Forlorn Perfection: Marilyn as Roslyn in ‘The Misfits’

Continuing his excellent series for Classic Movie Hub, Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco Robles looks at Marilyn’s last completed movie, The Misfits (1961.)

“The character of Roslyn was Arthur Miller’s idealized representation of his wife. He documented elements of Monroe’s personality into monologues she had spoken and incorporated into the script personal and painful situations excised from her life; art would imitate life. Numerous obstacles delayed the couple’s film project, so by the time the production began, the marriage was disintegrating … The shallow plot only serves as a canvas for the four leading characters’ exploration of their inner conflicts and attempt to connect and relate to each other. Each exposes emotional and searches for meaning.

Roslyn is the center of the film. As an outsider to their world, she impacts each of the men by questioning their long-held and unchallenged beliefs. Monroe was determined to deliver a performance that would give the role a darker side and complex backstory absent from the script. In the character, Miller referenced biographical parallels to Monroe’s life: Roslyn’s abandonment by her parents, her continuous search for security; her perceived image by others as the essence of femininity, sensitivity.

Throughout the film, Roslyn is a source of light and a point of reference. Whatever happens to someone in Roslyn’s life, Guido says, happens to her. She ministers to each misfit man and is herself a misfit … In Roslyn’s voice, we hear a new morality signaling an emerging counterculture later exemplified by the protest of the Vietnam War and Feminist Movement. She confronts the killing of the Mustangs as barbaric, something the cowboys never pondered, and identifies with the horses as victims of the men’s brutality.”