Sunday, September 16, 2012

'From Here to Eternity' Backstory + My 'Killers' Video

So I'm reading Montgomery Clift by Patricia Bosworth. Beautiful man, very talented in short bursts. Really insecure. Lots of addictions, way too much alcohol. Oddly close relationships with his twin sister and "Irish twin" brother. A Freudian wet dream, really. He had a weird thing about lying and crawling on floors, as if he preferred not to stand up (which you see Perce doing in The Misfits, and it works wonderfully for that character).

My favorite parts of this book are the parts with James Jones, regarding the filming of From Here to Eternity in 1953. (I've finished reading The Thin Red Line and started Whistle. I'm only on page 26 and already about to cry because Bobby Prell - the third avatar of Robert E. Lee Prewitt - is so gravely wounded.)

Jones, Clift and Frank Sinatra got along really well. Bosworth quotes an unnamed press agent as having said, "Jones looked like a nightclub bouncer with his thick neck and broken face. And there's this edgy cocky little wop Sinatra always spoilin' for a fight, and then Monty who managed to radiate class and high standards even when he was pissing in the gutter." Sorry for the ethnic insult, but that's the exact quote.

Jones was quoted as saying, "He'd come crawling down the fire escape, agile as a monkey, and then swing into my room. He'd be brandishing a bottle of Scotch and a pot of espresso. First time I ever tasted that kinda coffee. I hated it, but I drank it 'cause Monty did...He was an odd man, but I felt a strange rapport with him while we were making the movie."

Bosworth writes, "Driving out of Los Angeles Jones talked sotto voce to Jeanne [Green; she and her husband Fred were Clift's close friends] about Monty, saying he found him strange and asking if he was a homosexual. Jeanne said, 'I got very prim and said I had no idea. With that Jones suddenly confided, "I would have had an affair with him but he never asked me." ' "

Given that many James Jones characters are sexual opportunists willing to make love to whoever happens to be at hand, it's not too surprising that James was, most likely, bisexual. Just one more reason for me to feel affinity for the late author.

I don't share his dislike of espresso, though.

Clift was not fond of Burt Lancaster, and called him a bad actor behind his back. (Jim Caviezel and Sean Penn, playing essentially the same characters in The Thin Red Line, did not get along particularly well either. Must be a Prewitt-Warden/Witt-Welsh thing.) He was upset that Lancaster got first billing. He didn't get along with Marlon Brando, either, and he thought James Dean was just "weird." Of course, Dean was a very conscious imitator of both Clift and Brando.

The role of Adam in East of Eden (the "good" brother, not the one James Dean played) is one that Clift turned down. He was also offered a part in a production of Fahrenheit 451; he could have made a really great Montag. (When I first read 451 in middle school, I imagined that Montag was really old - I was surprised when I re-reread it earlier this year that Montag was 30- younger than I am now!)

Incidentally, I made this one-minute video with Ava Gardner stills from The Killers today.

Ava Gardner was married to Frank Sinatra during the filming of From Here to Eternity. Bosworth wrote,   "[Sinatra] seemed obsessed with [Gardner] - she had left him, unable to cope with his rages and his entourage, which followed him everywhere.

"Once during the course of the filming he became so depressed by her rejection he threatened suicide. Monty talked him out of it."

I do not think it would be an ethnic insult - or a stretch - to say that Frank Sinatra was kind of a drama queen. A straight guy drama queen.  At least the way Patricia Bosworth tells it.


Isis Rushdan said...

Nice Video. I can't believe I haven't seen The Killers.

Erin O'Riordan said...

Definitely worth checking out, Isis. It's an old movie that still works surprisingly well.

Thanks for stopping by!