#16 The Misfits

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Year: 1961

Director: John Huston

Screenplay: Arthur Miller

Here I am today, to talk about another BW movie.. I was curious about Marilyn Monroe’s movies, moreover since I read her auto-biography (which is, in reality, her conversations with her psychiatrist). I found the film to be very similar to her own life, except in her life she was always with her mask and the drugs. Arthur Miller was her husband, so he knew her and knew her core. Marilyn, in my opinion, was somehow a lost soul and ahead of her time. In this movie, set in the early sixties, Roslyn Tabor has just divorced her husband and is a bit lost. Her landlady, Isabelle Steers, is about to be her witness against her husband and we can see how Isabelle likes Roslyn. The two first meet Guido and then his cowboy friend Gay, and the four get along in a bar, where they start to know each other. Guido offers his country house to Roslyn (and Isabelle) for her to get some rest. Both Guido and Gay are already interested in Roslyn, finding her intriguing and very beautiful, and both try their luck of course. But Roslyn doesn’t want nothing with them and at the same time is very kind with them (well, she’s very kind with everyone around her actually). The four new friends go to Guido’s house, still with a room under construction, and there he tells Roslyn his story: his wife died there while she was pregnant. He didn’t think it was that and didn’t have a spare tire to drive her to the hospital (apparently he needed a spare tire). He says his wife was one of a kind and there’s no one like her, never complaining about nothing, always supporting him in everything. “Maybe that’s why she died” – that’s what Roslyn says (lol), adding it’s healthy to complain once in a while. He gives her a funny look and she manages to leave the room. Obviously, this shows how men suppressed women back then, and how those who dared to think differently “were looked in funny ways”. Roslyn is a very lovely person, always caring for the people and the animals around her, always feeling other people’s feelings besides her own, and always very graceful too. For all of this, she always attracts men and can be misunderstood in her intentions.

Back in the living room, she dances with Gay, but is interrupted so that Guido, who was a bit crossly when he saw them, may dance with her, revealing his amazing skills. Later they decide to go to a rodeo and go after mustangs the next day, but they’re missing one men for this last job. Luckily, on their way to the rodeo, they find a friend of Gay, Perce, who was also on his way to the rodeo, but lost his ride. This scene is funny because Perce goes talk on the phone with his mother and it doesn’t seem to be that important to the rest of the movie, yet they decide to film the whole conversation, with Perse closing the cabin’s door when he’s talking about something that may be shameful for others to hear, and opening it when it’s ok to talk “freely”. The only connection I made was later, when he talks about his family to Roslyn, but I didn’t think we had to see the entire conversation on the phone…

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On the image above there’s a scene that happens just before the rodeo starts. They meet an old guy with his grandson who has one paddle ball. The grandfather finds the game too difficult and bets with Roslyn she can’t hit 10 in a row. She does like 50 times or so, so they manage to get some cash there. The point is, when Roslyn is bouncing the paddle, all men are around her, cheering and looking at her, and eventually one touches her butt (the nerve!!)!! That almost leads to a fight, but they end up leaving the bar. This scene, as well as others I’ve seen, gets on my nerves: a girl doing something cool and a bunch of guys staring at her body, she might even not realize what’s going on, and that’s even more irritating! Anyway, Perce steps forward to end that.

This is the first Marilyn Monroe film I see, but from other movie clips with her I found on youtube, this scene was the same: Marilyn Monroe is the center of attentions because of her beautiful looks. Were people writing scripts with those scenes in mind, to exploit her body? Was this a coincidence? Upon reading her book I felt sorry, ’cause she seemed a good person deep inside, despite her numerous affairs, but no one (with rare exceptions) cared about what she truly was, about her being, only taking advantage of her body or expecting her to be a tamed housewife. She said if girls didn’t sleep with director or producer or wtv, if they didn’t sleep with “the right person”, they wouldn’t get their part. Marilyn slept with hundreds (?) of men, both to get roles/jobs/money (yes, money, she didn’t even have enough to eat for a while) and/or to give them some pleasure, for she would do them that favor if it made them happy. The problem is: we’re talking about sex here, so she’s seen by many as a whore. Nevertheless, I think she was a beautiful person inside and out, and she was an educated person too, which is  subject that appears earlier in this film too. Gay’s talking to her and the matter comes up, he gets pleasently surprised when she says she didn’t finish her high school and she asks him if she doesn’t like educated women, and he basically responds that they (women) don’t need to be educated.

Moving on, they are five now and Perce is going to mount a horse and a bull to see if he can get some bucks. As one might except, Perce gets hurt, but it seems to affect Roslyn more than the others, as she’s always very sensitive (sometimes it skims the comedy because of the drama she makes, but she’s so sweet, she’s not kidding!). Later they go drink some more and Guido and Gay, who were just the two until now, realize they have one more for the competition: a younger and more handsome one. However, we have never seen Gay “asking permission” to Guido to make a move with Roslyn, as he knew Guido was interested in her before the first meeting in the bar. He’s older, he’s a cowboy, he does what he wants. That’s why there’s always a little tension between the two (it almost seems like Gay is Guido’s boss sometimes), but with Perce it’s different. Perce seems innocent, so to speak. He seems to be as young and free as Roslyn and asks Gay if he’s with Roslyn, to see if he’s free to go after her. I found Perce to be the sweetest from this trio of men, but somehow the older knows best… And I really don’t understand why, but I’ll get there. At this point Isabelle is already gone, off to her home to spend some days with her ex-husband and his wife, an old friend of her. Apparently it’s all good between the three. But when she goes away, she never comes back, and I don’t understand why. What was her role after all? Was she a motherly figure to Roslyn? I suppose so. But I found her leaving a bit abrupt… Although none of the men wanted anything with her, for she was older, she was always very cheerful, never getting mad when they forgot her name, and always very sweet to Roslyn. One can say she was also a bohemian kind of person, as she liked to drink and to have fun despite her age.

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Eventually they get back to the house, Guido and Gay drunk, and they go after the mustang horses the next morning. Roslyn finds out they’re going to kill the animals, although not directly, but it still is their fault, for it’s them who sell the horses to the dealers who do that job. She gets very upset, but they all go anyway, expecting her to calm down and accept that men’s job. Gay’s a free spirit too in a way, for he chooses to make this living to not be chained to a wage, as he says. It seems all cowboys loathe that kind of life, so they choose the fate of those horses so they can live more freely. Gay explains Roslyn just that and reminds her he didn’t judge her when she told them what she used to do for a living: dancing in clubs.

But Roslyn doesn’t accept the killing, even if it’s not directly done by them, and eventually come out of the car and runs screaming they were killers. At this point, Guido reveals himself completely. We have seen before how he seems to have forgotten his wife, who he talks so good about, and now we see how he remembers why women are a pain in the ass. Later, when he asks Roslyn, in a final effort to conquer her, if she wants him to finish all that “savagery”, she understands who he really is, so he’s now crossed out of the list, for Roslyn seems to be the entire movie trying to decide which man she wants. At first she doesn’t seem to want anybody, she’s lost and just wants to find herself, but as the film progresses, she faces some new opportunities and tries to figure out what’s best for her.

Eventually, Perce is the one who goes free the horses, but they see Gay trying to catch one. Roslyn asks Perce to help him, for he’s struggling with the animal, but Perce says “he doesn’t need help”. I didn’t get which one they were talking about here, Gay or the horse. Anyway, when Gay finishes taming the animal, Guido shows up with the conversation they were having before, when he was talking he and Gay didn’t need anyone and could work for real to live as free men, capturing horses forever. But Gay tells him to shut up, and we see he’s confused. Roslyn’s feelings weren’t in vain and put him to think. So when Guido shows up with that conversation again, Gay splits the rope that was tying the horse and let the animal go free, to everyone’s surprise. This, of course, had an impact on Roslyn, and she ends up choosing him. Gay did things for Roslyn he didn’t even do for his (ex) wife and she must have felt special for that, but by itself, it wasn’t enough. But at the end, on their way home, she makes her mind and the too seem to agree on staying together, despite Gay even pushed Roslyn earlier, when she was trying to make him stop taming one of the horses. In fact, in this scene, the three men are trying to tame the horse, each one puling a rope at the same time, which may be an allusion to them “trying to tame” Roslyn.

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So there you have it. She had a sweet guy in front of her, but chose the other one who often mistreated her. It’s true, Gay realized the horse business was not how it used to be, it was worse, and he was contributing to it, so decided to take another path for his life. He did everything to please Roslyn, even when she told him, in the beginning, she didn’t feel that way about him (he even kissed her while she was sleeping, and although she smiled when waking up, I thought that was wrong, give her some space, respect her will! Well, maybe he did it because he knew she wouldn’t be that mad… I don’t think he had malice in him). I don’t know, maybe it’s because of that time, when it was “normal” to treat woman like that and perhaps men didn’t even realize how disrespectful they were being (like that “educated women” thing for example, I don’t think he meant to be rude. But it still happens today and many times men think they’re not doing nothing wrong, and this sometimes goes for woman too I guess). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a feminist nor am I trying to reduce men here or trying to create a discussion about this matter. Maybe I’m just kind of sensitive about this; I think all men and women are at the same level and I guess the attitude just depends on the person really, despite being man or woman. Anyway, my question remains. Besides, I don’t think she even had time to find some peace, they were all always hitting on her, and a person needs time to heal and to restore oneself in this situations.

As for the title, does it refer for the men only, for they are all trying to fit Roslyn’s heart? For the whole group, as they all seem kind of lost? Or even for all the women like Roslyn, who don’t seem to fit in the category of a wife whose desires/feelings/opinons are ignored or lowered by their husbands?

What’s your opinion on this one?