Just dust. Dirt. And strong, comforting arms to hold you before you fall. Where have you gone Joe, our lonely lady waits for you. Snows melt. Rivers dry up. Love gallops away. Shiny and beautiful. Nostrils flared.
Gay: Honey, nothing can live unless something dies.
She never shows up again.