Montgomery Clift Overview:

Legendary actor, Montgomery Clift, was born Edward Montgomery Clift on Oct 17, 1920 in Omaha, NE. Clift died at the age of 45 on Jul 23, 1966 in New York City, NY and was laid to rest in Friends Quaker Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings County, NY.

Early Life

Edward Montgomery Clift was born on October 17th, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska.  He was the youngest son of wealthy banker, William Clift and Ethel Anderson. He had a twin sister named Roberta and younger brother, William. His mother was adapted at one years of age and was told by a physician at a young age that she came from a long line of southern aristocrats. Whether or not this was true, Ethel made the choice to live her life accordingly. Because of this, young Montgomery's formative years were experienced with great privilege. In accordance to aristocratic southern tradition, Ethel had Montgomery and his siblings' home schooled by private tutors. They were educated in French, Italian, and German and often made trips overseas to further certain aspect of their education. After the stock market crash of 1929, the Clift family would have to curb their affluent lifestyle as they watched their family's wealth begin dwindle away.

In 1932 Ethel moved with her children to Sarasota, Florida. It was there the adolescent Clift would attend public school for the first time and develop an interest in acting. At just twelve years old he auditioned for the local theatre company. His natural talent stuck the company and on March 30th, 1933, Clift made his stage debut in the Rachel Crothers's comedy As Husbands go.  Later that year the family relocated to Jackson Heights, Queens.

Early Career

When Clift family arrived to the Big Apple, Ethel immediately began to further her youngest child's  training as an actor. Despite his father's initial reluctance in supporting his son's ambitions, the young Montgomery could talk little of anything else and soon he began taking daily tutoring sessions. His mother was extremely active in his acting education, taking him nightly to stage plays, operas, and ballets. Within a year he signed to a modeling agency, where he worked on ads for companies such as Steinway piano and Arrow shorts.  Clift's determination and training would soon pay off when he was cast in the Dorothy Bennet/Irving Berlin play Fly Away Home. The production opened on January 15th, 1935, marked 14-year old Monty's Broadway debut. The play was hit with both audiences and critics with Clift's mature, naturalistic performance being praised in the trade papers across the U.S. He continued to find success on the Broadway stage. Between 1935 and 1938, Clift continued to work as a supporting actor in plays such as Jubilee, Yr. Obedient Husband, and Eye on the Sparrow. At the end of 1938 Clift played his first leading role on the comedy Dame Nature and soon he was launched into Broadway stardom. For the next decade Clift would continue to work on Broadway, bettering his craft and skill as an actor and performanced in plays such as There Shall be No Night, The Skin of Our Teeth, and Our Town.

Film Career

Although Hollywood had showed interest in the young Broadway Star through out his stage career, Clift refused their offers for a decade. He was weary of the lack of creative and career freedom offered by studio contracts, wanting to chose films and roles that were intriguing and meaningful. In 1946, he found that project with the Howard Hawks' western Red River. In the film Monty plays Matt Garth, the adopted son of the ruthless cattle rancher, Thomas Dunson played by John Wayne. Although the film marked Clift silver screen debut, it was shelved for two years due to legal problems and a long editing period. Because of this, moving going audiences got their first glimpse of Clift in Fred Zinnemann's 1948 post WWII drama The Search. Clift's portrayal of an allied solider acting as caretaker to young Auschwitz survivor in search of his mother immediately made him a critical darling and garnered Clift his first Academy Awards nomination. Red River was released a few months after The Search and was a massive hit with audiences and critics. With two successful films and two critically acclaimed performances released within six months of each other, Clift quickly became Hollywood newest star.

The Hollywood machine began marketing Clift as a new type of leading man. Thanks to his training as a method actor, he was incredibly intense and seemingly fearless in his choice of role, opting to play the villain if the challenge was there. But at the same time Clift conveyed a form of sensitive vulnerability that challenged the traditional notions of masculinity, becoming a leading man that women could help and take care of. Although fast becoming Hollywood newest sex symbol with leagues of young, female fans, Clift lived a life sexual ambiguity and was internally tormented by his closeted homosexuality.  Despite these personal demons, Clift's career continued to flourish. In 1949 he starred opposite Olivia de Havilland in the William Wyler picture The Heiress. During the films production, Clift's method acting practices and perfectionism caused tension on set. He was dismissive of the script and de Havilland's acting abilities, stating that she allowed Wyler to craft too much of her performance. Despite the onset drama, the film proved to be a hit with much praise going to Clift's turn as villainess gold-digger.

Major Stardom

By the early 1950, Clift was one of Hollywood most popular and most wanted leading men. In 1951 Clift was cast opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the melodrama A Place in the Sun, an adaptation of the novel An American Tragedy. The film not only marked the first collaboration between Clift and Taylor but the start of their life long friendship as well.  The film centers on the working class George Eastman's social climbing/romantic ambitions and the consequences of such behaviors. For his role as the doomed George Eastman, Clift utilized his training as a method actor by spending time in an actual state prison. The film was major hit with many critics singling out Clift's performance as the film's highlight. For his efforts, Clift was yet again nominated for another Academy Awards. In 1953 Clift starred in three films. The first was as Father Michael Logan in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller I Confess, followed by Vittorio De Sica's Indiscretion of an American Wife. He was next as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, working yet again with Fred Zinnemann in From Here to Eternity. At this point in his career, he was so respected as an actor, many of the films Hollywood veterans were in awe and even intimidated by his acting presence. It is reported that the normally cool and confident Burt Lancaster was so nervous to work with Clift that he shook in their initial scene together. The film was a huge hit both financially and critically, again, with much of the praise going to Clift's powerful performance. He was nominated for his third Best Acting Oscar, but lost to William Holden. After the film, Clift returned to New York for the off-Broadway production of Chehov's The Seagull. He would remain there for two years, returning to Hollywood in 1956 to film another with his great friend, Elizabeth Taylor.


Upon his return to Hollywood, Clift began work on the Civil War romance Raintree County. Midway through filming the, Clift suffered a terrible, debilitating car accident. Driving home after a party at Liz Taylor's Beverly Hills home, Clift wrapped his car around a telephone poll. A friend driving in front of Clift immediately alerted Taylor, who rush to his side and physically dislodge a tooth in the back of his throat that had caused him to choke. Clift's face was terribly mangled and before any photographers could get a shot, Taylor threatened to never work in Hollywood again if they snapped any photos. None did and soon Clift was rushed to the hospital. Clift then underwent extensive facial reconstructive surgery to repair a broken jaw, nose, fractured sinus and facial lacerations. When he returned to filming weeks later, his matinee good looks were gone. Raintree County went on to be one of the biggest winners at the box-office that year. The reason, however, was because many wanted to see the "pre" and "post" accident scenes that demonstrated the destruction of Clift's once breathtakingly handsome face. Already somewhat dependent on alcohol and pills, Clift fell further in to his addictions. The addiction would greatly affect both his health and career.

Post accident Career

Although Clift never healed either physically, mentally, or emotionally from the accident, Clift continued to act. His appearance was already noticeably fragile in his next two films, Lonelyhearts and The Young Lions. At this point his substance abuse problems were becoming increasingly prevalent. He would next star opposite Liz Taylor and Katherine Hepburn in Suddenly Last Summer. Although the studio was initially reluctant to hire him due to alcohol and drug problem, Elizabeth Taylor insisted on Clift being cast. The shoot difficult for Clift, and the films director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, didn't make his life any easier. It is reported that after filming had been completed, Katherine Hepburn spit at the directors face because of they he treated the troubled actor. In 1961 he starred opposite Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits. Also that year, he appeared in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg. Despite his tainted professional reputation, he proved he still able to give a tremendous performance as he played a concentration camp survivor castrated by the Nazi. For his performance, he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. The next year he reteamed with The Misfits director John Huston for the film Freud. However, at this point his tremendous focus, as an actor was gone as he slipped further and further into his addictions and studios were even more reluctant to hire him. He made one final film in 1966, he cold war thriller The Defector. After filming was complete, he returned to his New York, where he suffered a massive heart attack alone in his apartment. Montgomery Clift died on July 32, 1966 of a heart attack in his New York home. He was 45 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Clift was nominated for four Oscars, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1948Best ActorThe Search (1948)Ralph StevensonNominated
1951Best ActorA Place in the Sun (1951)George EastmanNominated
1953Best ActorFrom Here to Eternity (1953)Robert E. Lee PrewittNominated
1961Best Supporting ActorJudgment at Nuremberg (1961)Rudolph PetersenNominated

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures.

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Montgomery Clift Quotes:

Cherry Valance: You're fast with that gun, Matt. Awful fast. But your heart's soft. Too soft. Might get you hurt some day.
Matt Garth: Could be. I wouldn't count on it.

Dr. Lawrence J. Hockstader: [after Catherine reveals what happened to Sebastian last summer] There's every possibility that the girl's story is true!

[Steve is teaching a young boy, whose name he does not know but has coined Jim, to speak English]
Ralph 'Steve' Stevenson: [to Jim] You have no idea how useful it's going to be for you to know English. You can go where ever you like. Everybody knows what 'OK' means. You can use English all over the world. Not, not just America: Canada, Africa, Australia, India. Even in England, they understand English... well, sort of.

read more quotes from Montgomery Clift...

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Montgomery Clift Facts
1995: Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#29).

Hollywood folklore has it that his ghost haunts the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The actor had stayed there while filming From Here to Eternity (1953), even though all filming locations for "From Here to Eternity" were in Hawaii.

At his near-fatal car accident in 1956, Rock Hudson, Michael Wilding and Kevin McCarthy formed a protective shield to prevent Clift's photo from being taken by photographers as he was carried from the wreck to the ambulance.

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