|Marilyn Monroe with Montgomery Clift in The Misfits.|
There is no sadder or more haunting performance by Marilyn Monroe than the one she gives in John Huston’s The Misfits (1961), her final completed film before her death the following year. As Roslyn, everything about the Marilyn persona—the cooing voice, the sexy-baby-doll shtick—gets stripped away to reveal the raw nerves beneath. The Marilyn of The Misfits is almost scarily quiet and spare. There are moments when she’s happy, laughing, playing with dogs, but these too have an eerie fatalism to them. I am continually pulled back to the scene where she begins to process the realization that the wild mustangs her lover Gay (Clark Gable) intends to round up and sell are to be slaughtered (see below). She lies on her side throughout the scene with her back to Gable, her voice small and full of a child’s confusion. She barely moves or speaks above a whisper. It is as if we are watching a small piece of her soul die.