In the realms of stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, some go weak at the knees at the idea of Paul Newman, others James Dean or Marlon Brando, but for me the best of the young actors who emerged in the 1950s is Montgomery Clift. He mixed astonishing good looks with exceptional acting talent, and few people have ever been as good at looking wounded and as if they’re in need of a good hug.
One of his best films, A Place In The Sun, returns to UK cinemas today, which is a good excuse to post a gallery of some of his best pics.
In the late 40s and early 50s, Clift was on the path to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world. After The Search, Red River, A Place In The Sun, I Confess and From Here To Eternity, he was a true heart-throb with three Oscar nominations to his name, and in many people’s opinion a talent on a par with James Dean and Marlon Brando – and all that by the age of 24.
However, Clift was also gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal and he never came to terms with his sexuality. He suffered from severe self-loathing throughout his adult life (as did many gay people back them) and became a severe alcoholic. In 1956, during the filming of Raintree County, he crashed his car while drunk, which caused various injuries, including facial lacerations that meant he was never quite as good looking again. While he continued to work, with a prominent facial scar and alcohol quickly ageing him, his roles were limited and his days as a heart-throb were essentially over.
He died in 1966, aged only 45, from alcohol-related occlusive coronary artery disease. Acting teacher Robert Lewis famously described Clift’s death as the longest suicide in history.
All that’s a bit depressing, but it’s a good reminder of how much more difficult it was to be gay just a few decades ago (not that it’s always a picnic now). There’s no doubt though that as a young man, he was astonishingly good-looking, so click below to enlarge our selection of pics, and enjoy what he was like before the drink and self-loathing got to him.