The Western was perhaps the most prolific genre of Hollywood’s golden age. Marilyn would make three during her career, starting with a bit part as a travelling chorine in the comedic A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950), a rare Technicolor offering among her early pictures. After her rise to fame, she co-starred with Robert Mitchum in the crowd-pleasing River Of No Return (1954), filmed in Cinemascope with musical numbers enhancing the action-packed storyline.
The Misfits (1961), with its contemporary setting and downbeat mood, was a departure from Marilyn’s past, more traditional Western roles. Critics and audiences were bemused, and its release was overshadowed by the death of leading man Clark Gable. Marilyn would also pass away before completing her next film, with Montgomery Clift and Thelma Ritter following in the next few years.
Over time, however, The Misfits has grown in stature, and is now acknowledged as a precursor to the ‘New Hollywood’ movement which emerged in the late 1960s. On the Stacker website, Molly Pennington ranks the 100 Best Western Films of All Time (by online ratings aggregates), with The Misfits coming in a respectable 70th place.
“Marilyn Monroe plays a divorcee who connects with an older wrangler played by Clark Gable in this woebegone drama about loneliness set in the desolate Nevada outskirts. This was the final film of both iconic actors, and there’s something sublime and melancholy in the cowboy’s love for ‘the saddest girl in the world,’ who wants mustangs to run free.”
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