Making Montgomery Clift

DATELINE: Extraordinary Film

The man who turned down the lead in Sunset Boulevard and East of Eden made it possible for other stars to have their great moments. Montgomery Clift played down his refusal to do those films, but we think he would have reached latitudes and heights later denied to him.

Monty Clift’s nephew Robert has made a biographical film documentary to correct decades of misinformation and misjudgments. It is better late than never and tries to address the legend that he was a self-hating, self-destructive homosexual.

The charges against Clift, salacious and mean-spirited, may have been vestiges of homophobia he constantly encountered, even from sadistic directors like John Huston (our late friend Jan Merlin who made List of Adrian Messenger with Huston confirmed this—and we have been dunned for saying it).

Robert Clift interviews those still around so many decades later—like Jack Larson (Superman’s Jimmy Olson) and his mother Eleanor Clift. They report Monty was a funny creative man with a giving personality. He was an actor and used life experiences all the time in his art.

Brooks Clift, Monty’s brother, collected and kept everything about his brother to the point of obsession and taped conversations. Yet, it was he who was duped into providing info that would disparage the man he most loved and admired in life.

Robert Clift is to be highly commended for sorting through all this data to give us a more balanced, kindest view. Robert was born long after his uncle died, and he does not have the benefit of a personal relationship. Yet, the trove of collectibles, never seen or heard, provide insights that might only come from sitting down with Monty.

Most people looked at his later performances as biography, not art. He loved being alive and enjoyed being artistic, but it was a world of cruelties and harsh realities.

This is a brilliant work, worth your time and should send you scurrying for any Montgomery Clift movie you can find.

Superman on Earth!

DATELINE: Roots of Superhero!

 Boundless Leaper, George Reeves!

Let’s go back in time to the thrilling days of yesteryear! No, wait, that’s the wrong one: “it’s a bird, it’s a plane,” no, no….You guessed it. We took in a short black and white classic of TV special effects: Superman from 1951, the premier episode of the series starring George Reeves.

We expected campy silliness, but the ridiculous was overwhelmed by the sublime.

It really is the progenitor of the superhero craze that sprang out of its low-budget roots: yet, the great council of Krypton ignores Jor-el, the young scientist (Robert Rockwell, no less) who predicts that the planet’s environmental climate problems mean instant evacuation.

There are more nay-sayers in the leadership ranks than at a Trump Cabinet meeting. We swore one of the cabinet members on the show was Wilbur Ross. They scoff at the nuclear winter predictions, and refuse to build a bunch of spaceships to go to Earth where this race of supermen could enslave us all.

Thank heavens, the baby sent out in a nick of time is the child of the enlightened—and he has come to Earth to save humanity. He will do it by working for the fake media, where stories like a man flying faster than a bullet saves a man hanging off a dirigible.

Thank heavens the baby was rescued from the spaceship by Ma and Pa Kettle, er, we mean Kent. They only talk like Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride. When Clark’s father dies, he must go to Metropolis, and the rest as they say is history.

We were a tad surprised that a children’s show (as it was billed) featured destruction of an entire race of people, and then the death of a stepfather! Wouldn’t happen in a movie today, or would it?

We love the years passing by—from 1926 to 1951 when Clark cleverly hides his identity as a mild-mannered reporter with eyeglasses.

The cast was stellar: John Hamilton as the Editor of the Daily Planet, irascible and cantankerous. The first Lois is Phyllis Coates, more cynical and career girl than the later Noell Neill. We were also bemused that playwright Jack Larson lied to his friends back on Broadway—who never knew he moonlighted as Jimmy Olson, cub reporter.

It was a telescopic twenty-minutes that glossed over much to fit the story to the pilot episode. We think it is instructive to see how a movement that has taken over Hollywood and movies began.