“The Misfits” – the Last Role of Marilyn Monroe

The Misfits


Title: “The Misfits”

Release Date: 1961

Director: John Huston

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter




It was in this film that Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable appeared on the screen for the last time. The dramatic work of John Huston to this day arouses strong emotions and moves to the depths.

“The Misfits” is a picture that went down in the history of cinema for several reasons. Huston’s 1961 masterpiece was the last film in which legendary stars Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable starred. Shortly after filming ended, Gable suffered a massive heart attack and died, and shortly thereafter Monroe overdosed on tranquilizers. For this reason, the film is surrounded by an aura of tragic mystery and Hollywood fate. At the same time, it was in Huston’s picture that Marilyn Monroe created her most outstanding acting performance. Interestingly, the screenplay for the film was written by Arthur Miller, a prominent writer and, privately, her husband.

“The Misfits” is a story of a young Roslyn Taber, who after a divorce tries to forget about her failures in life. The woman and her friend Isabelle (Thelma Ritter) accidentally meet two cowboys – Gay (Clark Gable) and Guido (Eli Wallach), with whom she decides to go out of town. Roslyn and Gay’s friendship develops and soon the men propose to the girl to take part in a rodeo and in hunting wild mustangs.

The Misfits movie review

“The Misfits”: Marilyn Monroe – dumb blonde or outstanding artist?

The role of the lost and unhappy Roslyn Taber was supposed to prove to the world that Marilyn Monroe is not only a candy product of the Dream Factory, but also an outstanding actress. It is hard not to admit that Monroe was up to the task and in her last film she revealed herself in a dramatic performance, so different from the naive girls she played who dreamed of marrying a millionaire. Moreover, the role for MM was conceived as a clear play with her authentic character. In many scenes, Roslyn Taber becomes Marilyn Monroe herself – in all her complexity.

The character has an unstable love life (she has just divorced a wealthy man), inside her closet hang real photos of the actress herself from the covers of famous magazines, it is also known that she started her career by stripping in nightclubs and that she is not well educated. At the same time, Roslyn appears to be a woman of exceptional sensitivity, especially to the fate of defenseless animals. This trait of her character becomes particularly evident during a hunt for wild horses. To save them, Roslyn wants to give all her savings to the cowboys.

The mastery of Marilyn Monroe’s character lies in the portrayal of her ambivalent nature. On the one hand, she seems like a silly blonde with no deeper life goals. On the other hand, however, time and again the heroine reveals an extraordinary clarity of judgment, and under the mask of a powdered face she seems to hide the dramatic face of a woman who has experienced fate and understands much more than it might seem. This ambiguity is not only a very interesting element of the film, but also a clear allusion to MM herself. Arthur Miller wanted the world to see in his beloved something more than sex and beauty, he wanted to convey her sensitivity, intelligence and desperate search for acceptance.

The Misfits 1961 film analysis

“The Misfits” – the symbolic end of mustangs and cowboys

An interesting aspect of the film “The Misfits” is also the symbolic level of the story. Of particular importance here is the mustang hunt that is central to Huston’s picture. The last wild horses, once used as mounts, are to be turned into dog and cat food in the film. The tragic fate of the mustangs seems to be closely related to the plight of the cowboys – a “vanishing species” so to speak. It is not only about the literal degradation of the cowboy’s profession, for which there are no traditional jobs, but also about the end of a certain pattern of masculinity. The cowboy is a symbol of a real man – strong and fully free.

This symbolic layer of “The Misfits” brings to mind a dramatic convention. One can see here references to symbolic theater, especially to Henrik Ibsen’s plays, such as “The Wild Duck” or “Nora”. In this sense, the final scenes of the hunt and the subsequent release of the mustangs, sentenced to death, take on a tragic aspect. Their fate reflects the drama of the characters themselves.