Montgomery Clift: Unveiling the hidden struggles of a Hollywood legend

In the glamorous world of Hollywood, where fame and fortune often mask the personal battles fought behind closed doors, one name stands out as an enigmatic figure of both talent and torment: Montgomery Clift.

He was celebrated as one of the most captivating actors of his time, but the icon carried a burden that few knew about…

Many remember Montgomery Clift for his many impressive roles and astonishing good looks. But how much do you know about the Hollywood heartthrob’s life in the limelight? Behind the dazzling facade and captivating performances lay a complex and tortured soul, whose journey through fame and self-discovery would ultimately leave an indelible mark on both his career and personal life.

But let’s take it from the beginning.

Montgomery Clift was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1920, to William Clift and Ethel Clift. His family was wealthy, as his father was a broker on Wall Street, and therefore he was able to spend much his young life traveling Europe and Bermuda, where the family owned a second home.

However, like many families at the time, they were eventually hit by the stock market crash in 1929. They decided to sell their home and live a more modest life in Sarasota, Florida.

It was when Clift became a teenager that he took an interest in acting, trying out at a local theater for parts with his mother’s encouragement.

Eventually, a move to Massachusetts led to roles in the Broadway production of Fly Away Home, followed by the leading role in Dame Nature, in New York. At the young age of 17, he had a series of successful roles on the star-studded New York stages of Broadway: There Shall Be No Night, Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth.

Despite some hesitance at moving from the comfort of the stage to a large screen role, he was eventually cast in the 1948 film Red River.

While his role was not a large one, it opened up new opportunities for the actor. The film starred legend John Wayne and was directed by famous director Howard Hawks.

In the same year, Clift was cast as an American G.I. in the film The Search, which wound up being the role that skyrocketed him into fame. After a spectacular performance, he was nominated for an Academy Award and almost immediately cast in a series of major roles.

The young actor starred with Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, was cast by iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock in I Confess and was on screen with Frank Sinatra and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity.

According to Charles Casillo, author of “Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship,” Taylor was the co-star that Clift became closest to. The author went so far as calling them “soulmates.”

Taylor was a mere 17 at the time but returned Clift’s interest. The two were often caught kissing in the backs of limos at the time.

The secret, however, was that any interest Clift held was platonic in nature. The actor was hiding his sexuality at the time, as he was gay in a time it was largely not accepted.

Taylor unknowingly continued to pursue something with the handsome actor

He sat on the edge of the bathtub — and actually rehearsed,” Charles Casillo told People.

“This was intriguing to her because men were interested in her for her physicality,” he says. ”Now she had a man who was sitting there, talking about movies and books that she liked, her plans for her future and the roles she wanted to play. I really do think he’s the first one who saw interest in her as a person.”

Later, the pair grew close enough that Clift eventually came out to the actress. Taylor was accepting and even began trying to matchmake for her friend.

According to more recent historians, Clift demonstrated a comfort with is sexuality for the time period. He did not completely hide it, but he also did not advertise it.

In his career, Clift cared more than anything about the art of acting and little about the fame he received with it. Things were smooth for a long time, up until 1956 when things took a drastic turn. In May that year, Clift was leaving a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s home and crashed his car into a telephone pole.

High on “downers” at the time, he sustained serious injuries to his nose and jaw that left him looking incredibly different.

Taylor was the one who found Clift in the car wreckage. He was in a state of consciousness but his body was marred by bleeding wounds.

With unwavering determination, she courageously tended to his immediate needs, removing a hanging tooth that had become a perilous threat, cutting into his tongue.

Side by side, they embarked on a harrowing journey, as Taylor accompanied Clift into the waiting ambulance, their destinies forever intertwined in a fateful moment of compassion and care. Everyone on the scene said that Elizabeth Taylor saved his life, otherwise he would have died right there.

circa 1950: American actor Montgomery Clift (1920 – 1966) leaning on a fence with an intent expression. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

As mentioned, his face was badly disfigured but the plastic surgeons did what they could to put it back together.

After losing his characteristic handsome features, Clift turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the mental and physical pain he experienced. Others have suggested that Clift’s addiction was a result of his suppressed sexuality, but there is little evidence to support this. What remains certain is that Clift shared a profound and intense connection with renowned Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins.

Only a select few were privy to the true depth and emotional intensity of their relationship, which they concealed by dating women as a camouflage.

In the late 1950s, Clift vanished from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for an extended period, leaving his colleagues puzzled by his sudden absence.

He became a mystery to many and his behavior was labeled as “moody”. Close friends revealed that Clift sought solace in the company of a New York psychiatrist, as he grappled with personal demons that had taken hold of his life.

According to Clift himself, his absence stemmed from a meticulous examination of the scripts that came his way, as he tirelessly sought a project that truly resonated with him. Nevertheless, Clift made appearances in films during the 1960s, so he was not completely absent from the screen.

The actor passed at the age of 45, on July 23, 1966. A roommate found Clift, but was unable to wake him. It was later determined that he had died of occlusive coronary artery disease.

What do you think about Montgomery Clift’s refusal to hide himself in such a difficult era? Have you seen any of his work? Let us know in the comments!

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