Marilyn Monroe has gone down in history as the stunning blonde who graced the silver screen throughout the '50s. She's notorious for her sex appeal, which helped catapult her to the top of Hollywood's A-List. She remains a cultural icon decades after her death. Though many of her most successful roles portrayed her as the "dumb blonde," Monroe refused to be typecast. In the mid- '50s she founded her own production company and joined an acting studio in Los Angeles to focus on her craft. It seems only fitting that her final film role would be in a drama, but did you know it was a western?
Monroe was on her third marriage at the time to Arthur Miller, who wrote the role of Roslyn Taber in The Misfits specifically for his wife. Taber resides in Reno, Nevada, where she has filed for divorce from her husband, Raymond, played by Kevin McCarthy. The newly minted divorcee goes to enjoy a drink to celebrate with friend Isabelle Steers, played by Thelma Ritter, where they meet a cowboy. Clark Gable stars as Gay Langland, and he befriends the women with his friend Guido, played by Eli Wallach. The movie follows the love story of Roslyn and the aging cowboy with an all-star cast that also included Montgomery Clift as Gay's cowboy friend, Perce Howland.
With celebrated director John Huston at the helm, it seemed like this western had success in the bag, right? But from the start, it was a difficult film to complete. Monroe and Miller's marriage was falling apart at the beginning of production. Miller was even notorious for changing the script frequently throughout filming, much to the frustration of his estranged wife. It probably didn't help things that he also took up a relationship with an onset photographer, Inge Morath, right in front of Monroe,
Things on set seemed incredibly grim. Director Huston was regularly drinking and gambling between takes; some of his losses even had to be covered by the production company. Meanwhile, Monroe was sinking deeper into her addiction to alcohol and pills. Many of her close-ups were shot with a soft-focus to hide all of the pain and exhaustion haunting Monroe.
Despite being a box office fail at the time, critics applauded the performances of Monroe, Gable, Clift and Wallach. Regardless of the troubles on set, I'm sure Monroe would want us to look back on her remarkable performance, which proved her talent as a dramatic actress.
'River of No Return'
While this might be the only western people remember from Monroe's resume, she also starred in River of No Return in 1954. Despite being a western, the role was similar to what you'd expect from the movie star at the time. She played dance hall singer, Kay Weston, opposite Robert Mitchum, a widower who returns to town to retrieve his son who had been in Kay's care while he served time in prison. Unfortunately, Monroe considered this her worst film, incredibly disappointed with her performance. Director Otto Preminger even criticized her in numerous interviews over the years until eventually deciding that she had tried at the time and that was all that mattered.