“Sister is the sensible twin, she see things in black and white. Monty sees all the colours.” Nurse Wilke
Despite my ever growing number of years on this planet, I am still surprised when people see things as black or white, and who, despite their number of years on this planet, never seem to deviate from what, in my mind, is a rather simplistic view. I may love black & white movies but I live in the grey. I mean not about everything, but enough that on a daily basis I am flummoxed by the sheer volume of people who hold to a ‘either or’ belief. My existence in this grey area has, or is rather, not always a pleasant one and I have often envied my peers and their inability to see things as definitively this or that.To not endlessly feel the need to question, to challenge or argue their interpretation So I was rather chuffed when I read this line in a recent bio of Monty. Here was someone else who didn’t see only in black and white, but that didn’t or hadn’t relegated him to boring, nondescript grey. He saw a whole spectrum of colours and it was this idea, of opening it up to all the colours -this was what was so hugely appealing. Because living in the grey, well until recently at least, grey was synonymous with well…. nothing too exciting. Bland, dull, a school uniform colour. But colourful, exciting or interesting? No these adjectives are not what springs to mind, or at least didn’t until a certain EL James got her hands on it. But apart from that one chap, grey is still a colour that suggests neutrality, a certain lacking of emotion. Not exactly how I see myself, or I hope, how others see me.
The reluctance of people to see a rainbow of interpretations, to see things as only this or that, their way or the wrong way perplexes me and makes me wonder about is it that makes them so firm in their belief’s and why are they so reluctant to acknowledge the merit of someone with an opposing belief. Is it fear, a control thing? Is it simply shortsightedness, or arrogance? Sometimes I know it be intolerance and that scares and annoys me at the same time – in equal measure. However knowing that Monty saw the possibilities, the endless number of options , or degrees of understanding makes me feel just a little less frustrated, a little less alone. In truth though it also makes me a little nervous, after all when he and Marilyn worked together on The Misfits she declared “he is the only one I know who is in even worse shape than I am ” Now I am a huge fan of Marilyn but if she is saying this about you, then my friend things are not looking good. So that aside, and yes I know Monty performed what is considered the longest suicide in Hollywood history, that he allowed drugs and alcohol to destroy his career and his life so that we lost yet another star too soon, I am still heartened and bolstered by the idea that someone like Monty shares my colourful interpretations.
Monty was a complex man. With his looks he could have played it safe instead he deliberately chose characters who were the outsider, the victim-hero or the unsympathetic, conniving social climber in A Place in the Sun. He eschewed the trappings of Hollywood preferring New York , theatre and lengthy conversations about art and the craft of acting to flashy cars and clothes. Determined to remain in control of his career and over what movie roles he would pick, he delayed singing a studio contract until after his first few films were successful executing, “a power differential that would go on to structure the star-studio relationship for the next 40 years” according to Anne Helen Peterson in Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema. He was one of the original method actors and one of the first to be invited to study in the Actors Studio. He poured over every script, frequently doing many of his own rewrites,and in one instance he virtually rewrote the entire script. it went on to win an Oscar but only the original writers were acknowledged. His private life was complicated- he loved and was loved by both men and women- and although it would be easy to see his affairs with men as the source of his problems , given the era and the attitude about homosexuality that prevailed then, a quick look at some of his own writings would suggest otherwise. He was preoccupied with the very act of living in a world that was tough, cruel, unfair, a world where sensitivity was deemed a weakness. Yet like his character in FHTE he believed that “If a man don’t go his own way, he’s nothin” He sought beauty and truth but suffered from the inevitable struggle of how to ” remain thin-skinned, vulnerable, and still alive?” To define Monty, as so many do as a self-loathing homosexual, to regard him in such stark black and white terms is to do him a huge disservice and simply demonstrates an unwillingness to see, like he did, “all the colours.” And that would be a pity.
If you haven’t seen either From Here to Eternity or A Place in the Sun I highly recommend both. FHTE is known for’ that kiss’, but really Sinatra and Monty are the stars. I dare anyone to watch Sinatra die in Monty’s arms and not shed a tear, or a bucket load. And then for just pure gorgeousness there is the paring of Monty and Liz in APITS – they really are the most beautiful Hollywood couple ever.
“Labeling is so self-limiting. We are what we do, not what we say we are.”