The genius of Making Montgomery Clift is that it makes us feel like we know plenty about Montgomery Clift’s life even if we knew little about him at all. It also makes modern audience members who might not be that familiar with Montgomery Clift want to know more about his story. Even though the documentary contains interviews with those who’ve done biographies on him and relatives close to him, there are still more details about his life that people may want to know more about.
In hindsight, it almost mirrors how audiences and those in the Hollywood industry demanded more out of Montgomery Clift. He came to Hollywood when he was in his early 20s and turned down star-making roles in films like On The Waterfront and The Bridge On The River Kwai. Yet, people still wanted to see their hopes of him being a star become fulfilled. Even though he gave Hollywood a new kind of leading man, one of brooding mystery, he was still very selective with the projects he chose.
Interestingly, where Making Montgomery Clift hits the hardest is at the very beginning. Right off the bat, it goes into his conflicts with his sexuality and how the media made it seem like he was living in a “self-imposed hell” because he was bisexual. People in the press would make it seem his bisexuality was some kind of tragedy which is what likely played a part in his personal downfall.
Directors Robert Clift and Hillary Demmon immediately use the documentary as a reminder of how we tend to take our favorite celebrities for granted, letting their private lives overshadow their talents that they use to entertain us. As a result of making this statement, Making Montgomery Clift feels like a warning for us to not repeat the same pattern with other actors that we admire.
Since the documentary is co-directed by Robert Clift who is Montgomery’s nephew, it manages to feel less intrusive even though Robert never got to meet him. His involvement in an insightful documentary on the life of a man who cared deeply about his privacy gives it an extra emotional layer.
There’s one point towards the end where Robert discusses how producers tried to make his uncle’s life story into a movie. But Robert says that if that happened, it would be the same story over and over on how his sexuality is a form of tragedy. Truth be told, given how Making Montgomery Clift tells us all we really need to know, there isn’t really a need for one.
While the debate over Montgomery’s sexuality may have overshadowed his Oscar-nominated acting talents, Making Montgomery Clift makes a tremendous attempt at honoring Montgomery, the performer and not the celebrity. It is emotionally impactful when it first begins and is incredibly insightful as it progresses. A masterful gem.
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