The Passion of Montgomery Clift

The Passion of Montgomery Clift

The Passion of Montgomery Clift

The Passion of Montgomery Clift


From his 1948 film debut in Red River through such classics as The Heiress, A Place in the Sun, and From Here to Eternity, Montgomery Clift exemplified a new masculinity and--leading the way for a generation of actors, including Marlon Brando and James Dean--epitomized the new naturalistic style of acting. Clift's impact was such that, both during his troubled life and after his untimely death, fans described the actor in religious terms, characterizing Clift as a vision, acolyte, and martyr. In The Passion of Montgomery Clift, Amy Lawrence challenges the myth of Clift as tragic victim by examining Clift's participation in the manipulation of his image, his collaborations with directors, his relationships with costars, and his interactions with writers.


Although fans are often said to “worship” or “idolize” stars, Montgomery Clift sparks reactions so extreme that his fans describe him in terms approaching religious ecstasy. Trying to articulate decades later how deeply moved they were when they first encountered the actor in films such as Red River (1948), The Heiress (1949), A Place in the Sun (1951), and From Here to Eternity (1953), Clift’s fans struggle to express the indescribable. According to one, Clift had a “face of almost impenetrable beauty.” For another, “His beauty was so sensual and at the same time so vulnerable it was almost blinding.” Clift biographer Patricia Bosworth states, “He was so gorgeous you could hardly look at him.” Rapt in their memory of a vision, fans-turned-authors recall their response to the actor’s image as if it were a physical force. According to Elizabeth Taylor, the first time she saw Clift, her heart stopped. But beauty alone cannot account for how deeply moved fans were—and are—when contemplating images of Clift. For them, Clift’s physical beauty expresses something deeper than mere aesthetic grace. Karl Malden said simply, “He had the face of a saint.”

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Book details

353 pages

Publisher: University of California Press

Place of publication: Berkeley, CA

Publication year: 2010

  • Clift, Montgomery--Criticism and interpretation
  • Motion picture actors and actresses--United States--Public opinion
  • Motion Pictures--Social Aspects
  • Popular Culture--United States
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