December 11th, 2006
Directed by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Dead, and 44 others). Last film for stars Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind) and Marilyn Monroe (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bus Stop). Screenplay by renowned American playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible), Monroe’s husband at the time, from his own short story.
In this sad black-and-white modern Western about American dreamers and their hopeless dreams, Gaylord (Gable) is an aging cowboy who goes into the mountains to catch wild mustangs and sell them for dog food. His cohorts are Guido (Eli Wallach), a lonely ex-WWII fighter pilot, who flies his biplane into the canyons and chases the horses out; and Perce (Montgomery Clift), an inept and often-injured rodeo rider. All of them are heavy drinkers. Into this mix wanders depressed divorcee Roslyn (Monroe), looking good. Like everyone in this movie, she’s just trying to find her way home.
Gable, Clift, Wallach, Monroe
Once the horses have been caught, just six of them including a colt, Roslyn realizes they are bound for dog food and tries to buy them and set them free. She deconstructs each man’s dream by refusing to be taken in by it, but at the same time she is willing to believe in each of them, if only he will be kind.
Gaylord tells the soft-hearted Roslyn that life isn’t fair. You start out doing something that’s natural to you, he says, something you’re good at, and then they change it all around. They change the rules in the middle and something good becomes something rotten. He’s talking both about the business of catching the horses, once numbering in the hundreds and sold for children to ride, and Roslyn’s career as a dancer in nightclubs.
This is an important document in American film history and a moving deconstruction of the American dream. Gable, 59, died of a heart attack soon after filming was completed, possibly because he insisted on losing forty pounds and doing his own stunts for the role. Monroe, 35, who committed suicide soon after the film opened, is fragile and radiant in a part that was written for her. This is certainly her finest role, and like Gable (and perhaps director Huston), she is herself an iconic part of the American dream. This film is not to be missed if you are serious about movies.