“Monty, Elizabeth likes me, but she loves you.”
When Elizabeth Taylor was cast opposite Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun, he was already a movie idol, with a natural sensitivity that set him apart. At seventeen, Elizabeth was known for her ravishing beauty rather than her talent. Directors treated her like a glamorous prop. But Monty took her seriously, inspiring and encouraging her. In her words, “That’s when I began to act.”
To Monty, she was “Bessie Mae,” a name he coined for her earthy, private side. The press clamored for a wedding, convinced this was more than friendship. The truth was even more complex. Monty was drawn to women but sexually attracted to men—a fact that, if made public, would destroy his career. But he found acceptance and kinship with Elizabeth. Her devotion was never clearer than after his devastating car crash near her Hollywood home, when she crawled into the wreckage and saved him from choking.
Monty’s accident shattered his face and left him in constant pain. As he sank into alcoholism and addiction, Elizabeth used her power to keep him working. In turn, through scandals and multiple marriages, he was her constant. Their relationship endured until his death in 1966, right before he was to star with her in Reflections in a Golden Eye. His influence continued in her outspoken support for the gay community, especially during the AIDS crisis.
Far more than the story of two icons, this is a unique and extraordinary love story that shines new light on both stars, revealing their triumphs, demons—and the loyalty that united them to the end.
Classic Hollywood—the era of the huge stars—beautiful and tragic. Guess that would describe both of these Hollywood legends.
Holy smokes! I certainly remember Liz Taylor and all her men but only a scant recollection of Montgomery Clift; saw few of his movies. (We never had money for movies back then.) Still, I might have lived the rest of my life not knowing the madness of Clift. Taylor was pretty much a headline ALL the time.
“Sexually, she was every man’s dream. She had the face of an angel and the morals of a truck driver.” – Eddie Fisher
I have to give it to author Casillo for all the research that went into this biography. Monty Clift was a successful Broadway actor when sixteen year old Elizabeth met him. Two polar opposites drawn to each other initially by their common experience of having been thrust into the spotlights by stage mothers.
“Before forty you have the face you were born with; after forty you get the face you deserve.” – Elizabeth Taylor
“If someone’s dumb enough to offer me a million dollars to make a picture, I’m certainly not dumb enough to turn it down.” – Elizabeth Taylor
The chapters trade off alternately Taylor’s experiences and then Clift’s experiences. There was a LOT of name dropping, most names easily recognizable, as well as some fascinating behind the scenes tidbits about films, particularly those in which both starred.
There is a great deal of description which is then repeated, portions spun, rinsed and repeated. With so many names involved in the narrative perhaps dropping a name more than once was appropriate. However, I got the point the first time.
We knew about Elizabeth’s penchant for men, for excitement, the thrill of the conquests and affairs (eight marriages), her tragedies, the drinking, the pills. We knew that Monty Clift was gay when it was dangerous to be so. We didn’t know of his destructive nature, the booze, the drugs, the pills and his propensity to go off the deep end into unnaturally offensive behavior, swiping dishes off the table in well-known expensive restaurants and then eating off the floor. Spinning into alcoholic, drug induced days, it became impossible to insure him for films, but he was already exhibiting self-destructive behavior before that horrific accident that changed forever that beautiful face. Currently on pre-order.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary uncorrected review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts.
Rosepoint Rating: Four stars
Genre: LGBTQ, Biographies of the Rich & Famous
Publisher: Kensington Books
- ASIN : B08GYBH611
Print Length: 352 pages
Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
The Author: Charles Casillo is the author of the novels “The Fame Game,” and “The Marilyn Diaries,” the biography, “Outlaw: The Lives and Careers of John Rechy” (the authorized life history of the legendary writer and hustler), and a collection of stories “Boys, Lost & Found.” His latest book is a serious and comprehensive biography of Monroe: “Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon.” The author says, “It will introduce you to the Marilyn Monroe you always wanted to know.”
Casillo’s profiles, short stories, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Washington Post, Vice, Interview, and many others. He has appeared in Monroe documentaries “Behind the Headlines: Marilyn and Her Men,” on Lifetime, and “Whatever Happened to Norma Jeane,”
His movies include “Let Me Die Quietly,” a neo-noir thriller and the dark comedy “Fetish”(with Joan Collins.)
Casillo was born in New York City. He has spent many years exploring and documenting his interests and obsessions, such as exceptionally talented people, strange encounters in various bars, Marilyn Monroe, eccentrics, sex, tragic figures, and antidotes to insomnia, insecurity, and loneliness. He has written about these and other subjects in his works. He divides his time between New York, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and other places where he hangs his hat.
©2021 V Williams